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CyberyogiCoWindler

good mechanical PC keyboard? (Amiga/Atari XL feeling)

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On my PC (historical Highscreen Colani bigtower, AMD K6-III+ 300@550MHz, 2 genuine ISA sound cards, TNT2 + Voodoo 1 graphics card, Win98SE+KernelEx) I use since over a decade the mechanical keyboard Chicony KB-5192 (black version) that I upgraded for retro gaming with a homemade C64 joystick interface (2 Buttons wired to keypad,'0' and 'Ctrl', VCS7800 style, using 4066 ICs) and some diodes against matrix flaws.

The keyboard is visually a black AT-style IBM Model M knock-off without Windows keys, and unfortunately the Cherry switches in it had a design flaw; apparently by an attempt to eliminated contact wiping motion to prevent contact wear, they couldn't self-clean and so often got dirty or oxidized, causing no or bouncy key response. So I had to clean these many times by playing Decathlon on the affected key and/or pulling the key cap off and sliding a paper strip into the upper rim of the moving part. Often this didn`t help, so I had to pry the switch open by inserting a tiny screw driver into the 4 corner holes to lift the plastic tabs; (theoretically all 4 tabs need to be lifted simultaneously, so I broke several tabs) to dismantle the switch. I also had to occasionally re-solder some key switches and even cracked traces to keep it working. But it turned out to be the likely worst clicky keyboard ever made. I already had bought the keyboard as "defective", so the vendor apparently knew the contact problems (no defect, a design flaw) and after about 15 years also the key printing rubbed off, so I had to put decoration stickers on the keys, those didn`t last long either.

I would have replaced this cucumber long ago when I hadn't installed my joystick interface inside (which needs wiring diodes in series to individual keys, which doesn't work with the foil contact mats inside modern keyboards). I also wasn't happy with the lack of Windows keys and the black colour that made it harder to see in the dark. But I could't find any modern model with individually soldered key switches (hackable with diodes for the interface).

So I finally found on a flea market the beige-grey version of the Chicony KB-5192, which has an ugly huge 'return' key, but to my surprise contains very different key switches. These work well (yet...) but are welded tight at their 4 corners and I worry what happens once they need cleaning. This version is also much noisier and particularly make a distracting metallic noise during key release ("clik - clang!") that is certainly annoying when I record sounds with a microphone through my PC. So I haven't transplanted my joystick interface into it yet.

As a yogi I am floor sitter (balancing the keyboard on my lap in the lotus seat) and so also have trouble with the spongy feeling of modern keyboards because I need to feel the exact key response. I really hate modern keys those go "plupp plupp" which feels like dislodging ones knuckles 2 times during each key press. I type quite much (spiritual texts, movie scripts etc.) although not overly fast. And I also refuse to get my brain cooked by wireless Bluetooth keyboards so I need a corded AT/PS2 one.

- Highscreen WelcomeKey hack?

Is there a any mechanical keyboard that fits into the rounded case of the Highscreen WelcomeKey Colani keyboard that was made for my bigtower? The WelcomeKey contains the usual cheap foil mat rubber rubbish (I dismantled and cleaned it) but the case looks nice. Unfortunately the distance between main keyboard, F keys and numpad differs from standard AT keyboards (at least my Chicony).

- better mechanical keyboard?

Do you know a better mechanical keyboard that contains individual key switches, has Windows keys, is repairable and not overly loud?

I read much about the IBM Model M as the most long lasting keyboard and I also love the rounded design, but from my memories I think it was as loud as my beige Chicony (isn't it?).

I read that some expensive modern gamer keyboards (like Zowie Celeritas) have the "n-key rollover" feature, i.e. their key matrix responds "full polyphonic" when many keys are held down. I once opened an old Amiga keyboard (black frame, grey/beige keys, likely from a CDTV) that also had 1 diode per key and so has full polyphonic behaviour. On PC this could be useful for music programs (a PC keyboard doesn't differ too much from the bass side of an accordion). Are normal keyboards with this feature known?

I don't want to pay a moon price, but for a really life-long lasting quality product (unlike modern throwaway keyboards) I might pay about 100EUR when it feels way superior to average keyboards.

The IMO best feeling keyboard was the one of my Atari 800XL (spring loaded keys go down with linear force and only click by hitting the bottom without any upward noise). My 2nd best is in my beloved Amiga 500 (built into wooden case with keyboard detached), which feels similar but hits the bottom softer. Despite regular daily use its keys yet have only broken once (space bar didn't respond at its very ends by worn down rubber contact, so I had to prolonge the center post with a piece of cable insulation).

Is there a mechanical PC keyboards that feels like the Amiga 500 or Atari 800XL keys? Especially upward motion should be silent and keys should have a white or beige background (not white on black).

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I can confirm, the M is VERY loud (which is a good thing IMHO).

Clickity, clickity, click.

jaclaz

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I had a model M and indeed it was very loud :lol: although I didn't really notice myself after having been using it for a long time.

Unfortunately it died from an electric shock caused by a thunder :/

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My own favorite is an 1993 IBM model M (1391401) PS/2 original keyboard. They're still findable used at reasonable prices, from clikykeyboards. But they lack the "Windows" keys. If you must have those keys, a contemporary version of the model M is produced by Unicomp. IMHO, these are the best keyboards money can buy, at reasonable prices. But this is a matter where YMMV wildly.

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Do you know a better mechanical keyboard that contains individual key switches, has Windows keys, is repairable and not overly loud?

A G80-3000 uses individual key switches still and is available with three different types of confirmation: linear, soft or click pressure point

http://www.cherry.de/cid/b2b_kabeltastaturen_G80-3000.htm?

http://www.cherry.de/cid/b2b_kabeltastaturen_G80-3000.htm?rdeLocaleAttr=de&WT.mc_id=#Ausfuehrungen

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I have just installed a thin foam rubber sheet squeezed under the PCB of my beige Chicony KB-5192 keyboard, which makes the noise less hollow and rumbly. It at least seems to work well without bouncing or skipping key presses. How ever it is annoying me that the metallic key release clang is louder than the actual key press click, and I don't think I habit to like it. (It sounds like certain relays or microswitches.)

My beige Chicony has the FCC ID (type number) "E8H51KKB - 5191" and type number "KB - 5192", which is identical with my black one, despite PCB layout, return key shape and switch type differ very much.

On the beige version PCB stands:

CHICONY COPYRIGHT ® 1991 KB-5192 FUTUBA SW

REV-A'

9207

HW-I 94HB

001-05192-F07

On the faulty black version PCB stands:

CHICONY COPYRIGHT ® 1992

KB-5192

CHERRY SW

REV-A 9204

001-05192-C10

HW-1 94HB

So apparently the faulty (but less noisy) switches were made by Cherry' date=' while the louder ones were [i']Futuba. The Cherry mechanism has no buckling spring, but a vertical leaf contact wants to touch always its counter part (basically an opener switch), but so long the key is not pressed, a ramp shaped white plastic slider pushes it to the side (opening the circuit) by the force of the key spring. So the upward motion of the wedge pushes the contact slowly, which causes no clang noise, but by the lack of wiping motion it is not self-cleaning and so tend to fail every few weeks. (If the colour helps to identify the type; the switch itself is black and the moving rectangular center part white.)

The Chicony keyboard weights about 1kg, while my homemade Amiga keyboard (with aluminium bottom) weights 1.5kg. I am not sure if the IBM would be to heavy for my lap if it really weights 2.5kg, but with my Amiga the main discomfort is when after venting the room in winter its metal bottom is ice cold and so numbs my feet (in lotus seat) when I start to type. (Has the IBM a metal bottom?) To me the Windows keys are not absolutely essential, but "single click" keys (without loud key release) would be great. E.g. my Amiga keys use a foil contact mat underneath but are lifted by a spring (no firm rubber cups), which makes them respond well without that much noise. So I am not sure if the single click type would be only "semi-mechanical" or what ever. (But for re-installing my joystick interface I need individual key switches to solder at.) In shopping centers I have tried out some dozens of PC keyboards, but they all feel swampy or have too much friction or keys are too lightweight or too shallow, so IMO none of them comes close even to the Amiga keyboard, not to say to the Atari 800XL.

- Is there a website about classic non-IBM mechanical PC keyboards?

Edited by CyberyogiCoWindler

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Is there a website about classic non-IBM mechanical PC keyboards?

Maybe a tadbit "too" classic ;):

http://www.datamancer.net/keyboards/keyboards.htm

REknown for the "blank" (actually all black) keyboard they also make a less clicky one now (with actual symbols):

http://www.daskeyboard.com/products/

Reviews:

http://www.livingdigitally.net/2011/08/mechanical-keyboard-roundup-review-of-the-das-keyboard-model-s-professional-filco-majestouch-2-dsi-m.html

Keyboard surgery :w00t: :

http://mykeyboard.co.uk/

http://mykeyboard.co.uk/surgery/

@dencorso

I am sure you will appreciate how these guys put it down rather bluntly :angel :

http://www.clickykeyboards.com/index.cfm

logo3.jpg

jaclaz

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Is there a website about classic non-IBM mechanical PC keyboards?

Maybe a tadbit "too" classic ;):

http://www.datamancer.net/keyboards/keyboards.htm

Yes, steampunk keyboards are lovely. (My Amiga case/cabinet looks a bit like that.) May be that somewhen in future I will build my own so far I live long enough.

Yes, that looks like the rubbish mechanism in my black Chicony (except that mine lacked the diodes). Apparently most people consider Cherry MX something durable and high quality, so I wonder why mine failed so badly. My switches are not too dustproof and need more than the rated 2mm for activation. May be that a tiny construction detail (lack of wiping motion?) was wrong with mine.

But I doubt this guy's theory that ultra-low activation force is better. It mainly eases accidental key strokes. Only way too insensitive ones (like the horrible IntelliVision joypad fire buttons) surely make RSI, but I wouldn't want to type on a zero force touch sensor surface; the muscle force to hold hands up against accidental key strokes causes strain also.

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I found some info about my keyboard's Futuba switch.

http://deskthority.net/wiki/Futaba_Switch

The Futaba switch was a keyboard switch produced by the South Korean company Futaba Electronics. It has since been used in many Korean keyboards' date=' mainly by Sejin Electronics. In the foreign market, the keyswitch was first sighted in a 1986 keyboard made by Datacomp in Taiwan. Many Japanese keyboards also made use of the Futaba keyswitch. The last keyboard known to be produced with Futaba switches was the Sejin left-handed full-size keyboard, which has been re-branded under many different names. Futaba switches are no longer in production.[/quote']

It was a rather ridiculous attempt to imitate IBM Model M; noise and feel seem to be fairly infamous (nickname "Korean Gong"). There are various (not so) nice descriptions on Geekhack.org.

http://geekhack.org/showthread.php?5173-Sejin-SKR-2233

skriefal:

I've encountered one Futuba-based board... an old Leading Edge model in very good condition. I'd describe the feel as somewhat like the brown Cherries in a Compaq MX11800. Sound is much louder, however... a rather unrefined and distracting clanky/klangy/echoey noise."

sandy55:

re Futaba switch

It's actually a mechanical switch. You will get strange( or should I say *unpleasant* ) feel with it. You'll get faint tactile feel, and then shortly after tactile feel, clicking ( distracting clanky/klangy/echoey noise as skriefal described ) comes with upwarding a key. I evaluate the switch as " too much self-assertion, lacks Gracefullness"

http://geekhack.org/showthread.php?11679-Homekey-tactiles/page2

Konrad:

Bleh. Futuba switches. Had those on some ancient Datatrain keyboard that I always hated, I mean I really hated that piece o shyte ... keys were too stiff, tactile clickety-point felt like the "wrong" place, and the keys pushed up way too aggresively. Kinda loud too, didn't bug me but didn't make me popular at home/work.

I'm gonna wiki around, see if these icky switches can be cherried. If so, and if the Sejin has decent NKRO then I'll grab one. Form factor looks almost ideal. (I personally prefer big backspace/backslash keys over L-shaped enter, easier for coding.) ;)

And I even found a photo of its guts:

http://geekhack.org/showthread.php?12786-DataTrain-MIUS03A-L6-Dismantling-Pics

sejin_061.jpg

I'm not sure how it functions, but it may resemble a ballpen mech that rotates during each push of the button. I only remember such rotating contact discs inside the (locking) button switch of very cheap Chinese mini flashlights, those were extremely unreliable. I can only hope that Futuba keyboard switches last longer. Has anybody experience with these?

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Dell AT101

A little smaller than the IBM Model M and it did come in all black but used ones are expensive.

I bought a cream one at a local store for $3.00 and a can of black vinyl dye for $5.00. I only dyed the case so the keys are still white and grey but it looks nice to me. It has Cherry keys so It's almost as loud as the Model M.

Like jaclaz, I like a loud keyboard. It's a passive aggressive way of letting everyone in the room know when I'm ticked off.

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I examined the switches of my black Chicony closer and found out that they have no Cherry logo on them. So I suspect them to be fake ("CHERRY" is only mentioned on the PCB) which explains well why they were so unreliable. Likely the contacts are made from cheaper metal and so oxidise where genuine Cherrys wouldn't.

I am currently typing on my beige Chicony KB-5192 and find its tactile response not that bad. But I don't really like the clang noise and particularly there is a strange vibration in the finger tip when the key goes up (like stopping a vibrating guitar string), which is fairly distracting.

I have ordered on eBay now a Cherry MX1500 CYA (aka G80-1501HAD/06?, type plate seen elsewhere on eBay) which has mechanical switches and a built-in chip card reader (don't need) and looks like when its layout fits well into the case of my Colani WelcomeKey. It has the key LEDs inside the affected keys (like Amiga, which I consider much more logical) and according to this FAQ it indeed seems to be NKRO (full polyphonic).

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