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About That List of Every Switch Ever…

Figure 1: While this is a good start from user destohfaeda, this isn't anywhere near complete...
After having collected switches for almost five consecutive years now, I can say with confidence that everything switch related comes and goes in ever-looping cycles. Strong tactile bumps towards the start of the downstroke were once novel and popular, faded out of the limelight over the past few years, and are only just now starting to make a comeback. Huge leaps in housing aesthetics happened back when the first custom colored MX-style switches began being offered in 2018, and now five years later these massive leaps in design capabilities are surging again. Even things contextually related to switches rotate around and around in cycles. One such switch-related phenomenon which repeats in a (much faster) loop is that of people wanting to make a complete list of “every switch ever”. Almost on a monthly basis for every single month since I started collecting, at least one new person has joined the hobby and felt that the community was missing a simple ‘List of All Switches’ and that they would be the one to fix that. My immediate response downplaying the likelihood that they would be successful in this pursuit is almost always first met with a bit of annoyance and a very fair question from their perspective: “Well it can’t be that hard, Goat?” With attempting to document every switch ever being a noble pursuit for hobbyists newly enthralled by the world of switch options around them, the fact that the community lacks an exhaustive list of all switches ever is not really for a lack of trying. Over the years, individuals and small teams of documentarians have attempted to take on this task, and a few of them remain ever so slightly more successful and available to date, including the Deskthority Wiki and While these resources are no doubt impressive in the amount of ground that they did cover, they, like many other large scale documentation projects before them, failed as people began to lose interest and steam in contributing to such a project. And so as a result of these shortcomings, people often think that they can step in and do better than all those previously failed attempts before them. Either this, or they simply ask me why I’ve not gotten around to doing such since I’m clearly not squeamish about sustained, long form documentation projects. Well, aside from the informational storage and display concerns, the general lack of expertise on the subject from most people in the community, and the sheer time investment required to do such, there’s a really basic set of fundamental assumptions people seem to miss out on that I think is worth discussing. So in case you are wrestling with the idea of making a list of every switch ever, let me give you some broad thoughts to ponder in the meantime. Definitional Constraints
Figure 2: Alps, Buckling Spring, Cherry MX, and Topre keyboards from trimaster's collection on Geekhack.
Let’s start out nice and easily by asking a really simple question: What is a mechanical keyboard switch? While this may seem like a very loaded question to many people freshly joining the hobby and nearly drowning in the options that even one vendor provides them these days, actually figuring out where to draw this line is a lot harder than you may think. From a more recent, modern day perspective, most people would consider traditional, MX-style switches as the obvious examples that would make the list. However, when you begin to consider other actuation mechanisms, this begins to get a bit more hairy. While I doubt many people would take issue with including electrocapacitive or optical switches shaped fairly similarly to the traditional MX-style like Varmilo, but what about Topre? What about buckling spring keyboards? Relative to the complex, compact, and interchangeable nature of traditional MX-style switches, these are some mechanisms which are radically simpler, and thus toe the line of being considered “mechanical enough” to some and not to others. From a historical perspective, we’re stuck trying to even define what a keyboard is before getting to the keyboard switches themselves! Do pre-internet terminals count? What about adding machines? Do typewriters, mechanical or electrical, have things that can be deemed switches in them? For what it's worth, I have no prescriptive answers to these questions either. In fact, I spend a good amount of my time thinking about this whenever I’m adding new switches to the collection. Do Combinations Count?
Figure 3: Recently popular 'Black Cherry Pie' frankenswitches.
Okay, fine - we’ll stick to a list of just traditional, MX-style keyboard switches instead of wrestling with all of those above concerns. Aside from the fact that you’re missing out on a whole wide world of vintage switches out there with comparatively ‘odd’ designs like in Alps and Hi-Tek 725s (aka Space Invaders), you won’t be quite free of the headaches just yet. Popularized over the years by famous switches like Invyr Holy Pandas, Zykos, and Black Cherry Pies, we still have to contend with frankenswitches. Yes, these new switches born of amalgamations of existing, stock switch parts operate in a confusing territory given that nobody yet has provided a compelling system as to how to account for these switches. If we don’t count them at all, we’re missing out on crucial pieces of modern mechanical keyboard history and yet if we let every single option through, then we’re approaching a combinatorial possibility that exceeds any number that our brains can realistically process. There really is a nearly endless amount of ways to mix and match traditional MX-style switch components. Attempting to skirt the fine line of judging which of these doesn’t make the master list of MX-style switches in and of itself isn’t nearly as cut and dry as many would assume. Does Accessibility Matter? Enough is enough, Goat - we’re only doing stock, as delivered from the factory, MX-style keyboard switches. That’s the list, that’s all that will be on it, and I’m going to capture each and every one. Well, I hate to inform you that even this extremely narrow subset of switches, relative to where we started this article at least, isn’t nearly as well defined as you would imagine. Assumedly a large portion of the readers of this article are western facing keyboard enthusiasts and thus are not privy to the fact that it’s a general rule of thumb among collectors that for every one switch that is released in the west that we are aware of, at least one or two more switches are made in small, Chinese-only production runs. With all of the production of switches in the world being based in China, with the exception of Cherry, we can’t entirely even be sure of all of the switches which have ever been made. The lack of accessibility to documentation as well as the physical eastern-only exclusive switches makes this task nearly impossible to keep up with even for the most dedicated of collectors or vendors. And keep in mind that all of that doesn’t even account for the fact that there are people like me who collect factory prototypes, or switches that may have only had one to a dozen iterations made. Not being able to get a hold of one switch that has tens of thousands of copies is one thing, but is it the same as not being able to get one switch which may only have five total copies of it ever made, none of which were released to the public? I surely can’t help you keep track of them all…
There we have it - an existential breakdown by means of mechanical keyboard switches. By no means was this article meant to disparage anyone from attempting to dive deep into the world of switches, nor anyone who has taken up attempts over the years to try and document them all for themselves. Rather, given the fact that I am asked about this or pointed in the direction of someone attempting it on nearly a monthly basis, I felt the need to comment on the general impossibility of it all. Or, if it truly is possible, it’s a lot harder than most people take for granted at the onset of it all. The wide world of mechanical keyboard switches is complex, deep, and honestly a little bit intriguing when you consider that the best switches you’ve ever tried are likely still out there for you to find. Instead of getting hung up on trying to document each and every one of them, attempting to enjoy the journey into switches and mechanical keyboards in pursuit of your endgame build is what we should all be striving for.

As someone who has only been part of the mechanical keyboard hobby for a few months, this whole article speaks to me. I bought my first keyboard, then bought a switch tester set, then another. And the more I look, the more lost I feel. There are so many brands all selling basically the same things, but ever so slightly different. Then there's low profile, which are incompatible with a "normal" board. I learned of optical switches, which feel like we're leaving the "mechanical" side of switches entirely behind. It's all very confusing. I do wish there was a complete list somewhere, but I see how that is a fools errand with how many choices there are.
Nov 3, 2023
I would think that something like a wikified, crowd sourced, and web based application could be a practical solution. While it might not be able to list every switch ever, it could be seeded by folks with a lot of specific knowledge like ThereminGoatMK, and maintained by community members while being updated by anyone with new information. And it has the benefit of not being a snapshot in time, but something that can act as a living document.
Nov 6, 2023
DrR0Ck_CAGDon't quote me, but that sounds like something Deskthority could be used for?
Nov 3, 2023
Ah, "Make an exhaustive list of all the switches". This blog was a very eloquent way of explaining to the keeb newbs that one does not simply list all the switches. There are nuances, hybrids, edge cases, and unique little unicorn situations that make the task of counting the grains of sand in a scoop from the beach seem surmountable. With that said, someone managed to index 3D printing filament and offered it as an API, and someone else implemented a color wheel to search that index by color hex code. While the task is indeed gargantuan, given enough time and motivation, perhaps the existing indices will gain community support and near completion. Of course, new switches will be created and the list will need to grow, so there really isn't a definitive point of completion.
I thought there was a chance this article would have been "yeah I finished it, here it is"
Nov 3, 2023
YanboWuI was here for that hope too... :(
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