Remapping My Brain

While the title may sound a bit sinister, it is technically happening, even as I type this.

Our brains are remarkable things. Through the use of routine, we can develop what many people call muscle memory. Actions we can perform with little to no thought. Like signing your name, most people do this automatically. But if you wanted to change your signature, that would require conscious thought. You’d have to deliberately stop yourself each time and then make an effort to sign differently. But eventually, even that would become automatic. Essentially, you remap what signing your name means in your brain. And our brain can get used to all sorts of weird things. If you want to dig into this topic more, just search for ‘neuroplasticity’. But this isn’t an article about that; it is an article about keyboards.

And the particular keyboard in question is the ZSA Moonlander.

As someone with a long list of expensive, ergonomic keyboard purchases in their past, I felt right at home with the value proposition of the Moonlander. I have long been sold on the virtues of the split keyboard, so that box was ticked. What really sold me on this keyboard was the ortholinear key layout. Not at all the fancy animated RGB keys… :)

Unlike the traditional and antiquated staggered key layout, the Moonlander’s keys are laid out in columns. Straight up and down, which is how our fingers actually move. I’ve seen some takes on that layout over the years, but this one felt right. Even still, I’m not sure that would have been enough on its own.

The icing on this cake was the customizability. There is the physical customization of changing out keycaps and key switches. More interesting was that each and every key can be programmed, and it supports multiple layers. I’ve used other keyboards that provided macro capability, but none were particularly friendly to use. I can’t recall ever feeling ambitious enough to make use of that functionality.

However, this is one area that ZSA really got right: their online configuration tool called Oryx. You can change and build up your layouts in their user-friendly tool, then just download a compiled file and drag it into their desktop app called Wally. The keyboard is updated, and you are good to go. They even have a feature allowing notes to be added on each key, providing a tour through your layouts.

Below you can see the layout that I use on my laptop when I’m stuck working at home these days.

One thing you will likely notice is that I’ve also moved away from the familiar QWERTY layout to one called the Norman layout. It has been a fun and exciting challenge trying to recover my typing speed. After about six weeks, I’m getting to the point where I’m not constantly frustrated. I’m definitely slower, but I’m back up to what I guess is an average typing speed. I just need to stop tweaking my layout to have a more static target to work toward.

Would you like to see or hear more about my keyboard experience? In that case, you are in luck as this isn’t the only one I bought recently. Stay tuned for another post in the near(ish) future.

Written by Colin Bate