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Thread: Any interest in a SOL-20 keyboard replacement?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
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    Default Any interest in a SOL-20 keyboard replacement?

    Would there be any interest in a SOL-20 keyboard replacement? I recently picked up a non-working SOL-20 which is complete except for the keyboard, and the chances of picking up a keyboard at a reasonable price are pretty slim. I already have an ASCII encoder PCB, so making a new keyboard is just a matter of laying out the keys.

    I am already placing an order for keycaps that will covermost of the keys, but the SOL-20 has some less common key widths, including several 1.25x and a couple of 1.75x keys, and the keyboard has light gray, dark gray, and off-white keycap colors. The missing keys would be difficult to source from commodity suppliers, and would have to be custom-made. The SOL-20 keycap kit would add 36 keys on top of the "classic" keycap kit. I'm guessing that if I order 20, that would be in the range of $30-$40 on top of the "classic" keyset (which would be in the $40-$50 range). The keycap colors are not truly matched to the original, since the base keycap set is darker to broaden the usefulness in other systems.

    If there's not any interest, then I'll find a way to approximate the one-off keyboard with off the shelf parts.

    The keyboard is not a replica of the original. It doesn't use the same capacitive circuit or keys. But it does have exactly the same layout with the same functionality, including the 3 LEDs (UPPER CASE, SHIFT LOCK, LOCAL) and 3 outputs (RESET, BREAK, LOCAL). It uses cherry MX or Futaba MD-4PCs keys. Neither has quite the same feel as the capacitive keys, but the Futaba keys approach the travel of the keytronic switches, and do have a nice feel.

    Also, the original keyboard angles the keycaps at about 10-12 degrees. A 3D printable adapter could be made (as has been done for Apple II ALPS keys). But that's not part of the original plan.

    Dave

  2. #2

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    Hi Dave,
    Welcome to the SOL-20 club.
    Don't forget the OSI though

    Phil
    retro computing at: www.neoncluster.com ....is dead

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nama View Post
    Hi Dave,
    Welcome to the SOL-20 club.
    Don't forget the OSI though

    Phil
    Definitely will not forget OSI Lately I've been turning my attention to the fallout of the great shelf failure of 2019, and directing a little TLC to those systems before putting them back up on the (properly rebuilt) shelf.

    Dave

  4. #4

    Default

    Oh..that doesn't sound good.
    Hope you can get the Sol-20 keyboard project off the ground.
    retro computing at: www.neoncluster.com ....is dead

  5. #5
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    Default

    I already have the layout partly done. I will finish in the scraps of time I have for hobby stuff in the evenings. The keyboard will use the ASCII encoder from the unified retro keyboard project (https://github.com/osiweb/unified_retro_keyboard). The main issue is all the special size/color keycaps used by the SOL-20 keyboard, which will require a special order.

    Dave

  6. #6

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    I think it would be really wonderful if you could make a replacement keyboard for the SOL-20. It would be a great achievement. My support 100%.

  7. #7
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    Default

    You might try talking to these people: https://pimpmykeyboard.com/
    Crazy old guy with a basement full of Pentium 1 laptops and parts

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeltaDon View Post
    You might try talking to these people: https://pimpmykeyboard.com/
    That is the retail site for Signature Plastics, which is indeed where I'm ordering the keys from. I just got a quote back for the SOL-20 add-on set for the keycaps I'm using for the "ADM-3A" style keyboard, and it's not cheap. If I order a quantity of 100 of the ADM-style kit along with quantity 20 of the SOL-20 add-on keys, the price will work out to about $120 for a full set of SOL-20 keycaps. If I order only 10 SOL-20 add-on kits, it will be closer to $170 for a SOL-20 kit, but the up-front cash outlay will be smaller, and the potential for storing a grand or more worth of unused keycaps may be smaller. That's why I want to gauge interest before placing an order.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by dfnr2 View Post
    That's why I want to gauge interest before placing an order.
    It would depend on the final keyboard you are planning to create. It is was a near exact hardware replica, with the same geometry, which would drop directly into a SOL-20, and work with the same key format and key labels, I don't think anyone would have an issue paying $200 to $300 for it or more.

    The aim I think would be to make a near perfect replica, even if it didn't have the unique capacitive key detector. As long as they keys looked right and you could drop it in directly and the keyboard perimeter around the keys matched the original so it looked normal when the SOL-20 metalwork surrounded it. In other words, if you could turn out a keyboard that looked and worked just like the original part, that would be the attraction. If you can do that, then you could worry less about the cost, because SOL-20 enthusiasts would all want one.

  10. #10
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    Default

    The keyboard will be an exact mechanical fit to the case, and also compatible with all the signals, but will not be capacitive. It will leverage the already existing ASCII encoder hardware and firmware.

    Another issue is that the keycaps had a slight angle to them (10-12 degrees) level out the keycaps on a sloped keyboard mounting angle. These keycaps cannot be made with an angle. I don't think the difference is a problem in practice, but it would be nice. I think I have a solution. The good news is that the solution would require a change to the PCB's, which are cheap, so the keycaps could be used either way.

    Dave

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