Variation between Model M Keycaps

Hi, i have two Model M's: A normal grey badge and a metal badge battleship, both made in the UK in 1988, but the normal M is roughly 6 months older. I've noticed that the keycaps on my Battleship are noticeably bolder and fuzzier:

Left: Battleship
Image

Here's another picture, different keys but it's way more noticeable here:
Image

Does anyone have info on this? Seems like IBM retooled their dyesub machines in mid 1988 and somehow made them worse. Or maybe it's just my keyboard.
Last edited by mark201200 on 12 Jul 2018, 13:36, edited 1 time in total.
mark201200
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Unread post12 Jul 2018, 10:35

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I have an 1388032 from '85 with lettering that's even thicker. It definitely changed over time.

Model F keyboards tend to have much sharper dyesub lettering yet, in my experience.
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Unread post12 Jul 2018, 10:59

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Indeed The legends on earlier bucking spring caps are indeed typically much richer. Model F caps vs. Model M are usually night and day. Even straight alphas like you’ve shown. That’s why I use XT caps on my Ms, where I can, though the SSKs do throw a spanner in the works when it comes to their multilegend integrated numpads.

IBM surely switched from darker dyesubs with chunky legends to a lighter, and presumably quicker / cheaper setup. As as Chyros says, likely through several steps, which added up to a real difference over time. Model F is back in the good old era, while most Model Ms are in the later days. But when was the switch?

You’ve got some good candidates there to work it out. But mind Greenock made IBMs are a different ballgame to American manufactured models. IBM seemed to act a bit different over here in Scotland. Grounded space bars come to mind, and all manner of little changes I forget but would recognise on sight. Whatever applied in Greenock was not necessarily so in the US. But it will affect our ISO models here in Europe.
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Unread post12 Jul 2018, 11:02

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Then there's also the plant in Mexico, which made things closer to the specs of USA (so no ABS, grounded space bars), but made mostly ISO keyboards, although there are plenty of US ANSI units that were manufactured there. I don't have enough samples from them to be able to tell what changes happened over time, though.
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Unread post12 Jul 2018, 11:16

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Its not just the lettering , the shape and feel of the caps changed as well. Early caps had sharper edges and XT caps where even slightly lower profile.

Small changes in lettering over time and less sharp edges on the caps can be attributed to worn tooling in my opinion and different tooling in each pant UK,US Mexico etc.

Part of it could be a chance in the chemical makeup of the plastics. Sure 99% of model M caps are PBT but there is PBT and then there is PBT. Quality of the plastic will also reduce over time.
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Chyros wrote:I have an 1388032 from '85 with lettering that's even thicker.

But is it sharper? Because as you can see from my pics the thicker one is also way fuzzier. Maybe older ones are both thicker and sharper.
Muirium wrote:But when was the switch?

Judging from my really small sample, I'd say it was roughly around the switch from metal badge to grey badge. But I'm just guessing. I'd love to learn more about this, maybe someone with lots of model M's can help (looking at you chyros ;) )
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Unread post12 Jul 2018, 12:35

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mark201200 wrote:
Chyros wrote:I have an 1388032 from '85 with lettering that's even thicker.

But is it sharper? Because as you can see from my pics the thicker one is also way fuzzier. Maybe older ones are both thicker and sharper.
Muirium wrote:But when was the switch?

Judging from my really small sample, I'd say it was roughly around the switch from metal badge to grey badge. But I'm just guessing. I'd love to learn more about this, maybe someone with lots of model M's can help (looking at you chyros ;) )
No, the lettering on my 1388032 was way fuzzier.

I talked about the difference in keycap legends over the years at length in my Unicomp video, you might find it of interest. It shows detailed comparisons of the thickness and fuzziness of the lettering.

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Unread post12 Jul 2018, 13:51

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I have gotten a couple of M/Fs where the legends were literally almost against the upper left edges and looked really bad, and they were actual 1980s-era genuine IBM gear.
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Unread post12 Jul 2018, 14:06

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Chyros wrote:
mark201200 wrote:
Chyros wrote:I have an 1388032 from '85 with lettering that's even thicker.

But is it sharper? Because as you can see from my pics the thicker one is also way fuzzier. Maybe older ones are both thicker and sharper.
Muirium wrote:But when was the switch?

Judging from my really small sample, I'd say it was roughly around the switch from metal badge to grey badge. But I'm just guessing. I'd love to learn more about this, maybe someone with lots of model M's can help (looking at you chyros ;) )
No, the lettering on my 1388032 was way fuzzier.

I talked about the difference in keycap legends over the years at length in my Unicomp video, you might find it of interest. It shows detailed comparisons of the thickness and fuzziness of the lettering.


Damn, I watched most of your videos and for some reason i missed that one haha.
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Unread post12 Jul 2018, 14:21

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