History Of Mechanical Keyboards

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  • nutjob2
    "The touchpad is a capacitive touchscreen, although it was designed in the 1980s."

    One end of this sentence contradicts the other end.
  • adamovera
    2073450 said:
    "The touchpad is a capacitive touchscreen, although it was designed in the 1980s." One end of this sentence contradicts the other end.

    Good catch, it's not a "screen" at all.
  • Rip Ripster
  • dudmont
    I went screaming through the list looking for the model M, alas, you missed out on the best keyboard ever made. Doh!
  • Parak
    The Model M is just a cheapened Model F mechanism which is mentioned in the article - as such, I'd argue that it's not as interesting or historically important in comparison.
  • JohnnyLucky

    I purchased my very first computer In December 1984 at an IBM retail store in Atlanta, Georgia. It is 32 years later and I still use the same keyboard every day. The keyboard layout was identical to the IBM Model D Selectric typewriter. The Model D Selectric was the word's all time best selling typewriter. By copying the keyboard layout IBM made it easy to transition from typewriter to keyboard.

    When I bought the pc I chose the space saver version of the keyboard. There is no numeric pad. I thought I would not need it. I was right. The keyboard is a real beast. It weighs 8.5 pounds, is waterproof, and heavily shielded. The letters and symbols on the keys are not silk screened like the cheap keyboards. Instead, the keys have an inner black shell and an outer beige shell. Letters and symbols are laser cut on the beige outer shell exposing the black inner shell. The letters and symbols will never fade away. When typing there is a distinct metallic clicking sound. I wouldn't trade it for anything.


  • JohnMD1022
    My 1986 Model M also works perfectly.
  • bit_user
    I was glad to see Maltron and the Datahand.

    I've been using Kinesis contoured keyboards for years. The physical layout is probably among the best. Although their height usually requires the use of a keyboard tray. My chief complaints are that the PS2 version has issues missing key strokes/releases (maybe about 0.1%) and the ESC key is garbage. Also, sometimes the keyboard thinks one of the modifier keys (Shift or Alt) is being held down. And I've had 3 different units, so it's not just a bad one. That I've put up with these quirks for over 10 years is a testament to just how much I like the layout.

    I briefly used a foot switch for it. But, once I got out of the habit, I found it difficult to resume using.

    I've been meaning to upgrade to the USB-enabled Advantage. It looks like they have the same ESC key, but hopefully the electronics have been improved.


    If anyone can recommend something similar, I'm receptive to suggestions. I simply cannot believe Maltrons are still so expensive. Just as the Kinesis contoured keyboards have always seemed to be around $300, Maltrons have always seemed to be north of $750.

    Update: Just noticed the Advantage2 upgraded the function keys (and presumably ESC).
    Cherry ML mechanical function keys Long-time Advantage users will rejoice to learn that we’ve replaced the mushy, rubber function keys with high-performance Cherry ML switches that offer the same low-force and tactile properties of the MX Brown.
    I guess it's finally time for me to upgrade.
  • AndrewLekashman
    Excellent point @nutjob2! That line is an artifact from a previous round of editing, and the word touchscreen doesn't belong in the sentence.
  • laststop311
    cherry mx switches are good enough nowadays. no need for these crazy expensive weird mechanical designs.
  • mikeebb
    The keyboard in my Radio Shack Model 1 had individually replaceable Hall-effect switches. I know, because I had to get a couple replaced after their return springs failed - but only once so it might have been infant mortality (after several years). "Feel" was great, as good as or better than any I've used since except IBM typewriters and early PC keyboards.
  • Anonymous
    I know have learned that the key switches are high quality and many keyboards have a metal frame, but I'm surprised that no keyboards were mentioned that had metal keycaps. I would find a keyboard like that to be very interesting, but maybe the keys would be too slick to type on.
  • Nashten
    If I could feasibly get and connect a keyboard to my computer that has the feel of typing on the IBM Selectric typewriter (which I have), then take my wallet. :)

    I have tried lots and lots of keyboards (Das, Model M, all cherry switches)... and none still come close to the pure joy that it is to type on an IBM Selectric. Am I crazy, sensitive, or what?

    I've seen people mod their selectrics to be used as a keyboard for their PC, but I don't have the time of that.
  • AndrewLekashman
    I noticed that this article received its own mention on Boing Boing, and they were particularly interested in the Ultrasonic TDOA keyboard. If you think that acoustic keyboards are as cool as I do, check out the full teardown of the keyboard here - https://deskthority.net/photos-videos-f64/smith-corona-ultrasonic-i-plus-t8752.html
  • mikeebb
    For the one who wanted a Selectric keyboard ... find an old Selectric typewriter at a garage/rummage/surplus sale. See if you can still find the board (common in pre-IBM PC days) to convert it to a TTY terminal. Hook it up to your COM1: port. Redirect input/output to that port. Have fun!
  • Parak
    A board to convert a selectric into serial output? Sounds too good to be true, and I've never seen one. Is that similar to how the mag card selectric works?
  • mikeebb
    172253 said:
    A board to convert a selectric into serial output? Sounds too good to be true, and I've never seen one. Is that similar to how the mag card selectric works?

    Not knowing how the mag card unit was interfaced ... don't know how similar. (EDIT: the IBM 2741 story describes how the interface used for it also allowed construction of mag-tape and mag-card Selectrics.) But there were all sorts of hacks at the time (1970s in general) to enable letter-quality output from early microcomputers. See, for instance: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/226594701_A_simple_IBM_IO_Selectric_typewriter_controller or an industrial model: http://terminals-wiki.org/wiki/index.php/Anderson_Jacobson_AJ_841. IBM had a formal model customized for use as a terminal for System/360 computers (2741) though apparently it never made it into general use because it never officially did ASCII. The hobbyist versions were mostly hacks. True letter-quality printers and letter-quality printing terminals by the late 1970s mostly were based on daisy-wheel mechanisms. Teletypes and DECWriters (dot-matrix) were much more common as ASCII printing terminals because no modification was needed to make them work with RS232 connections, and surplus machines were widely available.
  • JohnnyLucky
    Vintage IBM and Lenovo keyboards that have the same layout as the IBM Model D Selectric typewriter are still available. You can find them on ebay. The only problem is price. Sometimes the ebay bids exceed $300.00 for one keyboard.