IBM Multistation Keyboards
|IBM 5556 Keyboards|
|Part number||Various (see below)|
|Keyswitches||Alps SKCL Green, Alps common mount low profile|
|Years of production||1983–1991|
The IBM 5556 keyboards were a series of keyboards for IBM Japan's Multistation line of personal computers/terminal emulators during the 1980s. They were manufactured for IBM by Alps, and used linear switches, and a Japanese version of the IBM terminal emulation keyboard layout.
In the 1980s, IBM's original PCs had no means of supporting non-Latin alphabets on either the hardware or software level, and IBM Japan developed their own PCs that differed greatly from the American/European equivalents. The first such design was the IBM 5550 of 1983, known as the Multistation - marketed as a combination PC, word processor (dedicated word processors were supposedly popular with the Japanese market at the time) and terminal, and was roughly analogous to a PC/XT with terminal emulation hardware. These computers were also sold in other Far East markets such as Korea and China.
The Multistation was superseded by the IBM PS/55, which was a Japanese equivalent of the PS/2 launched in 1987. The PS/55's 5576-001 keyboard had similar layout options to the 5556 keyboards. The Multistation continued to be produced up until 1991.
The 5556 was rather unusual by IBM standards in that it used Alps SKCL linear switches with either green or yellow sliders, as well as Alps common mount low profile switches. Owing to its terminal role, it used a Japanese version of the 122-key terminal emulator layout, and had an integrated speaker with volume dial. These extra keys were also used by a popular Japanese word processing software that was bundled with the Multistation. It shared the approximate physical shape and size of the PC/XT Model F, except was slightly wider to accommodate the larger layout, it also used a similar style of height-adjustment feet. Older models used double shot keycaps with spherical sculpting whereas later ones had cylindrical sculpted keycaps with dye sublimation printing. Most variants attached to the computer using a DIN connector on a 1m long non-removable cable.
The Type 1 and Type 2 Keyboards were 124 key keyboards which used the Hiragana alphabet. It is not clear what the difference between the two was. They had a listed price of 43,000 Yen from IBM. The Type 1 had part number 4773313. This has been found with Alps common mount low profile switches.
The Type 3 and Type 4 Keyboards were 125 key terminal keyboards that used the Katakana alphabet. The -003 was for use with 3270 terminal emulation software whereas the -004 was intended for 5250 terminal emulation applications. They also had a listed price of 43,000 Yen. The Type 4 had part number 4773178.
The Type 5 Keyboard was a 254 key keyboard intended for the Chinese market. It used the Kanji alphabet and was intended for 5250 emulation purposes. Each key corresponded to 12 Kanji characters, and the keyboard provided means of selecting between them. The keyboard was attached by a 1.26m cable to a Multistation with Chinese font support hardware using a special Kanji keyboard adapter, part number 4773169. The keyboard had a listed price of 238,400 Yen.
Listed in IBM documentation, a possible additional member of the 5556 series. No details are known. It may have been an alternative name for one of the variants listed below.
The Type A1 Keyboard was an APL version of the 5556-001/002. The listed price was 60,000 Yen.
The Type W1 (or WP) Keyboard was a version of the 5556-001/002 designed for use with word processors, with different function key markings. It had a listed price of 43,000 Yen.
The Type M1 was the 5556-001/002 with an integrated mouse port. The Type P1 was the M1 with a simplified height adjustment mechanism. They had listed prices of 63,000 and 30,000 Yen respectively.
An unknown variant of the 5556-001/002.
There was a Multistation-based laptop, the IBM 5535, whose keyboard was similar to that of the IBM PC Convertible. The later PS/55 5535S laptop had a similar keyboard.
- Japanese page with details on the 5556 Keyboards
- Page from same author, with details of Multistation keyboards and other peripherals
- Webpage of Sandy55, article on 5556-001
- Webpage of Sandy55, article on old-style 5556-004
- Webpage of Sandy55, article on new-style 5556-004
- Website of Kenjin/Mr. IT, article on 5556-001