The “Past and Present” of Mechanical Keyboards, the Story of CHERRY, the Global Leader in Mechanical Keyboards

The evolution of mechanical keyboards, which are now thriving, was once on the brink of being phased out. So how did mechanical keyboards develop? Today, on the occasion of CHERRY’s 70th anniversary, let’s talk about the story of CHERRY and discuss the past and present of mechanical keyboards, as well as how CHERRY keyboards evolved from a restaurant basement to become the global leader in mechanical keyboards and switches.

When it comes to mechanical keyboards, there is one brand that cannot be ignored, and that is CHERRY. Just as one thinks of Apple and Steve Jobs when mentioning smartphones, it can be said that there would be no mechanical keyboards today without CHERRY.

The Past and Present of Mechanical Keyboards

The origin of mechanical keyboards can be traced back to the 1960s. Christoph Latham Sholes, an American, patented and obtained the operating rights for the typewriter model. The first commercial typewriter appeared in 1873. However, due to the mechanical limitations at the time, typing speed was not very fast. Later, in 1981, IBM introduced the first modern keyboard for personal computers, coinciding with the rise of personal computers, and mechanical keyboards gradually entered the consumer market.

So when did mechanical keyboards appear? That brings us to CHERRY.

CHERRY’s predecessor was a company that made switches, and the switches we use in mechanical keyboards today evolved from microswitches. If you think about it carefully, don’t the switches on the keyboard resemble some of the switches and buttons we encounter in daily life?

In 1967, as computers began to gradually popularize, CHERRY introduced a keyboard production line, and the world’s first keyboard factory was born. Later, under the leadership of a young man in the R&D department, CHERRY developed the MX switch in 1983, creating a legend in the market. From then on, CHERRY embarked on a new path in switch development.

In mechanical keyboards, each key is an independent switch, just like a light switch. This is what we call a “switch.” It improved the lifespan and comfort of each key and solved the problem of conflicts caused by pressing multiple keys simultaneously.

The Decline of Mechanical Keyboards

In the early 1990s, when information technology was just beginning to develop rapidly, membrane keyboards almost replaced mechanical keyboards. Whether in terms of cost, price, or portability, membrane keyboards far surpassed the “bulky” mechanical keyboards. Mainly because membrane keyboards were much cheaper than mechanical keyboards, they quickly spread throughout the market, directly squeezing the market for mechanical keyboards. At this point, mechanical keyboards were already on the verge of being forgotten.

Turning Point – CHERRY’s Magnificent Rebirth

The turning point came with the development of the gaming esports industry. In 2006, when SteelSeries purchased a batch of mechanical switches from CHERRY, it subsequently produced the classic 6G mechanical keyboard. Once launched, it became a hot item among gamers.

It was with the introduction of this mechanical keyboard that many keyboard manufacturers also sensed the potential of mechanical keyboards and began to cooperate with CHERRY. Especially in 2014, when the gaming esports industry was booming, mechanical keyboards became popular, not only among gamers but also among typists. Even today, many brands still use CHERRY MX switches, including Logitech, Corsair, iKBC, Ducky, and Filco, among others. As the pioneer of mechanical keyboards, CHERRY also entered the Chinese market, and its distinct cherry logo and the standard ammunition box became a belief for many gamers.

It was also because many gamers entered the circle of mechanical keyboard enthusiasts and gradually started a snowball effect that, with the rise of the national consumption level and the popularity of esports, this snowball grew bigger and eventually successfully changed the entire keyboard industry.

A groundbreaking design coupled with an unprecedented era of technological explosion allowed CHERRY to undergo a magnificent rebirth. Additionally, many OEM manufacturers have had many years of cooperation with CHERRY, giving CHERRY a natural advantage in the business world.

Evolution of Switches

In 1983, the birth of the CHERRY MX switch completely revolutionized the entire keyboard industry. With meticulous design, the CHERRY MX switch changed the situation where mechanical keyboards were large, heavy, and uncomfortable to use. The CHERRY MX switch boasts reliable quality and a clear tactile feel, with a lifespan of 20 million keystrokes. Its unique resistance and sound provide users with an unprecedented and delightful experience, attracting both office workers and gamers alike.

With subsequent developments, the MX switch spawned a series of variations. CHERRY released the black, blue, brown, and red switches. The blue switch was born in 1986, the brown switch in 1992, and the red switch in 2000. Thus, the renowned CHERRY MX series emerged. To distinguish between switches, CHERRY marked them with red, black, blue, brown, and green, providing users with a method to identify the switches.

By 2014, when CHERRY’s patent protection expired, domestic manufacturers began to imitate CHERRY’s classic MX switches. However, for many consumers, CHERRY remained the most authentic option. In 2016, as esports gaming gained popularity, gamers began to demand higher response speeds from mechanical keyboards. Consequently, CHERRY developed the silver switch, which features a short travel distance and fast response speed, becoming the preferred choice for many esports players.

In 2018, CHERRY developed the Low Profile switch, which combines the feel of membrane and mechanical keyboards. While maintaining the mechanical feel, it greatly reduced the height of the switch, thus reducing the overall height of the keyboard. From then on, mechanical keyboards embarked on a lightweight and thin route, appearing more delicate and lightweight. By this time, the lifespan of switches had reached 10 million keystrokes.

In 2021, CHERRY developed the Ultra Low Profile switch technology. In recent years, CHERRY has also collaborated with high-end gaming laptop manufacturers, allowing users to experience mechanical keyboard feel on laptops.

CHERRY has never stopped innovating in switch design, and its commitment to quality has remained unwavering. Just recently, CHERRY introduced two new switches, the MX Ergo Clear and MX Black Clear-Top. The MX Ergo Clear offers excellent tactility, while the MX Black Clear-Top provides a smooth and resilient feel with a rich keystroke sound. These two switches are newly customized based on the needs of the community, with their Chinese names also being collected from player suggestions. It can be said that they are created by players and named by players. Undoubtedly, the MX Ergo Clear and MX Black Clear-Top will become new favorites among players.

Different switches represent different tactile sensations, and among today’s “keyboard enthusiasts,” there is a phenomenon where some players are very concerned about the typing sound. While sound perception can provide players with an intuitive experience, the quality of a mechanical keyboard does not solely depend on sound perception; it is the pressing force and feel that truly define the soul of a mechanical keyboard.

70th Anniversary – A Magnificent Rebirth of the Brand

Today, CHERRY is not just a mechanical keyboard manufacturer but also offers mice, headphones, microphones, and other products, achieving comprehensive development. At the end of 2022, it even acquired the Swedish peripheral brand Xtrfy—a brand known to the public for its collaboration with the legendary CS team NiP. With the two companies joining forces, it is believed that more products meeting the needs of esports users will be introduced.

Now listed, CHERRY’s new CEO, Oliver Kaltner, also expressed that the brand image will be further enhanced on the occasion of its 70th anniversary. He hopes to continue the successful cooperation with sales partners and supply chains to jointly expand CHERRY’s leading position in various business fields. The focus is on continuing to provide users with unparalleled performance and experience.

The 70 years mark a milestone, and the future and market pose both opportunities and challenges. What experiences will CHERRY bring to consumers in the future? We eagerly await to find out.