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The Greatest Keyboard of All Time.. Reborn

Linus Tech Tips · Youtube · 82 HN points · 0 HN comments
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Amazing tactile feel. Distinct mechanical acoustics. Unparalleled durability. The IBM Model M is likely the most influential keyboard ever- even if it’s NOT great for gaming. But how does a brand new Unicomp Classic compare?

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Jan 03, 2020 · 82 points, 87 comments · submitted by CaliforniaKarl
kpgraham
I am typing this on a Model M. I wrote my first program in 1969 and I have used every kind of keyboard since. I bought four Model Ms, new in the box, about 10 years ago for $7 each. I expect them to last for the next 20 years (if I live that long).

The keys are black from my fingers and some of the letters are partially worn off.

The model M is the best keyboard that I have ever used.

mdip
I used to work with a guy who used the original Model M that he had with the PC he was given in the late 80s/early 90s. It's survived multiple coffee spills and at least one case where it was repeatedly picked up and bashed against the desk out of frustration (both key-side down and up). You'll almost certainly get that 20 years.

If you want to restore the keys -- and to be clear, I can't honestly recommend this approach -- but I used to bathe my Northgate Omnikey and clean it with dish soap, followed by a trip to the oven on the equivalent of a "keep warm" setting for a half-day. I was surprised that a lot of the discoloration on the keys wasn't the usual plastic oxidation but was from the oil and grime on my fingertips. It always came out shining and like-new -- partly because whatever they did to print the letters on the keys was very resistant to being worn off. I did it about once every 2 years during the decade and a half that I owned it and it was sold at an estate sale in perfect working condition 15 years after that.

At least one person mentioned using a dishwasher. I've never tried it, and would never do that to a modern keyboard, but I'd imagine the effects would be similar with a whole lot less effort.

celestialcheese
LTT did a video testing out different cleaning methods - Surprisingly keyboards in dishwasher with modern keyboards was safe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgnF42ZoRSw
zevv
I can't help to just keep blatantly reposting this for each and every HN article about buckle spring keyboards:

https://github.com/zevv/bucklespring

"This project emulates the sound of my old faithful IBM Model-M space saver bucklespring keyboard while typing on my notebook, mainly for the purpose of annoying the hell out of my coworkers."

Enjoy!

macjohnmcc
It would be fun to annoy others with it but the extra width of the keyboard also comes with the annoyance that your mouse is further to the right as well. I alternate between using my M and other mechanical keyboards (months between switching) until my memory of the inconvenience of the mouse being further away fades.
zevv
That is where the Model M "space saver" comes in: https://tinyurl.com/vcvkf8p
ghaff
I have a WASD but same layout. I never used the numeric keyboard and it fits on my keyboard tray with a big Mac trackpad much better than my previous full-size mechanical keyboard did.
StavrosK
Oh God, the key sound comes on the right channel if I press the right Shift, but the left channel if I press the left Shift. That's some attention to detail, wow.
hazeii
To me (and it seems very much a personal opinion) not having an F-key array on the left - as on the original AT keyboards - was one of the biggest losses made during keyboard evolution. Depends on the software in use of course, but being able to hit a modifier (Ctrl, Shift, Alt) and an F-key without stretching is the reason I still use the old-style layout to this day.
mdip
Somewhat topic-adjacent -- I'm looking at getting a new keyboard. In my early 20s, I used this specific keyboard and while I liked it (as my other comment points out), it's super loud.

Does anyone make a heavy mechanical keyboard with F-Keys on the left any longer? It is a whole lot easier to land on the right F-key without looking down when they're vertical on the left (just like it's easier to hit all the numbers accurately on a number-pad vs. the top row). Being able to one-hand CTRL/ALT+F-keys accurately, without looking, is somewhere between difficult and impossible on modern keyboard designs.

The keyboard I grew up on, the Northgate Omnikey, was heavy, had left-oriented F-Keys, and included replacement key caps for CTRL, ALT and CAPS LOCK (along with a tool to remove the keys!) so that you could put CTRL where CAPS LOCK typically is and ALT where CTRL typically is. It also had corresponding DIP switches that controlled whether the keyboard sent CTRL or CAPS LOCK from that position, so no monkeying around with driver software or OS configuration to make your keyboard behave the way that the key caps indicated.

Are any of you using a board like this which is either USB or PS/2 and has been manufactured in the last 5 years (or is still produced, new, today)?

cptnapalm
Unicomp makes one: https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/product/40L5A

It will be gloriously clickity clackety.

znpy
Uh... I remember I saw that video in advance on Floatplane (https://www.floatplane.com/) and decided to get an EnduraPro (Basically a ModelM + Trackpoint) from Unicomp.

I've used it for a while but then decided to put it away.

Two big problems:

1. The trackpoint moves the cursor to the left just right, but it hits a key when moving to the right. Basically it's super fast to move in one direction and super-slow in the opposite. It got me crazy.

2. The keys are immensely loud. Duh. I was expecting loud keys, but I didn't expect that much loud. I am not kidding here: i decided to finally put away the keyboard when, while typing on an afternoon, I hit the Enter key a bit harder than usual and somehow I got pain in my right ear. I am not sure if this was due to some vibration traveling back through my right arm or just from noise, but man that did not feel good at all.

Oh... did I mention that thing is FUING MASSIVE? It's HEAVY. HEAVY AS FK.

One of the Model-M disadvantages (that also affects a lot of mechanical keyboards, but no one seems to care, apparenly) is that the key plane is raised from where your palm usually rests, and the angle the key forms is not negligible. One could probably get some kind of wrist strain by using it all the day everyday.

And don't even get me started on the mess I had to do to have it shipped to europe...

I have settled on an IBM SK-8845 keyboard at work and a ThinkPad USB (x220-style) keyboard at home. They're both quieter, the trackpoint works a lot better (the sk-8845 even has the touchpad), they're flatter and they both have a very comfortable palmrest.

In the end, I don't completely regret buying the endura pro but I wouldn't buy it again.

rudolfwinestock
For a moment, I thought that they were talking about this project:

https://kono.store/products/input-club-symbolic-keyboard

For those too lazy to click, it's a project to resurrect the Space Cadet Keyboard. It's still in the planning stages.

petilon
To me the greatest keyboard of all time is Acer Future, seen in this picture: https://i.imgur.com/KIjOiuQ.jpg

It is great because the trackpad is in the center of the keyboard, which means you don't have to stretch your arm to use the mouse.

The keys feel nice and it is ergonomic. Sadly they stopped making these long ago. Nothing like it is available in the market today.

buster
This looks quite a bit like my kinesis pro keyboard which I bought because of CTS. I am thinking about putting a touchpad in the middle..
ianai
I have one there. Works well!
retsibsi
It also looks uncomfortably like a certain iconic shock image...
YZF
The history in the video doesn't ring quite right. The heritage of the PS/2 keyboard also relate to mainframe terminals (3270 and maybe 5250) which predate the IBM PC and to the original IBM/AT keyboard which predates the PS/2. Presumably some of those have electric typewriter heritage as well. I also think some of those older keyboards were nicer than the PS/2 IMNHO.
myrandomcomment
I still have a Model M attached to an older system that I use for playing with different Linux distos on. The date stamp on the back says "28Nov88".

Today my is keyboard is a Filco Majestouch 2 Tenkeyless (Japanese). I also have the Flico "Genuine Wood" wrist rest. I ordered replacement keycaps to match MacOS vs the default Windows keys (any replaced the Caplocks with Ctrl, the way God intended it!). I have one on the desk at home and work. The feeling is not quite as good as the Model M but it works well. Switches are Cherry Brown (45g). The Model M is 70g IIRC.

If you are looking for a keyboard, Filco is worth trying. If you live in Japan any of the big tech shops (Bic, etc) will have a ton on display with different switches you can try out.

When I worked at IBM way back when, keyboards were a "green tagged" part vs. a "red tagged part". Green = order as many as you want with no accounting/reason for doing so. Red parts had to be accounted for (the $$$ stuff).

sleepybrett
to hell with the M.. my heart still lives with the F. https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/
skocznymroczny
I've been on a mechanical keyboard adventure, and I realized most of them are not for me. I don't have any nostalgia for the 80s keyboards, and I can't stand tall keys anymore.

I am using a low-profile mechanical keyboard (Havit KB390L) and it's the only mechanical keyboard that is usable for me.

However, it's likely my next keyboard will be scissor switch again. I will probably go for Logitech MX Keys, seems to be the best option for premium scissor switch keyboards.

krakatau1
Yes, it's exactly the same with me, I simply do not like tall keys.

The one thing I did like in mechs is abundance of layouts that came about.

I got Mx Keys and it's very good but!!!

* escape key is doubled in size so it messes my musle memory with f keys( you expect to hit f5 but it's f4)

* I don't need the numpad.

My next keyboard is Matias, the only other option for premium scissor switch keyboards. https://www.keyboardco.com/keyboard/uk-matias-bluetooth-alum...

jakear
I agree, it’s very difficult to go from my MBP butterfly keys to a mechanical. On top of the enormous amount of travel required, I also would be forced to use a mouse (or external trackpad), which is so much slower than having the touchpad at my thumbs at all times.

Right now, I type quickly on the keyboard, and any time I need to use the pointer all that’s required is a slight rotation of my right hand. Compare that to all the mechanical keyboard folks in my office, who also type quickly, but every cursor interaction is a movement of their entire arm. I don’t understand how they’re okay with that.

Anyone know of a nice low profile mechanical with a built in trackpad?

dlevine
Unicomp makes a version that has a built in trackpoint and mouse buttons. Haven't used it, though.
toast0
I've read that the trackpoint in the M13s (including the Unicomps) are one of the earlier designs, and trackpoint enthusiasts prefer the newer versions. That's as far as I went down that rabbit hole.
skocznymroczny
I'd love to have a butterfly keyboard for my desktop. Unfortunately there aren't any and it's not the best time for butterfly keyboards right now because of reputation for being faulty.
heybrandons
Dang, I was hoping for something newer. Model M's today are really hard to work with. It take's majority of your desk space and then you have to use one of those weird adapters that you will have to convert again to plug into most computers. I use the happy hacking boards as they're pretty solid, take up less space and still feel alright typing. Seeing the video does give me new inspiration to go back to the model m though... Thanks for sharing!
thelazydogsback
On a related note, I just came across this: https://www.amazon.com/Freewrite-Distraction-Free-Typewriter...

Looks like a good TRS-80 Model 100 replacement for writers. Although perhaps a bit too anachronistic as you can apparently only backspace!

jrockway
The model M is an interesting keyboard; the sound and tactility is great. However, those keyswitches are quite heavy by modern standards and you may find your fingers getting tired. The layout is also not amazing, and the controller doesn't lend itself to much customizability.

If you work in an environment where loud keys are acceptable, you should try the Kailh/Novelkeys "thick clicks": https://novelkeys.xyz/products/novelkeys-x-kailh-box-thick-c... The sound and tactility on these switches is incredible.

I think a lot of people that are interested in mechanical keyboards think the only options available are Cherry Browns, Cherry Blues, Topre, and buckling springs... but the reality is that that is the tip of the iceberg. The new designs in the Cherry form factor are much better than anything Cherry makes or has ever made; so if you've tried those and didn't like them (I found them distractingly scratchy and not very tactile; apparently a common complaint), there are a lot of other options before you have to go to a finger-killing model M.

I currently use an Ergodox EZ with Thick Clicks (Jade on the pinky keys, Navy on everything else) and love it. It is the most tactile keyboard I have ever used, and the sound is amazing. I also have an Ergodox EZ with Healios (silent linear) switches and love those too. They are the smoothest and quietest switches I have ever touched; it is almost distracting how smooth and silent they are.

Anyway, there is a lot of good stuff out there and a lot of keyboards support swapping switches without soldering now, so you can try them all. I think most people will like a non-model-M board, simply because we can do so much better now. If you've ever used Cherry switches and said "this is terrible" and though that a model M was your only option for tactility; that's just not the case anymore. There are hundreds of switches between Cherry Brown and buckling spring now; one of them is likely to be "your thing".

Some switches I've used recently:

- Hako True - these were designed to feel like Topre switches, but they don't feel like Topre switches. They feel linear and get very heavy before activation, so they don't feel good to type on to me. It just feels like compressing a spring and maybe your key will be typed if you're lucky.

- Novelkeys Box Royal - these are very tactile, but you can very strongly feel the activation point and they feel like they want to get stuck there on the way up. I used these as pinky keys for about a year and they just got scratchier and scratchier until I felt the need to replace them. (Lube is probably the correct fix, but I am too lazy to lube keyswitches.) They are quite tactile, though. Interesting design, worth a try.

- Hako Royal Clear - these are heavier Box Royals, I think, and I used them for about a year as the non-pinky keys on the board with Box Royals. Pretty tactile, but you can definitely feel some clickiness at the activation point on the way up. They are not particularly quiet, but are a good switch to try out.

- Novelkeys Thick Clicks - very very very tactile, maybe the most tactile switch I've ever used. Super loud. The Jades really do require you to remove all force from the key to come back up; I notice this but it doesn't bother me in any way. My favorite switch family by far, if you can live with the noise. It's not "oh I can hear someone typing", it's "there is an earthquake nearby we're all going to die" loud. Similar to buckling springs, but not as heavy. Still on the heavy side, though, so if you like really light switches, they are not for you. (If you like light switches, I think you are basically dead with respect to tactile or clickiness, though; the tactile bump is always going to be heavy.)

- Healios - smoothest mechanism ever. Touching them makes you think they are exuding quality. Silent on bottom-out and upstroke. Nobody will know you're using a mechanical keyboard. They are perfect for gaming, and pretty good for typing. (I'm using them right now.) They are very very light even though they are sold as 67g switches. I had avoided linear switches because I thought I needed the tactility to avoid bottoming out, but I was wrong. Worth a look.

There are also some good switches I haven't personally used; namely the Zilents.

Anyway, my point is that you don't need to go full model M to get good keyswitches. There are better boards and good switches around. Get a board with "hot-swappable" switches and try some out, it's likely you'll be able to build the perfect keyboard. You won't be stuck with a standard layout as you are with Realforce or Model M boards, and you'll be able to use a firmware like QMK to get a perfect layout. (For example, I have ({}) on the home row activated by a thumb switch on the other hand. Must more comfortable for coding than groping for all those keys with your pinky.)

braindeath
> However, those keyswitches are quite heavy by modern standards and you may find your fingers getting tired.

I find fatigue to be a bigger problem on most rubber dome keyboards. I know the peak force for a Model M is a bit high, but how does the total work compare? Seems to me what would matter more.

jrockway
I can't find any measurements of the work required to active a rubber dome switch, probably because it depends on the typist's style. (A buckling spring requires 209 gram-force millimeters of work; https://input.club/the-comparative-guide-to-mechanical-switc...)

All the work that makes rubber dome keys feel tiring is done after the switch has activated, and so how much work you do on the switch is going to depend on your own technique. (Before activation, they look a lot like Topre switches, which is a very "rounded" tactile bump. It's just that the actual activation happens at the very bottom of the travel, so you can't activate the switch without a movement that applies force but moves the key ~0mm, which obviously increases total work very very quickly because of that close-to-0 denominator. But it's not strictly necessary to apply any force after the key activates.)

A lot of people using mechanical switches, especially light ones, also bottom out, so they are prone to this "infinite work" effect. So if a 90g spring saves you from bottoming out, it can reduce fatigue if you were just going to slam into the PCB at the bottom. But if you can also be trained to not bottom out with a 45g switch, you'll be doing a lot less work, which may translate to less fatigue.

I know a lot of people that type very lightly on rubber dome keyboards, so it can be done. The theory is that a good tactile bump or audible click is going to help train you from bottoming out, which gives you a very clear maximum on the total work done. But it is all about technique; the switches don't have infinite travel (which would be interesting, actually) and can't STOP you from bottoming out, all they can do is give you tools to help train yourself to spend as small amount of time compressing something that can't compress. Bumps, clicks, extreme care... all helpful, but it is up to the individual to figure out what works. There are plenty of people that do not bottom out on linear keys; and that is just about training your fingers to press the key 3mm instead of 3.5mm. Meanwhile, there are no doubt people typing on model Ms that slam the key to the bottom of the travel and get no benefit from the tactile and clicky nature of the mechanism.

Individual typing technique is always going to be crucial; tactile/clicky add-ons just help hone the technique. Rubber domes come with no training wheels and no margin of error, and thus 99% of people probably do more work than necessary to activate them. That's my theory anyway.

mdip
Thanks for the write-up. I'm going to look into the Healios -- I've been wanting a heavy, mechanical, keyboard but I'm in an open office environment and don't want my co-workers to hate me.

On the fatigue side, it might be less of an issue than you expect after you get used to it. In fact, I noticed that while my fingers are more tired when I use a "heavy-switch" keyboard, my posture is better and my wrists hurt less. I suspect that I'm positioning my wrists "more correctly" on the heavier keys because it's necessary in order to still type at the same speed on them[0].

I think the main thing is to be consistent. I used to play piano and for about two years after I moved in to my first apartment, I had to switch to a (non-weighted) electronic keyboard due to budget/space. When I returned to a regular upright, I couldn't actually play a lot of the music I had learned on the synth because I wouldn't apply enough pressure to result in a sound. After about a month of regular practice, I ended up replacing the electronic keyboard with a much more expensive one with weighted keys and never went back.

[0] And as much as I try to be really careful ... adjusting my typing posture, consistently, would be about as difficult as adjusting the way I walk, consistently. It's second-nature and burned into my brain. I'd only adjust if I received a consistent reminder, like missing keypresses.

jrockway
I also find it hard to type on light switches. I feel like heavy switches save me from a situation where my brain wants to type a letter, but upon feeling the start of applying force, it thinks "that is not the letter you want". On light switches, the key is registered before the feedback loop executes completely. (I'm on a light keyboard right now and probably hit backspace 10 times typing those sentences.)

For me, the biggest thing to make typing feel comfortable was to not use weak fingers constantly. I touch type, on qwerty, and certainly don't mind using my pinkies to press qazp;/, because they don't come up very often. But getting enter, backspace, and programming symbols off the pinkies made a huge difference for me. That is why I recommend keyboards that use QMK or similar; you have the power to move keys around and really get what's good for you. (I also like the Ergodox because of the four extra keys activated by your pointer finger, and the four big thumb keys for enter, space, and modifiers. Having said that, I think the Ergodox layout is generally not that great; the small keys around the big thumb keys are nearly impossible to press. I use them for arrow keys, insert, delete, pg up, pg down... and never press them. I use C-n/C-p/C-b/C-f for movement, don't use the delete key, and have a macro for shift-insert. If those keys were removed from the board I wouldn't be sad at all. They are just a waste of space and ~$10 worth of keyswitches.)

Edit: one other note, I'm actually using Roselios, not Healios: https://zealpc.net/collections/switches/products/roselios_sa... My understanding is that they are exactly identical except for the color of the stem. I am not sure why people care about what color their keyswitches are... I just bought what was in stock ;)

mdip
> I feel like heavy switches save me from a situation where my brain wants to type a letter, but upon feeling the start of applying force, it thinks "that is not the letter you want".

I've run into this, myself, but never thought about it being related to the resistance of the switches. However, I'm convinced that's it after thinking about it.

Related to this is the most annoying thing I run into with my basic keyboards is over-stretching for CTRL+V. I always catch myself about 1/4 of the way into pressing the key and instinctively adjust. On my mechanical with decent resistance, my finger bounces off the `B`, lands on `V`, and everything is fine. On my laptop keyboards, which have a varying degrees of "too short of a distance" between pressed and not pressed (even my Thinkpad), this almost always results in the CTRL+B being hit immediately before the CTRL+V (lovely bookmark pane, now go away!)

jrockway
C and V are definitely in weird places on staggered keyboards. Most "touch typists" even use the wrong finger for C because it's in such a strange place. You might like an "ortholinear" layout, which puts everything in a finger's column in an actual column, making it very clear which finger is responsible for which keys. Typing C/V/B feels a lot better, especially C.

The downside of trying an ortholinear keyboard is that there is some significant adjustment time. I think it took me a about a month to switch from a normal staggered 60% keyboard to an Ergodox EZ, and I have a lot of trouble going back to a non-ortholinear layout. People on Reddit assure me I am an idiot, though, so maybe it's just me.

I bring it up because the layout really does help with that lower row, and if you are explicitly noticing mistyped keys there a lot, it might be worth trying it out. You will never be able to use a laptop again, though, so it might not be worth the cost.

ljm
I love these keyboards (and mechanical keyboards in general; the tactility and sensitivity is so satisfying). I just wish there was a silent option that wasn't still loud as fuck.

The main problem is that noise isolating/cancelling cans won't protect you from the clackety-clack, which for a lot of people can be as infuriating as listening to someone eating loudly.

NeedMoreTea
Back in the 80s when everyone in the office was using one, no one apparently cared or noticed the noise. Though we didn't have everyone hiding behind cans and there was often a bit of a coffee shop lite buzz of background chatter.

I think everyone got over sensitive about it as we all hide behind a playlist.

DanBC
Wasn't the noise damped somewhat by offices or cubicles and solid desks?
NeedMoreTea
Hmm, heavier desks may have contributed, but at least in my early career I've not had an office -- it was usually 4-8 people per room.
bsder
> Back in the 80s when everyone in the office was using one, no one apparently cared or noticed the noise.

Remember what the alternative was back then ... a bunch of people using typewriters.

Compared to typewriters these keyboards are a massive improvement in noise.

NeedMoreTea
True, though I was more thinking of the computing context, where what went before might have been a VT100 or 52, maybe a Wyse or IBM.
None
None
Kaibeezy
I miss having the function keys on the left, Word Perfect 1987-style.

ETA: Aha! https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/product/40L5A

mdip
Yes, please. It's so much easier to hit the right F-Key (without looking down), especially when combined with ALT/CTRL, when they're on the left. I wish this was still an option these days.

Thanks for the link. Damn, I haven't seen a 122 key keyboard since the 80s!

Kaibeezy
Right? Right? It was like playing chords on a piano, or maybe like those rows of buttons on an accordion. Top row F keys, feh!
unixhero
This wacky and fun chemistry PhD reviews keyboards.

His reviews are highly relevant for this thread: https://www.youtube.com/user/Chyrosran22

seanmcdirmid
I miss my Model M, having gotten rid of it in 2016 because I knew no open office outside of China would accept me using one. Now I just use a das with the quieter cherry switches, it feels so inferior.
Finnucane
This is making me miss the Northgate Omnikey keyboard I had 30 years ago.
mdip
I think every one of my comments has mentioned this keyboard. IMO, it's the best keyboard that was ever made and I'm seriously considering buying one on ebay (along with all of the stuff required to plug it in to current hardware).
ChuckMcM
I have an M13 made in 1994 by Lexmark. It is distinguished by having the track point built into the keyboard. I do prefer its feel over that of 'modern' mechanical keyboards.
mdip
I just saw one of these on Craigslist. I used one of these for years at my first "real job" and loved it, but wow is it noisy.

In the 90s, my dad and I built custom (higher-end) PCs for small businesses and individuals. We carefully weeded out parts that we didn't like and put a high priority on excellent displays[1], good keyboards and mice[2]. To this day, I'm surprised at how little thought is paid to such a critical input device. And it's not that users don't care about it, it's almost like it was forgotten.

My personal preference, in this category, though was the Northgate Omnikey[0]. It was a multi-platform keyboard that was able to be plugged in to an AT/XT, Amiga and a few others. The model I had was left-oriented F-keys (I miss that!) and included extra keys and tools so that you could put the CTRL where "Caps Lock" was, and "alt" where the left CTRL was, which was how we configured them ... no more accidental CAPS LOCK hits when aiming for "A". Unfortunately, my parents sold it in an estate sale a while back. I doubt they got anywhere near the $100-$200 that these sell for when functional (depending on condition ... most are very yellow due to the plastic oxidizing but you can still find some that maintain their gray-white/blue color). Pretty rare to find a keyboard that resells for about the price they were new (sans inflation).

I'd put the IBM at a very close second. The Northgate was easily on par as far as "feel" was concerned, but the IBM keyboards had this loud "ping" sound that sort-of rang after a key was pressed (springs), which the Omnikey lacked. I couldn't own a keyboard like that if I wanted to continue programming since, at the time, most of my programming[4] was done between midnight and 3:00 AM with fleeting parental approval (fleeting ... if I woke them up).

I feel that keyboard quality is something that manufacturers have missed the ball on -- especially on notebooks. This Christmas I picked out a Thinkpad for my parents. They love it. My Dad now wants a new desktop keyboard, though, because he really likes the Thinkpad keyboard. I was a little puzzled -- his current board feels exactly the same to my fingers. After thinking about it for a bit, I'm fairly certain I know where the problem is: despite the same feel, his desktop keyboard weighs almost nothing. Every time you touch a key, or even reach out for it, it slides a little. So every few sentences, you're re-positioning the keyboard. At my typing speed, this means repositioning the keyboard constantly.

It makes me wonder if in all of this effort to make things lighter and more portable, the industry miscalculated by applying that logic to peripheral keyboards. I'd prefer my keyboard to weight twice as much as my current laptop. To me, I'd rather have a keyboard heavier than a notebook PC. Between the two I use most regularly, one is wired, the other is wireless, both would move with a reasonable gust of wind. Why do I care if it's convenient to carry when it never leaves my desktop? There's much greater value is in it staying put while I use it. At my office, several developers I work with have purchased their own keyboards. Some of it is "cool factor", but one thing I found consistently about the boards they've chosen -- All of them weigh in at 3 times the weight of the typical $15 board and most have sticky rubber feet. About half hadn't realized the difference until I pointed it out. I even had one co-worker that got upset at the realization -- he'd narrowed the choice down to 2 keyboards and opted for the lighter one. I made him unhappy with his decision. Oops!

[0] https://deskthority.net/wiki/Northgate_OmniKey/101

[1] I can't remember the brand, but nearly every computer monitor was XGA 14"; we only sold 16+" and went with Trinitron models and models with similar technology (at the time, I think Sony had an active patent on the technology, but we had quality issues so we switched to a different brand that I assume didn't work exactly like the Trinitron, but still had the color clarity).

[2] We never found a mouse worth a damn -- we experimented with an early model of ball-free mice, but it was trash.

[3] I'm sure there's an intelligent, technical, term for that but I don't care to search for it.

[4] I was writing a BBS from scratch in Borland/Turbo Pascal after deciding to toss out the code from my Telegard hack. I've actually tried to revisit that using SSH as transport (instead of dial-up) but ran out of motivation.

baylisscg
WRT [1]. Mitsubishi’s Diamondtron was the other one. Pretty much the only way to get a flat fronted CTR at the time.
mdip
Those were excellent and I know we used them at one point. I want to say the brand we settled on in the final years of the business was a Nokia 17" that used a -tron variant. I'm not positive[0]. I had one of those from the mid-90s until around 2010 as a second screen. The color quality on this display spoiled me. I could never find a flat panel that produced such deep blacks and bright whites. When you'd drag a photo from the CRT to any of the flat-panels, it looked like you applied a filter to mute all of the colors a bit. It was completely functional when I recycled it and I'd never had an issue with the thing in the 12-15 years or so that I owned it.

[0] I tried to find the model with a quick Google Image search, and this looks familiar: https://www.recycledgoods.com/nokia-17-crt-monitor-svga-mode...

bullen
I feel rick-rolled, please warn about linking to Linus, I only open his videos in incognito mode!
logicallee
Why?
tasssko
His isn’t that interested in the content and doesn’t want his feed to end up with perpetual LTT recommendations.
logicallee
oh OK.
i0exception
If you're interested in buying one of these, Unicomp (https://www.pckeyboard.com) purchased the rights to continue making Model M style keyboards once Lexmark removed them from their line of products.

If you want to buy one of the originals, https://clickykeyboards.com has them.

Also, the Model F (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_F_keyboard) is considered by many as being superior to the Model M. IBM made far fewer Model Fs compared to the Ms, so if you find one of these in the wild, it'll be really expensive. https://www.modelfkeyboards.com is trying to re-create the original Model F.

elric
While it's true that Unicomp have purchased all the rights and equipment to make Model M keyboards, the quality doesn't seem to a candle to the original. I managed to break two in the span of two years. At which point I gave up on them and simply built my own. This could just have been catastrophically bad luck. Or like Linus says in the video, maybe it has something to do with their version being based on the newer, cheaper Lexmark version and not the IBM original.

Model F was a very interesting keyboard. I was rather fond of the 24 function keys on mine. And I now regret not having taken mine with me when I moved out at age 18.

throw7
Same robustness issues with my unicomp. The alt and spacebar keys don't register if not pressed a certain way (wonky)... all in about a year of use.

I still have a few model m's, but I got tired of not having a "windows" key, so I gave it a shot and can't recommend them.

dlevine
I have a Unicomp, and my roommate spilled water on it once, which caused a bunch of the keys to not register and required a rebuild (which cost almost as much as a new keyboard).
CommieBobDole
I use both (model M at home, Unicomp at work) and while I've not had any failures, it's clear that the Unicomp is made of cheaper materials. One example is the case itself - the Model M's case is made of thick ABS, while the Unicomp is made of thin polystyrene. As a result, the two keyboards feel different - there's a a resonance from keypresses on the Unicomp that's almost entirely dampened on the M.
michaelcampbell
Like every piece of anecdata, it varies. I have a unicomp with PS/2 adapter from ... at least a decade ago; before they even made one with "Windows" keys. Maybe longer. It works as good today as it did then.
LukeShu
What I've heard is that Unicomp owns the actual original molds and such, and keeps using them, even though they're deteriorating. So I guess it makes sense that older Unicomp hardware is better. (I'm not sure how accurate that is, but it's what I've heard.)
Aloha
I've had pretty good luck with them.
jrockway
The model M got progressively "cheaper" throughout its lifetime. Mostly, metal was replaced with plastic. The keyswitches and keycaps are still top quality.

What Unicomp makes today is a mid-90s version of the model M. It's not the best ever made, but it's still pretty good. However, there are other keyboards around that are also pretty good.

huhtenberg
Unicomps are covered in the video, including the backstory.
40four
Have seen clickykeyboards.com before, seems like a great place to get a refurbished model M. They seem to take great care in making sure everything is in good working order.

Considered picking one up when I got into mechanical keyboards last year, but I went with a WASD with Cherry MX ‘Clear’ switches. Really happy with it!

op00to
The Unicomp keyboards are nowhere near as nice as the model ms.
crimsonalucard
unicomp keyboards are terrible quality. FYI before you purchase.
jacobolus
> If you're interested in buying one of these, Unicomp ...

Or get a used Model M at a flea market, on eBay, or the like. They are relatively indestructible, and generally still work fine 30+ years after production.

> if you find [a Model F] in the wild, it'll be really expensive

This is a recenct phenomenon. The price e.g. on eBay has gone way up in the past 10 years. You used to be able to buy them for quite cheap. It’s absurd that people will spend >$100 for an XT keyboard with its overlong spacebar, terrible layout, and obsolete communications protocol.

There were hundreds of thousands if not millions of Model F keyboards produced (both XT and AT varieties). The keyboard being recreated in https://www.modelfkeyboards.com is something different: a very obscure banking keyboard, cf. http://kishy.ca/?p=648

lightedman
"They are relatively indestructible"

Over 800 dishwasher cycles later and the keyboard still functions as if it were brand-new. All I need to do is replace the PS/2 cord which has worn out at the strain relief.

jrockway
Is this the capacitive type or the membrane type? My understanding is that liquids kill the membrane-type model Ms very quickly, which is why they sprouted drainage holes when IBM switched from the capacitive buckling springs to the membrane buckling springs.

(Liquid does not permanently kill the membrane, it's just that liquid gets stuck between the two membranes and can't get out. You can disassemble everything, dry it, and get it working again. Probably. I haven't tried it.)

I have spilled on my Topre keyboards before and there is no fix but to take everything apart and dry the individual pieces. The keyboards are quite well made so can take many cycles of this careful cleaning. To me, that's the best you can hope for; water is not good for keyboards. Though you can probably use Hall effect keyboards under water, if the driving electronics are conformally coated.

lightedman
This is an original M from before Unicomp days, no drainage holes, so capacitive.
jacobolus
Model M’s all use a membrane and a plastic barrel frame. https://deskthority.net/wiki/IBM_Enhanced_Keyboard

The capacitive keyboard was the Model F. Instead of the plastic barrel frame, it uses separate plastic barrels held between two metal sheets, and the little conductive plastic flippers trigger capacitive pads on a PCB. https://deskthority.net/wiki/IBM_Model_F

There are pictures of the insides of a Model F XT keyboard here, http://vintagecomputer.ca/ibm-pc-model-f-keyboard-type-1-vs-...

Here are pictures of someone modding a 122-key Model F https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=11102

lightedman
This source here claims that the model M switches are capacitive - https://pcper.com/2014/12/mechanical-keyboard-switches-expla...
jacobolus
“This source here” is wrong (as was pointed out in the comments below in 2014). It is just misquoting Wikipedia, which it links to: “In a Model M, the electrical contact is a membrane sheet similar to that of a modern dome switch keyboard. On the older Model F design, a capacitive contact was used instead.”

Go ahead and take a Model M apart. I guarantee you’ll find a membrane sheet.

unwind
How often do you put it in the dishwasher? That sounds ... very ambitious.
lightedman
I will clean my keyboard in the dishwasher every time after I've descaled/cleaned the dishwasher and run a rinse cycle to clear everything else out, so maybe every other month. But this keyboard came from my elementary school, where they'd clean them weekly, because we all know how nasty kids can be. The vast majority of these cleaning cycles came from that school.
mdip
Reading your comment, I thought either "nobody is going to believe this guy" or "people are going to think he's nuts". Actually, I thought it sooner than that, because I almost shared a story about how I used to clean up my Northgate Omnikey and decided not to because I didn't want to be judged. :) And yet, here you are, with an equally insane, similar but much better approach.

My method for cleaning my Omnikey was to fill the kitchen sink with water and clean it like one cleans a dish. After a quick towel-dry, I'd toss it in the oven for 12-or-so hours at the lowest temperature (I think about 150-200 degrees American). I did this at least 10 times during the decade and a half that I used this board (and it was sold in perfect, working condition).

I'm sure I did some damage, somewhere. There's got to be parts in that keyboard that corrode, but it always came out "like new". I haven't owned a keyboard like it since and I expect the one I use day-to-day wouldn't survive a strong gust of wind. I'm not completely, nuts, though. The first time I performed this all-day, insane, cleaning routine was after I had lost all hope of resurrecting my keyboard due to an unfortunate encounter with a full glass of Mountain Dew.

At no point did I ever consider putting it in the dish washer. That would have saved me hours!

kevin_thibedeau
I've put model M keycaps and the top shell (no decals there) in the dishwasher. Keycaps came out great. The shell warped slightly from the heat but it was not enough to ruin the keyboard.
ianai
I’ve cleaned key caps with dishsoap in a plastic container and snug lid. A psyllium husk container worked really well. Could go nuts with agitation then leave them on a towel to dry. This was for a white mac keyboard though so I had to clean the body with qtips and paper towels. its kind of funny how odd cleaning a keyboard can feel. They’re not designed for it, but should be!
paulgerhardt
Dishwashers are common on smaller PCB-fab lines. Especially around Milpitas/San Jose. Helps if the board isn’t yet assembled.
mdip
I guess I shouldn't be too surprised[0], we used to clean our sneakers in the dishwasher.

And about a decade ago I had a crab dinner served at a friend's house. The guy knew how to cook -- easily the best crab legs I've had (helped by the fact that he knew where to get good product). After we finished the meal, he explained that he cooked them in the dishwasher. I think part of me was grossed out, but it lasted only a few seconds ... they were extraordinary.

[0] I am, but I probably shouldn't be.

slumos
Sent my Apple Pro keyboard through my dishwasher last week! Hadn’t been cleaned in probably 8 years so in addition to looking almost brand new, it now types significantly better.

When I worked for a CS department long ago, I took all the Sun Type 4 keyboards home in batches of 6 to run through my dishwasher.

I would never do it to a board unless I was really sure it was completely unpowered when disconnected, and waited days for it to dry.

There are lots of other caveats depending on the exact keyboard and exact dishwasher model.

mdip
I wouldn't dream of using my current dishwasher. The heating element cannot be turned off and it outright melts some less expensive (barely dishwasher safe) plastic-ware.

Probably good for cooking crab legs, but would likely warp the plastic on a typical keyboard.

cipherboy
> They are relatively indestructible.

I can second that. I have the pleasure of having my grandfather's Model M ('87) and I use it nearly every day. I had to clean it extensively when I first got it, since both grandparents smoked in their house. Cleaned up nicely, good as new. To think, grandma wanted to throw it out!

I've flown with it several times... Gotten a few smiles from older TSA agents. Haven't mailed it, but its gone both under the seat and in checked baggage and survives each time. (It fits snugly in my messenger bag).

I use it a lot more than my laptop's keyboard and I've had to replace the laptop's up arrow a couple of times...

Oh, and it works wonders with my father's text editor too (vi, though I prefer vim).

thelazydogsback
> I have the pleasure of having my grandfather's Model M ('87)

Yikes. Thanks for that little kick in the pants :)

cipherboy
It is about a decade older than me too. :)
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