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View Full Version : Clicky - Clacky Keyboards are Making a Comeback



k2x4b524[
January 22nd, 2014, 06:41 PM
Even the beloved IBM Model-M gets a mention.

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2088744/click-this-all-about-mechanical-keyboards-and-why-you-need-one.html?google_editors_picks=true

Chuck(G)
January 22nd, 2014, 09:22 PM
I used to have a parallel keyboard from an RCA terminal. It was made by George Risk Industries and used sealed, calibrated (for force) reed switches. Logic was DTL, but I managed to adapt it to the terminal that I was using. There were other really good keyboards back in the 60s-70s that were made to last. No foam rubber.

Model M's are my regular ones now. They'll do just fine.

Chicony used to make a clicky keyboard back in the 80s. Not too bad.

High_Treason
January 22nd, 2014, 09:59 PM
I don't think clicky keyboards ever went away... Unfortunately.

I'm going to go on record and say that, despite even starting out on one, I've never liked them - they don't work well for me. I find them uncomfortable; find the keys travel too far and my fingers start to ache, they are generally counter-productive for typing large documents. They are dreadful for FPS gaming, especially if you DM in an older FPS like Duke 3D or Blood. They sound is also immensely annoying if you are not the one using them.

From another angle, I can see why people would like them and I'm all for diversity, I am glad that companies out there have listened to what the people want as that rarely happens. Anyway, anything beats the ZX Spectrum's rubber keys or the modern, supposedly more ergonomic, designs that have keys all over the place and have non-functioning F-Keys.

As it happens I have a thread regarding keyboards to make shortly

Chuck(G)
January 22nd, 2014, 10:15 PM
I think it's more a matter of training. I learned to type on an Underwood manual. After a number of years, I got my first electric--lighter touch, but still very distinct travel and audible feedback. If you learned to type on a teletype, I imagine you probably acquired a touch with a long travel and nearly as much force as a manual typewriter. The two-eyed CDC DD60 operator's console used a speaker to give a "clunk" sound after each keypress--under the keyboard there was a potentiometer to vary the volume. If you used an IBM 024/026/029 keypunch, you were quite used to the loud "chunk" when a key was hit.

When the first daisy-wheel typewriters came out, I gave up on them almost immediately. The sound of the typewheel hammer was in no way synchronized to key depression and it drove me nuts.

So, I'll keep my Model Ms, thank you, although I'll occasionally use an old Cherry (black) keyboard on some old machines.

Compgeke
January 22nd, 2014, 10:16 PM
Not sure they're making a comeback, they've been fairly popular but only to a specific crowd for quite a while due to the fact that people tend to spend insane amounts of money on something stupid (imo) like a mouse when you generally use a keyboard a lot more.

Clicky switches like Blues have been around forever. They did fail to mention some of the lesser known switches like Alps and Matias. A bit of misinformation as well is NKRO support. Few keyboards actually have it, a Model M for example can only for sure press down two letters at the same time. My Desko keyboard with Cherry Blacks has a similar limitation.

At the same time though, I do realize that they're more than likely after the views than trying to market anything, they never did mention any specific companies there.

NeXT
January 22nd, 2014, 10:31 PM
Not sure they're making a comeback, they've been fairly popular but only to a specific crowd for quite a while due to the fact that people tend to spend insane amounts of money on something stupid (imo) like a mouse when you generally use a keyboard a lot more.


I know that crowd well. I knew one guy who brought a small Happy Hacking keyboard everywhere because he absolutely refused to use rubber dome.
I knew another guy who rubbed the letters off his keys because he wanted "the clean look"
Don't get me started with Model M's. $150 for a black model? $200 for the models with either the trackball or Trackpoint? Bleh.

EverythingIBM
January 22nd, 2014, 11:28 PM
I know that crowd well. I knew one guy who brought a small Happy Hacking keyboard everywhere because he absolutely refused to use rubber dome.
I knew another guy who rubbed the letters off his keys because he wanted "the clean look"
Don't get me started with Model M's. $150 for a black model? $200 for the models with either the trackball or Trackpoint? Bleh.

$200 or $150 is expensive???
On one listing just recently with an industrial '85 model M, I jacked the price up to $540! Of course a German collector had a crazy maximum bid (presumably $700)-- and I didn't feel like paying past that.
And then there's the M15s which go for $1000, generally. Although three years back one went for $400.

I paid $200ish for a brand new maxiswitch M13-- because the used ones often have the faded key labels. I'm still trying to figure out how to coat the labels. It's a very muted model M (no variable spring harmonics) with a very... wet feeling to it.

I haven't seen any trackball model Ms for awhile. Unlike the M13, the M5-1 and M5-2 don't have a mouse passthrough which is hideously annoying. My PS/2 Model 56 seems to refuse to work with the M5-2 I own. The PS/2 model 30-286 was fine with it.... I am curious how the model 95 will respond.

Note: the majority of my Model Ms were obtained for free/dirt cheap-- the ONLY one I have ever paid a high price for was the M13 at $200ish. It is a hideous price, but the keyboard was new, and works well with my A50p.

glitch
January 23rd, 2014, 06:55 AM
Keyboards with real keyswitches are pretty common among professional programmers. I'm not sure how it's related, but it's been my experience that you're more likely to find some old keyboard with a USB converter (model M, omnikey, et c.) with *nix developers than Windows developers.

Personally, I use Model Ms at home on anything with AT/PS2/USB, with the exception of a very compact Cherry keyboard that gets used with my industrial utility PC. My current laptop is a Lenovo Thinkpad X201, which still has a decent keyboard. I hear Lenovo has dropped real keyboards from their current product line. My girlfriend has a PS/2 (non model M) Space Saver with the trackpoint device for her desktop, which is a fine keyboard.

k2x4b524[
January 23rd, 2014, 01:51 PM
"I haven't seen any trackball model Ms for awhile."

I have one, an easy options, the trackball is on the upper right corner, with a serial connection for the trackball and the ps/2 for the mouse. All come out through the connector on the keyboard.

Ole Juul
January 24th, 2014, 01:20 AM
I've got enough model 'M's to last for a while so don't need to buy one. However, for non-vintage use, what's wrong with the Unicomp (http://pckeyboard.com/) Keyboards. They're not so expensive. Is there something wrong with them?

vwestlife
January 24th, 2014, 04:42 AM
I think it's more a matter of training. I learned to type on an Underwood manual. After a number of years, I got my first electric--lighter touch, but still very distinct travel and audible feedback. If you learned to type on a teletype, I imagine you probably acquired a touch with a long travel and nearly as much force as a manual typewriter. The two-eyed CDC DD60 operator's console used a speaker to give a "clunk" sound after each keypress--under the keyboard there was a potentiometer to vary the volume. If you used an IBM 024/026/029 keypunch, you were quite used to the loud "chunk" when a key was hit.

IBM's early DisplayWriter word processor keyboards used a solenoid hitting the bottom of the metal case to simulate the thunking of a typewriter, for those who were so used to the sound and feel that they couldn't type without it.

Hatta
January 24th, 2014, 08:29 AM
The nice thing about modern mechanical keyboards is that there are many key switches to choose from. You can get them as quiet or as clicky as you want. The downside is that none of them are as sturdy as the Model M. Lazy Game Reviews recently reviewed one mechanical keyboard with some neat features. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdRumi-N8Y0

Stone
January 24th, 2014, 08:50 AM
I recently killed one of my favorite Model Ms with just a few drops of coffee on the spacebar. After washing and drying thououghly several of the keys still don't work right. Is there a possible fix for this? I have hundreds of sockets and yet not one is the right fit for the four bolts on the back so I haven't even been able to open it yet. Anyone know the correct size so I can get a socket somewhere?

vwestlife
January 24th, 2014, 09:15 AM
I recently killed one of my favorite Model Ms with just a few drops of coffee on the spacebar. After washing and drying thououghly several of the keys still don't work right. Is there a possible fix for this? I have hundreds of sockets and yet not one is the right fit for the four bolts on the back so I haven't even been able to open it yet. Anyone know the correct size so I can get a socket somewhere?

Remove all the keycaps, put the whole thing in the dishwasher, and let it dry completely (for several days) before attempting to use it again.

Stone
January 24th, 2014, 10:03 AM
With soap of any type or just plain water? Hot or cold?

vwestlife
January 24th, 2014, 11:24 AM
With soap of any type or just plain water? Hot or cold?


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkYxrbhMPj4

Ole Juul
January 24th, 2014, 12:55 PM
I have hundreds of sockets and yet not one is the right fit for the four bolts on the back so I haven't even been able to open it yet. Anyone know the correct size so I can get a socket somewhere?
I ran into the same problem.The ubiquitous automobile sockets are too thick. Years ago I took a socket driver and rolled it around on the grinding wheel for a bit to make a thinner wall so it would work on a model M. I didn't know at the time that there were thin walled sockets.

Chuck(G)
January 24th, 2014, 03:48 PM
A 7/32" or 5.5 mm thin-shell nutdriver will do the job. I don't think sockets are thin enough.

Ole Juul
January 24th, 2014, 04:32 PM
A 7/32" or 5.5 mm thin-shell nutdriver will do the job. I don't think sockets are thin enough.
Thanks for the more accurate information - I knew you had it. :).

You're probably correct about sockets generally being too thick, I should have said nutdriver, which is what I eventually ended up shaving down and using. Though if I recall correctly, I did actually manage to grind down an actual socket bit enough for my first attempt at opening a model M.

Ole Juul
January 24th, 2014, 04:35 PM
Nobody responded to my question in post #10.


what's wrong with the Unicomp Keyboards?

Anybody?

Trixter
January 24th, 2014, 07:32 PM
Nothing's wrong with them. They're quite nice and are a good way to get a USB keyboard with buckling-spring action.

EverythingIBM
January 24th, 2014, 09:33 PM
Nobody responded to my question in post #10.
Anybody?

Some people complain about how the plastics from unicomp keyboards can sometimes have moulding streaks (but I never noticed any weird defects).

The key feel and sound is different slightly from an earlier period (1985 - 1992) model M, but nothing to worry about. Unicomps are very similar to Model M13s in terms of sound and feel. The difference is that the earlier model Ms tended to reverberate the springs on the metal backboard, whereas the newer ones don't.
So if you like quieter keyboard, a unicomp is definitely recommended. If you want loud obnoxious clacking and random spring frequencies, definitely get an [B]early IBM one.

I personally think it's great that unicomp still manufactures Model Ms and spare parts. I ordered some things from them once (cables, mice, keys etc). The problem is, these keyboards rarely break and last for so long that the market isn't [huge]. People like Brandon at clickykeyboards also flip NOS Model Ms endlessly, reducing the desire for new Model Ms even more.

--> I like to support Unicomp whenever I can. Very good company.

Chuck(G)
January 24th, 2014, 10:19 PM
Thanks for the more accurate information - I knew you had it. :).

You're probably correct about sockets generally being too thick, I should have said nutdriver, which is what I eventually ended up shaving down and using. Though if I recall correctly, I did actually manage to grind down an actual socket bit enough for my first attempt at opening a model M.

A Wiha 26556 nutdriver or a Westward 10J367 should do fine. The Westward is about half the price of the German-made Wiha.

Ole Juul
January 24th, 2014, 11:48 PM
Nothing's wrong with them. They're quite nice and are a good way to get a USB keyboard with buckling-spring action.


--> I like to support Unicomp whenever I can. Very good company.

Thanks for the endorsements. I had a feeling they were fine, but an earlier post mentioned quite high prices so assumed that Unicomp ones were not acceptable for some reason.

I had a good look around their site since I first posted my question. It would be a bit of a luxury, but I could be tempted to get one of theirs with the 104 keys. I guess I could hope for one with moulding streaks or other small defect since I value that kind of thing, but having some coloured key caps sprinkled around would be a great pleasure.

Trixter
January 25th, 2014, 08:05 AM
The problem is, these keyboards rarely break and last for so long that the market isn't [huge].

Once I knew I wanted Model Ms for the rest of my life, I started hoarding them. Now, I give one away every few years because they don't break!

Unknown_K
January 26th, 2014, 01:52 AM
I hoarded model M's because I have quite a few IBM PS/2 machines and they look so cool with original keyboards AND mice. I also use the M's on my KVMs. They do seem indestructible, just needing some cleaning once in a while. Also have a bunch of other quality keyboards in the collection including Northgate.

Don't think they are really making a comeback (that would be expensive but crappy built chicklet keyboards). Just a few collectors appreciate the nice keyboards and we just happen to here about them.

Unknown_K
January 26th, 2014, 01:53 AM
I hoarded model M's because I have quite a few IBM PS/2 machines and they look so cool with original keyboards AND mice. I also use the M's on my KVMs. They do seem indestructible, just needing some cleaning once in a while. Also have a bunch of other quality keyboards in the collection including Northgate.

Don't think they are really making a comeback (that would be expensive but crappy built chicklet keyboards). Just a few collectors appreciate the nice keyboards and we just happen to here about them.

Great Hierophant
January 26th, 2014, 08:35 AM
On the Unicomp keyboard I owned, compared to my IBM Model Ms, the plastic was not as weighty, the texture to the keyboard case had a rough texture that attracted dust, the edges of the keycaps were comparatively ragged and the plastic color was not uniform, the cord was too thin. The PCB inside the keyboard was held down by a plastic tab that eventually broke off, leaving the keyboard unable to make good contact with the keyboard matrix contacts. These issues were seemingly inherited by Unicomp.

Maverick1978
January 26th, 2014, 04:01 PM
To get back on-topic, I personally wouldn't say that clicky keyboards are making a "comeback," but I would say that there is a push to get PC gamers to spend as much money on their gaming keyboards as they do on their gaming mice.

Enter companies like Corsair, who Phreakindee reviewed in his LazyGameReviews (posted earlier). I personally have a Cooler Master Storm cherry blue switch keyboard that is definitely gamer-centric (I only purchased it because of the double-stack rebates Newegg ran on these models last year). Other companies have jumped on the bandwagon, offering large keyboard with various accessories, including a touch LCD screen that functions as a second monitor for chatting or macros, the intention being that it could be used as a kind of mini-HUD. Personally... I just want something that has a bit of feedback and I got tired of tossing out my rubber dome keyboards yearly. My mechanical keyboards, I can't seem to kill them.

njroadfan
January 26th, 2014, 05:35 PM
Personally... I just want something that has a bit of feedback and I got tired of tossing out my rubber dome keyboards yearly. My mechanical keyboards, I can't seem to kill them.

http://codekeyboards.com/

Simple, although the price is a bit of an OUCH. The rubber dome keyboard I'm typing on is about 15 years old and has seen heavy use. Somehow it still works fine. The key legends are about toast though. Too bad they don't make new double shot keycaps anymore.

Compgeke
January 26th, 2014, 08:51 PM
You can actually get new doubleshot keycaps, however they aren't easy to find.

Signature Plastics I know has some and some of the geekhack\deskthority groupbuys (like "Round 4") are doubleshot.

Maverick1978
January 27th, 2014, 10:37 AM
Doubleshots are why alot of the Geekhack crowd scours ebay for vintage keyboards. Check out how much the Dolch PAC keyboards are going for (they're pulled from portable PC's that were typically implemented as sniffers in the pre-Pentium II days)

I have two Dolch keyboards, both with vintage Cherry Blue keyswitches. The caps are a nice two-tone doubleshots. One I keep with my Dolch PAC-64, the other I plan to rewire the RJ-11 jack to a PS/2 jack and use it as a standard keyboard (all of the Dolch PAC keyboards after the PAC-586 were made by Cherry and speak native PS/2 - but ignore the ones that have a trackpad built in as these are scissor-switch mechanisms, and don't have Cherry MX doubleshot caps)

Nice link on the CODE Keyboard. Too expensive for my tastes, but I can't say that I haven't spent at least that much gathering up my handful of Cherry boards.