Das Fix

There was a time when the desktop peripherals such as your keyboard and mouse were expensive items that you hung on to and cared for. But several decades of PC commoditization and ever-cheaper manufacturing have rendered each of them to an almost throwaway level, they are so cheap that when one breaks you can simply reach for another without thought.

This is not to say that there is no longer a space for a more costly specialist keyboard. You’ll find enthusiasts still clinging to their treasured vintage IBM Model Ms and Model Fs, or typing on a range of competing high end ‘boards. You might say that a cheap keyboard is pretty high quality these days, but for some people only the feel of a quality switch will do.

[Mac2612] was given a particularly nice example of this class of peripheral, a Das Keyboard 4C complete with trademark missing key decals. There was a snag though, it has suffered a spill at some time in its life, and would issue random keypresses which rendered it useless. His marathon investigation and repair of the fault makes for an interesting read, and gives us some insight into why these keyboards cost the extra money.

“To my dismay, I quickly realized that this was probably an unnecessary endeavor…”

At first it seemed as though corrosion on the board might be the issue, so he gave it a clean with IPA. All to no avail, and so began a succession of further dismantlings and cleanups which culminated in the desoldering of all the key switches. This lengthy task shows us in detail the construction of a high-end ‘board, but sadly it didn’t reveal the fault, and phantom keypresses kept appearing.

Following the board traces back to the microcontroller, he eventually found that moisture had corroded the end of a 10K surface mount resistor, leaving it with a resistance in the MOhms. Since it was a pulldown for one of the keyboard rows, he’d found the source of the problem. Having spent a long time fault-finding a board with an SMD part with a mechanical failure, we feel his pain.

Replacing the SMD parts and reassembly gave him a rather sweet keyboard, albeit for a lot of work.

This is the first Das Keyboard teardown we’ve brought you, but not the first keyboard hack. There are the people remanufacturing the Model F, for example, or the most minimalist keyboard possible.

[Thanks Graham Heath, via /r/MechanicalKeyboards]

35 thoughts on “Das Fix

      1. and im using a “microsoft wired keyboard” cause when they get filled up with metal dust/swarf/oil and antifreese in work i bin it and buy another lol My work is hard on this stuff. computer even has a car air filter glued to its intake fans.

          1. You’re being picky and pissing all over the “I’m an older dinosaur then you lot” contest.
            Anyone to beat Marvin with stories of making contact by creating sparks between 2 flintstones?
            Tomorrow we’ll talk storage, where Joe will boast of how his cuneiform clay tablets predates Jim’s punched cards.

          2. Production of Model M’s began in 1985, and there absolutely were pre production models that were available in 1984. In fact they go for big $$$ for the retro computer collectors.

            So yes, he absolutely could have a 1984 Model M.

        1. I have several of those, use them on all my rigs. Also a couple of spares. When one is offline, it gets disassembled and totally, lovingly cleaned so it look brand new when it rotates back into service.

  1. Is it just me, or are the 5th and 6th keys from the left in rows [2, 4, 5] from the bottom swapped with respect to the smooth color gradient being attempted in the keyboard?

  2. I had a cheap Anker mouse + keyboard mouse and treated myself to a Ducky mouse + keyboard upgrade for my birthday. That’s a £30 set replaced by a £150 set.
    Is it nice? Yes. Is it worth the 5x price tag? No.
    I keep the Anker set as spare in my drawer in case the keyboard Cherry switches or mouse Omron switches give up the ghost. This week, I scavenged switches from an old HP 3 buttons mouse (no wheel) to fix a RAT5 gaming mouse, showing that the £10/kg mouse switches outlasted its £50 mouse counterparts. So you don’t always get what you pay for!

  3. I have a newer Daz keyboard, and hands down (tehee) its the best PC related purchase i ever made, it already outlived any keyboard i had before this, and the value of seeing somebody try type on this thing (got a no decals version) is priceless. It also did infact slightly improve my blind typing (even though i didn’t get it for that/expected that)

    1. It’s even worse because “fix” is sth. like fast or shortsighted (“fixe Idee”) and “Fix” ‘is’ an injection of drugs.
      f/Fix is not a native german word and “Die Fix” would be more correct since it’s “Die Reperatur”.

      Ok – “Der Fix” is probably commonly used by german hackers but it’s still a wired mixture of two languages.
      And I’m kinda disappointed ‘our’ (meaning hacker etc.) german definition of fixing sth. is not in the Duden http://www.duden.de/suchen/dudenonline/fix

      And on that note I need to confess that I associate “Fix” with “der” as well but I’m not sure why.

    2. Very true, but it’s a play on the manufacturer. There’s a restauranteur in Oxford called Raymond Blanc, and his restaurant in the 80s used to be called “La Maison Blanc”. Which Oxford French teachers took great delight in informing their pupils should be “La maison blanche”. So yes, I understand.

  4. Got a stack of “dell Enhanced” keyboards that have a proper amount of tactile feedback for me, im never ever getting rid of them. the new ones they ship with machine just aren’t the same.

  5. KeyPro FK9000. This board needs a revival. It has the normal 12 function keys along the top, and it has 12 programmable PF keys on the left end. They’re programmable with the keyboard. That memory is backed by a rechargeable NiCd battery that draws power from the keyboard port. It also has 8 cursor keys with a Turbo key in the middle. There’s also a toggle key to switch the number pad to calculator mode, with an LCD. The calc has memory and other functions such as square root.

    However, it has no way to send the content of the calculator display to the computer. That should have been possible since it is an input device. A new version would need to do that.

    I would make a couple of changes to the layout. It has the large backspace. It has the big reverse L enter. Unfortunately it has the short right shift with the \ where the right end of shift should be, and the Prog key sits between right alt and ctrl where \ should be. <-This is my preferred layout with those three big keys, and no manufacturer has made a keyboard like it for 22 years. Doesn't matter that it is possible to have the Windows keys AND the three big keys, they just refuse to make keyboards that way.

    Between left ctrl and alt is a blank key which does absolutely nothing. Could make that the sole WinKey and shorten the right end of the spacebar to fit the Menu key. Move the Prog key up between Esc and the function keys.

    Gateway KB-2961 has big backspace and big right shift, but \ is where the upper part of Enter should be. The menu key could have gone at the right end of spacebar where the useless right WinKey is, right alt where right WinKey is and \ where the menu key is. Not at all hard to have a Big Three keyboard with WinKeys – if some company would Just Do It.

    I could probably cut traces, run wires, swap those three keycaps in the bottom row, disconnect the switch at the current \ spot and JB Weld Enter and \ together to fix this keyboard. Why? Because remapping in software isn't active all the time.

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