Cherry MX Goes Retro With A Glorious Revival Of The 1980s 'Nixie' Keyboard Switch
The iconic keyboard switch manufacturer Cherry has announced a new product today, but it's technically a very old product. You might not spend a lot of time thinking about the keyboard in front of you, but mechanical keyboard enthusiasts certainly do. The more obsessive among them will gladly seek out decades-old, ultra-rare keyboard switches to give their typing experience a little something extra. Thanks to Cherry, one of those classic switches will be easier to come by. Cherry has announced it will manufacture the MX Black Clear-Top for the first time in more than 30 years.
Keyboard switches come in three basic flavors: tactile, linear, and clicky. The standard MX Black switch is linear, meaning the force increases consistently throughout the press with no click or tactile bump in the middle. The MX Black is Cherry's oldest design, but it did make some variations. The MX Black Clear-Top was produced in the 1980s for a company called Nixdorf Computer AG. These switches, sometimes called Nixies, are among the rarest Cherry-style switches in the world, commanding a price of up to $7 per switch.
The difference between a Nixie and a standard MX Black is subtle but important to keyboard nerds. Rather than the opaque black case, Nixies have a translucent top. The spring weight is also slightly different -- the bottom force is a bit lower, but the actuation force is a touch higher. The original Nixies also had a diode inside rather than on the board, but the re-release won't include that.
Cherry will make two versions of the retro switch, one with factory lubricant and one without. The unlubricated version is for enthusiasts, many of whom want to carefully select and apply lubricant to switches themselves. The pre-lubed version will be fine for all but the pickiest. It'll have Krytox GPL 205 Grade 0 lubricant inside, which is what a lot of enthusiasts would use on a linear switch anyway.
The new Nixies should begin appearing early next year, but they'll be loose switches you have to plug into a keyboard yourself. Some boards could ship with them pre-installed, but that won't happen until later. NovelKeys, a retailer I have used many times, already has Nixies up for pre-order at $21.60 per 36-count box. That works out to $0.60 per switch.