It has been a few weeks now that we have announced URSA to the world, and the first colorway by biip, and have been silent since. The reason is we have been looking for funding from private investors, set up meetings, met people, pitched URSA and well, long story short, they are not impressed. This has been a blow to our strategy, as we can’t afford to upfront the costs, but really wanted to have the products directly in stock. It took us a couple weeks to swallow our pride after our last hope faded away, and re-adjust our timeline and targets. Here is the new plan.
URSA will be running as a group buy in a few weeks. If you are not familiar with the concept of group buy, it’s basically about taking pre-orders before we have products in stock. That is necessary because of the super expensive cost of keycap molds, and only then we’ll be able to make the products.
In our experience, making a new keycap profile is a bit complicated, and things don’t always go smoothly. We expect bumps on the road, that’s how industrial production works, but most importantly we will communicate them with everyone who got involved in the pre-orders. From the moment we take customers money, it is our duty to communicate updates regularly, and make sure every decision we take is in your best interest. We have a good track record on transparency and trust, and plan to keep it that way.
We will ship from both US and Europe locations. So US/EU buyers don’t bear custom fees, especially in the EU where international packages often come with an unexpected cost.
There will be another update soon about the current state of things, but here are the big milestones ahead of us:
We plan to set 2 stretch goals :
While the BoW colorway goal isn't such a long stretch, ISO/JIS support will require the GB to be very successful. So... there is hope!
First, make sure you have read below about the survey results!
Expect another update soon about the current state of URSA, we have received samples of the test molds already, and are waiting for the color samples now. We'll post about those once we have something to show for.
Thanks everyone for your patience, and all your nice messages both in the survey and on Discord, it’s been great reading them and hope that you are up to participate in this GB as we need you to make it happen!
We have been overwhelmed with enthusiasm, support, kindness, requests, and a tad bit of confusion about URSA. I'll start by addressing it : URSA profile is for Topre keyboards only (Realforce, HHKB, etc.). With that out of the way, let's dive into the results!
Most respondents seemed to like the Minicom colorway, some did not. We are very happy to have this as the first URSA design as it does give a pleasant throwback to the 80s with a modern touch, so we are looking forward to see it!
While most French people (that are old enough to know what a floppy disk is) have used a Minitel in their lives, most of you may have not, so here's what the beast looks like:
Despite some people having asked for it, there will not be a version of Minicom without the green accents, because as you'll read below kits have been adjusted a bit based on your feedback.
Note: There has been a few variations of the Minitel that different manufacturers have produced, so there isn't a "Minitel colorway reference". biip is picking the colors he wants, and we'll make sure to provide enough photo material for you to make an informed decision upon purchase, so you don't only buy based on renders.
We will have two "categories" of colorways: designers and standard. Designers sets will be made in collaboration with designers (duh), and standards are meant to be stocked forever. There is a small difference in terms of kitting too, but more on that later.
Minicom will be the first designer set. There won't be any other before the GB has been delivered.
4 standard colorways will be available during the GB:
Gray (formerly "Beige") was the most requested colorway. Its colors are inspired by classic keyboards and featured on Realforce OEM keycaps.
Black was quite popular too, it is a simple and efficient White-on-Black colorway, to be paired with other colors (see below).
Red and Blue are inspired by the Sachiko prints Andreas did, and many of you seemed to love. They will come in Mods kits only (more about kitting below), to be paired with Black Alphas kits.
Note: There won't be a Black-on-White colorway during the GB, as it was way less popular than the others. We may add it back in if we reach some GB stretch goals.
We heard some of you want more bold colorways, and others hinted at some OG sets (Dolch, Space Cadet, ...). Expect a survey dedicated to colorways after the GB is funded, and we will get another designers colorway going as soon as it's delivered.
URSA will have centered legends as we believe it is a better match to the spherical top surface. We heard that some of you don't like them, so we might make a more OEM-like cylindrical profile in the future with top left aligned legends to match that aethetic. But that’ll be another project and obviously only happen if URSA does!
Sublegends and alt layouts (QWERTZ, Colemak, Dvorak, etc.) are unfortunately not going to happen now due to doubleshot process, and the extremely high cost of making the molds. We may have a fallback plan, by offering FK customization service for them, but it will be lasered legends so the quality and color choice wouldn't be the same. We may include a question about this in an upcoming survey.
After consulting with our manufacturing partner, they highly recommend doing PBT keycaps with ABS legends. The overall structure (that impacts the sounds and sturdiness of the keycaps) remains in PBT, it's just the legend insert that will be in an ABS blend.
We will offer kits compatible with:
Sorry, no ISO/JIS support, unless we reach a stretch goal. This was a very tough call to make, as we had many requests, but the cost of adding another kit is very high. If you are in only for ISO/JIS, stay tuned once pre-orders start and/or subscribe to updates. If it doesn't happen during the GB, it will be the first kit we add.
We will have support for the 87U's left Control key's rotated stem. It seems to have been a concern for some of you, no worries, we got this one covered.
If more PCBs come out (looking at you Cipulot & friends!) we will consider an additional compatibility kit, but we’ll have to wait until there is something close to a consensus over layouts support, or consider blanks and the customization service as the alternative option for exotic layouts.
A bit of confusion with people asking for MX version, or making comments that would not apply to Topre keyboards (ie. 40% keyboards). So, again, it is not going to happen. Should 23_Andreas decide to make an MX profile it would be at least slightly different, and definitely not named URSA to prevent any confusion.
Based on survey results and our goal to offer more color options, we have moved the kits around a bit.
We split the base kit in "alphas" and "mods" kits, to offer colored mods kits. This doesn't apply to designers colorways, that may include their own accents directly in the base kit.
We could not pick which keys to include in the accents kit, so we removed it, and plan to offer more colored Mods kits instead.
|Base kit (79 keys)||Alphas (49 keys)||Mods (30 keys)|
Blanks kits are happening of course, with 2 colorways to start: Gray and Black.
Spacebars will be offered as standalone during the GB (price and colors TBD), but probably not in the future unless they are highly demanded.
Prices remains the same as in the surveys, here is a reminder accounting for the new kitting:
|79 keys||49 keys||30 keys||52 keys||131 keys|
Here are the other products we are working on that may be included in the GB:
We might run a survey about those too.
You have been many to respond to the survey, and we have read every single comment you have sent us. A big THANK YOU for taking the time to ride along on this journey, and a shout out to the members of our Discord server that keep nudging me for updates, I hope you are happy with what you got today!