Author Topic: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?  (Read 2785 times)

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Offline embeddedguy85

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Hypothetically, if I didnt care about patents and didnt sell it, how hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard? I really want one, but they go for $1600 on ebay.

The keys would be easy to get.

The springs might be easy right?

The overall body could possibly be ordered from somewhere - but where?

The electronics I'm sure wouldnt be that hard...?

Any advice?
 

Offline Halcyon

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2018, 05:26:54 am »
Bugger that, I want one of THESE.
 

Offline ebastler

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2018, 07:00:19 am »
Bugger that, I want one of THESE.

Nah; those are pure kitsch (in my book).
 

Offline chickenHeadKnob

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2018, 09:35:04 am »
Bugger that, I want one of THESE.

Nah; those are pure kitsch (in my book).

Jeeeez, that thing is hideous. Burn it in the fire of moloch!.  OK, I can understand the circular  retro typewriter keys, they might be well purposed in a  stylish minimalist  metal case. It is the badly routered wood base, which looks like school wood-shop production that ruins it.
 

Offline BrianHG

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2018, 11:40:57 am »
Hypothetically, if I didnt care about patents
The patents have expired.  You can make and sell as you please.

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Offline TerraHertz

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2018, 01:36:04 pm »

The Greatest Keyboard of All Time.. Reborn

And still no one thinks to make a 10keyless version. Bah.
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Offline embeddedguy85

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2018, 03:51:02 pm »
Why then did the unicomp folks have to buy the patents?

Also, what documents do I need to do this? What are they called exactly? "Manufacturing Specifications"?
 

Offline Benta

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2018, 04:22:47 pm »
Don't understand your motivation. Just buy it for $90 at Unicomp. There's no way you can make it cheaper yourself.
 

Offline embeddedguy85

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2018, 04:37:10 pm »
They dont make an m15 split version.
 

Offline Benta

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2018, 04:54:07 pm »
Now I understand, I missed the "15" part, that keyboard was unknown to me.

Well, I guess you can build one if you want. If you're looking at bringing it into the market, I'd do a sanity check on the business model. I doubt if you'll find many customers.
 

Offline embeddedguy85

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2018, 04:56:48 pm »
No, I just want to build one just for me. How hard would it be?
 

Offline Mr. Scram

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2018, 04:58:26 pm »
No, I just want to build one just for me. How hard would it be?
Like any project, probably harder than you think. Not impossible though, and you'd learn a few things along the way.
 

Offline amyk

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2018, 05:10:20 pm »
Why then did the unicomp folks have to buy the patents?
That was before they expired.
 

Offline embeddedguy85

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2018, 05:10:38 pm »
What about the "tooling"? Ive read that the tooling hasnt been tracked down. But my question is what tooling do you need?
 

Offline Mr. Scram

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2018, 05:24:55 pm »
What about the "tooling"? Ive read that the tooling hasnt been tracked down. But my question is what tooling do you need?
Tooling generally refers to injection moulds, which are very expensive to make. Maybe some schematics, though I doubt it.
 

Offline embeddedguy85

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #15 on: May 20, 2018, 05:25:58 pm »
What about using a 3d scanner to scan one of them?
 

Offline Mr. Scram

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #16 on: May 20, 2018, 05:32:53 pm »
What about using a 3d scanner to scan one of them?
Making a 3D model isn't that hard. Producing plastics from it is tougher. For production you need moulds. For a one-off more options are available, but none is very convenient. Printing is expensive and comes with a few issues and more manual approaches are tedious. CNC milling might be another option.
 

Online rstofer

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #17 on: May 20, 2018, 07:48:35 pm »
I bought one of the Unicomp Classic M models about a month ago.  It's amazing!  My error rate went down and my typing rate went up.  The buttons are all in the right place, none of this 'oh, it doesn't matter where Delete goes!" nonsense.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MPXMSHJ

The bold black letting on white caps is really nice.

Down side: No media keys...  Well, no problems here, I don't use them very often anyway.

I am seriously thinking about buying more for my other workstations.  But only thinking...



But the M15 is in an entirely different category.  I would buy the buttons (and in fact the entire 'Classic M' keyboard from Unicomp and then figure out how to break up (or redesign) the PCB and the case.

How hard can it be?  Way harder than I would ever want to deal with.  If I had to have one, I would just outbid everyone on the next unit to show up on eBay.  It would still be cheaper than doing it myself if I put any kind of price on my time.
 

Offline steve30

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #18 on: May 20, 2018, 07:55:38 pm »
I'm pretty sure you can order the buckling springs from Unicomp (just like you can order keycaps).

I expect you could probably design the plastic pieces on a computer and 3D print them, and design a keyboard membrane and have it manufactured. It might not be possible to make an exact replica, but you could probably make something useable given the time and effort.

But why anyone would want an 'ergonomic' keyboard in the first place is beyond me. But I guess some people must like them.
 

Offline BravoV

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2018, 08:00:09 pm »
The Greatest Keyboard of All Time.. ..

+1 , luckily scored one NOS still in the box with protective plastic & foam last year, a bit rusty but inside is fine.



Definitely a weapon grade keyboard.
Its not possible to wreck it into pieces like this if smacked into someone ...  >:D
« Last Edit: May 20, 2018, 09:11:53 pm by BravoV »
 

Offline janoc

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #20 on: May 20, 2018, 09:07:30 pm »
I'm pretty sure you can order the buckling springs from Unicomp (just like you can order keycaps).

I expect you could probably design the plastic pieces on a computer and 3D print them, and design a keyboard membrane and have it manufactured. It might not be possible to make an exact replica, but you could probably make something useable given the time and effort.

But why anyone would want an 'ergonomic' keyboard in the first place is beyond me. But I guess some people must like them.


If you just want to get the switches, there are also the Cherry MX ones and even cheaper (but still decent) Chinese clones of them. I have recently got a mechanical keyboard with these switches at work for about $50 delivered (I think it was Aukey branded) and it is pretty decent. Not Model M, but if all you are looking for is a mechanical keyboard with a decent tactile response, this is a much cheaper option. Razer also makes a line of good mechanical keyboards.

« Last Edit: May 20, 2018, 09:09:19 pm by janoc »
 

Offline VK3DRB

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #21 on: May 21, 2018, 12:56:38 pm »
Better keyboards than the model M were the old leaf spring and flyplate type used in the IBM 3742's and 5251's. These were amazing. When a key was depressed, a flat leaf spring would distort, forcing a fly plate up. The fly plate was plastic which acted as a dielectric. Therefore relaxation oscillator would change frequency between when the fly plate was hovering over two PCB pads, compared to when it was up. The encoding scheme was EBCDIC, not ASCII. The clicking was made by a separate solenoid and plunger that hit a metal plate. One solenoid for the entire keyboard. The tactile feel and click sound were wonderful.

In my first job at IBM in the city of Melbourne, occasionally I used to go out on site and fix the individual keys in a keyboard. I was well paid, but the keyboards were so expensive, it made economic sense to fix them. After tens of millions of key strokes, sometimes a leaf spring would fracture. It took a lot of patience to hook a fly plate to the leaf spring. Sometimes it would take 20 minutes just to reassemble one key. Even though the keyboards had a protective membrane, smoke particles from cigarette addicts would affect key registration. The fix was to CAREFULLY remove the PCB, clean it with isopropyl alcohol and CAREFULLY reassemble it. With the 3741's and 3742's, I often found money in the keyboard area.

IBM also made some interesting keyboards for their 129 and 029 card punches. Some used ingenious diode matrixes to encode a keypress.

Today I develop electronics for satellite communications. I don't know why but those days were a lot more fun for some reason. Maybe it is because the keypunch operators were often pretty women who were well dressed. These days I work with nerds and geeks.
 

Offline RoGeorge

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #22 on: May 21, 2018, 01:23:26 pm »
I think I still have one or two of those IBM keyboards with a 5 pins DIN connector. Very, very nice tactile feedback and sound click, indeed.

Unfortunately those keyboards does not have the 'Super' or 'Windows' key, and I'm addicted to that key. It's as useful as the mouse wheel, if not more (Win+FewLettersToSearchOrLaunch, Win+E, Win+L, Win+ArrowKey and so on).

Offline HighVoltage

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #23 on: May 21, 2018, 01:26:03 pm »
I still have a couple of the original Model M IBM Keyboards and they are for sure the best built keyboards of all times.
But in today's office environment they are just too loud!


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Offline GreyWoolfe

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #24 on: May 21, 2018, 02:03:22 pm »
But why anyone would want an 'ergonomic' keyboard in the first place is beyond me. But I guess some people must like them.

I have a pair of Microsoft ergonomic keyboards, 1 on my company laptop dock and 1 on my personal computer.  For me, much more comfortable than standard keyboards.  I have arthritis in my hands and to me, it makes a real difference.  The other computers have standard keyboards but I don't use them near as much.
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Offline TerraHertz

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #25 on: May 22, 2018, 01:17:45 am »
I get quite frustrated with the unimaginative and clumsy design of keyboards. The standard layouts, lack of several features that should be there, the ridiculously huge size, slow scan rates many have (that limit typing speed), using wired or wireless but never the option of both, not universally being usable as bluetooth peripherals for multiple computers including tablets, not being open-hardware designs that allow customer extension, short operating lifetimes, liquid spill susceptibility, key legends wearing off, key backlighting done wrong, and many other shortcomings.


One of my most unfinished project stacks, has a custom keyboard development as a sub-component. If any of it ever gets finished, it will be all open source and freeware. I'm not mentioning the names I use for the component parts, in case it ever actually progresses to being worthy of release. The stack is like this:

A fairly radical extension of ASCII, to include multiple modern information processing concepts that ASCII lacks. An absence that necessitates all kinds of kludges, work-arounds and flat-out fuck-ups, that most people either don't perceive at all or just accept as 'the way things are.'

An experimental OS and hardware architecture, incorporating several new concepts including integration of that extended ASCII.
(Born of my hatred of Bill Gates/MS and what they did to PC-OS evolution, dismay at what Apple became after a fine early start, and despair at the Unix-Linux experiment in million-monkey development model.)

An experimental GUI, for that OS. (The GUI is an application, NOT a deeply entangled OS component.)

A physical keyboard. The design both integrates all the features required for the above, and also is my 'dream keyboard'. It's intended to be suitable for both commercial manufacture, and home construction using 3D printer and small scale PCB manufacture.
Part of the development of that keyboard is a virtual keyboard, to let me play around with the layout and codes stream generation. Necessary since the underlying target coding is an ASCII extension that existing keyboards cannot support.
Some kind of functioning keyboard and the coding it allows typing, are required for further stages of the OS & GUI development. Then the key layout etc would need to be flexible as the whole project group evolves. Hence doing a virtual one initially.

Pic attached is an early stage of the virtual keyboard. It's not 'alive' yet. Just constructing a html/js framework to support a flexible layout. Last work I did on it was getting html custom font loading working, for custom key legends. There's a lot still to do on the basic visual presentation. Properly stretched keys, fascia outlining around keys, and so on. And the layout you see is just based on existing keyboards, and does not incorporate any of the variations I'd be doing later to support the rest of the project.

As for a physical version, I've been putting a lot of thought into it. The aim is a design that allows for 'forever' functionality. Lifetime of user, can be passed down to descendents, etc. This means long life components, and also ability to replace any parts that break or wear out. Complete replaceability of electronics, external interfaces, etc. Open source code & hardware.
Keytops have to be two-part plastic so the legend can never wear off. For back-illuminated keys, that's necessary anyway. I'm hoping such keytops are achievable with 3D printers as well as commercial injection molding.

The key mechanisms have to be robust and give that nice tactile 'click', but the audible click has to be an option that can be turned on/off, and adjusted in level and sound. So, silent keys plus a software generated sound via a transducer. keys have to be dust and liquid proof, and completely immune to intermittent faults. That means no mechanical electrical contacts.
The key mechanism must support key-hold-release sensing and would be nice if it allowed for analog encoding of key depression depth and stroke velocity, as a dynamic option. Useful for some types of user interfaces, eg music, machine control, gaming, etc. It must also be FAST, so there's no chance of slow keyboard scan rates producing user-perceptible keystroke order errors.
The key structure has to allow for back illumination, preferably by RGB LEDs for full color control. The entire back of the keytop must be illuminated, to avoid the problem of parts of the key legend not being illuminated. This means the illuminator must be in the centerline of the key structure.

Sensing types I'm considering include:

 * Dielectric sensing, like in the early IBM clicky. But this probably requires some form of flapper plate, in addition to the key plunger. Has excess moving parts and can't be silent. Not a favorite. Also, EM emissions?

 * Hall effect sensor, small magnet on plunger. Also not a favorite due to the need to buy the hall sensors, and their potential to become unavailable.

 * Inductance variation in coil. Fixed coil, plunger has a shorted turn or slug, control circuit monitors inductance or resonant frequency of the coil. I like this because it's dust-immune and worst case the coils could be home made/replaced. Potentially allows for stroke depth & velocity capture. I'm a bit worried about potential EM emission problems with this method. There's also the issue of remote EM eavesdropping.

 * Optical sensing. Key plunger has a vane that interrupts a light path. Could possibly be integrated with the keytop back-illumination though variable brightness control may cause problems. It also relies on commercial availability of LEDs and photodetectors. But that doesn't seem a big ask. This is my current favorite.


The overall physical structure would be:

* Flat thick steel backplate, with no folds, just a few screw holes. Gives weight and strength. Easily home made. It's tilted slightly, giving space for the control PCB and external connector(s) underneath and along rear edge. Ditto small battery compartment. Battery to be replaceable lithium, preferably an 18650 for long operating time on battery, and quick change when needed.

* Profiling supports, 3D printed plastic. These provide the front keytop curvature for the key layout. Mount to the steel backplate with a few self-tap screws. The top surface supports the identical key mechanisms and flex PCB key interconnects (or even hand wired point-to-point, if at all possible.) They are modular for each key row/group, allowing flexible key arrangements.

* Key plunger and body. I'm not sure 3D printing and materials can achieve the durability, precision and surface smoothness necessary for nice-feeling and long-wearing key plungers. Maybe the sliding mechanism would have to be injection molded? We'll see.
Anyway, all identical. The key click would be built into this part. Not sure of a method yet. It would be nice if it could use the exact same flat springs as in those old HP buckling spring switches, since that would also provide a permanent source of those springs to repair old HP gear, ha ha.
The central axis must be open, for backlighting the keytops. Clip-on of the keytops therefore must be a ring structure with central opening. Which is good since it's easy to make that very robust, as opposed to stupid little posts that can break off. It also helps with the 'wide' keys like Enter.
There has to be facility for a leveling torsion bar, for very wide keys like space-bar. Though that can be mounted by clips on the rear of the keytop, without involving the key plunger.
The key mech bodies clip or screw onto the 3D-printed profiling support frames. Individual key mechs must be replaceable from the front, without disassembly of the entire keyboard. Removal of the key mechanical structure exposes the sensors attached to the PCB, where they can be replaced from the front. Ie surface mount.

* Spill/dust protection membrane (optional.) Fits over the key base structure. Molded silicone sheet with upward necks sealing around the fixed key-mech bodies, under key tops. Provides a liquid drain path. Can be easily peeled off, replaced.

* Outer shell. Pretty standard. For early development I wouldn't even bother. But if I did one, it would have NO LOGOS.


Sadly, at the rate I'm going and how this keeps getting shoved down the queue by other urgent chores, I can't see it happening any time soon. So this post is just a 'wouldn't it be nice, if...' sort of thing.
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Offline ebastler

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #26 on: May 22, 2018, 04:30:47 am »
If any of it ever gets finished, it will be all open source and freeware.
I'm not mentioning the names I use for the component parts, in case it ever actually progresses to being worthy of release.

Hmm -- isn't there a contracdiction in those two sentences? Why be secretive now, if you plan to make it freely available anyway?
 

Offline TerraHertz

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Re: How hard would it be to make my own IBM model M15 keyboard?
« Reply #27 on: May 22, 2018, 06:34:43 am »
If any of it ever gets finished, it will be all open source and freeware.
I'm not mentioning the names I use for the component parts, in case it ever actually progresses to being worthy of release.

Hmm -- isn't there a contracdiction in those two sentences? Why be secretive now, if you plan to make it freely available anyway?

Ha ha, no not at all. If something is worth releasing at all (especially free) it's best if everything associated with it (names of system components, architecture, etc) haven't been already jammed up by others registering them or well-poisoning the concepts. It will be released eventually as a working demonstration framework, fully documented. I just thought I'd see if a conversation could be started about what people would like in an open-source keyboard design, since that's such a minor part of the system that there's no potential loss in talking about it now.
As for talking about that extended-ASCII coding, forget it. It wouldn't make any sense to anyone, if viewed outside the context of the wider objectives. Explaining which would turn into a time-sink ever-expanding argument of 'how it's done now', vs 'alien-tech'.

If the virtual and physical keyboards get finished, there will be a version with standard layout and coding. My version - probably still years from that point before release.
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