DROP’s Lord of the Rings Keyboard is for Newbies, not Nerds


Image for article titled DROP's Gorgeous Lord of the Rings Keyboard Broke My Elvish-Loving Brain

Photograph: io9 | Linda Codega

Once I first obtained my DROP x Lord of the Rings keyboard, it was a type of packages that you simply come dwelling to after a visit: a pleasant shock, and one I had been trying ahead to since I had first agreed to put in writing a evaluate of the brand new Lord of the Rings particular version. I debated between the Elvish and the Dwarvish, and eventually determined that regardless of how a lot I beloved the illustration on the Dwarvish keyboard (a rendering of the door to Moria), I used to be actually an Elf Boy at coronary heart, and requested that model for evaluate.

I wasted no time setting it up. Certain, I had simply come off a global flight three hours beforehand, however I figured why not, let’s get crack-a-lackin. I instantly changed a number of the inexperienced keycaps with the extra orange caps (thanks, YouTube, for the useful tutorial which typically boiled right down to “the keycaps will pop off earlier than you’ll be able to break them, so seize a pry and simply go for it”). I plugged all the things in, and instantly began typing away.

All was effectively. I summoned no evil shades from ages previous, the Valar remained within the Timeless Lands, useless Númenórean kings remained undisturbed, really it appeared good. The tippy tappies had been tip-tapping, and for a full 12 hours I remained delighted, so happy with this neat little keyboard that was aesthetically pleasing, gave me a lot room and allowed me to put in writing rapidly and with the deep-seated satisfaction that comes from listening to keycaps go clicky-clicky.

The DROP x Lord of the Rings keyboard additionally has some cute little extras—an illustration of the dual timber of Valinor over the arrow keys, a damaged Narsil on the enter key, the One Ring on the command key, the attention of Sauron on the the escape key—charming additions that made my little nerd coronary heart go pitter-patter as I, splendidly besotted with the attractive mint inexperienced base, ivory keys, shiny orange additions, noticed nothing amiss.

I used to be blinded by a mixture of nostalgia and feeling like knowledgeable author, with my massive keyboard that demanded consideration and focus to put in writing on. Each phrase, each letter, wanted to be pressed down, not simply tapped, and I reveled on this sense of energy and management, ignoring the darkness that grew in a land far to the east. I had forgotten how a lot I loved the best way that mechanical keyboards really feel. I’ve by no means owned a mechanical keyboard, at the very least not since my household laptop again within the early aughts, and whereas I used to be nonetheless in my post-travel part I didn’t discover what was proper in entrance of my eyes. But, within the darkness of my workplace, with the backlights off, the shadows waited.

Within the chilly morning after receiving this pleasant little factor, this excellent piece of know-how, I seen one thing passing unusual. First, final evening, I had seen that the operate keys had been introduced F#, utilizing the commonly-accepted Tengwar for F (formen) and the next Elvish numeral. This initially assured me that each one was effectively with my cute little keyboard. (A enjoyable reality! Elvish math is developed on a base-12 system, which is mirrored within the operate keys.) What I didn’t discover the evening earlier than was that the quantity keys immediately under the operate row didn’t correspond to the Tengwar numerical system, and had been totally completely different symbols. I paused. I checked the F key.

The F key, which has each the latinate and the Tengwar legends printed on the cap, displayed the latin “f” alongside the Tengwar letter anca, which transliterates because the voiced valar fricative “ɣ” or “gh”—a digraph that doesn’t exist in Trendy English, and is unquestionably not the letter formen that the keyboard used to precede the numbers on the operate key. For the large language nerds, I need to say that there’s one other Tengwar letter, unquë, the labiovalar nasal “gh,” which we do use in English (Hugh)—however regardless, that is not the Tengwa formen. I pulled up a Sindarin translator (a number of the keycaps had Sindarin phrases, so I assumed the keyboard would use the Sindarin-Tengwar transliteration) and to my rising dismay I noticed… none of those Tengwa legends matched the Latin keycaps.

Sure, the vowels in Sindarin are typically indicated by graphenes that alter the pronunciation of the succeeding phoneme letter, however by and enormous, you’ll be able to imitate a one to 1 transliteration, or, on the very least make an try. Additionally, in the event you wished to put in writing within the Beleriand model of Sindarin (which is fully ineffective, even moreso than writing in a fictional language could be within the first place, contemplating Beleriand fell into the ocean on the finish of the First Age), you may use letters as vowels and ignore graphenes totally. However moreover the truth that Beleriand-style Sindarin is once more, totally and not using a usecase, I really like little dots and swirlies and won’t give them up.

This keyboard, for all its pleasant presence, its charming mein, its great sounds and well-translated Sindarin phrases, in the end fails in what ought to be the fundamental consideration of this keyboard: to match up related sounds inside phonetic alphabets. Whereas the configuration of the keycaps appears, at first look, to be a completely random assortment of letters and sounds, I tried to make sense of it. It took some digging, however lastly, I noticed… this was a keyboard sorted in response to the sound sequence of every particular person letter, as outlined by J.R.R. Tolkien in his rationalization of Quenyan syntax. In case you weren’t off the deep finish of Tolkien’s assortment of Center-earth language already, brace yourselves.

Entry for nerds only, I’m so sorry

Entry for nerds solely, I’m so sorry
Picture: J.R.R. Tolkien

Above you’ll be able to see a chart of the way to group the person letters of Tengwar in response to the glottal sounds they make, that are mirrored within the form of the letters themselves. The primary sound-considerations are divided up in every column, which, when letters are written downwards, are known as témar. Briefly:

  • Tincotéma: dental sounds equivalent to /t/, /d/, /n/
  • Parmatéma: labial sounds equivalent to /p/, /b/, /m/, /f/
  • Calmatéma: velar sounds equivalent to /ok/, /g/
  • Quessetéma: labiovelar sounds equivalent to /kw/, gw/, /ñw/
  • Tyelpetéma: palatal sounds equivalent to /sh/, /j/

Moreover, trying on the rows, you’ll be able to see the témar crossed in opposition to the “method of articulation,” known as tyeller.

  • Collection 1: unvoiced plosives equivalent to /p/, /t/, /ok/
  • Collection 2: voiced plosives equivalent to /b/, /d/, /g/
  • Collection 3: unvoiced fricatives equivalent to /f/, /sh/
  • Collection 4: voiced fricatives /v/, /ð/, /ɣ/
  • Collection 5: nasals equivalent to /n/, /m/
  • Collection 6: approximants

So, taking a look at DROP’s keyboard it seems that the primary row (which might sometimes begin with a tilde or sprint) begins with the vowel management image (a straight line over which the vowel indicator could be drawn), after which proceeds down the tincotéma column for the primary six letters. The primary row then continues in type of a random assortment of extra sounds–the seven corresponds to the romen, eight to the silme, and 9 to the hyarmen Tengwar. The second row of letters begins equally, taking place the parmatema column and together with, as soon as once more, a moderately random assortment of extra sounds, none of which correspond to any of the English legends. This happens once more for the third and fourth rows, that are each stuffed up with the additional letters within the spare keys after the six Tengwa from every glottal sound.

So I found out why the keyboard is organized this manner—largely—nevertheless it nonetheless doesn’t make sense. Why construction the letters to align with the constructed sorting of the phonetic breakdown of the Tengwar alphabet, a element possibly three individuals will discover, and never align the Tengwar to the QWERTY keyboard? The QWERTY keyboard is, in any case, not an alphabetized keyboard; why then did these keycaps come, kind of, alphabetized in response to the Tengwar?

I consulted with my colleague Florence Ion over on the tech aspect of Gizmodo. She’s been doing keyboard opinions for years, and helped me work out precisely what to do for this one (inside my restricted information of such issues) and the way to check all the things out. What Ion additionally informed me was that mass-produced customized keyboards have led to a decline in high quality for fandom die-hards. When the pastime was smaller and the barrier for entry greater, customized keycaps needed to be crowdfunded by way of a mass preorder/buy-in, however this imply that the keycaps produced had been of a a lot greater high quality. Whereas these keycaps are clearly of a superbly superb high quality, the thematic readability of them is just not expressed effectively. DROP hasn’t let their manufacturing slip, however the reality is that this keyboard is—at the very least to me as a die-hard language lover—aesthetically incorrect.

How may you repair it? There is a matter of area, the primary Tengwar alphabet contains twenty-four letters, plus an extra eight symbols for extra nuanced diphthongs and distinctions that solely a person like Tolkien would really feel the necessity to establish inside an alphabet. For example, the distinction between the “n” in nigh and the “nj” in new is mirrored in Tengwar, with n as in nigh represented by the numen letter, and nj as ñoldo. Nonetheless, it’s value noting that numen and the ñoldo are actually reversed characters, so feasibly these two may have been illustrated on a single keycap. There are many these which can be identifiable if one had simply taken the time to undergo and line up a couple of key similarities. If this was really meant to be a usable Tengwar keyboard, there are alternatives for space-saving inside the keyspace offered, particularly contemplating that there are some punctuations that English makes use of which have by no means been recorded in Sindarin or Quenya.

So what I’ve is an outstanding little keyboard that’s pleasant to make use of and cute to have on my desk, but when I had been to aim to transliterate something from English into its phonetic match in Sindarin, I must undergo an entire track and dance to aim to search out the temar and teyeller, try to make use of a chart to search out the right glyph on my keyboard, after which work out no matter English letter in any given font corresponds to the Tengwar I’ve discovered on my chart, moderately than simply referencing my keyboard itself. I’d be higher served making a glyph map alone that corresponds to this setup moderately than try to undergo three layers of translation.

I’m so sorry that I’m like this, I actually am. I simply wished a transliteral Elvish keyboard, and what I’ve is an expressed thesis of Tolkien’s constructed Elvish languages. I do know it’s merely the best answer performed effectively, however there is part of me that continues to be aggravated. There’s a model of this keyboard which may exist in one other timeline that’s progressive and intelligent, using each the Tengwar and Latin glyphs to create a usable Elvish keyboard that you may use to put in writing in Sindarin, ought to you’ve gotten the alt/command management to regulate the vowels or point out whether or not you wished the numen-n or the ñoldo-n. We may have had all of it.

I do really love this packaging, it’s quite charming.

I do actually love this packaging, it’s fairly charming.
Photograph: io9 | Linda Codega

I discussed that this keyboard is available in Dwarvish—or Khudzul, in the event you’re being Tolkien about it—and I remorse to tell you at first look that it doesn’t seem as if the Cirth letters line up with any approximate latinate transliteration both. However Khudzul does have 50 Cirth, so the phonetics may need been a bit of trickery. I received’t get right into a breakdown of the Kudzul keyboard right here, as I’ve already gone wildly obsessive sufficient.

Basically, this cute little clicky-clacky mechanical keyboard is nice for anybody who wishes the Elvish aesthetic, with no manner to make use of the keyboard effectively to mimic Sindarin, both in translation or transliteration. The salt within the wound is the Sindarin printed on the translated keycaps like dwelling, finish, delete, and insert. I didn’t undergo all of them, however I picked out some that confirmed the breadth of their rightness and wrongness. The Sindarin phrase bâr for is used for dwelling, which is right. Nonetheless, they printed the Sindarin phrase meth on the tip keycap, which is wrong as a result of meth is a noun and never a verb! The Sindarin verb for finish is a transitive prefix tel- or one thing like metta, which is translated nearer to ‘ending’. One other instance is the insert key which reads, in Sindarin ‘nest’ however whose Sindarin letters correlate to no Sindarin phrase, so far as I can inform. So it looks as if we’ve got some right phrases, some incorrect types, and a few keycaps that simply have a phonetic substitution.

It’s, nevertheless, fairly effectively made (I did discover a bit of little bit of separation between the metallic chassis and the quilt, nevertheless it’s minor), and has a bunch of cute additions in several colours and enjoyable designs. I obtained the usual model (with each the Latin and the Tengwar legends) however I’ve requested the hardcore model to see if I can program this keyboard to put in writing in a transliterative Sindarin–we’ll see when that will get right here. However in the end, this Elvish model of the Drop ENTR keyboard is good. I prefer it, I’m going to maintain utilizing it. It does what it’s speculated to do. It’s an amazing starter keyboard for a beginner like me, however I weep for the keyboard I may have had.

Numerous Lord of the Rings keyboards, together with Elvish, Dwarvish, and Black Tongue (Quenya however worse) can be found from DROP.

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