Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sneak Peek At A New 3D-Printed Steno Machine

Yesterday, on The Plover Google Group, we got an exciting announcement out of nowhere: There's another low cost steno writer on the horizon!

Scott writes:
I have been using a Stenoboard for a while now, and I feel like I'm reaching a point where I am better off with getting rid of the somewhat-difficult clicky microswitches. Don't get me wrong, the Stenoboard is an amazing project and is affordable enough to use as a learning tool. I would probably not be around here right now if it hadn't been available to me. But it isn't up to par with what I would enjoy typing with longer-term. Despite milled aluminium keycaps and a wood case sounding delicious on the Stenosaurus, like Robert Fontaine says, "I'd prefer a less sexy plastic machine ... with less price and less wait ;)" So, I introduce to you all a less sexy plastic machine with less price and (perhaps a little) less wait, the SOFT/HRUF!
The Stenoboard's extremely shallow travel is an issue for me too, so this is very exciting. Scott was inspired by the ethos of the Humble Bundle, where people who have more money at their disposal choose to pay a bit more to help supplement the amount paid by people who can't afford to pay full price. Definitely a great complement to the principles of open source, and indeed, Scott says the SOFT/HRUF will be open source:
I started work on this project only three or four days ago with no idea how to do anything. Between then and now, I've learned how to model in OpenSCAD, use a 3D printer, (re)write keyboard firmware, solder matrices, and burned through nearly twenty iterations of keycap styles before finding a decent setup that could fit the entire keyboard on a single build plate. That work is just starting to pay off into something usable, so I figured I'd share a quick photo to show where it has come to and to gauge potential interest. Hopefully in the next couple weeks I get the first version finished, get some keyboards picked up, and some pennies thrown at me to offset the cost of this printer. Of course, I'll be fully releasing the source so you all can build upon and improve it as soon as everything is in a usable state. I will also be setting up a storefront with a pay-what-you-will option like I mentioned in the title. The way it will work is that there is a minimum set price that is equivalent to the direct cost of the parts (with no charge for assembly) and you'll pay exactly what I pay to acquire the parts. But if you are feeling like you want to be wallet-friendly, you can choose any greater price you think is fair for my time and effort.
The recommended default price ends up being in the range of $120-$145, which is almost as affordable as the low to medium range of NKRO keyboards. Pretty impressive! I'm guessing that the machine's name is pronounced "Soft Love", but maybe it's pronounced "Soft Luff" or "Soft Hruf" or "Soft Hruv", or... I dunno! You'll have to ask Scott! There are already a bunch of questions and answers on the thread, so feel free to weigh in over there. Meanwhile, I'll be holding my breath and waiting to see what comes out of this ambitious and stylish attempt at a new ultra-accessible steno machine!


Kell Willsen said...

Just started learning with Plover using Stenoboard. Looks like, when I'm ready to take my steno to the next level, this will be just perfect.

One thing I really like about the Stenoboard is the two-piece layout. Could that be an option for the SOFT/HRUF?

All the best with this project!

Unknown said...

I would like this!

Anonymous said...

Now I suppose I have to buy one ;)...

This is on my list... Building a computer right now so I've got a couple of items ahead of you in the hopper but I am way way way overdue for a proper steno layout and regular practice. I've been had this on my to do list now for probably about 14 months and irregular practice on my 60% isn't even close to getting me over the hump of being a steno user first and a qwerty user second.

Thanks for making this happen and I hope you can establish a decent side income (or at least enough to keep you motivated ).

- Robert