Steampunk keyboard from Datamancer

When I got back from my book tour earlier this month, I was delighted to discover that the handmade steampunk keyboard I'd ordered from Datamancer had arrived. I unpacked and connected it right away and I've been using it ever since, every day, here in my office. The action is great, a little like well-oiled manual, a little like one of the classic indestructible IBM clacky sysadmin keyboards. The keys are shaped like tombstones (I got to specify that) and the three little crystalline lamps on the top right corner light up for power, caps-lock and numlock. There are plenty of gracenotes, too -- like the heavy metallic keyboard cable and the legend "Aether" on the spacebar. It wasn't cheap, and it took eight weeks to arrive, but man, was it worth it. Link, Link to pictures of my keyboard in situ


  1. I’m usually not crazy about steampunk stuff, but I have to admit that labelling the space bar “æther” is pretty neat.

    Retro-physics jokes. It’s hard to get any geekier.

  2. I don’t get it FRANKO as a fad. Besides the labeling of the space bar, it looks pretty plain to me. But that’s just me.

  3. It’s neat, but it doesn’t really scream “steampunk” to me. Maybe because it looks too much like a typewriter I used to have, which was from the the 60’s or so.

  4. “Aether” eh? The Michelson-Morley society will be around shortly to speak with you about heresy ;)

  5. That’s exactly what I was thinking LB. I’m about to break out the old typwriter and instantly become cool.?

  6. Danger Cory, Danger!

    Steampunk is a slippery slope.

    It starts with cute brass-goggles.

    Then continues with a brass steam-watch.

    Now you’re blogging on a steam-powered keyboard from a hot-air balloon.

    You’re just a one dimensional jump away from becoming an AIRSHIP PIRATE


  7. There is nothing steam nor punk about this.
    It just looks like an old typewriter, and I’ll be damned if they look good.

  8. Remember when Boing Boing was like 50% mash-ups? Oh sure, we still see them occasionally, but they were just a cute little fad. Making a mash-up isn’t really creating anything, it’s just taking something that already exists and applying a filter to it. Jinglecats+Fifty Cent! The Beastie Beach Boys! It’d be like if there was a movement to paint everything red, and then you went around posting pictures of your ‘Red TV!’ ‘Red Lamp!’ ‘Red Keyboard!’ Even if you painted it really well, people might be a little amazed that you thought you’d made some sort of meaningful creative leap. Even if you did change the world the first time you painted something red, after your 500th message saying ‘Red Cell Phone!’ there might be some… fatigue with the idea. Just sayin’.

  9. Hm. Doesn’t really capture the SP aesthetic for me. It looks like something from the very edge of a SteamPunk era, closer to a plastic age. Still a tidy piece of work.

  10. “What’sa matter you, hey, gotta no respect
    Whatta you tink you do, why you looka so sad
    Itsa not so bad, Itsa nice-a place, Ahh shaddupa you face!”

  11. #17: I really fail to see how finding novel ways to add brass, wood, leather and other period materials to a modern piece of technology, to make it look like it was created over 100 years ago in any way equates to simply painting it red.

    And yes, the steampunk stuff takes creativity to make it look convincing and good. No, it doesn’t need to be “meaningful” in any way, or “change the world”, just pretty. Which it is.

  12. #20: What I was aiming for is the idea that even if it looks cool, it’s not noteworthy. I accept that any possible object could be rendered in steampunk style – anything. So once people have done it a few times, why is it still supposed to be interesting? Telling me a dude made a steampunk keyboard is like saying “Totally predictable course of action happens – again.”

  13. I think it looks VERY cool, whether you call it steampunk or not.

    But… “the three little crystalline lamps on the top right corner light up for power, caps-lock and numlock”.

    What… no scroll lock? Hey did anyone ever figure out what the heck that key was supposed to be for anyway?

  14. aelfscine,

    Believe it or not, BoingBoing is not designed specifically to be interesting to you.

    C’mon. Breathe. Breathe. I know that’s hard to take, but you’re a grown-up. The Boingers post that which is interesting to them and, apparently, a couple million other people. There is no objective standard. But there is a scroll bar.

  15. #27: Oh yes, I’m well aware. But the site isn’t quite as free-spirited as you suggest – it’s an edited site for a readership. They get vastly more submissions than they can post, and surely vastly more interesting-to-them submissions than they can post. I can’t imagine that ‘interesting to the readership’ isn’t a further thought for paring down a huge amount of information into Boing-Boing’s daily posts. I’m just pointing out that a portion of the readership doesn’t like steampunk stuff – if I’m overruled, fine.

    Would your opinion be the same, I wonder, if every instance of steampunk on Boing Boing had been a LolCat instead?

  16. it’s an edited site for a readership

    Bzzzzt! Wrong. It’s the personal blog of the Boingers, who post things that are of interest to them. They just happen to share interests with a lot of people. They don’t edit suggestions for the readership. They edit them based on their own interests. Believe me, if nobody showed up, they’d still post the same things.

    Would your opinion be the same, I wonder, if every instance of steampunk on Boing Boing had been a LolCat instead?

    Boy, did you pick the wrong person to ask that question to.

  17. aelfscine- I’m guessing “interesting to the editors” may often trump “interesting to the readership”.

  18. Aelfscine, yes, I would still say “don’t worry about it, move on.” There’s maybe one Steampunk post per day. Out of dozens. Cory likes Steampunk. If you don’t, I suggest moving to the next post.


    I can has steampunk now pleaz?

  19. so? don’t like something? Go hang around a post you like. We got lots. Leave the Steampunkers to their joys, I’m sure they’ll reciprocate. The issue isn’t Steampunk or any other specific: it’s just about manners. You haven’t said anything that hasn’t been heard a thousand times before.

    Want me to believe you’re credible? Make your next few “critique” posts praising something you find praiseworthy.

  20. Hm. I would have gotten one of those Moog guitars instead…

    Hey, does anybody make steampunk electric guitars with infinite reverb?

  21. Oh cool, you did blog it. I was mostly kidding when I said “maybe you can blog about it from your high-altitude balloon” but thanks! I hope she gives you many years of faithful service.

    This particular keyboard design, The Aviator, is slightly more modern and “less steampunk” than most of them but it’s still among my favorites.


  22. actually watched the Rocketeer in theater, think the double bill was Mole Men and Spartans. Two bits for kids.

  23. I really enjoyed the rocketeer, I saw it in a hotel in Brisbane, with a big bowl of the best classy boot-lace French-fries I’ve even had.. they were about $10 a bowl or some crazy shit (nom nom nom).

    I really like the designs in the Rocketeer, that hindenburg/jetliner look is sweet.

    RocketPunk FTW!

  24. I had high hopes for “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”, I only got to see about 20 minutes, and haven’t been pushed to see the rest.

    I should go on the hunt for a good copy and see if it does anything for my RocketPunk desires.

  25. I have two of those old IBM keyboards mentioned. So far, they’ve seen at least three or four desktops come and go since 2001. You’re right, Cory. They are indestructible. I have little doubt I could defend myself against a home invader using one of those keyboards, and do so with mortal consequences to the attacker, then could reconnect the keyboard and write a LiveJournal entry about it.

    That said, your new keyboard is gorgeous. But I just can’t see myself dropping that kind of dosh on one myself. Not until my good old IBMs finally die. Or until you can’t get PS/2 to USB adapters anymore.

  26. it looks good but also looks like a pain in the arse to use.

    i’d take functionality over aesthetics… at least in the area of computing.

  27. Twelve hundred-plus dollars for a keyboard? There’s spoiling yourself and then there’s spoiling yourself.

    Think of it this way; that’s a $50 keyboard for you and $1150-plus dollars to your local foodbank.

    I can’t bitch too loudly, however. After all, I do have this gold tooth. It was surprisingly hard to get. The guy just wouldn’t stop squirming!

  28. Update to #51

    Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: muck!

    Beautiful design, awful compositing/execution. Bad characterizatiion, bad script, bad plot development.

    I will never get those one hundred and six minutes back.. ever.

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