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

Keebin’ With Kristina: The One With The Hole-y Keyboard

Can a keyboard get any more aerodynamic than this? Probably not.

According to Google Translate, kleks is Polish for (and I’m cherry-picking definitions here) the word ‘splash’. Well, [deʃhipu]’s hole-ful and soulful Kleks Keyboard certainly made a splash with me. [deʃhipu] knows what I’m talking about. As I said in Discord, I just love the look of those holes. They’re purely aesthetic and do a nice job of showing off [deʃhipu]’s routing skills.

One might argue that those holes also functional in that they increase aerodynamics and remove a not-insignificant amount of weight for travel considerations. But yeah, they mostly are there to look cool. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the two halves are joined with a series of soldered stitches that are made from a [ggconnector] bent into a u-shape. Now it’s a toss-up as to which is my favorite feature.

It seems that [deʃhipu] is never completely satisfied by this or that keyboard build, and that’s okay. That’s normal. That is . . . a big part of what this hobby is all about. Because honestly, what would be the fun in finding The One? We wonder what will happen when the droplets settle. Will [deʃhipu] be satisfied with the Kleks, or will those stylish holes become un-fillable voids?

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An Atari 130XE's keyboard made mechanical with Kailh box pinks and 3D-printed keyswitch stems.

Atari 130XE Keyboard Now Goes Clack

Performing a resto-mod on a beloved piece of childhood technology can be quite a ride. In [Bertrand]’s case, it was the keyboard to their Atari 130XE. Although it has those cool double-shot keycaps, they’re hiding a crappy membrane underneath that could really benefit from a mechanical upgrade. Relax — the membrane part was broken.

[Bertrand] designed and printed some new stems for Kailh box pinks that can accept both of the two known variants instead of the standard Cherry MX receptacle. He also made a new PCB (natch) and a keyboard adapter to replace the membrane interface, and had a steel keyswitch plate custom cut. The so-called Atari 130MX mod can be used with an Atari 130XE computer, or as a regular keyboard for a PC if you solder in a Pico.

[Bertrand] says that this labor of love was meant to be reproduced and told us that for some folks in the Atari community, it’s already on like Donkey Kong. If you’re going to attempt this mod, know that filament printers won’t work well at all for these tiny and precise parts. [Bertrand] printed the stems on an Elegoo with a resolution of 1/20 mm (50 micrometers). On the bright side, old-new stock Atari keycaps are not that hard to find. Check it out after the break.

We love to see vintage keyboards get modern upgrades. Did you see the nuclear missile silo keyboard/trackball combo? When we read that it came from ebay, our wallet took itself to DEFCON 1.

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Modern Features In Classic Radio

As consumer electronics companies chase profits on tighter and tighter margins, it seems like quality is continually harder to find for most average consumer-grade products. Luckily, we don’t have to hunt through product reviews to find well-built merchandise since we have the benefit of survivorship bias to help us identify quality products from the past that have already withstood the test of time. [Tom] has forever been fond of this particular Sony TV/radio combo from the ’70s so he finally found one and set about modernizing it in a few key ways.

Among the modifications to this 1978 Sony FX-300 include the addition of a modern color display, Bluetooth, an upgraded FM radio, and a microphone. At the center of all of this new hardware is a Teensy 4 which [Tom] has found to be quite powerful and has enough capabilities to process the audio that’s being played in order to make visual representations of the sound on the screen. He also implemented a bitcrusher filter and integrated it into the controls on the original hardware. He’s using an optimized version of this library to cram all of that processing ability into such a small chip, and the integration of all this new hardware is so polished that it looks like it could be an original Sony stereo from the modern era.

While some may complain about restomod-type builds like this, we don’t really see any need to be arbitrarily or absolutely faithful to bygone eras even if the original hardware was working properly in the first place. What works is taking the proven technology of the past and augmenting it with modern features to enjoy the best of both worlds. Much like this hi-fi stereo which blends the styles and technology of the 90s with that of the 60s in an equally impressive way.

’75 Nixie Multimeter As Digital Dice

For the casual Monopoly or Risk player, using plain six-sided dice is probably fine. For other games you may need dice with much more than six sides, and if you really want to go overboard you can do what [John] did and build electronic dice with a random number generator if you really need to remove the pesky practice of rolling physical dice during your games of chance.

The “digital dice” he built are based on a multimeter from 1975 which has some hardware in it that was worth preserving, including a high quality set of nixie tubes. Nixies can be a little hard to come by these days, but are interesting pieces of hardware in their own right. [John] added some modern hardware to it as well, including an AVR microcontroller that handles the (pseudo) random number generation. A hardware switch tells the microcontroller how many sides the “die” to be emulated will need, and then a button generates the result of the roll.

This is a pretty great use for an old piece of hardware which would otherwise be obsolete by now. [John] considers this a “Resto-Mod” and the finish and quality of the build almost makes it look all original. It’s certainly a conversation piece at the D&D sessions he frequents.