Why are Vintage Cherry mx Black Switches so Smooth?

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Hypersphere

22 Sep 2018, 20:26

After reading a recent post about underrated keyboards in which the smoothness of vintage mx black switches was highlighted again (see link below), I thought I would check it out for myself on a long-neglected Wyse 30 keyboard.

keyboards-f2/what-s-the-most-underrated ... 19646.html

Sure enough, it's not a myth or urban legend. Vintage mx blacks really are incredibly smooth. Amazing, given that the Wyse board was far from pristine. An Alps board this dirty surely would have had scratchy and binding switches.

Usually, I spend very little typing time on mx switches, but lately I have been typing on a Tokyo60 DIY board with Zeal PC Zilent 67g switches. These are fairly smooth and very quiet, but they still have just a hint of scratchiness and a faint sound that seems altogether lacking in the vintage blacks in the Wyse board. Other boards with standard mx switches of various types, most notoriously mx browns, feel quite scratchy, despite being fairly new. Is it my imagination, or does the scratchiness in contemporary mx switches derive not only from the slider but also from the spring?

So, what's up with vintage blacks? Why do they retain such incredible smoothness over the years and how did they get this way in the first place? (I am assuming they started out this way and didn't gain smoothness by attrition, like polishing a pebble).

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stratokaster

22 Sep 2018, 23:14

How old should they be in order to be considered vintage? I have an old Cherry G80-3000 which was given to me by a friend. I don't know how old it is exactly, but old enough to be completely yellowed from age and UV exposure. Unfortunately, the switches are extremely crappy — at first I thought I would use this keyboard at work, but my work-issued slim Dell keyboard runs circles around it in terms of, well, anything.
Last edited by stratokaster on 24 Sep 2018, 16:29, edited 1 time in total.

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TheInverseKey

23 Sep 2018, 00:48

stratokaster wrote: How old should they be in order to be considered vintage? I have an old Cherry G80-3000 which I was given by a friend. I don't know how old it is exactly, but old enough to be completely yellowed from age and UV exposure. Unfortunately, the switches are extremely crappy — at first I thought I would use this keyboard at work, but my work-issued slim Dell keyboard runs circles around it in terms of, well, anything.
Some people state that they should be before 1994 for WYSE boards at least. Having gone through a lot of them I would have to say is if fairly accurate but I have found vint blacks in 96 twice ever, keep in mind there is always exceptions to rules.

LeslieAnn

23 Sep 2018, 01:48

A couple years ago someone put some new and vintage Cherries and new Gaterons under a microscope and took pictures, the legs on vintage and Gaterons were were really smooth compared to newer Cherry legs. This only led to more speculation that Cherries molds were starting to deteriorate.

While I couldn't photograph them, I put some used Razer "hand picked" blues from a first gen Black Widow under a magnifying glass and they fell in between on smoothness compared to old vs new (you could still see mold markings), which again only added more fuel to the fire. Some speculate this is also why Cherry has started redoing some switches.

If it is a mold issue, and the evidence we have points that way, I would worry less about them being "vintage" and just pay more attention to the age in general with older being better.

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Hypersphere

24 Sep 2018, 16:09

Thanks for the good points about relative age. I suppose the definition of "vintage" depends on the product and the time period during which the product was manufactured. I am basing my own impressions of "vintage" Cherry mx black switches on a Wyse Wy30 keyboard that I have. I took it apart yesterday and found that it was made in 1985.

@LeslieAnn: Spoken like a good scientist! The old science museum at the University of Michigan has an inscription in bas relief stone over the entrance with a quote from the famous naturalist, Louis Agassiz, "Go to nature; take the facts into your own hands; look, and see for yourself." Of course, keyboard switches aren't part of the natural environment, but the principle of looking for yourself is the same. However, I don't want to sacrifice any of the switches in my Wyse keyboard, so I hope someone has some extras and the means to take some pictures of the magnified inner workings of old vs new Cherry mx black swtiches to post on the net.

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kekstee

24 Sep 2018, 17:51

It's difficult to define a clear cut-off age, since it seems some batches were assembled into boards at different times, but it seems 90+-3 is your best bet.

It's not the springs, some early 2010s Reds I had were still awful with lube and new springs. And the retooled linears (I have a bunch made this year) are excellent when lubed. It has certainly lifted the pressure of having to source excellent VBs for builds. WYSEs tend to be a bit of a mixed bag.

Also I don't expect it's a linear mold degradation we're seeing here, injection molding has a ton of parameters and different molds being exchanged all the time. Combine it all together, don't value surface smoothness enough and you end up with the switches they put out later, I guess.

Another observation over the years is that there's no "break in" of switches. Either they're great or they suck to begin with. Even NIB boards and unused keys from the correct time are great.

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Hypersphere

25 Sep 2018, 15:03

@kekstee: Thanks for your excellent insights. Reading "break in", I certainly agree. BTW, I discovered many years ago that this applies to shoes as well. If they aren't comfortable when you try them out in the store, don't believe the salesperson who claims that they will be fine after they are "broken in"!

ollir

03 May 2019, 14:42

OT, but what's up with these spam link accounts lately?

samuelcable

03 May 2019, 14:44

Baynton21 wrote:
02 May 2019, 12:55
Most of the fancy switches you see people putting on their custom boards are shiny and new, but some of the most sought-after switches are older than the people typing on them mypremiercreditcard.
Id much rather use retooled or vintage blacks over "tealios" or whatever recolor linears gateron shits out

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abrahamstechnology

03 May 2019, 15:32

I'm guessing gradual tooling wear over time. Which means newer batches of Zealio/Tealio may become gradually scratchier too over the years mypremiercreditcard.

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