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View Full Version : NPR Story on the IBM Model M Keyboard: An Ode To Clicky Keys



mbbrutman
January 30th, 2009, 02:35 PM
It's on their web site here, and they are about to play the segment on the air:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99950176



Mike

IBMMuseum
January 30th, 2009, 03:05 PM
It's on their web site here, and they are about to play the segment on the air:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99950176



It is important to note that the "no LED" Model M is pictured, the unit that was for the XT/AT. I received one of these from my sister-in-law, whom had dug it out of the dumpster at work. Maybe it was someone unlike most of the commenters (or the last commenter of the six that are up now) that doesn't think of the 'M' in such glowing terms.

Unknown_K
January 30th, 2009, 03:48 PM
I prefer the big L shaped enter keys found on my Northgates more then the Model M's rectangle. Lately my typing has been crappy so I am using nothing but model M's in my room and the labs, regulating the Northgates to my Amiga 2000 and my XT clone.


http://img515.imageshack.us/img515/2269/ibmpa8.jpg <== the enter key on these sucks even worse.


Anybody else have issues bouncing around between keyboards of various layouts?

Yzzerdd
January 30th, 2009, 03:54 PM
Anybody else have issues bouncing around between keyboards of various layouts?

I am so lucky that my current main PC keyboard and my Model M's have basically the same layout and key spacing. Sometimes when using the ol' PC or AT, I miss a key now and then. I do have problems with the PC enter key as well, but it's an adjustment I've learned to make when bouncing about the room's computers.

The main problems I have with switching keyboards is the minor key spacing differences. I guess my hands know the exact center of keys, because when I swap keyboards or use my Royal typewriter(mid 50s, cast iron, manual) I will hit the wrong key or otherwise two keys at once.

Still though, with all the switching around I do, the local home keyboard swaps don't tend to bother me, as I know my keyboards. I do have problems using the cheap Acer keyboards at the school, as the key spacing is off and the keys are a bit smaller. I cannot imagine ever using a MacAir or similar keyboard due to the way their spacing is. It is the MacAir(and others) that I am thinking about with the keys separated by a bar of some sort, right? And with the keys mushed down in the case to make the surface flat?

--Ryan

mbbrutman
January 30th, 2009, 04:01 PM
I get a lot of flak about the Model M's that I use at work. Most people are on laptops or cheap keyboards that make little noise. In comparison, when I start typing an email it sounds like a machine gun nest with all of the noise ...

Without the noise, people wouldn't know I was working. ;-)

Erik
January 30th, 2009, 08:42 PM
I get a lot of flak about the Model M's that I use at work. Most people are on laptops or cheap keyboards that make little noise. In comparison, when I start typing an email it sounds like a machine gun nest with all of the noise ...

Without the noise, people wouldn't know I was working. ;-)

I get the same grief. . . ;)

patscc
January 30th, 2009, 08:51 PM
I guess I'll just have to hang my head in shame. I never could stand the clickety-clackety keyboards. I like quite ones. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of quiet keyboards are also cheap keyboards.
patscc

Trixter
January 31st, 2009, 04:32 PM
I work only with "clicky" keyboards not because of the mechanical noise they make, but rather because of the tactile feedback. With silent keyboards that use rubber-dome mechanisms, I'm not sure if my keypress was registered, so I find myself pushing harder and getting pains on the top of my hands. With buckling-spring mechanisms, I get tactile feedback (the key gives way, then pushes back) and no pain.

Allen
January 31st, 2009, 07:52 PM
It's nice to see (from the NPR story) a glimpse into the factory that produces Model M keyboards. IBM Model M keyboards represent the pride and joy of high-quality manufacturing in the U.S. I do like the Model M keyboard for the buckling springs, but my everyday keyboard is still rubber dome (but of course an IBM branded one) despite the many Model M keyboards I have around me.

If you did a survey of keyboard preference, I think you will find a vast majority prefer quiet, soft-feeling keyboards. Even if you did a blind and deaf survey (respondents cannot see or hear while trying the keyboards), I still think they would choose the rubber dome keyboards. Although not as high quality as buckling spring, rubber dome switches do provide less noise and a soft touch feel (or at least the perception). Although not all rubber dome keyboards feel the same, most people are likely to prefer these over mechanical or buckling spring switches.

Jorg
January 31st, 2009, 10:56 PM
I guess I'll just have to hang my head in shame. I never could stand the clickety-clackety keyboards. I like quite ones. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of quiet keyboards are also cheap keyboards.
patscc

I like the clicky ones (typing on a 1993 Model M now), but what I also like about them, is that they do not shift around on the desk, period- because of the weight.

As quiet keyboard, I like the ones that came with the early (286/12 Mhz) HP Vectra's.

http://www.hpmuseum.net/images/VectraWith35741B-38.jpg

(ahem, anyone has one for sale?)

Terry Yager
February 1st, 2009, 02:09 AM
I don't like the noise or the feel of 'em. I have a very light touch on the keyboard, and don't like having to bash on the keys to make them work.

--T

vwestlife
February 5th, 2009, 08:14 PM
I don't like the noise or the feel of 'em. I have a very light touch on the keyboard, and don't like having to bash on the keys to make them work.
The original 83-key PC/XT and 84-key AT keyboards have a lighter typing feel than the 101-key Model M. All you feel and hear is the springs buckling, with a crisp metallic twang. The Model M has a noticeably heavier, less crisp feel to its keys. It feels more like they added the springs on top of regular rubber dome-type keys, instead of just using the springs only. I do most of my typing on IBM AT keyboards, and when I switch to a Model M, I can definitely feel myself exerting more pressure through my fingers to make the keys work.

And unlike many people, I actually prefer the AT keyboard's placement of the Escape key on the numeric keypad. Since so many DOS programs are navigated through the arrow keys, Enter, and Esc, placing Esc right in the middle of that group allows for quick and easy one-hand navigation, without having to reach over or use your left hand to press Esc all the way on the other side of the keyboard.

http://i3.tinypic.com/116klzl.jpg

And as for the noise, IBM/Lexmark made special "library quiet" versions of the Model M which retained the buckling spring mechanism but greased the springs to significantly quiet them down. Radio Shack also gave this "quiet treatment" to all of their Tandy 101-key keyboards.

IBMMuseum
February 5th, 2009, 10:01 PM
The original 83-key PC/XT and 84-key AT keyboards have a lighter typing feel than the 101-key Model M. All you feel and hear is the springs buckling, with a crisp metallic twang. The Model M has a noticeably heavier, less crisp feel to its keys. It feels more like they added the springs on top of regular rubber dome-type keys, instead of just using the springs only. I do most of my typing on IBM AT keyboards, and when I switch to a Model M, I can definitely feel myself exerting more pressure through my fingers to make the keys work.

And unlike many people, I actually prefer the AT keyboard's placement of the Escape key on the numeric keypad. Since so many DOS programs are navigated through the arrow keys, Enter, and Esc, placing Esc right in the middle of that group allows for quick and easy one-hand navigation, without having to reach over or use your left hand to press Esc all the way on the other side of the keyboard...

The 84-key AT keyboard was the ¨Model F¨...

Great Hierophant
February 6th, 2009, 09:21 AM
I have had a Model M from IBM and one from Unicomp. The Unicomp Model M was a USB model. I bought a USB model so I wouldn't have to worry about the large current draw of the Model M on today's so-called PS/2 port. It also has good sized two Windows and one Menu keys.

Today I am regretting that purchase and wish I went with pure IBM. Who needs Windows keys? Ctrl + Esc works to bring up the start menu. Shift + F10 does what the Menu key is supposed to do. By inserting those keys, the Spacebar is shortened, and I like the longer spacebar. (Although the Spacebars of the 83/84 IBM Keyboards are too long for my taste.)

The Unicomp's build quality is not quite as good as the IBM's. The plastic feels a bit cheaper, the keycaps have ragged and poorly cut edges compared to the IBM's. The color of the keys (I bought a black one with grey keycaps are not uniform. The faceplate covering the LEDs is fugly compared to the brisk, simple IBM style. The cord is extremely thin and has protruded out of the case so much that I can see bare wire. Finally, the Unicomp USB keyboard can only register foru simultaneous keystrokes at a time while the IBM registers eight. (Press asdfjkl; all at the same time, the result should be seeing all eight letters semi-randomly. Press nine/four if Unicomp and you will lose alot of keys.)

Now my belief is that if the PS/2 keyboard port on a motherboard cannot provide the current to an IBM Model M, it is false advertising on the motherboard maker's part. I do not buy cheap, low end motherboards, and I expect that if the motherboard has a keyboard PS/2 port (and they all still do), it will work with the one, true keyboard. If worst came to worst, I would use a PS/2 keyboard to USB adapter.

I have, thanks to vintageibm, acquired what I consider the Holy Grail of the Model M's, one with a silver faceplate manufactured while IBM was still selling the PC/XT/AT line. I hope it will work with my IBM PC 5150, and if so, it will mean that this keyboard should be able to work in any true IBM PC Compatible.

Nice story though. Can anyone tell me if the 101 or 104 PS/2 keyboards from Unicomp suffer from the same problems?

dfj
April 29th, 2010, 11:04 PM
I similarly found the Unicomp keyboard I bought to be a fair bit 'less' than the mid-80s IBM Model Ms. My understanding is that Unicomp is based out of a plant in Kentucky that used to manufacture the original ones, which was in turn spun off as Lexmark and then sold/spun to Unicomp. Trouble is, I expect, that the retooling done by Lexmark for the 90s style Model Ms (blue logo) had already taken place.
That said, the Unicomp folks are great - and their keyboards are still pretty fine compared to the bulk of currently available alternatives - including the 'high-end' gaming boards. I still prefer to clean up an old one, though.
As far as the current is concerned, the port can usually handle the load, but sometimes there is some voltage drop on the signal and clock lines.
This fellow describes a solution using a couple of pullup resistors (the original link was more widely published, but geocities kerflump'd - luckily wayback, etc... has it):
http://web.archive.org/web/20080228180642/http://www.geocities.com/jszybowski/keyboard/index.htm

Now, the simultaneous keystrokes issue is not really unicomp's fault - it is a property of almost all USB keyboards, and absolutely all USB keyboards when they are running in 'boot mode' as they must when the computer starts up and does the bios screens, etc... After a USB-aware OS is up, some rare keyboards can support more arbitrary keystroke combinations - but even them modern 'gaming' keyboards do a pretty lame job of this.
Under PS2, there is no limit in the protocol as there is in the USB boot protocol, so the Model Ms can actually detect a decent number of simultaneous strokes - but they depend on which exact strokes, not on an arbitrary limit per-se. They can handle almost all of the keys that a pair of human hands' fingertips can hit from home-row, but if you are curious you can get some drops with just 'd'+'f'+'r', or d+f+e - which is kinda possible with the left hand straining from home-row. If you use yer Model M for gaming, and put your hands in other places you will hit more of the error conditions. I like to rotate my left hand - put it on 'd','f','v' (mapped as the four cardinal movement directions l/r,up/down to 'd','v','f','c') for gaming - which is fine, unless I go and map 'r' to say... 'reload'. Now I'll hit 'r' while holding 'f' and 'v' because I'm, say, circle strafing someone... and the joke's on me. :}
This is not a bug in the code of the Model 2s, it is an attribute of their matrix - (hunting fer links...) The issue is sometimes called ghosting, and is caused by the way most keyboards only use 20-28 pins on their controllers to scan the matrices - certain combinations of keypresses will be indistinguishable from others. Ah here we go - my favourite description of ghosting:
http://www.dribin.org/dave/keyboard/one_html/
Looking at the shots below of the matrices you might be able to make out how the keys for 'f','v' and 'r' are on the same vertical line, and many potential nasty loops can occur if the wrong few keys are held down. Like I said, the matrices are arranged so that one is pretty safe if the hands are in home-row, but things can get exciting otherwise. The same problem occurs on almost (but not quite) all keyboards, recent or vintage, PS2 or USB and cheap or expensive. There are few modern Cherry keyswitch based boards that don't do this, as well as some more expensive boards for military/medical/nuclear use (apparently - I have not been able to source them, though)

Here are some links with shots of the matrices, and the construction/deconstruction of the keyframe.
(sandy's mod) http://sandy55.fc2web.com/keyboard/repair_model_m.html
(sandy's mod, using #4-40) http://geekhack.org/showwiki.php?title=Island:6615
(above, continued) http://geekhack.org/showwiki.php?title=Island:6615&do=comments
I have tried these replacements of pins (using #4-40s, what were handy near me) on 122 key 1386887, and 1390876s as well as my 101 key 1391401 - this is a needed mod if you want to work on yer membranes at all, and quiets a certain amount of the resonance from the keystrokes.

Hope all y'all find some of this intriguing, just joined the site.
dfj

Mr.Amiga500
April 30th, 2010, 06:55 AM
The original 83-key PC/XT and 84-key AT keyboards have a lighter typing feel than the 101-key Model M. All you feel and hear is the springs buckling, with a crisp metallic twang. The Model M has a noticeably heavier, less crisp feel to its keys. It feels more like they added the springs on top of regular rubber dome-type keys, instead of just using the springs only. I do most of my typing on IBM AT keyboards, and when I switch to a Model M, I can definitely feel myself exerting more pressure through my fingers to make the keys work.

And unlike many people, I actually prefer the AT keyboard's placement of the Escape key on the numeric keypad. Since so many DOS programs are navigated through the arrow keys, Enter, and Esc, placing Esc right in the middle of that group allows for quick and easy one-hand navigation, without having to reach over or use your left hand to press Esc all the way on the other side of the keyboard.

http://i3.tinypic.com/116klzl.jpg


Ah, there you are, flaunting your "Turbo Diesel" IBM AT keyboard again.:D

I agree with you 100%. I'm typing this on my IBM AT keyboard (takes regular, not diesel though). I'm told people one floor down can hear me typing. Beside me is an IBM 5155, which I keep there just to press the keys for fun - and seems slightly "clickier". On top of that is a 1986 Model M. I also occasionally press it for fun, but it's not quite as fun. ;)

I also like the Apple M0116 and M0115 (orange Alps, made in USA), which have a "chocky" feel, rather than "clicky". You can't really compare them to the buckling spring because they're a different type, but they're very nice keyboards.

Raven
April 30th, 2010, 04:19 PM
I also like the Apple M0116 and M0115 (orange Alps, made in USA), which have a "chocky" feel, rather than "clicky". You can't really compare them to the buckling spring because they're a different type, but they're very nice keyboards.

The Apple IIe has what I'd describe as a "Chocky" feel, while my Panasonic Sr. Partner has what I'd describe as a "Clacky" feel. Almost any 80s keyboard has a nice unique feel, but I'm pretty sure most keyboard conniseurs choose buckling spring, given the choice. I'm currently typing on a Model M Compact. I agree that the AT has a clickier feel, and feel that the XT keyboard is even slightly clickier still, but the Model M suits me fine and I'm far more used to the key placement, whether I prefer it logically or not.