IBM XT almost ended my game

andrea-i

12 Nov 2017, 08:46

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Just wanted to share the joy and the experience ; )
Bought it on an italian second hand online shop (there's still some left on subito.it), did the usual disassembly and cleanup, new foam, teensy controller with new usb cable and all that.

- restoring it is a nightmare just as they say! so beware, the spacebar had to be modded too because it was super heavy, the barrels don't want to stay in place when you close it, closing it alone is an adventure -

Then waited ONE MONTH for those coloured keycaps from unicomp, not their fault but the Italian process on imported goods is utterly slow, to the point that I'm refraining from ordering more stuff (I really would like to swap the italian keys for US standard which I'm more used to).

So, what's the hype all about?
I was coming from one year of MX blue, then relocated home, stayed without a desk and keyboard for a couple of months, then received my XT. By that time I had almost forgotten the feeling of MX blues. And now, after a month on the buckling springs, I just can't stand the mx switches anymore! Absurd, but MX feels very short on the pressure, almost no tactile feeling compared to buckling, the noise and overall feel is like comparing a typewriter to a modern laptop keyboard.

Almost ended my game because the layout of the XT is not great as you can imagine. I'm now used to it, I simply remapped it like a standard keyb, but I keep bumping the wrong keys especially when coding, and moving from standard layouts to the XT back and forth can be so confusing.
Now waiting for a model M to use at work (I have a private office, otherwise I'd probably get killed 'cause of the noise) and I'll leave the XT at home, as I literally love to see it on my desk and using it to type occasionally is still awesome.

Maybe this long post will be useful to other vintage maniacs like myself wondering if an XT can do the job for them.
Last edited by andrea-i on 12 Nov 2017, 16:37, edited 1 time in total.

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DustGod
Yet another IBM snob

12 Nov 2017, 10:51

Hi Andrea!
The seller did not take down the items after purchase (on Subito.it it's a common issue). You got the NOS one, that was a great deal! Conversely, I got the slightly worse looking one without a cable - I figured it'll be way more fun to restore it. So, we have two "sister" keyboards, so to speak :) my Leonardo is taking hella long to arrive, as soon as I get it I'll convert it. It will be my home daily driver - at least until I manage to convert my beam spring.
Enjoy the XT, it's a majestic piece of equipment!

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DustGod
Yet another IBM snob

12 Nov 2017, 10:52

Oh, people: the seller in theory still has a Model F from the IBM portable computer!

andrea-i

12 Nov 2017, 15:35

Hey nice to meet the "other" owner : D

That portable F also loos nice, and it's probably a little more compact too.

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Myoth

12 Nov 2017, 15:40

DustGod wrote: Oh, people: the seller in theory still has a Model F from the IBM portable computer!

How much is it ?

andrea-i

12 Nov 2017, 16:36

looks like it's gone : /

JBert

12 Nov 2017, 17:48

andrea-i wrote: - restoring it is a nightmare just as they say! so beware, the spacebar had to be modded too because it was super heavy, the barrels don't want to stay in place when you close it, closing it alone is an adventure -
This is exactly why my model F guide recommends pulling in place the spacebar hammer with a small length of fishing wire. It's fiddly to get started, but at least it makes the reassembly process more reliable.
Last edited by JBert on 12 Nov 2017, 18:53, edited 1 time in total.

andrea-i

12 Nov 2017, 18:48

Link is broken JBert but I'm pretty sure I saw your guide : )
My problem with the space bar wasn't much on the reassembling, it was more about adjusting it to the right amount of pressure, it took me three attempts!

Anyhow, I can see now why the new model f project is getting all this attention, it seems like the XT, the AT and M all have some undesirable little details, but the kishsavers seem just perfect, at least for me the F77 is exactly what I'd be looking for.

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DustGod
Yet another IBM snob

12 Nov 2017, 22:32

andrea-i wrote: Anyhow, I can see now why the new model f project is getting all this attention, it seems like the XT, the AT and M all have some undesirable little details, but the kishsavers seem just perfect, at least for me the F77 is exactly what I'd be looking for.
Quite ironically, I'm looking for an F122 :)

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Ir0n

12 Nov 2017, 23:27

I actually like the xt layout lol I don't think it's that bad :x

I agree with the MX thing though I was a pure MX guy before I got a model F AT.
After I had used it for about a month and went back to a MX board it felt like it had sand in the switches and felt super light the ibm boards kind of ruined MX switches for me.

I've always heard ALPs/"vintage" MX switches are better, but I've never tried either.

__red__

23 Nov 2017, 03:39

andrea-i wrote: Now waiting for a model M to use at work
Don't do it. Now you've touched a Model F, the Model M will feel 'stifled' in comparison.

andrea-i

23 Nov 2017, 08:42

__red__ wrote:
andrea-i wrote: Now waiting for a model M to use at work
Don't do it. Now you've touched a Model F, the Model M will feel 'stifled' in comparison.
I know, model Ms feels a bit stiff and choked compared to an F.
That's why ellipse's new model Fs are so tempting.

Zobeid Zuma

27 Nov 2017, 14:59

I remembered using an original IBM PC in school. I thought it was a ridiculous computer, but I always remembered how much I liked the keyboard. When I got a Unicomp a couple of years ago, I sort of naively thought it would be something like what I remembered. So, I was disappointed, and it took a while before I learned that what I remembered from school was the Model F rather than the "Legendary Model M".

I picked this up not too long ago from eBay, along with the required converter…

Image

It was supposed to be "professionally cleaned" by the seller, but the keycaps had a lot of stubborn grime on them, and one key was missing its spring. Since I replaced the spring and ran all the keycaps through a sonic cleaner, it's very good now. The foam seems intact and everything works, so I haven't done any further to it.

I've gone through a lot of remapping experiments, and I did get a handful of replacement keys from Unicomp, but in the end (unless I change my mind again!) I put all the original keycaps back on and went with a minimal remap: only what I needed for modern computer functionality. F9 is now Fn, F10 is now Command/Super. Everything else works as labeled. It's an awkward layout, but I can handle it.

The XT's key switches feel pretty much how I remember. Yes, they're much better than the Unicomp! However, it has to be said… The keys do bottom out hard, and they feel a bit harsh on my fingertips. I actually prefer the feeling and sound of my DZ60 that I recently built with Kailh BOX Pale Blue switches! I've got some BOX Navy switches pre-ordered, which I'm eager to try out. We are seeing innovation now in discrete switches, and the future looks bright.

yac

28 Nov 2017, 00:50

Ah, but the beauty and true ergonomic advantage of the Model F is that as typing speed goes up you stop bottoming out as much. Your nerves become accustomed to detecting the buckling of the spring and this becomes the feedback signal to your brain which tells you that a keypress is complete and that it's time to move on to the next.

Granted, when coding i tend to bottom out more than when writing prose, but after a long typing session on the F my fingers and hands actually feel better than before, it is like a yoga session for your fingers.

Zobeid Zuma

28 Nov 2017, 04:49

yac wrote: Ah, but the beauty and true ergonomic advantage of the Model F is that as typing speed goes up you stop bottoming out as much. Your nerves become accustomed to detecting the buckling of the spring and this becomes the feedback signal to your brain which tells you that a keypress is complete and that it's time to move on to the next.
I've heard this theory about learning to type without bottoming out the keys, but I gave up on that long, long ago. It ain't gonna happen with heavy-handed me.

andrea-i

28 Nov 2017, 08:05

Funny how I tend to do the opposite of Zobeid Zuma, I bottom out more often when if I type emails and stuff like that, but then it all becomes very relaxed during coding.
And now after a few days of model M typing at work, I am certain that the F is what really works and feels perfect for me, as opposed to the M, which is also awesome but unfortunately feels very tiring by the end of the day.

Meanwhile, some home improvements to my XT, a two unit blue keycap to further smooth out the odd modifier placement. It doesn't even feel wobbly without the stabiliser.
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