Ding, dong; the office is dead. The real office is in your head.
This is what I tell myself when working from home gets too weird, too stale, too impossible. By now, many of you know some version what I’m talking about. Our circumstances may vary wildly, but the outcome is the same: working from home is pretty awesome, but, some small, secret part of us longs for the office. Why is that?
The answer will be different for everyone. Maybe you’re a social butterfly who misses face-time and the din of familiar voices. Maybe you just appreciate the physical separation between work and home life. If you’re lucky, the choice to go to the office is yours at this point, and if not, well, we have to wonder if you’re looking for new work. It’s 2022, we’re still in a pandemic, and of course there’s this, that, and the other multi-national Dumpster fire you haven’t heard about yet. Isn’t it time we prioritized work output over office attendance when it comes to our livelihoods?
Look closely at this beauty. No, that’s not a chopped IBM Model M or anything — it’s a custom 40% capacitive buckling spring keyboard with an ortholinear layout made by [durken]. Makes it easy to imagine an alternate reality where IBM still exists as IBM and has strong keyboard game, or one where Unicomp are making dreams come true for those who don’t need anywhere near 101 or 104 keys.
Buckling what now? This lovely board uses capacitive buckling spring switches from an old IBM Model F. Basically, every time you press a key, a little spring is bent over (or buckled) in the name of connectivity. In the capacitive version, the spring pushes a hammer onto a pair of plates, causing a change in capacitance that gets recognized as a key press. In this case, those key presses are read by a TH-XWhatsit controller.
Using a Model F XT’s PCB as a guide, [durken] made a field of capacitive pads on one PCB, and made a second, ground plane PCB to avoid interference. In a true homage to these keyboards, [durken] decided to curve the PCB slightly, which naturally complicated almost everything, especially the barrel plate.
The solution was to make a separate barrel plate that slides into the case and gets screwed to the top via mounting bracket. For an extra bit of fun, [durken] mounted an SKCL lock switch under the IBM logo which enables solenoid mode. Be sure to check that out in the (updated!) video after the break.
No, the case didn’t have to get pieced back together by hand, and the board didn’t need to have half of its traces recreated. But the outer plastic was certainly in need of a good retrobright treatment, the keyboard was overdue for a cleaning, and the capacitors in the PSU were predictably due for retirement. After [Drygol] got through with it, the machine was back in like-new condition. But then, we can do a little better than that…
So into the refreshed computer went several community-developed modifications, including a M3SE expander that adds Compact Flash and Ethernet support to the TRS-80 and a high-resolution Grafyx video board. In classic [Drygol] style, every effort was made to integrate these upgrades as seamlessly as possible. After struggling for a bit to find a 5.25″ drive that would write a disk the TRS-80 would actually read, all the necessary files to get the upgrades working were transferred over, and the system was booting into TRSDOS.