Alps Appreciation

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Daniel Beardsmore

23 Jan 2018, 00:43

Curious — those are rare. More curiously, that's the reduced-size version (SKFRAD) that allows an LED to be squeezed in under the key, which is pointless here as there are no LEDs! Who made that?

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Tuntematon

23 Jan 2018, 00:49

I was curious what was in those Dell keypads, but I never bothered to ask a seller. I have an older version with the same colour scheme, old Dell logo, different case, and an over-sized black coiled cable. It uses MX Black.

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twinrotor

23 Jan 2018, 02:15

Daniel Beardsmore wrote: Curious — those are rare. More curiously, that's the reduced-size version (SKFRAD) that allows an LED to be squeezed in under the key, which is pointless here as there are no LEDs! Who made that?
Its a Dell NL25-KP. I've found only a few references to the fact it has these yellow Alps. No idea how common they are, but as Tuntematon says, he has a MX equipped Dell keypad.

When I started to look for information on the switches, I found the SKFRAD and also noticed they are the same type, but have no LEDs (I didn't pull the Num key cap). They're curious switches. I'm also quite sure they are dirty, or my blues are just super smooth.
Tuntematon wrote: I was curious what was in those Dell keypads, but I never bothered to ask a seller. I have an older version with the same colour scheme, old Dell logo, different case, and an over-sized black coiled cable. It uses MX Black.
I've never had any MX blacks, but can't be much different. I have picked up this num pad several times, thinking it was a dome pad. I started messing with it today and noticed a few keys would bind, unlike a dome. I also have been typing quite a bit on my blues today, so the travel felt familiar. Popped a cap and was astonished. I'm pretty sure they are quite dirty. They are fairly smooth, but scratchy. They are also way heavier than my blues, or feel that way to me.

I just had a minute to snap the pic and upload it out of amusement. It would be nice to have 5 or 6 as donors. This one has seen its days and is well used. I'm sure I'll find more than dirty switches when I pull it apart.

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Mr.JAM

23 Jan 2018, 04:45

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I brutally cannibalized NEC pc-8801 to make this thing. The switch condition was quite good but the protocol is so weird that I can't use. So, I butchered. Personally, I like the blue alps more than my Model F. Yes, the build quality and switch quality of capacitive buckling spring is superior to ALPS, but the sound of the ALPS blue make me happier. :)

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Daniel Beardsmore

23 Jan 2018, 09:27

twinrotor wrote: When I started to look for information on the switches, I found the SKFRAD and also noticed they are the same type, but have no LEDs (I didn't pull the Num key cap).
They are not meant to have an LED — it seems that they're reduced in size to allow an LED to be placed behind them, based solely on an Alps GlidePoint Keypad that used white tactile switches for all keys except num lock.

There are separate switches with integrated LEDs, supposedly (SKFRFA/B/C), although I've never seen them.

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twinrotor

25 Jan 2018, 21:42

More Dell keypad goodness.

I was a little surprised to see the blacks, but it makes sense.

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Daniel Beardsmore

25 Jan 2018, 23:34

How odd. I can imagine that there's something about the full-size switches that makes them more suitable for wider keys, but why 5? What does the 5 key do differently that needs a different switch? How weird.

I assume that the PCB, if made by Alps, would have a 56AAA-style code — that looks to be far too recent for a 12K code, sadly.

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twinrotor

26 Jan 2018, 01:02

Daniel Beardsmore wrote: How odd. I can imagine that there's something about the full-size switches that makes them more suitable for wider keys, but why 5? What does the 5 key do differently that needs a different switch? How weird.

I assume that the PCB, if made by Alps, would have a 56AAA-style code — that looks to be far too recent for a 12K code, sadly.
Maybe the black is under the 5/centering key to help lessen false keystrokes while the user finds center? They feel stiffer, but that could be my imagination. I don't have an accurate way of measuring how much force it takes, but I assumed that is why they are under the big keys; fool the user into thinking they're the same "weight".

The only numbers are these:

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Have not googled that number, but the obvious date code makes me smile. :)

This PCB also has room for another row of keys. I cut most of it out in the picture, but you can see the silkscreen and traces, plus where there are missing diodes.

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Daniel Beardsmore

26 Jan 2018, 01:54

Sandy will have the specs in his Alps catalogue, but when he transcribed the switches for me he only did SKCL/SKCM, so we don't have the SKFR/SKFS specs (at the time I didn't know that the latter was even in the catalogue; I found that out via some archived page from the Geekhack wiki). Also, Alps used "CL series" and "CM series" in the 1994 catalogue, but I don't know if they used "FR series" and "FS series" for these mini switches.

Parex, well, they're already known for using these switches: [wiki]Sager NP-925[/wiki]

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Brett MacK

26 Jan 2018, 03:46

From Northgate Omnikey 102
IMG_0249.JPG
IMG_0249.JPG (1.63 MiB) Viewed 435 times

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juryduty

26 Jan 2018, 04:56

Rub it in our face why don't ya.

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Mattr567

26 Jan 2018, 04:56

Everytime I open the box to my P77 I forget how nice it looks 8-)

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Polecat

26 Jan 2018, 06:10

Brett MacK wrote: From Northgate Omnikey 102
IMG_0249.JPG
Nice, nice, nice. Nice. I was going to reply in the photos section, but loading those beautiful photos twice just about blew up my old clunky 'puter, and my internet connection. That's *not* a criticism, just a note to myself that I need to upgrade a thing or three. Plus I can ramble off a bit here and still be on-topic.

Thanks also for posting the photo with the "inspection number" visible (which is what I'm tentatively calling the small number tag). Some of the Northgates have as many as three paper labels on the back side, which I believe were applied by Northgate after they were delivered, rather than by the manufacturer. In the case where there's a paper label with a serial number that number does not match the one on the small "inspection number" tag. Early Focus boards had similar "inspection number" tags, and may have followed the same sequence(s), which supports the idea of others here that (at least some) Focus and Northgate boards came from the same manufacturer. All speculation of course, just throwing the ideas up again to keep the wheels spinning.

Out of 12 Gen1 (gold label) Northgates on my list all 12 have an "inspection number". 9 of the 12 begin with an 8, the other 3 with a 1. Yours falls right in the middle of the block of 9 - number 5. Of those 9, 6 have blue Alps, 2 have white Alps, one unknown. Of the 3 that begin with a 1, 1 has blue Alps, 2 have white. One possibility is that there were two factories with different numbering systems, but again pure speculation.

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Brett MacK

26 Jan 2018, 13:08

Polecat wrote:
Brett MacK wrote: From Northgate Omnikey 102
IMG_0249.JPG
Nice, nice, nice. Nice. I was going to reply in the photos section, but loading those beautiful photos twice just about blew up my old clunky 'puter, and my internet connection. That's *not* a criticism, just a note to myself that I need to upgrade a thing or three. Plus I can ramble off a bit here and still be on-topic.

Thanks also for posting the photo with the "inspection number" visible (which is what I'm tentatively calling the small number tag). Some of the Northgates have as many as three paper labels on the back side, which I believe were applied by Northgate after they were delivered, rather than by the manufacturer. In the case where there's a paper label with a serial number that number does not match the one on the small "inspection number" tag. Early Focus boards had similar "inspection number" tags, and may have followed the same sequence(s), which supports the idea of others here that (at least some) Focus and Northgate boards came from the same manufacturer. All speculation of course, just throwing the ideas up again to keep the wheels spinning.

Out of 12 Gen1 (gold label) Northgates on my list all 12 have an "inspection number". 9 of the 12 begin with an 8, the other 3 with a 1. Yours falls right in the middle of the block of 9 - number 5. Of those 9, 6 have blue Alps, 2 have white Alps, one unknown. Of the 3 that begin with a 1, 1 has blue Alps, 2 have white. One possibility is that there were two factories with different numbering systems, but again pure speculation.
Thanks for the insight into this model. Information on the early omnikeys are virtually nonexistent. I was always curious what that inspection number is all about. It doesn't seem to have any rhyme or reason.

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pansku
Member of the Beam Spring cult

26 Jan 2018, 17:19

Appreciating some Blues :D

And oh yea, it was local (<15km) and has SE/FI caps!!!!

Not to mention it cost 20€ and the Blues are in better condition than my greens!
IMG_20180126_181233.jpg
Acer 6012
IMG_20180126_181233.jpg (2.66 MiB) Viewed 383 times
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From the top
IMG_20180126_181504.jpg (2.91 MiB) Viewed 383 times
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But it is missing a foot
IMG_20180126_181338.jpg (2.38 MiB) Viewed 383 times
IMG_20180126_181324~2.jpg
Label
IMG_20180126_181324~2.jpg (1.56 MiB) Viewed 383 times

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pansku
Member of the Beam Spring cult

26 Jan 2018, 17:34

This is what it looks like after a puff of some compressed air:
IMG_20180126_183016.jpg
Condition
IMG_20180126_183016.jpg (2.88 MiB) Viewed 375 times
The ICs date it to 1989:
IMG_20180126_183026.jpg
IC to date this
IMG_20180126_183026.jpg (3.05 MiB) Viewed 375 times
Curiously the PCB says KB-101A:
IMG_20180126_183035.jpg
Markings on PCB
IMG_20180126_183035.jpg (2.88 MiB) Viewed 375 times
I'd say that for my first find that I didn't buy from someone in DT or the Pingmaster I did pretty well :mrgreen:

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Chyros

26 Jan 2018, 18:34

Wait, a 6012 with blue Alps?! Oo what the actual fuck, man...

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//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

26 Jan 2018, 19:48

What's weird is that the PCB does say kb-101. Maybe this was like one of the first 6011/6012 boards or something where they still used the kb-101a guts.

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E3E

26 Jan 2018, 19:55

Not surprising at all!

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E3E

26 Jan 2018, 20:03

Here's a little guy I haven't posted here, as far as I know.

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Also, my own Acer 6011

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:D

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pansku
Member of the Beam Spring cult

26 Jan 2018, 20:11

What was also odd is that the keycap (Esc) which I pulled out was not doubleshot unlike the KB-101A pictures in the wiki. I can't pull put other caps before sunday evening to confirm if this is true for the rest of the caps like Ctrl or Å.

Slom

26 Jan 2018, 20:13

E3E wrote: Here's a little guy I haven't posted here, as far as I know.

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It's the anti-lisp board :D You did an amazing retrobright job on this one! Did you sandblast the key caps? The home row looks really shiny in the ebay pictures.
Spoiler:
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E3E wrote: Also, my own Acer 6011

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:D
Now you are really tempting me to buy a 6011 tomorrow :lol:

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E3E

26 Jan 2018, 20:49

Slom wrote: It's the anti-lisp board :D You did an amazing retrobright job on this one! Did you sandblast the key caps? The home row looks really shiny in the ebay pictures.
Spoiler:
Image
Now you are really tempting me to buy a 6011 tomorrow :lol:
No sandblasting! They are indeed a bit shined, but I don't mind. Like retrobrighting, sand blasting, in my opinion is just a temporary fix for the inevitable.

But liiiike retrobrighting, it's nice to see a board looking fresh again, admittedly. Yeah, it's a really cool obscure board. I love the key cap profile. It's similar to the profile found on several Japanese MSX computer keyboards as well as the ICL One Per Desk. This one has some Row 0 key caps though, which is neat! It also has a unique legend font on it which reminds me of the font on Beamspring boards.

Anti-Lisp, haha. I like it!

I've always wanted a 6011 with a KB101A style case. I found one on eBay a while back. It came with white Alps; I just swapped blues into this one.

The one pansku has is definitely 1:1 with a KB101/102A. This case is very similar but slightly different, mostly in the feet on the bottom and the protocol dip switch.

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pansku
Member of the Beam Spring cult

26 Jan 2018, 21:04

E3E wrote:
The one pansku has is definitely 1:1 with a KB101/102A. This case is very similar but slightly different, mostly in the feet on the bottom and the protocol dip switch.
Do you know how the dip switch works? I find it strange that it has 3 positions labeled 1/2/3, when often there is 2 labeled AT/XT

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E3E

26 Jan 2018, 21:27

I believe that only the middle one works on modern systems. One is modified XT and the other is normal XT, I think; the middle is AT/PS2, if I recall correctly.

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//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

26 Jan 2018, 23:04

E3E wrote: I believe that only the middle one works on modern systems. One is modified XT and the other is normal XT, I think; the middle is AT/PS2, if I recall correctly.
Correct you are!
pansku wrote: What was also odd is that the keycap (Esc) which I pulled out was not doubleshot unlike the KB-101A pictures in the wiki. I can't pull put other caps before sunday evening to confirm if this is true for the rest of the caps like Ctrl or Å.
Most kb-101as and 6011s actually came with non-doubleshot caps - so that is normal. It was previously assumed that the KB-101AS model came with doubleshot caps, but apparently that isn't always the case - I dunno if that means some kb-101AS boards did not come with them or if it means that some KB-101A boards did come with them

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mike52787
Alps Aficionado

27 Jan 2018, 00:24

//gainsborough wrote: Most kb-101as and 6011s actually came with non-doubleshot caps - so that is normal. It was previously assumed that the KB-101AS model came with doubleshot caps, but apparently that isn't always the case - I dunno if that means some kb-101AS boards did not come with them or if it means that some KB-101A boards did come with them
Yeah, as you may remember my KB101AS came with acer pad printed keycaps

rich1051414

27 Jan 2018, 04:53

E3E wrote: I believe that only the middle one works on modern systems. One is modified XT and the other is normal XT, I think; the middle is AT/PS2, if I recall correctly.
2 dip switches would allow 4 modes, so 3 dip switches would mean there are at least 5 modes and as many as 8 modes, but you only listed 3.

Polecat

27 Jan 2018, 05:03

Brett MacK wrote:
Thanks for the insight into this model. Information on the early omnikeys are virtually nonexistent. I was always curious what that inspection number is all about. It doesn't seem to have any rhyme or reason.
Like you I was surprised how little actual info is available online on the Northgates, especially considering the interest in these. I've been following them since they first came out back in the '80s, but I'm far from an expert. I own 14 Northgates including four Gen1 examples. Recently I decided to start gathering information on as many as I could (and also Focus and Monterey boards) in hopes of learning more about them. I have 85 Northgates on the list with full or partial info. The "inspection number" stuff is just one possibility for what those numbers are about. I'd love to hear any other ideas.

Polecat

27 Jan 2018, 05:10

//gainsborough wrote: What's weird is that the PCB does say kb-101. Maybe this was like one of the first 6011/6012 boards or something where they still used the kb-101a guts.
Also might have something to do with it being a 6012 (vs 6011) and/or a Swedish version (lower production).
//gainsborough wrote: Most kb-101as and 6011s actually came with non-doubleshot caps - so that is normal. It was previously assumed that the KB-101AS model came with doubleshot caps, but apparently that isn't always the case - I dunno if that means some kb-101AS boards did not come with them or if it means that some KB-101A boards did come with them
My Multitech-branded KB-101A (not AS) came with double shot caps.
Last edited by Polecat on 27 Jan 2018, 05:17, edited 1 time in total.

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