Keebin’ With Kristina: The One With The Music Typewriter

Illustrated Kristina with an IBM Model M keyboard floating between her hands.

This edition’s community build comes from the Yes They Could, But Should They Have? file. Well, I ultimately say yes, this is intriguing. Redditor [dj_edit] looked at the venerable Model M and thought, this buckling-spring masterpiece can yet be improved upon. Yeah! Well, to each their own. I must say that it does sound great, especially with the solenoid feedback enabled via rotary encoder. Just check out the typing test.

To be clear, this is essentially a new keyboard that fits inside a Model M case, but that alone is quite a feat, especially if you consider the curvature of the backplate. Because of this hurdle, [dj_edit] went with 1 mm FR4 for the switch PCB, which is a nice compromise of sturdiness and flexibility.

Underneath those stunning reproduction keycaps are Kailh box white switches, which are pretty chonky-sounding on their own. But turn on that sweet solenoid action and you really get noisy.

Those box whites are sitting in hot-swap sockets, a design decision that kind of made things difficult because of the curvature. [dj_edit] ended up using an acrylic plate that gets bent to match the curvature by the switches themselves.

The Centerfold: NASA Mission: Saturn 60

Okay, so there’s no desk pad or whatever, but did you even notice that? Probably not. What you may have noticed after drooling over those candy apple keycaps is the solid block of aluminum that’s holding the fountain pens. (What is it about keyboards and pens together?)

This edition’s centerfold comes courtesy of [piercejenkins], who is also broke due to quality headphone purchases. While we don’t have a lot of detail on the build, rest assured that you will find those delicious keycaps by searching ‘GMKY AF SA’ on a certain discount website.

Do you rock a sweet set of peripherals on a screamin’ desk pad? Send me a picture along with your handle and all the gory details, and you could be featured here!

Historical Clackers: the Keaton Music Typewriter

Image via Marcin Wichary

Although many composers prefer to write their music out by hand, not everyone can draw notes and ornaments in the small space of the staff.

While there are many software tools today that will happily write music notation out for you, in the 1930s you had one option — the music typewriter.

This particular specimen is the Keaton Music Typewriter, which had 14 keys and was first patented in 1936. A second patent in 1953 upgraded the typewriter to 33 keys. In the ’50s, the machine sold for $225 (around $2500 in 2023 dollars).

Aside from the innovative gantry design and the circular keyboard, there are still interesting elements  to behold in the way the thing types. There are two keyboards — a small one that contains the ledger lines and clef symbols and remains in a fixed position relative to the paper. The larger keyboard has notes, rests, flats, sharps, and ornaments and seems to also remain in a fixed position, according to this brief demo, but does move up and down, and not in a semi-circle as you might imagine.

Because of the nature of musical notation that the vertical note values come in tiny increments, there is a lever that moves the target up or down by 1/24 of an inch. A long needle running next to the ribbon indicates exactly where the next note will be placed. Quite a precise little machine for nearly 100 years ago.

ICYMI: DIY Typeballs for IBM Selectrics

I know I gushed about these on the Podcast, but in case you missed that, here goes. If you don’t know, the IBM Selectric was an extremely popular typewriter that came out in the 1960s. Instead of a bunch of swinging arms that could get stuck together, it used a revolutionary typeball that made font changes quite easy, and looked cool to boot.

Well, as with a lot of things from 60 years ago, they aren’t making any new ones, never mind any typeballs with newer fonts like Comic Sans. Enter [Sam Ettinger]’s resin printer, which has the resolution necessary to create the trapezoidal edges needed to repeatedly and reliably bash into the roller for (hopefully) a few months to come.

To achieve this edge, each glyph is modeled in OpenSCAD, and then [Sam] uses an automated process to create the trapezoidal support structure bit that connects it to the surface of the ball. Be sure to check out the well-documented creation process over on IO.

Got a hot tip that has like, anything to do with keyboards? Help me out by sending in a link or two. Don’t want all the Hackaday scribes to see it? Feel free to email me directly.

4 thoughts on “Keebin’ With Kristina: The One With The Music Typewriter

  1. As even a venerable tank of a keyboard that the model M is can end up needing repairs (after 30 years+ who can blame ’em), and they are actually still available ‘new’ with added native USB support I don’t really see any downside to ‘fixing’ one so comprehensively… The things are damn long lived but if you ever do get trouble on the keys the metal backplate and plastic ‘key spring guide cover thing’ are a sandwich holding all the working parts that is plastic riveted closed so to repair anything in that sandwich is rather tricky to get just right. (at least on the old ones, no personal experience of the new ones)

    1. Back in the late 1990’s I had one that I put together from several. The pieces sandwiched together inside slid apart, held by pins in keyhole slots.

      I was able to hear the difference between keys that would work and ones that wouldn’t by the sound of the spring. If a high pitched *twing* didn’t accompany the click, no worky. Once I had all the springs twinging, some still didn’t work so I swapped over the plastic paddle shaped parts from working keys on a partially dead board.

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