Alps Appreciation

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hellothere

06 Dec 2020, 17:06

Hanslau wrote:
06 Dec 2020, 06:29
Hey I remembered long ago you were gonna compare old white alps with blues. How does this focus switches feel?
While I've already decided that my early Pine White Alps are great, I would also love to hear a comparison.

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doomsday_device

06 Dec 2020, 19:35

so happy that ive found one :D
*drooling*
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Polecat

06 Dec 2020, 22:22

Hanslau wrote:
06 Dec 2020, 06:29
Hey I remembered long ago you were gonna compare old white alps with blues. How does this focus switches feel?
When I modified and restored the last Focus, the black FK-2002, I discovered by accident why the Focus keyboards sound and feel "cheaper" (for lack of a better word) than other early Alps keyboards. On that one I modified the case because the locking tabs across the bottom were broken. I also installed screws in the two factory blank locations at the top. Doing that completely changed the sound and feel of the keyboard. I also installed Tai Hao white-on-black doubleshot keycaps on that one, replacing the factory printed caps. That one has been my driver ever since, being the closest to endgame I've come up with. I've had a steady stream of Alps keyboards for the last thirty years or so, and I still have most of them. I worked at a surplus/recycler for about 25 years, so I had first choice of the thousands of keyboards that came through every year. I didn't know anything about the different Alps switches beyond what I could feel and hear, so I mostly went by feel and layout. It wasn't until I found this site a few years back that I got interested in the different switches, and at that point I realized that most of the boards I had saved had blue or early white SKCM switches. For the layout I didn't care so much about the Enter key. BAE, ANSI, or ISO works for me, but I need a 2u backspace and a big left shift key. So...I ended up with a bunch of Northgate, Focus, and Monterey keyboards along with some others that appealed to me for one reason or another. For most of the last 30 years I've used a Focus or Monterey keyboard, and in fact I'm typing now on the new Focus.

Of those I had two models where I had examples with blue and white Alps for comparison - Focus FK-2001 and Northgate gold label 102. The Northgates were dated just a few weeks apart, and were both like new, and to me they sound and feel identical. I couldn't tell the blue and white SKCM apart without pulling a keycap. The whites are very early, with unbranded upper housings. I still have those Northgates, carefully packed away. The white Alps Focus was considerably later (1992) than the blue Alps one, with Alps-branded pine switches, and those are noticeably different than the blues. So when I recently got a chance to buy this Focus, with the early, unbranded housings, I jumped on it. But I had used the blue Alps internals to resurrect the black FK-2002, with its modified case and Tai Hao caps, so that's not a good comparison. The black one sounds "deeper", probably a combination of the modified case and thicker (?) Tai Hao caps.

Along the way I picked up a pristine white Alps Laser (Monterey) K102, thanks to a tip from a member here, which is a twin to my blue Alps Laser K102. The white Alps one has Alps-branded upper housings, but very early ones. I opened up the blue Alps K102 for comparison, and found a sheet of closed cell foam between the PC board and lower case that I had installed decades ago and forgotten about. I need to take that one back apart to remove the foam (it's not glued or anything...) so I can compare those two directly.

I have other blue and early white SKCM keyboards also, but they need to be "stock" to make a fair comparison. So I have a short list of keyboards that I have one or the other that I'd like to match up in pairs. Also on my list is to document dates, mold markings, and internal switch changes on the 60 or so Alps keyboards I have in storage in hopes of learning more about the differences.

Note that there are also unbranded white switches that I've found in some Datacomp keyboards from 1992 or so, which feel and sound like the very early ones. Those have no Alps branding even on the bottom of the lower housings, but they have switchplates and long mounting tabs like true SKCM. There has been some speculation about those here and elsewhere, but nothing confirmed as far as I can tell. They feel and sound nothing like the Alps-branded white SKCM switches being made at that time.

Unfortunately there's no "sure thing" with Alps switches, but some very early whites, from 1989 or so, with branded or unbranded housings, feel and sound very close to, or maybe even the same as, blues (...not all blues are the same, of course...).

User avatar
Polecat

06 Dec 2020, 22:24

doomsday_device wrote:
06 Dec 2020, 19:35
so happy that ive found one :D
*drooling*
Nice. I had a Zenith about 30 years ago, wish I still had it. The electronic click was a neat feature and Zenith always built a good product.

Hanslau

10 Dec 2020, 01:50

The data comp are basically focus keyboards, with different naming. So if one finds early white Alps for cheap snatch it up! Though resell value will certainly not match blue Alps..

One thing I read about but could never find more information on, is the difference between the early blue Alps and the later ones. So there is a difference (black switch plate, materials..) but how does it feel? I already have some later grey blue Alps, but tempted to find an XT layout keyboard for early blue alps

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Polecat

10 Dec 2020, 04:14

Hanslau wrote:
10 Dec 2020, 01:50
The data comp are basically focus keyboards, with different naming. So if one finds early white Alps for cheap snatch it up! Though resell value will certainly not match blue Alps..

One thing I read about but could never find more information on, is the difference between the early blue Alps and the later ones. So there is a difference (black switch plate, materials..) but how does it feel? I already have some later grey blue Alps, but tempted to find an XT layout keyboard for early blue alps
I don't see anything in common between my Focus and Datacomp keyboards, besides using Alps/clone switches, and I have several of each.

In my experience the differences in blue Alps switches are much less pronounced than the differences in whites. According to the wiki the blues were made from 1985-1988 and whites from 1988-1996, so just from that one would expect a lot more changes in white Alps.

My first blue Alps keyboard was a Leading Edge DC-2014, about thirty years ago. I used that one until I upgraded to a 286 computer, and I found a white Alps DC-2214 to use with that. Those white Alps switches felt just like the blues, and I still have that keyboard. I replaced the switches in the alpha block with blues from a DFK-777, which are probably the earliest blues I have.

I have several other blue Alps keyboards also, for which I should probably document the switch details. Two Northgate 102s, including one from 1988, Multitech KB101A, Focus FK-2001, Laser/Monterey K102, and probably a few others still in storage. The differences in cases and keycaps are probably greater than any differences in the switches themselves, or at least that's my subjective opinion. But for all I know those may all be "late" blues. I do remember the white Alps DC-2214 feeling and sounding just like the blue Alps DC-2014, for what that's worth. The switch differences in the thirty or forty white Alps keyboards I have here are much more obvious and dramatic.

User avatar
inmbolmie

22 Dec 2020, 00:09

For the Alps fanboys, nice video from Adrian's Digital Basement featuring a Leading Edge computer and of course its matching Alps keyboard.

If you want to go directly to the Alps lottery part, skip to 17:48

https://youtu.be/mqDQ7S5A0Xc?t=1068

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Lynx_Carpathica

23 Dec 2020, 22:16

Hi all,
So tomorrow I'll hopefully get my ultrasonic cleaner. I pulled appart the N key, wiped it with my fingers and it feels amazing. Smooth, silky, not at all bindy. This makes me very hopeful about the rest. {gordonramsey} Finally, some nice f***** alps switches{/gordonramsey}

Untill then, enjoy this crap pic I took with my professional macro gear that's a factory issue Xperia XZ1, then uploaded to fb as my picture.... Anyway, the Alps logo is in focus, as it should always be.
Please enjoy!
Image

User avatar
Chyros

24 Dec 2020, 17:04

inmbolmie wrote:
22 Dec 2020, 00:09
For the Alps fanboys, nice video from Adrian's Digital Basement featuring a Leading Edge computer and of course its matching Alps keyboard.

If you want to go directly to the Alps lottery part, skip to 17:48

https://youtu.be/mqDQ7S5A0Xc?t=1068
Looks like he's a blue Alps fan too ^^ .

User avatar
inmbolmie

24 Dec 2020, 17:09

Chyros wrote:
24 Dec 2020, 17:04
inmbolmie wrote:
22 Dec 2020, 00:09
For the Alps fanboys, nice video from Adrian's Digital Basement featuring a Leading Edge computer and of course its matching Alps keyboard.

If you want to go directly to the Alps lottery part, skip to 17:48

https://youtu.be/mqDQ7S5A0Xc?t=1068
Looks like he's a blue Alps fan too ^^ .
:!: Spoiler alert :!:

User avatar
fohat
Elder Messenger

25 Dec 2020, 00:28

inmbolmie wrote:
24 Dec 2020, 17:09
Chyros wrote:
24 Dec 2020, 17:04

blue Alps fan
Spoiler alert
Leading Edge 2014 is one of the only readily found keyboards that is a "sure thing" to have blue Alps.

User avatar
Lynx_Carpathica

25 Dec 2020, 16:13

Hi there, a smol question: Does POM yellow with age, UV, or something? I found a white alps stem that turned around half of SKCM Ivory while preparing them to blast with ultraonic.

ntv242ver2

25 Dec 2020, 17:33

Lynx_Carpathica wrote:
25 Dec 2020, 16:13
Hi there, a smol question: Does POM yellow with age, UV, or something? I found a white alps stem that turned around half of SKCM Ivory while preparing them to blast with ultraonic.
I think what you see is damnpened white

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Lynx_Carpathica

25 Dec 2020, 18:00

Not really. I had none of them. And it has no cutout for rubber dampers. It's unmistakebly an SKCM clicky undamped white stem.

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Polecat

25 Dec 2020, 21:12

Lynx_Carpathica wrote:
25 Dec 2020, 16:13
Hi there, a smol question: Does POM yellow with age, UV, or something? I found a white alps stem that turned around half of SKCM Ivory while preparing them to blast with ultraonic.
Check the mold numbers on the odd switch's upper housing. The numerical part of the upper right number (example - the 8 or 21 in 8F, 21K, etc.) is usually close on the switches in a given keyboard, and I believe at least roughly corresponds to when the switches were made. If the odd switch has a number that's significantly different it was probably replaced at some point.

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Lynx_Carpathica

25 Dec 2020, 22:17

Well, sorry, it has been mixed with another 200 upper and lower housings xD I found the stem while wiping them one by one after ultrasonicing them

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Polecat

25 Dec 2020, 22:29

Oops! :roll: There are also mold numbers on the inside of the slider, which probably work the same way, but I haven't kept notes on those. Somewhere in the wiki there's a reference to the color of white Alps sliders, but I can't find it at the moment. Something about the natural color of the plastic versus dyed white if I remember correctly. I'll look for it later when I have more time.

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Lynx_Carpathica

26 Dec 2020, 09:51

Ah ok... So it's the dye. I was jus asking wether it's POM for sure, or something else. Mould marks inside of the slider? If I won't forget, I'll try to find it and check it.

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Lynx_Carpathica

26 Dec 2020, 12:30

23-S is what inside of the slider. I found it :D

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Polecat

27 Dec 2020, 05:07

Does the "23" fall in line with the other sliders, or do those have a higher or lower number? If the numbers work like those on the housings the number is probably the mold number and the letter would be the cavity in that particular mold. I'm still thinking the number will roughly date the switches, as it seems that those numbers got as time went on (and molds wore out and got replaced). For example, blue Alps seem to have a single digit or very low two digit number (early ones are blank on that corner) and white Alps seem to pick up from there until the slitless housings came out. There's probably more to it than that, but we won't learn anything if we don't at least try.

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Lynx_Carpathica

27 Dec 2020, 22:03

they all seem to be rather random.
11E, 24-H, 23-N from the 3 I have checked.

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Polecat

27 Dec 2020, 22:21

*If* my crackpot theory about the numbers is correct the 23 and 24 are likely from the same keyboard, while the 11 would be from an earlier one. If you have "200" sliders I'm assuming they're not all from the same keyboard. Watch for differences in other internal parts--switchplates, springs, and click leaves, since the sound and feel of white Alps seems to have changed during the time pine switches were made.

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Lynx_Carpathica

27 Dec 2020, 22:46

I have just restored my Chicony KB-5181 which has transplanted switches from an NTC-6251EA. They are early white alps, and the sliders say 3O and 5H. So, that might be a nice guess.

Having that said, they should be from the Chicony, and an AEKII, but those are SKCM Cream switches definietly. The chicony had mostly useable...eh...switchplates, let's just say that, and the NTC was 99% good, including the switches that were unbearably dirty and full of crap when I got them. I swapped the switches between the two, and they were restored by me, by simply washing them. But, it felt unnaturally stiff, and almost painfully, not scrathy, but would bind, and felt overly stiff and uneasy to type on. But now, an ultrasonic cleaner later it feels good to type on this board. Finally. And an added benefit, the matrix is pefect for league of legends. But, I could use an ISO ALPS keyboard (being from Hungary, Bigass ANSI doesn't really do me a favor to say the least), to be honest. And for that, I might have the best acceptor to accept theese switches when I'm gonna be done... I really don't like the layout of this chicony. But other than that, and the pad printed keycaps, this board is pretty ok. An AEK II. But I'm not really keen on sacrafising that beatuiful beast of a keyboard with an already 8/10 switches, and with tried restoring only the N key, and that turned out smooth as silk, I'd say it'd be a sacralige to gutt that board.

Not to mention the addicting feeling of the switches, and the narcotic soundtrack... Just...Noice!

EDIT: can someone create me a side-by-side comparison of tactile leaves?
-SKCM Ivory, Salmon/Orange, and Black. Thank you in advance.

User avatar
hellothere

27 Dec 2020, 23:20

Lynx_Carpathica wrote:
27 Dec 2020, 22:46
EDIT: can someone create me a side-by-side comparison of tactile leaves?
-SKCM Ivory, Salmon/Orange, and Black. Thank you in advance.
Psst. We have a Wiki. :P

That being said, it'd be beyond excellent to get a picture of all SKCL/SKCM Alps switches, taken apart, side-by-side, and in the same scale. I know Chyros has probably all the Alps lying around in his tub o' switches. I only have cream damped, orange, salmon, and yellow.

There may actually be a topic on that somewhere. I should check.

User avatar
Lynx_Carpathica

27 Dec 2020, 23:36

hellothere wrote:
27 Dec 2020, 23:20
Lynx_Carpathica wrote:
27 Dec 2020, 22:46
EDIT: can someone create me a side-by-side comparison of tactile leaves?
-SKCM Ivory, Salmon/Orange, and Black. Thank you in advance.
Psst. We have a Wiki. :P

That being said, it'd be beyond excellent to get a picture of all SKCL/SKCM Alps switches, taken apart, side-by-side, and in the same scale. I know Chyros has probably all the Alps lying around in his tub o' switches. I only have cream damped, orange, salmon, and yellow.

There may actually be a topic on that somewhere. I should check.
Yeah... We DO have a wiki. But sadly, I can't qute see the profile that matters: from the side. The degree of the bends, etc.

User avatar
Polecat

28 Dec 2020, 00:20

Lynx_Carpathica wrote:
27 Dec 2020, 22:46
I have just restored my Chicony KB-5181 which has transplanted switches from an NTC-6251EA. They are early white alps, and the sliders say 3O and 5H. So, that might be a nice guess.

Having that said, they should be from the Chicony, and an AEKII, but those are SKCM Cream switches definietly. The chicony had mostly useable...eh...switchplates, let's just say that, and the NTC was 99% good, including the switches that were unbearably dirty and full of crap when I got them. I swapped the switches between the two, and they were restored by me, by simply washing them. But, it felt unnaturally stiff, and almost painfully, not scrathy, but would bind, and felt overly stiff and uneasy to type on. But now, an ultrasonic cleaner later it feels good to type on this board. Finally. And an added benefit, the matrix is pefect for league of legends. But, I could use an ISO ALPS keyboard (being from Hungary, Bigass ANSI doesn't really do me a favor to say the least), to be honest. And for that, I might have the best acceptor to accept theese switches when I'm gonna be done... I really don't like the layout of this chicony. But other than that, and the pad printed keycaps, this board is pretty ok. An AEK II. But I'm not really keen on sacrafising that beatuiful beast of a keyboard with an already 8/10 switches, and with tried restoring only the N key, and that turned out smooth as silk, I'd say it'd be a sacralige to gutt that board.

Not to mention the addicting feeling of the switches, and the narcotic soundtrack... Just...Noice!

EDIT: can someone create me a side-by-side comparison of tactile leaves?
-SKCM Ivory, Salmon/Orange, and Black. Thank you in advance.
One of the points I've tried to make is that there were changes to Alps switches even within a generation ("Pine", etc) or slider color. I'm most familiar with white and blue SKCM, but that's probably true of other Alps switches as well. So just one sample of ivory, salmon/orange, or black Alps would only tell part of the story. The wiki is a good reference, but it's not even close to covering all the variations in Alps switches.

When I previously brought up that I wanted to help document more of the details I was told that "nobody was interested" in anything beyond slider color. It was hinted at that some of the early members had collected and posted that info in the past, at least partly on Asian keyboard collector sites, but that most of those people had moved on, and their information was no longer available. A few of those sites are still up, but to me the language barrier is a big obstacle in trying to decipher them.

I have probably 60 Alps keyboards presently, mostly blue and white SKCM, and mostly early/Pine generation. I'm relatively new here, so I'm still trying to learn exactly what to look for before I spend a lot of time and effort trying to document the switches in my own keyboards. In other words, I don't want to have to do it twice. And of course most of the interest is in the exotic versions, rather than the boring white switches which are often lumped into a single, not-very-desirable category.

What I'd personally like to learn, and this applies to every version of Alps SKCL/SKCM, is the details of the changes that were made in the internal parts with a given slider color and housing type, as well as the differences between colors and generations. And whether the mold numbering can be matched up to dates and/or changes in the internal parts. Changes in housing design and materials are another part of that, as well as factory lubricants. A lot of that knowledge is here already, but trying to find and organize it takes a lot of time, and independently confirming the details when things don't agree requires actual examples of the parts in question. And of course there were a LOT of Alps switches made over many years, with new discoveries still coming in.

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Lynx_Carpathica

28 Dec 2020, 00:28

I see.. Next time, I encounter an Alps board, I'll make sure to document those for you!

I was asking the tactile leaves for a different reason. I am just courious about the visible differences in the tactile leaves in the tactile switches.

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hellothere

28 Dec 2020, 00:43

Polecat wrote:
28 Dec 2020, 00:20
One of the points I've tried to make is that there were changes to Alps switches even within a generation ("Pine", etc) or slider color. I'm most familiar with white and blue SKCM, but that's probably true of other Alps switches as well. So just one sample of ivory, salmon/orange, or black Alps would only tell part of the story. The wiki is a good reference, but it's not even close to covering all the variations in Alps switches.

When I previously brought up that I wanted to help document more of the details I was told that "nobody was interested" in anything beyond slider color. It was hinted at that some of the early members had collected and posted that info in the past, at least partly on Asian keyboard collector sites, but that most of those people had moved on, and their information was no longer available. A few of those sites are still up, but to me the language barrier is a big obstacle in trying to decipher them.

I have probably 60 Alps keyboards presently, mostly blue and white SKCM, and mostly early/Pine generation. I'm relatively new here, so I'm still trying to learn exactly what to look for before I spend a lot of time and effort trying to document the switches in my own keyboards. In other words, I don't want to have to do it twice. And of course most of the interest is in the exotic versions, rather than the boring white switches which are often lumped into a single, not-very-desirable category.

What I'd personally like to learn, and this applies to every version of Alps SKCL/SKCM, is the details of the changes that were made in the internal parts with a given slider color and housing type, as well as the differences between colors and generations. And whether the mold numbering can be matched up to dates and/or changes in the internal parts. Changes in housing design and materials are another part of that, as well as factory lubricants. A lot of that knowledge is here already, but trying to find and organize it takes a lot of time, and independently confirming the details when things don't agree requires actual examples of the parts in question. And of course there were a LOT of Alps switches made over many years, with new discoveries still coming in.
I'm interested.

I've looked at some very old threads here and on Geekhack. A LOT of information has been updated. One thing I wanted to do, for instance, was to swap the cream damped switches in an AEK II with orange switches, but I really dislike having to de-solder bent switch contacts, which the AEK has about 40 of. So, I searched to see if the bottom housing and switchplate were the same. 2015ish data said "yes," without qualification. I searched a bit more and the answer now is, "Maybe."

It looks like there was at least one change in most or all SKCL/SKCM switches, and that's pine and bamboo. While I have at least four AEK IIs with cream damped switches, I don't feel or see any differences. Ditto with the oranges and salmon, of which I've only had two, each. I think you're also right that there were more than two versions of pine white.

Additionally, while everyone is now falling all over themselves for blue Alps, back 2016 or so, it was brown Alps that was the big-time switch you had to have.

Anyhow, one think I can almost definitively say is that you're not going to be able to get whatever the original Alps lubricant was and/or which switches were shipped from the factory pre-lubed. While I lean toward the comments that the lube on orange, for instance, was some sort of dry thingy -- based on seeing something that looked like dry lube in a couple of Chyros' videos -- I'm very happy with how Nyogel 760G worked on the salmon switches in my Wang 724/725 and on a couple of my cream damped AEK IIs. (I do have at least one orange switch that needs some help, so maybe I'll try Nyogel on that one.)

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Lynx_Carpathica

28 Dec 2020, 00:59

We'll just have to sit around and wait for NeK to find out what is closest to the stuff Alps used back then. I'm almost afraid to buy SKCM Blue boards and switches, in fear that I can't pay 200€s for one, and getting a really crap one for 30€s or so...if that's possible. Same goes for oragne alps too. Are Salmon alps lubed, or are made of the exact same plastic as White alps, just with a different slider color? And also, from what I can tell, even the tactile leaves are more rounded on blue alps from what I can see than on white ones. I wonder how would blue alps feel with white stems. How much does the slider ad to the keyfeel, and how much the tactile leaf.

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Polecat

28 Dec 2020, 01:15

I know what you mean about the bent switch legs. What I do on those is 1) heat with the soldering iron (ancient Weller station with 800 degree tip) and add some fresh 60/40 Kester 44 rosin core solder. 2) heat again while carefully bending the leg straight with a small stainless flat blade screwdriver. Solder won't stick to stainless, so that's important. 3) Heat again and suck the solder away with your favorite solder sucker. 4) Wiggle the switch legs to make sure theyr'e free of the pads before trying to remove the switch. 5) Very important to use a hotter tip (600-700 degree is not enough) so you can get in and out quickly, before the heat lifts the pad or damages the switch. 6) Fifty years of practice helps. Yes, I'm old.

I had literally thousands of keyboards go through my hands in the many years I worked at an electronic recycling business, so I've tried most versions of Alps switches in the distant past. But I paid more attention to sound and feel than slider color. I prefer the clicky ones, so I ended up with blue and white SKCM, mostly older versions. I have a few black Alps keyboards here (NeXT, Dell, Micro Connectors) but they're all sticky if not squeaky, probably all later versions. And one salmon Alps Apple M0116, which is tolerably decent. And some Alps clone keyboards, which vary from ho-hum to conpletely unusable. So I'm really only able to compare the different white and blue SKCM switches.

Clearly Alps was buying or making the lubricant in industrial quantities, rather than buying it on Amazon it at 20 bucks an ounce. (...of course there was no Amazon at that time...) Wouldn't it be funny if it turned out to be a generic version of Johnson's Paste Wax, which has that same orange-brown color? But I'm not going to jump through that hoop just to be the monkey at the bottom of the pool.
Last edited by Polecat on 28 Dec 2020, 01:37, edited 1 time in total.

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