T O P

后疫情时代的生活

距离新冠疫情的最早出现已经有一年多的时间,然而一切仿佛都如在昨天。我最早得知武汉有一种新型流行病,是 20 年一月初在香港的媒体看到相关的报道,当时虽然已经知道是一种类似 SARS 的肺炎,但是由于传播范围和严重性不太明确,并没有引起我的重视。到了一月底接近放春节长假的时候,国内媒体已经不再歌舞升平,开始大量报道。后面形势急转直下,武汉封城,全国戒备。近处市面萧条,而远处水深火热,就像很多人一样,我在老家度过了一个闭门不出每天刷媒体的春节。

二月初我回到广州,还是居家隔离。街上依然冷清,而疫情已经开始蔓延到国外。而后几个月间,欧洲,北美,东南亚,印度,南美,非洲,一一陷落。有些地方疫情消退又卷土重来,爆发一波接一波。国内疫情虽然整体受控,但是各地也时不时有确诊的消息报出。于是我小心谨慎,按照指引做了防备,很少出门,每次出去都戴口罩,经常清洗消毒。最严重的是四月下旬,附近地段陆续出现多个确认病例,而最接近我住处的一个确诊病例相差只有几百米,也就是几幢楼的距离。当时我已经恢复了去公司现场办公,每天出入公共场所公共交通,虽然防备充足也多少有一点忐忑。附近社区开始普检核酸,每天都能看到全身白衣穿戴严密的医护“太空人”进出街道,安排隔离的车辆人员进进出出。如此过了一个多月,附近的疫情渐渐平息,安然度过。

2020 年下半年,虽然有几次省市级别较大规模的疫情爆出,但是国内整体还算比较安全。我渐渐恢复了更多的日常户外活动,比如戴着口罩外出散步,人多密集的封闭场所,比如大商场和电影院,就很少去了。生活还在继续,我们都在适应新冠疫情给生活带来的改变。除了日常防护和生活习惯的改变,我变得更加关心外部世界的变化,时常收看各方媒体的一些报道,尝试了解在世界范围的时事和疫情发展情况。

之后国内的疫情保持平稳,广东持续了很长时间的本地零确诊状态,就这样到 2021 年中,当人们的心态渐渐放松,以为可以安稳地等待疫苗铺开注射实现群体免疫的时候,由变种病毒引发的疫情又一次在广州爆发了。五月底第一例本地确诊病例爆出,然后全市迅速展开了流行病学追踪,隔离封区,各城区分阶段全员核酸检测,出行管制,公共场所活动管制等措施,最近大半个月对于广州居民来说是一段艰难的时期。我也按相关要求做过核酸筛检,并开始居家办公,目前还能保持着这波疫情发生前的正常生活节奏。幸好经过全市各区的核酸检测之后,结果显示目前疫情主要集中在荔湾区,在其它区并没有大面积的扩散。但愿这波疫情可以尽快平息,让我们的生产生活尽快回到正轨。

时间依旧流驶,街市仿佛太平。一次疫情的大流行,在漫长的人类历史来说也许并不算什么,然而对于身历其中的个人来说,其中受到的影响和冲击却是难以淡忘,就像巨轮碾过,即使有一天它终将远去也必然给世界留下巨大的痕迹。希望苟活者和真的猛士都将奋然而前行。

Lisp Machine Keyset Episode 1 – SA Symbiosis

The History of Lisp Machine

History repearts itself. Nowadays AI(artificial Intelligence) becomes a hype zone for academies and industries. It happened before. It's called AI Boom in the 1980s, when the expert systems rised, and the specified hardware emerged to embrace high-lever programming language. Lisp Machines once became the centre role on the stage.

LMI Lisp Machine

Lisp is a programming language created in 1950s, the early times of AI. It's designed for symbolic computation but later in 1960s became a practical programming language. In 1980s, Lisp Machines were designed to efficiently run Lisp as the main software and programming language. Originating from MIT AI Lab, soon the Lisp Machine family split into two derivations: LMI(Lisp Machines, Inc.) and Symbolics. Both companies produced and sold their own version of Lisp Machines during 1980s. Later with the onset of AI winter, and the beginnings of microcomputer revolution, cheap desktop PCs soon dominated the market and Lisp Machines faded away.

The Story of SA Symbiosis

Although Lisp Machines died out in history, many people still love their style and designs. In the keyboard community, the keyboard designed for early revisions of the Lisp Machines, the space-cadet keyboard, is considered the pearl of the crown: it's composed of a mass layout and a graceful gray/blue/cream theme, with high profile keycaps in unique legends - in summary, a really rare, well-constructed hall effect keyboard.

Along these years, there are several attempts to revive the space-cadet keycap sets. Many derivations retained the basic theme, e.g., Realforce used a similar theme in products of 10th anniversary edition. Its alphas color was set to black instead of cream due to the manufacture technology limitation - it's hard to get white color on dark keycap in usual dye-sub procedure.

There were efforts to bring back not only the space-cadet keyset theme, but also the unique legends. In 2015, early day before the boom of customized keycap market, a community member xblackdog created the SA Symbiosis keyset. Meanwhile another member 7bit operated his keyset group-buy, which was called rounds, and he made SPH/Cadet kits in one of these rounds. Both were of SA profile, which is a high profile, spherical top and sculptured keycap family of the keycap manuacture Signature Plastics.

When the GB of SA Symbiosis happened in 2015, I already fell in the MX keyboard hobby for several years, but I didn't fall so deep into the pit of customized keycap yet. At that time, it seemed expensive for me to buy a set of keycaps at the price of several dozens of dollars. So I missed the GB. Later in 2016 I dipped my head into the SA keycap water. I found I like this profile a lot. But it's too late to grap a set of SA Symbiosis because the GB was gone.

At some day in the autumn of 2017, I messaged xblackdog asking for a rerun. However he said he was too busy. Later I decided to give a try myself on the rerun as round 2. It's a long way for me to take it from scratch to a real GB. I had to figure out many things, e.g., initialized the kits, started the IC, re-drew all the math legends without much reference, tried to find a artist to do renders, got a vendor, etc. At the end the GB openned in October of 2018. After a long wait for the production line and a long precedure on samples validating, the production was done in September 2019 and now it's about to ship in October 2019.

For more info of the GB, please check out the GB thread

Geekhack GB thread

Under the Hood of Symbiosis Round 2

Kits

Renders

Different to round 1, there are a few changes made to the round 2:

1. Sculpted Profile

The profile on round 1 is all R3, AKA flat. It was in the early days that Signature Plastics, AKA SP, manufactured the SA profile keycaps using their immature tooling. It's common that the keycap sets at that time were of flat profile.

Nowadays, as the SA keyses popularity grows, SP improve their tooling. Scuplted profile gains more love on the community, because the sculpted curve is more vintage and more ergonomic. When I talked to xblackdog about how to run round 2, we both realized to change the profile to be sculpted.

2. More Layouts Support

In round 1, only a few layouts are supported

Symbiosis round 1 kits

It included a base kit to support 104/WKL/ISO, some extra to cover Ergodox, some keys with text legends from space-cadet keyboard as novelties, some scooped home row keys for niche layouts, one extra game pad WASD in different color setting, and one extra MACRO kit with legends M1-M12. Since it's flat, it's easy to support niche layouts, like Colemak or Dvorak.

Along these years, many new layous had rised. Besides adjusting the kits setup to modern layouts, I added more kits to support:

  • Ortho: Planck, Preonic
  • 40s: JD40, Golbat, Vortex, Pearl, Mini Van, etc.
  • NorDeUK: NorDe and ISO layouts
  • Colevrak: Colemak & Dvorak layouts, sculpted version
  • Vim: an Vim version for arrow legends in the "HJKL" cluster
  • Cadet: plain text legends from space-cadet keyboard as novelties
  • Gray/Blue Choices: these Roman and hand symbols from space-cadet keyboard as novelties
  • Arrows: arrow cluster in different colors
  • Spacekeys: blank keys in different lengths as mini spacebars
  • Novelties: a set of novelties keys to highlight the Lisp Machine theme, mostly logos and jargons

Layouts change fast nowadays. The cost of create a new keyboard with new layout is getting lower and lower. A lot of new keyboards and layouts happen all the time. It's not easy to for a keyset design to keep up with the pace of new layouts popping up. For example, 40% keyboard users somehow enjoy creating their own layouts, which have more and less variation on key sizes, profile or legends to their predecessors. Each variation has a small group of fans. A kit needs many keys to cover all these variations so that the summary price would be high, but on the other hand the high price would hurt the sale. And it's not that popular for 40% keyboards comparing to the main stream 104/WKL/65 keyboards so the sale number of 40s kit would be just relatively small after all. Probably it costs the designer much time to adjust the layout to be provided but it ends up a poor sale.

3. Color Adjustments

As we mentioned before, both xblackdog and 7bit made their efforts in the end they created two versions of color sets used:

  • a) BE/GTG/WW/NN/YG in Symbiosis round 1
  • b) BFP/GD/WV/NN in 7bit round 4

There are trivial subtle differences between these two color sets. I do a comparison on all these colors and realize the later combination has brighter blue and higher contrast on alphas. It look a bit better on various light conditions, and slightly closer to the space-cadet keyboard.

When the Interest Check(IC) of Symbiosis round 2 starts, I followed these Symbiosis round 1 colors strictly. It's safe to do that to avoid stepping on the toe of 7bit's products. But several months later I changed my idea after talking to some friends. During the IC, I had met people asking how the round 2 colors would look like, whether they would match what they have from Symbiosis round 1 or 7bit's rounds - it would be a real pain if they get the keys in similar but unmatched colors. If I continue to use the Symbiosis round 1 colors, then the two divisions would extend in some deeper degree - it will create bigger split and confusion in the community. It's more important to have an overall view of things, and end these divisions on colors. It's the historical debt to pay.

Someone might argue that it's a tradition not to use other designers' color sets, so as to show respect to other designers. It's steal to use the colors without explicit permission. It's a gray area. Legally anyone could use any color combination as he/she would like. No one own colors. Specially, in term of a SP order, you could have any color in your design. No color is preserved for a particular designer. Take a step back, the tradition breaks somehow nowadays. As more and more designers and design emerge, it becomes inevitable that the new design has a few colors used in another previous design, across different profiles, manufacturers, etc. In the other hand, it's noxious if some designer just post his design publicly, sit still without pushing his work forward and then claim he occupies the colors and color combination according to this tradition. Nowadays, as the keyboard community grows so big, 7bit's small and slow group-buy doesn't matter that much to the community. During the Symbiosis round 2 IC, I seeked for his cooperation with open offer but didn't get a positive response. No one else could make any progress now or in the future in this case if he sticks to this tradition. So, at the end I decide to go ahead with the b) colors for a big picture, taking all potential blame. I would rather to be a benevolent dictator, instead of a pale saint.

Since SP changed the colors before. Later color code WCK substitubed for WV used in 7bit's Round4. So the final basic color codes were: BFP/GD/WCK/NN.

Besides, I realized it's a good vibe to pick yellow color to company the blue color in Symbiosis round 1. I would like to reinforce that idea in round 2. But I preferred to a more saturated color code than previous YG. I chose YCF at first but later change to a deeper color YBP. And then more colors for novelties were added: red(RA) for Lisp, purple(RDA) for Emacs, and white(WFK) for LMI logo. At the end, it had these color codes in round 2: BFP/GD/WCK/NN/YBP/RDA/RA/WFK.

4. Legend Rebuild

The alphas legends in space-cadet keyboard are special. They have APL symbols above the common latin characters, as the following picture shows:

space-cadet alphas

In Symbiosis round 1, the alphas legends were in the similar style but some details were different, as the following:

round 1 alphas

The round 1 legends were tuned smaller to fit the usual SP SA dimensions. Except for that, they have a few deficiencies:

  • Some APL symbols don't map to the origins: the arrows above "GHJKL" were modified for VIM layouts; the ones above "ZX" and "V" were changed
  • Some APL symbols are crooked: the ones above "ERTY", "I", "P"
  • A few latin characters and APL symbols don't look nice: "AGJL", arrows above "GHJKL"

I was thinking to fix all these deficiencies in round 2. There were so many symbols need to be rebuilt. And it had been several years since round1 and xblackdog didn't keep the artworks of them, I don't have any reference for their dimensions. After all I had better to rebuild all these alphas legends, to ensure the integrity and consistence of these legends. So I redrew all these APL symbols and latin symbols and make a new whole set of artworks for alphas. It took me a lot of time to do that. And later it also took a lot of time for me and SP to finalize all the details before production. Several rounds of samples were made and it's hard to get things back and forth. Time-consuming and money-wasting. The legend rebuild thing, is tough in all.

After production of round 2, we had a better alphas than round 1 as the following:

round 2 alphas

5. Novelties

Keyboards from old times didn't have novelties keys because iconic novelties keys occurred recently in the customized keysets. Old keyboard usually used text to represent functions and operations. In space-cadet keyboard, there were a lot of text legends special to Lisp Machines, e.g. "CLEAR SCREEN", "MACRO". They could be used as text novelties. In the other hand, it's not easy to iconify the concept and objects for things related to Lisp Machines. During the IC of round 2, I tried several iterations on the novelties and at the end decide to retain a few logos and jargons as novelties:

  • Parenthesized lambda
    Parenthezised lambda, to pepresent Lisp
  • Emacs
    Emacs, as a general name for all variants, is the popular editor of Lisp enviroment
  • Graphics
    The combination of a triangle, a square and a circle is usually used to express the advances in the graphic system of Lisp Machine.
  • Symbolics logo
    As labeled in Symbolics space-cadet keyboard.
  • LMI logo
    Besides Symbolics, LMI(Lisp Machines, Inc.) was another company formed in 1979 by Richard Greenblatt of MIT's AI Lab to build Lisp machines.
  • Happy Hacking
    Happy Hacking, a jargon among hackers in MIT AI Lab back to 1970s. It's said that Richard Stallman created it to wish another person plenty of hacking fun. It means "May you have happy hacking", just like the hacking version of "Have a nice trip", or "May the Force be with you". This jargon later is used as one part of the name of a PFU keyboard series, the Happy Hacking Keyboards.

These novelties were connected to different colos, for example, GNU Emacs usually used purple in its logo so here I bound purple to its logo. Since we took only the SP preset color codes, sometimes there were not many of choices for one colors, it's easy to finalize every color code mapped to each novelties key.

Those roman and hands symbols are necessary to a space-cadet inspired keyset. They didn't show up in round 1. I should include them in round 2. Again, I redrew all artworks for them. There were both blue and gray versions for them because during IC phase some people asked for both. The tricky part was that these legends should be nice-looking on shape, big but not too big, and still consistent with others on size and line weight. I know there was always something could be improved but I think the production output looks fine.

Special Thanks

I need to thank all those people who helped the project(listed in alphabetical order):

  • &y
  • astro
  • hoq
  • kbdfans
  • kprepublic
  • packman86(GH)
  • thesiscamper(GH)

Lisp Machine Keyset Episode 2 – SA Hacker

Here comes the Lisp Machine keyset episode 2.

Origin

Symbolics 3640

Symbolics, Inc. was a computer manufacturer that designed and manufactured a line of Lisp machines. In 1981, Symbolics introduced the LM-2 as its initail product. The LM-2 had a complex Symbolics-branded keyboard, which is known as the space-cadet keyboard. Later in 1983, Symbolics carried out the 3600 family of Lisp machines. The 3600 machines had a simplified version of the space-cadet keyboard, known simply as the Symbolics keyboard. The early model of Symbolics keyboard is PN 364000.

PN 364000

It had a simplified layout of less keys than the space-cadet keyboard. The color theme was white/seige/dark gray, maybe not as eye candy as the space-cadet keyboard, but it's still a nice theme. To bring this keyset theme back, and to pay homage to this Lisp machine/Symbolics keyboard, I created SA Hacker.

Design

The design follows to what's in the PN 364000 keyboard. It's simple theme with three main colors. White on dark gray for the alphas and white/dark gray on biege for modifiers. The tricky part of the job is to get all these colors royal to the original keyset. After a long time of working with my friends, we finally get the good matches to the original keyset. As the result, I will use customized customized colors for this design. Besides, I would keep the design simple and temperate, without introducing many more colors, or novelties. I hope the design is clean and durable, which expresses the essence of the hacking spirit among hackers in 1980s.

Details & Kits

Manufacture Signature Plastics
Production MX Mount, ABS double shot
Profile SA 1-1-2-3-4-3

Base

SA Hacker is a plain theme with simple design. I don't think it would be popular, at least not that popular as SA Symbiosis. Despite the minor popularity, there still might be enough vintage theme fans or Symbolics keyset enthusiasts for a practical GB. It's better to keep the kits setup to be simple too. So here comes the all-in-one kit for common 108/WKL/65/HHKB, etc. layouts. Not gonna have a rich kits setup to cover 40s, Ergodox, Ortho keyboards, Minila, etc. layouts.

I expect it would be a small GB, at the MOQ about 75 or so. No intend to put a limit on the sale number. But I don't think it would be a lot of interest and a good sale, so it's not necessary to bother vendors. Instead, I would like to run it myself to get better control on the price. The GB day is not determined yet, but I guess it would be an agile run among friends around when the time is right.

Renders

CA66 left

CA66 front

Special Thanks

I would like to give a big thank to all those who helped or contributed to the project(listed in alphabetical order):

  • chyros(GH)
  • impaktor(GH)
  • orihalcon(DT)
  • packman86(GH)
  • taek(DT)
  • webwit(DT)
  • Yock
  • York.Chan(GH)

Special thank to taek. He was really warmhearted and did a lot to help this project. Without his help, this project would not be possible.

Thanks so much!