Destroying typewriters for fun and keycaps.


05 Aug 2016, 22:25

On today's trip to the local thrift store, I picked up two electric typewriters - one for the keycaps (which we'll get to later), and one because the keys just plain felt weird beneath my fingers, and I wanted to take it apart and see what the hell was up with this thing.
Enter: The Silver Reed EX43
It felt crisp, tactile, and not at all bad. Once I exploded the thing, accidentally taking out the stem on the "Express" key, I found that the chips inside were all dated from 1983. Well, it wasn't a buckling spring, and the keys were a cross-mount... Had I maybe stumbled on some pre-MX Cherry switches?
As you can see, I wasn't that lucky. The keycaps are thick doubleshots, but are completely incompatible with Cherry switches, due to most of the caps having severely off-center mounts. And, as you can see in the first picture, if you look closely, it's dome and slider.
But a few things make this particularly pleasant to type on. The sliders contain a spring which provides a bit of pre-travel, and additionally, the switches are all mounted in a metal plate, and while it's a bit hard to make out in this picture, the profile seems fun, expecting the board to be mounted at a decent angle.
There was also this strange symbol on the back of the PCB. I still don't know who manufactured the switches, but maybe this will be a clue.
All in all, not a bad board, especially for a dome. I've never tried Topre, or that Packard Bell that Chryrosran likes, or, as far as I know, ANY dome with slider before, so I can't put it on a continuum of those, but compared to all rubber dome keyboards I've tried before, this blows them out of the water. I definitely prefer it to the knockoff white Alps of the Siig Minitouch, and I think I might prefer it to MX Browns, but I haven't typed on those in a while. It'll probably be a long time before I wire this one up, though.
And here's how it sounds:

Now, as for those previously mentioned keycaps...
After recently picking up a pile of Model Fs and converting them to USB, I've considered my keyboard journey on a temporary hiatus. After all, I had some lovely SKCC Greens with Japanese spherical doubleshots for gaming and any other time I felt like being linear, and a lovely Model F XT for the greatest heights of clicky bliss. So unless I happened upon a beam spring or a Space Cadet, I didn't really have anywhere new to go.
But something bothered me a bit about my Model Fs. I looooove spherical keycaps, having grown up with them on a Commodore 64, and more recently becoming a total snob because of the IBM 6112884 "Pingmaster". And as far as I know, there's no spherical keycaps available for buckling spring boards.
Enter scene left: A corpse.
Why would I brutally tear apart a poor, $8 thrift-store electric typewriter that once, long ago, probably was rather important to someone?
Answer: The keycaps.
Mmm, delicious, delicious sphericals. A few of the keys are a bit odd. The brackets key has a detachable top (the white portion) with a gray engraved legend. And the one key also has a detachable top, but this portion is, sweet tapdancing Christ, doubleshot. Doubleshot detachable legends. Strangely, it's not present on any of the other keys. And the M-R key (known to me as the "Mur" key) is less of a spherical and more of a... horizontal cylindrical.
Now, while the bottom portion of the relegendable keys are single-shots, all the other keys are doubleshots through and through, thick ones, too. This plastic isn't messing around, even if the caps aren't quite as tall as I'd like.
But look at that shine, that curve! That's some wonderful stuff. I wanted to type on these. But how was I going to do that?
Spoilers: A rotary tool, super-glue, and some violence directed at a key stem from my Model M, which resulted in this:
As a test, it totally works. It fits (sort of), it clicks, it operates properly. (Also, look at that THICKNESS!) Admittedly, this is just a test. I've ordered some more black stems from Unicomp, and picked up some epoxy, along with an anti-dust mask (after inhaling far too much plastic) from a local hardware store. The tolerences on this are very tight - There's only a millimeter or two of error in centering the stem that you can deal with before it collides with other keys (as this Mur test key does), and the angle of the key isn't exactly how I want it. Luckily, since these are typewriter keys, they don't really have a profile beyond being spherical, and such should probably work well with the curved backplate of my Model F.
If I manage to get it all working and put together, I'll post a picture of the finished product.
PS: A bit of a preview of the end goal:


06 Aug 2016, 19:22

I come here and read 'destroying typewriters for fun'... Nah, that must be all wrong. Let's try again: 'destroying typewriters for fuu...' What?! How is that not a capital punishment crime?! Where is the authority? How are Pinochet's deathsquads not on the way to your house right now?

You stay away from my Olivetti, you hear me?


09 Aug 2016, 02:41

Olivetti, you say? I might come along in the dead of night with a keycap puller and some pliers...
Just kidding. My future victims are an Atari 800, Commodore 16, and a Vic-20. And maybe some Pulse keycaps. And an Atari CX85. I try to make sure they're not in working order, but alas, this XT is like a giant spider residing in my house... If I do not feed it, it just might eat me.

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19 Aug 2016, 22:45

NIce reading, waiting for more devastation :)

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Offtopicthority Instigator

19 Aug 2016, 22:53

Highly interesting the way you mounted those keycaps, don't let Tom Hanks catch you though but I think he's only really into the very old ones.

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Elder Messenger

19 Aug 2016, 23:23

I have considered this but I always felt that the tolerances and alignment was just too critical for me to ever make it work.

"M-R" is "margin release" of course, a vital kludge in the typewriter and paper era.


03 Sep 2016, 02:27

I've had a number of major setbacks in the project, but it's finally back on track.
The relationship of the stem shape to the underside of the keycap was all wrong in the first batch, but these work. Full set coming soon.
Additionally, I've been ordering components for Project Creamsicle - 60% board with Orange Alps with damped Cream sliders, for times that I don't want to be quite so clicky and clacky.
I've also got a Televideo TS 803H ( ... 2172789295) that I'm in the process of converting to.... I'm not sure what. I just don't want it to be Mitsumi mount, because those are the worst switches I've ever experienced.

And here's the keyboard now.

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09 Sep 2016, 21:23

The dome with slider keyboard you listed seems awfully similar (visually) to futaba linear switches in the sense that the casings are both rounded in shape. Perhaps these are vintage Futaba dome with slider switches?

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