Never had a mechanical keyboard, does my plan make sense?

keyboardnovice

02 May 2018, 17:13

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My buddy has convinced me to try a mechanical keyboard for work. I was originally going to buy a Unicomp Model M Spacesaver for my MacBook Pro but when I was talking to my dad about it he said "hold on, let me show you my old keyboard." This was the one that came with his IBM computer in 1986 and he says I'm welcome to use it but he wants to keep it functional for his old computer should he ever want to fire it back up for nostalgia's sake.

So without knowing anything about keyboards this is my plan from some basic research:
  • buy a wire keycap puller and clean the keys in warm, soapy water (except for the spacebar, leave that on. I also know the longer keys have stabilizers attached to them and I don't know how to remove those yet - figure YouTube will help with that)
  • buy a DIN to PS/2 and active PS/2 to USB converter to make it work with a modern computer
  • download some software (Karabiner came up as an option, is that good?) to remap keys through my computer for use with a Mac. I obviously need a command key but I'd also like screen brightness, volume, mute, play/pause, skip forward/back songs, etc
Am I missing anything? Are there any major flaws with my thinking? I know I could probably send the board out to get refurbished somewhere but for now I just want to get it up and running to see if it'll even work for me. Thanks in advance!

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green-squid

02 May 2018, 17:50

Your plans are perfect! Here's a good guide on how to make your own plug-in converter that you can build.

workshop-f7/how-to-use-a-pro-micro-as-a ... t8448.html

BTW, if there is some dirt on the caps that you can't get off with soapy water, scrub them with baking soda. It works, I'm not joking! :)

Findecanor

02 May 2018, 18:03

Sounds good. However, some old IBM keyboards draw more power than most modern keyboards so every converter does not work. The one that looks like a dark blue cube is well known to work.

To clean keycaps I use two things that make the process much easier:
- A washing bag. Made of mesh fabric and has a zipper. With this you can clean, rinse and dry all keycaps together. Sold everywhere where women's lingerie is sold.
- Denture cleaning tablets. They fizz and clean for you, so you would not have to do it by hand.

Put the keycaps into the washing bag and close it. Rinse the bag (because these keys are extra dirty). Then place them into a container with high walls together with four-five denture cleaning tabs. Then pour hot water directly from the tap into the container, but not more than that they are covered. The tablets will start fizzing (and the reason why you need a high-walled container will become apparent)
After a few hours, the tablets will have cleaned the keys and you can start rinsing the bag. Then hang the bag to dry overnight.

You may also want to disassemble the keyboard and clean inside and the case parts separately.
Last edited by Findecanor on 02 May 2018, 18:07, edited 1 time in total.

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Blaise170
ALPS キーボード

02 May 2018, 18:05

Keep in mind that if you work in an open office that people may be wanting to kill you by the end of the day by using a Model F. They are extremely loud in a quiet office.

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pyrelink

02 May 2018, 18:17

Ah glad you posted this here! To add to what has already been said, usually the blue cube active converter is the best option. Since this is an AT you will also need a DIN -> PS/2 adapter. You also have the option of making your own adapter (which is probably the best long term solution. Makes changing key maps much easier than using software). Scottc made a great guide for that (the link that Green-Squid posted).

As for pulling the regular stabilized keys, you can pop them off with a keycap puller like the rest of the keycaps. Just be a little more gentle and recognize there is a wire that you will have to detach before the whole key comes off. Space bar as you know, don't mess with unless you want to take the whole keyboard apart.

mustcode

02 May 2018, 18:51

Very nice! Model F AT, one of the best keyboard out there, congratulations! If you happen to have an ultrasonic cleaner lying around, you can also use it to clean the keycaps. They usually works wonders.

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Iggy

02 May 2018, 18:54

https://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-XT-AT-to-U ... SwDN1USZL-

Expensive converter, but it'll do the trick. Plug-n-Type.

keyboardnovice

02 May 2018, 19:05

Wow, thanks for all the help gang!

Regarding building my own plug-in converter: I’m a little nervous because I’m not all that tech/computer savvy. Is it easy enough for me to do? What are the benefits if I’m not switching the board between computers? I see mentioned that it’s easier to map keys that way than with software?[/list]

Thanks for the cleaning tips! I assume denture tabs don’t do any damage to the keys/writing then? I do have a small ultrasonic cleaner - couldn’t do many keys at once but maybe I’ll try it.

Do you guys think I need to take it all apart to clean inside if it works when I plug it in?

And finally, I have a small office in a WeWork type office space. It does have a door so I’m hoping that’ll work without me being the total jerk in the office!

keyboardnovice

02 May 2018, 19:07

Iggy wrote: https://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-XT-AT-to-U ... SwDN1USZL-

Expensive converter, but it'll do the trick. Plug-n-Type.
Ooh, I don’t mind paying $40 for simplicity. Does this allow for easy remapping of keys? I assume any remapping is done in the converter or via software right? No way to change settings on a 30 year old mechanical keyboard itself.

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Dingster

02 May 2018, 19:10

keyboardnovice wrote:
Iggy wrote: https://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-XT-AT-to-U ... SwDN1USZL-

Expensive converter, but it'll do the trick. Plug-n-Type.
Ooh, I don’t mind paying $40 for simplicity. Does this allow for easy remapping of keys? I assume any remapping is done in the converter or via software right? No way to change settings on a 30 year old mechanical keyboard itself.
Yes, the adapter allows for that :)

keyboardnovice

02 May 2018, 19:12

Dingster wrote:
keyboardnovice wrote:
Iggy wrote: https://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-XT-AT-to-U ... SwDN1USZL-

Expensive converter, but it'll do the trick. Plug-n-Type.
Ooh, I don’t mind paying $40 for simplicity. Does this allow for easy remapping of keys? I assume any remapping is done in the converter or via software right? No way to change settings on a 30 year old mechanical keyboard itself.
Yes, the adapter allows for that :)
Sweet - I think I’ll go that route first then!

__red__

02 May 2018, 19:45

Welcome to the F club bud :-)

keyboardnovice

02 May 2018, 19:57

Man, my good friend who got me turned on to clickety clacks is cracking up over my slow(?) descent into madness. Apologized to my SO in advance haha

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fohat
Elder Messenger

02 May 2018, 21:57

keyboardnovice wrote:
Do you guys think I need to take it all apart to clean inside if it works when I plug it in?
This particular keyboard is difficult to take apart. You can clean it pretty well from the outside.

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depletedvespene

02 May 2018, 22:14

keyboardnovice wrote:
Iggy wrote: https://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-XT-AT-to-U ... SwDN1USZL-

Expensive converter, but it'll do the trick. Plug-n-Type.
Ooh, I don’t mind paying $40 for simplicity. Does this allow for easy remapping of keys? I assume any remapping is done in the converter or via software right? No way to change settings on a 30 year old mechanical keyboard itself.
Yes, it's easy (and paying 40 bucks for not having to deal with electronics for someone like me, with fat, clumsy fingers, is definitely worth it). Also, when the time comes to writing your mappings to set the AT's layout to your needs and whims, there will be people right here that will be happy to help you.

That said, taking an F AT to work may not be the best idea ever. Heck, I'm a Model M/F fanatic and in my current workplace I have an entirely different keyboard.

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DustGod
Yet another IBM snob

02 May 2018, 22:19

If this is your first mechanical, this is... A very, very good way to start.

CHECK FOR CORROSION. When you pull the caps for cleaning you'll see the barrel plate: look at how much corrosion it has. If it's a lot, it could need work.
Ah, pulling the keys longer than 1u (but not the spacebar) is perfectly safe, just do it with caution.

keyboardnovice

02 May 2018, 22:54

That said, taking an F AT to work may not be the best idea ever. Heck, I'm a Model M/F fanatic and in my current workplace I have an entirely different keyboard.
Due to noise? I have an office with a door in a coworking space. I haven’t started there yet but I hope with the door closed it won’t be obnoxious to other people in their own offices.

DustGod wrote: If this is your first mechanical, this is... A very, very good way to start.
Great! Is that because the spring action feels so good? I’ve typed on it just on the counter and it feels fun - looking forward to plugging it in and having the keys do something.

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depletedvespene

02 May 2018, 22:58

keyboardnovice wrote:
That said, taking an F AT to work may not be the best idea ever. Heck, I'm a Model M/F fanatic and in my current workplace I have an entirely different keyboard.
Due to noise? I have an office with a door in a coworking space. I haven’t started there yet but I hope with the door closed it won’t be obnoxious to other people in their own offices.
Ah, then you may have a chance at using it at work and not be assassinated. :mrgreen:

Do enjoy the keyboard!

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Bass

02 May 2018, 23:15

If you can't tolerate a small backspace key then I definitely recommend disassembling it anyway to swap the springs and flippers. Most likely you'll also want to consider replacing the inner foam too if it's sticky and starting to disintegrate, since that does affect the typing feel. Just be sure you have an entire day to spare since putting everything back together can be really tricky. There's lots of great guides on here for that. From my recent attempt, I would say the most important things to keep in mind are (1) have plenty of clamps ready and (2) take a picture of the assembly before removing it from the case. I wasted a lot of time trying to snap the case back together for my AT during my previous reassembly because I didn't realize that the plates weren't lined up with the plastic tabs inside the case, which can be a subtle but easy detail to miss.

keyboardnovice

03 May 2018, 02:27

Does a small backspace key actually get that annoying? And what are you saying you can do about a small backspace key? There's no room for a larger one, right?

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depletedvespene

03 May 2018, 02:31

Some people modify their F AT keyboards to take a "normal" 2U backspace key (using the space of that key and the one immediately to its left) and an ANSI or an ISO Enter, leaving space for the displaced key to go (there are other layout modifications that can be done with relative ease, as well).

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depletedvespene

03 May 2018, 02:32

Oh, and to answer your question: YES - a small backspace key can be extremely annoying. YMMV.

keyboardnovice

03 May 2018, 02:40

Dang! I’m going to try to get used to it. Fingers crossed!

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depletedvespene

03 May 2018, 02:42

Use it as is for a while. If you don't get used to the small backspace (as well as lacking right-side AltGr and Ctrl keys), you'll be able to, later on, have the keyboard modded to better suit your needs and whims.

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kbdfr
The Tiproman

03 May 2018, 11:26

The issue with hitting a 1u backspace reminds me of the issue with threading a needle.
People not used to it keep complaining how inherently difficult it is, while others just routinely do it without any problem.

search.php?keywords="muscle+memory"

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Blaise170
ALPS キーボード

03 May 2018, 12:22

I tried for a couple months to get used to a 1U backspace but I inevitably kept hitting other keys.

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kbdfr
The Tiproman

03 May 2018, 12:40

I would contend you should actively train using it, not just hope you will adjust to it with time.

codemonkeymike

03 May 2018, 12:54

This is the easiest Model F to ANSI mod. Pop "ANSI mod Model F" in your search and you will find something on that.

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FXT
XT

03 May 2018, 13:10

codemonkeymike wrote: This is the easiest Model F to ANSI mod. Pop "ANSI mod Model F" in your search and you will find something on that.
I dunno about that. The AT (and XT) spacebar can go to hell. I had a lot of trouble with the stabilizer when it came time to sandwich both plates back together. Personally I'd also say that 4704s are easier to ANSI mod.
keyboardnovice wrote: Does a small backspace key actually get that annoying? And what are you saying you can do about a small backspace key? There's no room for a larger one, right?
When I had my AT the backspace key bothered me, but oddly enough I have no issues with a small backspace on my XT.

codemonkeymike

03 May 2018, 13:33

FXT wrote:
codemonkeymike wrote: This is the easiest Model F to ANSI mod. Pop "ANSI mod Model F" in your search and you will find something on that.
I dunno about that. The AT (and XT) spacebar can go to hell. I had a lot of trouble with the stabilizer when it came time to sandwich both plates back together. Personally I'd also say that 4704s are easier to ANSI mod.
True, I wasn't exactly thinking about the spacebar. The backspace, \|, and enter are super easy to switch though.

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