Alps Appreciation

Menuhin

08 Feb 2019, 15:45

Hypersphere wrote:
08 Feb 2019, 15:14
Menuhin wrote:
08 Feb 2019, 09:16
Polecat wrote:
08 Feb 2019, 03:00


Nice, but we'll need to agree on a default slogan that it reverts to when the programming chip fails.
A good old normal machine washable and under the sun dry-able and wet T-shirt contest usable T-shirt would be good... if actuate-able then even better.
By the way, I hate bamboo Alps switches and the simplified ones - they should go extinct. Please don't contaminate the design of good key feels - bamboo Alps they have to go.
What about short switch plates?
I haven't checked what switchplates my blue Alps have - there are rare version blue Alps with short white switchplates around, and some believe it affects key feels, but some think that affect mainly acoustics.
In terms of bamboos, I have yet to type a bamboo Alps keyboard that I could not immediately tell that is bamboo Alps on that board and that does not feel bad - so bad and so much binding during key presses that I would rather not use a computer at that moment and do work later or until I find another keyboard, even a nicer rubber dome.

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abrahamstechnology

08 Feb 2019, 16:40

Bamboo housings and Matias click leaves make a fairly good combination- better than stock Matiases. More tactile and they actually sound good.

samuelcable

08 Feb 2019, 16:49

abrahamstechnology wrote:
08 Feb 2019, 16:40
Bamboo housings and Matias click leaves make a fairly good combination- better than stock Matiases. More tactile and they actually sound good.
99.9% of clear housings sounds and feels like ass, which is why I hate mx clones and Matias

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abrahamstechnology

08 Feb 2019, 17:07

samuelcable wrote:
08 Feb 2019, 16:49
abrahamstechnology wrote:
08 Feb 2019, 16:40
Bamboo housings and Matias click leaves make a fairly good combination- better than stock Matiases. More tactile and they actually sound good.
99.9% of clear housings sounds and feels like ass, which is why I hate mx clones and Matias
Agreed,it's not like Matias actually made good use of the clear housings either. AT least we have a good amount of MX-clones with the black top-housing, or at the very least the bottom housing.

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Chyros

08 Feb 2019, 21:24

abrahamstechnology wrote:
08 Feb 2019, 17:07
samuelcable wrote:
08 Feb 2019, 16:49
abrahamstechnology wrote:
08 Feb 2019, 16:40
Bamboo housings and Matias click leaves make a fairly good combination- better than stock Matiases. More tactile and they actually sound good.
99.9% of clear housings sounds and feels like ass, which is why I hate mx clones and Matias
Agreed,it's not like Matias actually made good use of the clear housings either. AT least we have a good amount of MX-clones with the black top-housing, or at the very least the bottom housing.
I've always found Matias very difficult to place, really. On one hand, they are surprisingly inferior to the old complicated Alps switches. On the other one, I've found them to be quite competitive on the modern market. Relevant review coming out tomorrow btw :D .

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zrrion

08 Feb 2019, 22:11

They are a strange duck for sure, a switch that seemingly only appeals to Matias and enthusiasts but no work going into interacting with the enthusiast market. Besides the bare minimum of letting people buy the switches/stabs/caps.

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Hypersphere

08 Feb 2019, 22:53

I tend to agree about bamboo housings. I received a bamboo white Alps some time ago, and I replaced the top housings with pine housings. The sound and feel of the board were much improved by the transplants.

StrangerInTheAlps

09 Feb 2019, 00:17

Hi, does anyone know what the weighting/actuation force is of the springs in Pine Black switches? The stock springs are just a tad heavier than ideal for me, so I'm considering swapping them for slightly lighter springs. I assume that would make them a little closer to SKCM Orange, correct? I have one loose Orange and it feels just about perfect. Thanks!
Last edited by StrangerInTheAlps on 09 Feb 2019, 10:08, edited 2 times in total.

Dolasvp

09 Feb 2019, 09:48

Is there a list that specifies what switches came in pine, bamboo or both? I know that they are differentiated by age but like all things Alps that's sometimes hard to pin down.

Menuhin

09 Feb 2019, 15:03

Dolasvp wrote:
09 Feb 2019, 09:48
Is there a list that specifies what switches came in pine, bamboo or both? I know that they are differentiated by age but like all things Alps that's sometimes hard to pin down.
Most people will be familiar with this timetable at the bottom of this page by Mousefan:

http://mousefan.telcontar.net/alpsk.htm

And perhaps he is the first one to call these Alps designs by the names of "pine", "bamboo", and then for simplified he intended to call them "plum", but people just totally don't care about the simplified Alps. Pine, bamboo, and plum are together regarded as Three Friends of Winter.

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Hypersphere

09 Feb 2019, 17:15

Dolasvp wrote:
09 Feb 2019, 09:48
Is there a list that specifies what switches came in pine, bamboo or both? I know that they are differentiated by age but like all things Alps that's sometimes hard to pin down.
Great question. I've only kept partial track of this on some of my Northgate Omnikey 101 keyboards by serial number:

1081779 -- Pine (Slits)
1128676 -- Pine (Slits)
1132628 -- Pine (Slits)
1136529 -- Pine (Slits)
1155854 -- Bamboo (No Slits)
1160507 -- Bamboo (No Slits)

The lower S/N numbers (presumably with an earlier date of manufacture) have the more desirable Pine switches. It appears that the transition occurred somewhere between 1132628 and 1155854, but certainly keyboards with serial numbers below 1132628 should have Pine switches.

Polecat

09 Feb 2019, 22:53

Menuhin wrote:
09 Feb 2019, 15:03
Dolasvp wrote:
09 Feb 2019, 09:48
Is there a list that specifies what switches came in pine, bamboo or both? I know that they are differentiated by age but like all things Alps that's sometimes hard to pin down.
Most people will be familiar with this timetable at the bottom of this page by Mousefan:

http://mousefan.telcontar.net/alpsk.htm

And perhaps he is the first one to call these Alps designs by the names of "pine", "bamboo", and then for simplified he intended to call them "plum", but people just totally don't care about the simplified Alps. Pine, bamboo, and plum are together regarded as Three Friends of Winter.
Thank you for sharing this! I had glanced at Mousefan's page when I first started reading about keyboards, but I didn't know what I was looking at, and I didn't translate it. The explanation of the Alps designs makes more sense with this explanation, now that I realize it wasn't intended to imply that there were only three versions. I'll shut up and do some more reading now. (I can hear the sighs of relief, or some kind of sighs at least...)

Polecat

09 Feb 2019, 23:44

Hypersphere wrote:
09 Feb 2019, 17:15
Dolasvp wrote:
09 Feb 2019, 09:48
Is there a list that specifies what switches came in pine, bamboo or both? I know that they are differentiated by age but like all things Alps that's sometimes hard to pin down.
Great question. I've only kept partial track of this on some of my Northgate Omnikey 101 keyboards by serial number:

1081779 -- Pine (Slits)
1128676 -- Pine (Slits)
1132628 -- Pine (Slits)
1136529 -- Pine (Slits)
1155854 -- Bamboo (No Slits)
1160507 -- Bamboo (No Slits)

The lower S/N numbers (presumably with an earlier date of manufacture) have the more desirable Pine switches. It appears that the transition occurred somewhere between 1132628 and 1155854, but certainly keyboards with serial numbers below 1132628 should have Pine switches.
Thank you Hypersphere, more good info! I'm keeping a database of Northgate serial numbers and characteristics, which is up to 196 keyboards now. Their serial numbers went through several revisions, which are starting to make some sense, but I still need more examples to nail it all down, especially for the Gen2 models. Here's what I have so far.

The Gen1 Northgates (gold label), which were apparently all the Omnikey 102 model, originally having a six digit serial number (on those with the fragile paper label still there) and an 8 digit inspection or Q/C number on a separate, smaller label. The earliest one I have on record, which I happen to own, is dated 7/15/1988, and has a serial number of 117235. The six digit number began with a "1" (the 1 was probably a placeholder) and was probably sequential. This changed to a hyphenated number with a three digit prefix and four digit suffix. The first three digits were 00x, where x was 4, 5, or 6, and that was probably a month code (in 1989) since it closely corresponds to the date on the paper label.

Gen2 Northgates apparently came out in July 1989, and the serial number format changed at this point. Early Gen2 Northgates had a six digit serial number beginning with "0" and also had a date on the label. The earliest Gen2 on my list is 89/07 and serial 011797. That number format was used through January 1990, with the latest on the list being 061114 with a date of 90/01. To that point I have only 102 and Plus models listed.

The Gen2 format then changed to a sequential serial number followed by an alphanumeric year/month code that probably started over each month. For example, 001752-0B (1752nd keyboard built in February 1990). Some boards from this period had an additional suffix which might have represented a model variation or option. This numbering ran through December 1990 (0L) or so and included 102, Plus, Ultra, and 101 models.

Gen3 models came out sometime in late 1990 or early 1991. The first one on record with a surviving date label is 02/18/91. The serial number format changed again, with the date suffix gone, and a using a seven digit number. The first digit appears to have represented the model number with 1=101, 2=102, 4=Ultra-T, 5=Ultra, and 6=Evolution. The rest of the number was probably sequential. So far no Gen3 Plus models on record; that model might have been Gen2 only.

Gen4 models had Windows keys and an indicator LED in the up-arrow key. Those were branded Northgate or Avant (apparently concurrently) and had two serial number formats. Early (presumably) ones continued the Gen3 format, but with a first digit of 7 for the first digit for both 101P (Avant Prime) and Ultra-T (Avant Stellar). 102P and Ultra-TP examples had an 8 or 9 as the first digit. Later (presumably) examples had a five digit serial number, probably sequential, with numbers beginning with (so far) 18, 19, or 20.

This is all speculation, based on individual keyboards I've found online, and a work in progress, not intended to be the final word. Thank you to everyone who has helped by providing numbers, photos, and information! I wish I had detailed info on the switch details, but that will take more research. Note that I'm keeping a similar list of Focus and Monterey keyboards.

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//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

10 Feb 2019, 01:06

speaking of omnikey's - someone scored a pretty decent deal on a nice looking one!

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Working-Vintag ... _cvip=true

Anyone here snag it?

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abrahamstechnology

10 Feb 2019, 02:28

Not exactly Alps, but I found a way to replace the click leaves in Acer switches with Matias click leaves.

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Muirium
µ

10 Feb 2019, 04:25

Are they any good?

I’ve got one with half decent caps. Was always just the lousy keyfeel that put me off. How much work, I wonder?

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abrahamstechnology

10 Feb 2019, 05:55

They feel about the same as the stock leaves, but it may be a good idea to linearize them.

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Hypersphere

10 Feb 2019, 15:04

@Polecat: Wow! You have accumulated an extensive stash of useful data! You should definitely plan to incorporate this into the DT wiki.

I lost track of the generations in your discussion. Given my serial numbers for my Northgate Omnikey 101 US ANSI keyboards, to which generation do these keyboards belong and what would be their years of manufacture?

Thanks.

Polecat

10 Feb 2019, 20:23

Hypersphere wrote:
10 Feb 2019, 15:04
@Polecat: Wow! You have accumulated an extensive stash of useful data! You should definitely plan to incorporate this into the DT wiki.

I lost track of the generations in your discussion. Given my serial numbers for my Northgate Omnikey 101 US ANSI keyboards, to which generation do these keyboards belong and what would be their years of manufacture?

Thanks.
Unfortunately I don't know how to use the Wiki. But I'll keep gathering info, and maybe I'll have time to figure it out at some point.

Your Northgate 101s are Gen3, from 1992 or so. Most 101 models were Gen3 (ANSI), but Gen2 and Gen4 101s also existed (BAE). I'm defining the generations as follows:

Gen1 - Gold label, small case, XT/AT switch only, non-detachable cord. Omnikey 102 model only.

Gen2 - Blue/white label, small case, Escape in number row (exc. 101), three or eight dipswitches on the back edge, detachable cord with PS/2 connector, some with ADBx2. Available models were 102, Plus, Ultra, and 101. 101 model (101-I) has BAE. OmniMac model also available with slanted Mac-style legends.

Gen3 - Blue/white label on door with dipswitches underneath, big case, escape in F-key row, detachable cord (PS/2 only). 102, Ultra-T, Ultra, and 101 models available. 101 has ANSI layout.

Gen4 - Blue/white label (Northgate) or Avant branding, programmable with LED in up-arrow (non-clicky switch), big case, non-detachable cord, Windows keys. Ultra-T (Avant Stellar) or 101 (Avant Prime) models. 101 has BAE. Some Avants came in black. Some or most Gen4 had pad printed keycaps, rather than double shots.

Notes: Oddballs exist such as the Gen2 101N with Plus-style nav keys and a "Gen1.5" 102 with XT/AT switch and attached cord but blue/white label. Other brandings exist as well, some in non-standard plastic colors.

Gen 1 and 2 models had a larger paper label, probably added by Northgate rather than by the manufacturer, but those labels are fragile and are often damaged or missing entirely.

Gen3 Northgates are harder to date than the earlier ones, but some examples have a small paper label with a year/month/day code. For example serial 1070966 with a date of 92E13, presumably 1992 May 13.

Again this is all preliminary, based on examples seen, not intended as a final version.

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Hypersphere

10 Feb 2019, 20:32

@Polecat: This is great information that you have compiled! Perhaps you could contact matt3o about learning how to use the Wiki (and making it easier for everyone to use). I know he is very busy with many things, but perhaps you could "take a number" and wait in the queue.

Polecat

11 Feb 2019, 00:46

Hypersphere wrote:
10 Feb 2019, 20:32
@Polecat: This is great information that you have compiled! Perhaps you could contact matt3o about learning how to use the Wiki (and making it easier for everyone to use). I know he is very busy with many things, but perhaps you could "take a number" and wait in the queue.
Thanks, I don't want to burden someone else. I'm sure the info on editing the Wiki is available online. I just need to find it and make time to read it. I'd like to document more examples, and especially to learn more about the Alps switch versions and internal changes, so I can include that as well. Most ebay photos, even the ones that show the switches, aren't clear enough to tell whether Pine or Bamboo, much less to read the mold markings. I still think there's more to be learned from those.

Edit - I started reading the instructions in Wiki Talk and remembered why I gave up last time. I'm a two finger typist with a $2.99 camera and it's been 25 years since I did anything even remotely technical on a computer. I think I need to leave the Wiki to the pros.

Edit2 - Six more examples reported after this posting - thanks to all!

DocNoc

16 Feb 2019, 00:39

Few changes to my daily driver, I wish there was a way to reproduce all the various Alps switches of old as I would love to have more custom alps builds in my collection.
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Myoth

16 Feb 2019, 00:41

Have you checked out my group buy for newly manufactured AK-CN2 switches?

Edit : what are these caps ? Is that Alps Winter or however they're called ?

Edit 2 : Alpine winter*** but even so, it does not seem to be it hmmm

DocNoc

16 Feb 2019, 00:52

Myoth wrote:
16 Feb 2019, 00:41
Have you checked out my group buy for newly manufactured AK-CN2 switches?

Edit : what are these caps ? Is that Alps Winter or however they're called ?
I have! I've considered grabbing some, and still might. The GB ends tomorrow I believe.

Also no the board is kinda Frankenstein'd tbh. So all of the mods are Brown Alps with the Nexus Alps to Mx sliders installed (https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=94500.0). Doing this allowed me to use GMK screw in stabilizers instead of alps/costar because I hate those with a passion. The mod keycaps are from the Icon Modifier add on set that ran with GMK Burgundy. The alphas are from a "Compu-net" branded board I found while browsing through Ebay.

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ZedTheMan

06 Mar 2019, 01:03

Got an Omnikey 102 at last! I've got an OEMMAX Mac-105 with great condition Blue Alps that are just begging to be swapped into this thing. Anyone have any suggestions as to what I could do to spiff it up? https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre ... 3710001471

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abrahamstechnology

06 Mar 2019, 01:19

Is my GB becoming a meme?

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ZedTheMan

06 Mar 2019, 01:23

abrahamstechnology wrote:
06 Mar 2019, 01:19
Is my GB becoming a meme?
I'm pretty sure it always was to some people, due to the ideal situation being clones of the complicated Alps varieties. But hey, we made it! (At least, we made MOQ...)

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Mattr567

06 Mar 2019, 01:31

abrahamstechnology wrote:
06 Mar 2019, 01:19
Is my GB becoming a meme?
Finally he hast become self aware!

Not limited to your round "2" GB either :lol:

Hak Foo

06 Mar 2019, 05:01

Honestly, I was pulling hard for it because the Matias clickies I put in my Omnikey were giving me trouble. I figure I could replace the one or two that are chattery, but why not go for broke, considering I just got a desoldering gun for Christmas...

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abrahamstechnology

06 Mar 2019, 05:35

Heck, why don't we do a group buy for a luggable with a nice Alps keyboard? Like the IBM 5140 but with modern hardware.
We are already doing tons of custom cases so why not take it up a notch?

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