Developer Q&A site Stack Overflow marked April Fools’ Day last year by making a fake announcement about the launch of a three-key “copy/paste” keyboard. It was an insider joke, a nod to the common practice of developers who copy and paste code, shared by other users on the site, for use in their own projects.
The keyboard, which was designed simply to copy code and paste it elsewhere, was called The Key and billed with a clever twist on Picasso’s famous comment that “Good artists copy, but great artists steal”.
As Stack Overflow’s director of content, Ben Popper, wrote: “They were wrong. Great artists, developers, and engineers copy. Then they paste.”
Far from being offended by the suggestion that they would copy and paste the work of others, many developers thought it was a funny idea. And this week, Stack Overflow announced that positive feedback prompted it to actually make The Key. It did so by teaming up with mechanical keyboard enthusiast Cassidy Williams and custom keyboard maker Drop.
The Key features one Stack Overflow icon button, alongside a C and V button, offering a dedicated keyboard for the Windows/Mac shortcut Ctrl/Command + C and Ctrl/Command + V for copy and paste, respectively.
But fans of the idea had to be quick off the mark to buy the $29 The Key. It was available on Drop’s website as “The Key Macropad” and some 5,200 units were sold. However, within two days, Stack Overflow announced its inventory was exhausted.
Fans, however, can still pre-order The Key and Stack Overflow expects another batch to become available in December.
Stack Overflow is donating its portion of the proceeds of The Key sales to Digitalundivided, a US-based non-profit that aims to develop opportunities in tech for Black and Latinx women. Drop will also donate 5% of their proceeds to Digitalundivided.
It’s perhaps not surprising The Key sold out so quickly. Stack Overflow’s annual developer survey shows trends in what programming languages, frameworks and tools are a hit, rising in popularity, or are loathed by programmers. Stack Overflow has collected data to analyze how common copy/pasting code from its site actually is.
It found that a quarter of users who visit a question on the site copy something within five minutes of reaching the page they’re interested in. That equated to about 40 million copies across 7.3 million posts and comments over a two week period to April 9, 2021. Stack Overflow argues that knowledge reuse isn’t a bad thing, but helps developers learn and code faster.