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.
[Steve M. Potter] loves and respects a good, solid keyboard as much as we do and wanted to build an heirloom-level battleship to grace their home office. Well, you couldn’t ask for a better donor keeb. [Steve] used a Unicomp, the modern Model M. The cases on them are nowhere near as nice as a real model M, but hey, where else are you going to find a keyboard with new buckling spring switches? You’re not. (If anyone has a line on new buckling spring switches by themselves, please let us know.)
Although it has those wonderful buckling spring switches, this body is made of solid cherry. After dialing in the general shape of the case, [Steve] carefully routed out all the key cluster holes using a plunge router. This appears to have been the easy part, because making the keycaps looks terribly tedious.
The alphas a number row are all made from 3/4″ maple dowel rod cut down into cylinder nuggets and topped with Scrabble tiles. The F keys and modifiers are cut out of square poplar rod with bird’s eye maple veneer for a unique look. We particularly like the colored F keys — they look like candy or whisky stones, and just happen to be in resistor color code order. But our favorite part has to be the Caps Lock light. We’ll never understand why in situ lock lights went out of fashion.
Do you dream of building a curvy ergonomic keyboard or macro pad, even though the idea of hand wiring gives you nightmares? You can make it a bit less troublesome with a tiny PCB for each key switch, as long as you have a reflow oven or you’re okay with a bit of surface-mount soldering for the diode, LED, and capacitor.
As a bonus, these should make switches a bit more secure against movement, and you could probably even get away with using hot swap sockets if you wanted. [Pedro Barbero] has the Gerber files available if you want to get some fabbed. We sort of wish we had used these on our dactyl, though the case is awfully tight and they might not fit.
Ultra-Mechanical Keyboard Angles with Lifter Motors
Nestled in between the arrow cluster and the menu key of the Besides Studios M-One is a rocker switch that angles the keyboard from 3° to 7° slowly but surely, like an adjustable bed. This is going to be a bare-bones group buy, meaning that it won’t come with any switches, stabs, or keycaps, but that doesn’t mean it will be cheap at $299. [BadSeed Tech] got an early prototype and built it out with Gateron Ink Black V2 switches in the video below in order to give it a proper spin.
There is one aspect of desktop computing in which there has been surprisingly little progress over the years. The keyboard you type on today will not be significantly different to the one in front of your predecessor from the 1970s. It may weigh less, its controller may be less power-hungry, and its interface will be different, but the typing experience is substantially identical. Or at least, in theory it will be identical. In fact it might be worse than the older peripheral, because its switches are likely to be more cheaply made.
Thus among keyboard aficionados the prized possessions are not necessarily the latest and greatest, but can often be the input devices of yesteryear. And one of the more famous of these old keyboards is the IBM Model M, a 1984 introduction from the computer behemoth that remains in production to this day. Its famous buckled-spring switches have a very positive action and a unique sound that once heard can never be forgotten. Continue reading “Do You Miss The Sound Of Your Model M?”→
Let’s face it, we all have keyboard peculiarities. Don’t try to deny it, everyone who types a lot has an opinion of the keyboard they stroke so frequently. We know [Brian Benchoff] swears by his model M, and we’re guessing he was the one that bumped into [Evan] and convinced him to write about his conversion of a Commodore 64 keyboard for use as a USB device.
This is not [Evan’s] first rodeo. We recently saw him fixing up the worn off letters of his own model M. But this time around there’s some clever microcontroller work at play. Apparently mapping 122 keys using an Atmel AVR 32u4 chip (built in USB connectivity) is quite a task. Luckily someone’s already worked out all kinds of good things and is sharing the love with the Soarer’s Keyboard Controller Firmware. Of course it handles scanning, but also includes debounce, muxing, and the trick to scan more keys than the uC has pins for. We still don’t fully understand that bit of it. But [Evan] did post the config file he’s using so perhaps after we get elbow-deep in the code we’ll have a better understanding.
If you give this a try, we want to hear about it. Anyone have any modern keyboards they’re in love with? Leave a comment below.
The pen is mightier than the sword, but the IBM Model M keyboard, properly applied, can knock teeth in. There are a few more IBM keyboards even better suited to blunt force trauma – the extremely vintage beam spring keyboards made for terminals and desktop publishers. Being so very old, there’s no easy way to connect these keyboards to a modern system, so when [xwhatsit] wanted to make his work, he needed to build his own controller.
The beam spring keyboards use capacitive switches, and with 122 keys, the usual method of reading capacitance – putting a capacitor in an oscillator – would be far too slow to be of any use in a keyboard. There is another method of reading capacitance: measuring the current going through the capacitive switch. This can easily be accomplished with an LM339 comparator.
[xwhatsit]’s keyboard controller uses this capacitive sensing circuit to read the four rows of keys, with a few shift registers taking care of the columns. An ATMega32u2 is the brains of the outfit, running LUFA to translate the key presses to USB.
If you’re lucky enough to have one of these ancient keyboards, [xwhatsit] is selling a few over on the usual mechanical keyboard forums. There’s also a controller for the Model F keyboard using the same basic circuit. If you need one just drop him a line or grab the gerbers and roll your own.
[Evan] was perusing his local thrift store when he found a beautiful IBM Model M 122-key keyboard made in 1987.
“This is my keyboard, there are many like it, but this one is mine.”
~The Typist’s Creed
In [Evan’s] case, this might actually be the only one like it still in use today. An idea formed in his head. What if he took this ancient keyboard, gave it a USB driver, and customized the keys on a hardware level to do exactly what he wanted.
The first step was converting it to USB. He’s using a Teensy 2.0 mostly because it is super inexpensive, and its able to act as a USB HID device. In addition to wiring up the keyboard to the Teensy he’s also added foot pedals that connect via 1/8″ stereo plugs — these kind of act like extra mouse buttons, allowing him to scroll through galleries left to right, add page breaks, and other macros to increase efficiency.