What is ClackX, and who is behind it?

What is ClackX, and who is behind it?

My journey in the mechanical keyboard hobby.

Welcome to the ClackX blog! Yes, I'm glad you made it here. My only stronger emotion is wanting to tell you more about ClackX and the exciting times ahead. This blog post is the very first of the ClackX blog, so I thought it would be interesting to make a small write-up about how ClackX was born and to let you know a bit more about who is behind it.

How my journey began

FR4 plate for Geonworkd F1-8X keyboard.

I'm the doctorboy, and among other things, I'm a mechanical keyboard enthusiast from Portugal. This journey started back on December 2016, when after moving to a new place, I finally had a place at home where I could start building my home working space when remote work was still a mirage for the majority of people. At first, I thought I would not need an external keyboard, and just one external monitor would suffice. But after some high-level overview of mechanical keyboards, I soon started to be enchanted by the fantastic looks. Still, I made the normie mistake and went with something mainstream, a Ducky One TKL (yes, with all those per key RGB and shine-through keycaps).

So it began

It took me less than 6 months to be fascinated by the feeling and sound of my external keyboard. And here I started my journey towards the mechanical keyboard rabbit hole.

In 2018, I decided it was time to buy a new keyboard. My ducky was not enough anymore, and I was hungry to test new things. I started to read about switches, custom keyboards, etc. Despite my professional background (drop in the comments if you want to learn more about that), I was inexperient in soldering electronic parts. As a result, I was a bit sceptical about going forward with a new do-it-yourself kit or just buying the different parts and building it.

Geekhack forum, a place of culte for many mechanical keyboard enjoyers.

At the time, the mechanical keyboards' offer was far from today's levels. The good stuff was almost inaccessible, mainly available in Asia (i.e. Korea) and eventually in the US. The Geekhack forum was where everyone was hanging out, and everything felt overwhelming. I was also not keen to jump into forums and ask things, so I mainly decided to discover and learn by myself.

My first custom

And then, in mid-2018, I bought my second keyboard, a KKBD75 v1. I ordered the different parts and embraced the journey of soldering and building it on my own. Everything went well, and I was so excited that I made my only post on Reddit, r/MechanicalKeyboards, and I wrote a small build log.

Photos of my first two keyboards, with custom keysets from Varmillo

At the time, I built my keyboard with the primary goal in my head: the office environment. I chose a more compact layout but still with the F-row, and I wanted something silent because I was working at the time in an open space. Silent switches were brand new, and Zeal was one of the top manufacturers at the time, so end up going with the Zilents v2. As a European, I want to keep the ISO layout and, ideally, ISO-PT, so I went forward with a custom keyset from Varmillo. At the time, they had a custom service where anyone could ask to combine a given colour for the alphas and another given colour for the mods (from a set of 8-10 colours if I recall correctly). This service was decent and attractive and allowed people to create unique combinations. The material was PBT, which at the time was also frequently associated with being the best material (I was so naive...).

I envisioned the build with dark colours and purple, so I tried to combine the different parts in the best way possible. The final result made me very proud of "my creation".

The hiatus

At the end of 2018, I started thinking about the next step and how interesting it would be if I was able to create my keyboard. Unfortunately, soon my professional life went crazy, and there was no more time that I could dedicate to the mechanical keyboard world. I was following the news (I was able to join two group buys for GMK extension kits that I thought would be useful for the future, though).

The first creation

Jumping to 2020 and with Covid-19 striking Europe hard, I was spending my time mainly at home but struggling to keep my mental health at a wealthy level when bad news was kicking our door every day or so. My life was upside-down, personally and professionally. I was suddenly unemployed, spending almost all my days at home, when one day, I decided to give a new chance to the project that I had put on hold 2 years ago, hoping that it would help put my head back on track.

Close up to the opensource daughterboard Unified C3 from ClackX Alpha.

I started with the basics by reviewing all my notes and starting to read and study the electronics used. To pick up on the latest news, I discovered a fantastic streamer that was able to raise all my passion in this area, the majestic Blacksimon. His knowledge of the hobby impressed me, and I was soon up to speed with all the news and information I needed.

In October 2020, I ordered the first numpad PCB design by me, where I tested the implementation of some circuit designs for knobs and OLEDs. As a side note, I'm a true believer in the prototype concept, and I find prototyping a mandatory step nowadays for each product. This allows me to experiment with different approaches, validate ideas, adoption, user experience, etc., to provide you with the best product value possible. All this work was vital to building the foundations for what was coming.

How ClackX was born

First ClackX PCB, designed in Portugal.

I was tweaking and improving the keyboard's design (i.e. the case, PCB) almost every day, spending hours reviewing all the details and learning a bunch of new tools (e.g. I had no experience with 3D modelling). As someone who sees himself as essentially a maker and not a designer at all, maybe in the future, I would make a write-up about my design thinking process when I build my products if you all find that topic interesting enough (please let me know in the comments if this is something that you would be interested in). A few months afterwards, beginning of 2021, I ordered the first prototype. It was no surprise it was a total disaster and not 100% functional, but it only gave me more motivation to continue working on it. I also believe there is no better way to learn than doing things on my own and learning from my mistakes and experiments.

All this process allowed me to grow my knowledge significantly in different areas related to keyboards. After three complete rounds of prototypes, dozens of experimentations and more than 6 months of work, I finally had a product that I was proud of and could showcase in public for the first time, the Alpha.

The first public appearance of a prototype of ClackX Alpha.

By this time, now that the first product was "real", I felt it would just make sense to create a brand where I could link my work. My head was full of ideas for future projects, and I was confident this was just the beginning. On the 1st of June 2021, ClackX was born and registered officially as a new brand in Portugal.

ClackX's future

Moving forward to nowadays, my personal and professional life has returned to normal, and the massive chip shortage throughout 2021/2022 slowed down some of my projects. ClackX has been fully managed only by me and after my 9-to-5 daily job. Nonetheless, I continually refined the ClackX Alpha with the feedback provided by members of the mechanical keyboard Portuguese community and developed some other exciting projects that I would love to tell you more about in future posts.

ClackX products in the Mechanical Keyboard Lisbon meetup.

For now, the go-to plan at the start of 2023 is to launch the online store, expose some of the work I've been doing and prepare the foundations for the next projects, which I anticipate to be full of exciting news.

I hope you enjoyed this short write-up about the story of ClackX. Please drop in the comments any topics that you would like me to talk about

I would highly appreciate it if you could look for the online store, in clackx.xyz if you are keen on Mechanical Keyboards. Any sale there will be to boost the next projects and deliver more and better products for anyone interested in mechanical keyboard goods. Let's keep in touch. Peace.

Your friend, doctorboy!

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