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Thread: Universal Retro Keyboard project

  1. #11
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    did you decide to include a full set of inverted-t cursor keys in the set?
    does the space bar have supports on the left and right side?

  2. #12
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    I hadn't planned on the inverted T, but I suppose it would be possible to add one more switch next to the two blank keys in the photo (which will anyway be right and left arrows), and create a keymap that maps left, down, and right arrows to those keys, and replaces the "repeat" with an up arrow. Anyone wanting an inverted T would populate the extra key, move the keycaps around, and select the proper keymap (perhaps by DIP switch, or by a build option.) But that would mean making the keyboard wider, and that key would stick out a bit and may look odd. But, the extra key would only need to be populated by those who want the inverted T. Also, adding a couple of extra arrow keys would add a couple of bucks to the cost for every set, but I imagine many might appreciate the flexibility of having all four arrow keycaps.

    BTW, the SOL-20 layout (still a work in progress) will have all four arrow keys, but a different size (1.25x) and not in the inverted T configuration.

    Dave.
    Last edited by dfnr2; January 6th, 2020 at 06:24 PM.

  3. #13
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    Progress note:

    The current PCB layouts and firmware are up on Github.

    The keyboards included so far are:

    - Apple2/OSI/ADM3A-style ASCII
    - SOL-20

    The ASCII adapter so far has multiple keymap support, selectable by DIP switch, currently supporting:
    - ADM3A-style ASCII
    - ADM3A-style ASCII, ALL CAPS
    - Apple II, Upper/Lower (with added CAPS LOCK in the "Power" indicator position, and repeat key replaced with a @^ key)
    - Classic ALL CAPS Apple II (except Ctrl+RESET required to reset machine)

    I'm currently working on a "virtual LED and Output" mechanism, so the keymaps can assign functions to the different LEDs (capslock, shiftlock, etc.) and output lines (RESET, Screen Clear, etc.). This is in order to avoid hard-coding this functionality in the hardware layer, and permit support keyboards with different LED and logic outputs, such as the Apple II vs the SOL-20, as well as keyboards to be added in the future.

    I've ordered a number of keycap sets that will work for fully compatible Apple II and OSI layouts, plus a variety of standard ASCII layouts. It will be ready in a couple of months and will cost about $60/set (for me to break even). I've also orderd a supplemental SOL-20 keycap set to extend the standard set for the SOL-20 keyboard. The SOL-20 supplement will cost approximately $60/set as well. The keycaps are by far the most expensive part. A set of PCBs for one keyboard should be about $10-15 from china (but minimum orders are typically qty of 5), inexpensive futaba keys are about $12-$16, and cheap cherry MX clones about $20, and the rest of the parts about $10, so id should be possible to build a brand new keyboard for under $100.

    If anyone is interested, the latest is on github, at the link above. I'm really hoping someone is interested, because I had to order quite a few keycap sets to get the price down

    Dave

  4. #14

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    This is great work Dave!

    Mike

  5. #15
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    I've merged the virtual output layer, which lets the keymaps map physical resources (LEDs, output lines) to virtual outputs. That way, different keyboard layouts can control how various physical resources such as TTL outputs and LEDs behave. Any physical resource can be bound to any virtual output or LED, and any virtual output can be bound to any key. The modifier logic no longer calls the hardware layer to handle CAPSLOCK and SHIFTLOCK. These are now bound to virtual LEDs,

    Some examples:

    - The keymap can specify that a TTL output tied to virtual output 1 will initially be high-impedance, and will toggle between high-impedance and low when virtual out 1 is activated. Then Virtual out 1 can be bound to a RESET key, or CTRL-RESET, etc. Similar bindings can be used for BREAK, SCREEN_CLEAR, etc.

    - The capslock LED can be mapped to the LED of the key bound to the CAPSLOCK function. For example, the ALL-CAPS Apple 2 keymap keeps the POWER LED lit. But the Uppler/lowercase Apple2 map uses the power switch as a CAPSLOCK, and maps the POWER LED to the capslock virtual LED.

    - Shiftlock also has its own virtual LED.

    - Shiftlock or Capslock virtual LEDs can also be bound to TTL outputs, to drive an external LED, if that is for any reason desired.

    - A TTL line set initially high and an LED set initially off can be bound to a virtual output (say, VOUT3) with a toggle function. A VOUT3_ACTIVATE function can be bound to a LOCAL key, and whenever that key is pressed, the TTL output and the LED will both toggle. This can be used for the LOCAL function of the SOL-20 keyboard, for example.

    This is not necessarily exciting for the end user, but it does mean that more keyboard layouts and keymaps can be supported without having to hard-code the I/O and LED functions for various keyboards, reducing overall complexity. It makes it easier to support multiple keymaps and keyboards in a single firmware image on a single interface board, selectable by DIP switches.

    One more thing is that this mechanism will provide a pathway to support multiple interface types, including serial vs parallel ASCII vs VT100 protocol, etc. It also provides a way to switch between attaching a raw keyboard matrix, an OSI latched keyboard interface, a VT100 keyboard, etc.
    Last edited by dfnr2; March 12th, 2020 at 02:38 PM.

  6. #16
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    Hi Dave,

    Do you have a complete list of all the custom keycaps you have commissioned across the Apple II/OSI and the "SOL-20 supplement".

    I am trying to understand what would be missing if one were interested in doing an Exidy Sorcerer keyboard.

    I also need to understand what extra or leftover keys you are having made that are either blank or to allow ADM3A keyboards to be built.

    I have been lurking on the osiforum (amazing forum) trying to get my head around what you are doing and am starting to come up to speed.

    There is quite a lot of overlap between OSI keys and Exidy Sorcerer keys. Of course there will be some specific Sorcerer keys it would not be cost-effective to reproduce but it might be possible to fill a lot of the keyboard and use blank or spare keys in their place. I imagine two sets would be required as it would also be necessary to populate the Sorcerer's numeric keypad.

    On most Sorcerer keyboards most of the keys are of course light brown but the black keys you are having made would not clash with the light brown/chocolate colour scheme of the keycaps and case.

    Cheers,

    Michael

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by exidyboy View Post
    Hi Dave,

    Do you have a complete list of all the custom keycaps you have commissioned across the Apple II/OSI and the "SOL-20 supplement".
    Thanks for checking out the project! I have all the keys in an excel files on GitHub:

    "Classic" keys: https://github.com/osiweb/unified_re...i-keycaps.xlsx

    Sol keys: https://github.com/osiweb/unified_re...0-keycaps.xlsx

    I am trying to understand what would be missing if one were interested in doing an Exidy Sorcerer keyboard.

    I also need to understand what extra or leftover keys you are having made that are either blank or to allow ADM3A keyboards to be built.

    I have been lurking on the osiforum (amazing forum) trying to get my head around what you are doing and am starting to come up to speed.

    There is quite a lot of overlap between OSI keys and Exidy Sorcerer keys. Of course there will be some specific Sorcerer keys it would not be cost-effective to reproduce but it might be possible to fill a lot of the keyboard and use blank or spare keys in their place. I imagine two sets would be required as it would also be necessary to populate the Sorcerer's numeric keypad.
    Looking at the Exidy Sorcerer info online, the Sorcerer uses a scanned 16x5 matrix. Aside from different key positions, the physical layout of the Sorcerer keyboard is fairly similar to the ADM-3A layout. If you are going for an exact mechanical fit, the major differences would be the position of the 1.5u ENTER key, a 1.5u TAB key instead of a 1u TAB, a 1.5U GRAPHICS key to the left of SHIFTLOCK (CTRL position on the ADM), and a 1U CTRL to the left of the left SHIFT.

    The SOL keypad keys would cover the Sorcerer keypad, except for the = key. Also, the "classic" keycap set only has one RESET key.
    That means that a replica with goog mechanical fit would require ordering a 1.5u TAB, 1.5U GRAPHICS keys at a minimum; you could use blank keys for the numpad "=" or order a 1U "=". You could also use a blank key for the second RESET or order a second RESET. Each key is likely to cost roughtly $4-5/key in small quantities of 5-10, so hopefully you could split the cost.

    I think that the easiest way to get a functioning keyboard would be to start with the "Classic" layout (I put it in quotes to indicate that I'm only calling it "classic" because that's what I call the layout within the project.) and edit the matrix to match the exidy, making only small modifications to the layout.

    Then, my suggestion would be to keep the matrix connector compatible with the other keyboards (so the Exidy layout could be used as an ASCII keyboard), and make a daughter board implementing the row decoding, similar to the OSI interface daughter board. You could also add some extra functionality if desired, such as the soft shiftlock and/or 3-second RESET timer from the OSI keyboard.

    On most Sorcerer keyboards most of the keys are of course light brown but the black keys you are having made would not clash with the light brown/chocolate colour scheme of the keycaps and case.
    The colors are moderate-dark gray, which I thought would be compatible with the largest number of retro color schemes, and probably would look good on the sorcerer. It's color GD from signature plastics:

    GD-color.png

    Cheers,

    Dave

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by dfnr2 View Post
    Thanks for checking out the project! I have all the keys in an excel files on GitHub:

    "Classic" keys: https://github.com/osiweb/unified_re...i-keycaps.xlsx

    Sol keys: https://github.com/osiweb/unified_re...0-keycaps.xlsx
    That's great. I didn't realise you had pictures of the keyboards in those spreadsheets. Very helpful.

    Quote Originally Posted by dfnr2 View Post
    Looking at the Exidy Sorcerer info online, the Sorcerer uses a scanned 16x5 matrix. Aside from different key positions, the physical layout of the Sorcerer keyboard is fairly similar to the ADM-3A layout. If you are going for an exact mechanical fit, the major differences would be the position of the 1.5u ENTER key, a 1.5u TAB key instead of a 1u TAB, a 1.5U GRAPHICS key to the left of SHIFTLOCK (CTRL position on the ADM), and a 1U CTRL to the left of the left SHIFT.
    Thanks for putting all that work into the analysis. Yes I would definitely want to do it as a direct mechanical replacement - not that it is needed in a practical sense as their design means they don't wear out - but one use case at least is having an external remote keyboard so you can set the top of the case aside when probing the system board.

    Quote Originally Posted by dfnr2 View Post

    The SOL keypad keys would cover the Sorcerer keypad, except for the = key. Also, the "classic" keycap set only has one RESET key.
    That means that a replica with goog mechanical fit would require ordering a 1.5u TAB, 1.5U GRAPHICS keys at a minimum; you could use blank keys for the numpad "=" or order a 1U "=".
    When you say "order" you mean commission the manufacture of a custom double-shot key?
    For the "=" on the numeric keypad I suppose you could use a normal "-/=" but upside down?

    Quote Originally Posted by dfnr2 View Post
    You could also use a blank key for the second RESET or order a second RESET. Each key is likely to cost roughtly $4-5/key in small quantities of 5-10, so hopefully you could split the cost.
    The $4 to $5 dollars is for the custom keys that are not in any of your sets?

    Quote Originally Posted by dfnr2 View Post
    I think that the easiest way to get a functioning keyboard would be to start with the "Classic" layout (I put it in quotes to indicate that I'm only calling it "classic" because that's what I call the layout within the project.) and edit the matrix to match the exidy, making only small modifications to the layout.

    Then, my suggestion would be to keep the matrix connector compatible with the other keyboards (so the Exidy layout could be used as an ASCII keyboard), and make a daughter board implementing the row decoding, similar to the OSI interface daughter board.
    That makes sense. There would be plenty of room if you wanted to fit the daughter board inside the real top case for some reason.

    Quote Originally Posted by dfnr2 View Post
    You could also add some extra functionality if desired, such as the soft shiftlock and/or 3-second RESET timer from the OSI keyboard.
    Yes some good things could be done there.

    Quote Originally Posted by dfnr2;620345
    The colors are moderate-dark gray, which I thought would be compatible with the largest number of retro color schemes, and probably would look good on the sorcerer. It's color GD from signature plastics:

    [ATTACH=CONFIG
    60787[/ATTACH]
    Yes the colour would work. There is actually a rare Sorcerer variant where the light and dark keys are reversed so there is even something of an historical precedent.

    sean_keyboard_reversed.jpg

    Signature Plastics are good people. I had a lot of correspondence with them last year about reproducing keys to fit the actual Sorcerer keyswitch.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by exidyboy View Post
    That's great. I didn't realise you had pictures of the keyboards in those spreadsheets. Very helpful.
    Actually those are not the actual keycaps (yet). They are examples for the manufacturer. Once I have the actual keycaps, I will update the photos.
    Thanks for putting all that work into the analysis. Yes I would definitely want to do it as a direct mechanical replacement - not that it is needed in a practical sense as their design means they don't wear out - but one use case at least is having an external remote keyboard so you can set the top of the case aside when probing the system board.
    Doesn't the sorcerer use the same stackpole keys as the TI99/4A, VT52, Hazeltine 1500, HP-85, etc? For at least some of those machines, the square columns can split at the corners, causing jamming issues. Someone has designed 3D-printable replacements for those columns, though, permitting repair. But unless you have your own printer, ordering keycaps for an 80-key keyboard is more than building a new one. (about $1.50/part).
    When you say "order" you mean commission the manufacture of a custom double-shot key?
    yes, exactly.
    For the "=" on the numeric keypad I suppose you could use a normal "-/=" but upside down?
    The $4 to $5 dollars is for the custom keys that are not in any of your sets?
    Yes to both. I think that for the sorcerer, it may be more economical to order a special sorcerer "add-on" keyset with the following:

    qty 1 of 1.5U GEW with the word "GRAPHIC"
    qty 1 of 1.5U GD with the word "TAB"
    qty 2 of 1U GEW with the word "RESET"
    qty 1 of 1U GEW with the word "CLEAR"
    qty 1 of 1U GEW with "RUN" on top and "STOP" on bottom
    qty 1 of 1U GD 0
    qty 1 of 1U GD 1
    qty 1 of 1U GD 2
    qty 1 of 1U GD 3
    qty 1 of 1U GD 4
    qty 1 of 1U GD 5
    qty 1 of 1U GD 6
    qty 1 of 1U GD 7
    qty 1 of 1U GD 8
    qty 1 of 1U GD 9
    qty 1 of 1U GD +
    qty 1 of 1U GD -
    qty 1 of 1U GD times symbol ()
    qty 1 of 1U GD divide symbol ()
    qty 1 of 1U GD decimal point (.)
    qty 1 of 9U GD spacebar

    I have emailed the folks at signature plastics asking for a quote for small quantities of those keys. There is a discount for ordering them all together rather than one at a time.

    I'm pretty sure that getting graphics on the keys would incur an extra (one-time) charge of $50/key.

    Can you confirm that the spacebar is 9U (the length of 9 square keys on the keyboard)?

    Signature Plastics are good people. I had a lot of correspondence with them last year about reproducing keys to fit the actual Sorcerer keyswitch.
    Yes, they are very helpful. I'm curious what you learned. Are they able to make direct keycap replacements?

    Dave

  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by dfnr2 View Post

    Doesn't the sorcerer use the same stackpole keys as the TI99/4A, VT52, Hazeltine 1500, HP-85, etc? For at least some of those machines, the square columns can split at the corners, causing jamming issues. Someone has designed 3D-printable replacements for those columns, though, permitting repair. But unless you have your own printer, ordering keycaps for an 80-key keyboard is more than building a new one. (about $1.50/part).
    I'm not a keyboard expert and don't know what "stackpole keys" are. If stackpole is a company they are not the company who made the Sorcerer keyboard which was made by Hi-Tek. There are lots of good photos on deskauthority https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?t=18005 by snuci who is also a member here. Deskauthority doesn't list the Sorcerer amongst those machines that had a Hi-Tek keyboard nor state which keys would be directly compatible. There might be variations between models. It would be interesting to know whether keys for other products were made from the same mold and could plug in.

    I have seen the "square column" split on the corners on Sorcerer keyboards but am unaware of the keys either jamming or becoming easy to pull off even when this happens.

    Quote Originally Posted by dfnr2 View Post

    I think that for the sorcerer, it may be more economical to order a special sorcerer "add-on" keyset with the following:

    qty 1 of 1.5U GEW with the word "GRAPHIC"
    qty 1 of 1.5U GD with the word "TAB"
    qty 2 of 1U GEW with the word "RESET"
    qty 1 of 1U GEW with the word "CLEAR"
    qty 1 of 1U GEW with "RUN" on top and "STOP" on bottom
    qty 1 of 1U GD 0
    qty 1 of 1U GD 1
    qty 1 of 1U GD 2
    qty 1 of 1U GD 3
    qty 1 of 1U GD 4
    qty 1 of 1U GD 5
    qty 1 of 1U GD 6
    qty 1 of 1U GD 7
    qty 1 of 1U GD 8
    qty 1 of 1U GD 9
    qty 1 of 1U GD +
    qty 1 of 1U GD -
    qty 1 of 1U GD times symbol ()
    qty 1 of 1U GD divide symbol ()
    qty 1 of 1U GD decimal point (.)
    qty 1 of 9U GD spacebar

    I have emailed the folks at signature plastics asking for a quote for small quantities of those keys. There is a discount for ordering them all together rather than one at a time.

    I'm pretty sure that getting graphics on the keys would incur an extra (one-time) charge of $50/key.

    Can you confirm that the spacebar is 9U (the length of 9 square keys on the keyboard)?
    Yes it is 9U

    Quote Originally Posted by dfnr2 View Post
    Yes, they are very helpful. I'm curious what you learned. Are they able to make direct keycap replacements?
    Not direct no. I don't believe they made the keys for Exidy originally. They could however make a very similar key with their high profile SA keycap but the core would be different. A custom adapter would connect the keycap into the square column of the Hi-Tek keyswitch.

    Signature Plastics (in their earlier incarnation as Comptec International) created blank keycaps for Arkay Engravers of New York (a business whose origins began in 1947 fixing mechanical cash registers) which Arkay then engraved to create custom after-market keys with legends for the Exidy Sorcerer Word Processor RomPAC and the Spellbinder word processor. These keys were advertised in newsletters and catalogues in the 80s such as this one in Sorcerer's Apprentice Vol3, No. 8, Dec 1981 arkay_SA_V3N8_Dec_1981.pdf [see bitsavers for the full issue]

    engraved_c.jpg

    These custom keys were popular enough that Arkay got involved in some 2 shot molded keycaps as well. I would love to find a set of the red keys one day - I think they look very smart.

    doubleshot_arrow_c.jpg


    The two photos above were kindly provided by a Sorcerer owner in Sydney. If you look very closely you can see how the after market keys are more rounded on the corners whereas the original Exidy keys are sharper at the interface between the face of the key and the vertical sides. I don't have a photo of the underside by my research suggests you would see a custom adapter on both the 2 shot and single shot keycaps.

    The last time I looked into this was last year and at that time Signature had been unable to locate the tooling for the adapter. I went down this rabbit hole because I had obtained a Sorcerer at auction that was missing about 14 keycaps. I was surprised by how affordable it can be to get custom keys made but you would have to very dedicated to do it to repair one machine.
    Last edited by exidyboy; May 8th, 2020 at 11:42 PM.

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