Packard Bell US ANSI with Blue Alps Switches

User avatar
Hypersphere

01 Feb 2019, 01:30

Here is a presentation of a Packard Bell keyboard with blue Alps switches, US ANSI layout, and uncertain model number.

There is a small paper sticker on the rear black-painted metal case. The faded number is difficult to read, but I interpret it as "T8015". I have another Packard Bell with a similar sticker that more clearly reads "T9103", and there have been other posts of a Packard Bell whose rear sticker number was "T9102". These keyboards are almost identical; therefore, the numbers are unlikely to be model numbers. They are possibly serial numbers (?).

Packard-Bell_T8015-25.jpg
Packard-Bell_T8015-25.jpg (69.73 KiB) Viewed 2018 times

The controller numbers include "FDA-102/A" and S+B8924. The first number indicates that the keyboard was made by Forward Electronics. If I am interpreting the second number correctly, the date is the 24th week of 1989.

Packard-Bell_Controller.jpg
Packard-Bell_Controller.jpg (153.95 KiB) Viewed 2018 times

Inside the case, there is a sticker that seems to refer to the manufacture of the case rather than the entire keyboard. The company is "Pei Tsuan Ltd." and the date reads "78.8.30". Does anyone know if this date is based on the Gregorian or the Lunar calendar? If the controller date is indeed 1989, it would seem that the case date ought to be much later than 1978.

Packard-Bell_InsideCase.jpg
Packard-Bell_InsideCase.jpg (149.99 KiB) Viewed 2018 times

Note the screw-mounts inside the case -- they have threaded metal inserts. My later Packard Bell (T9103) has plastic-only screw-mounts, which are much more prone to stripped threads and cracking on disassembly and reassembly.

The plate in this keyboard was one of the cleanest I have ever encountered in a used keyboard of its apparent age. The image below was taken before I did any cleaning at all.

Packard-Bell_Plate.jpg
Packard-Bell_Plate.jpg (405.56 KiB) Viewed 2018 times

I would have expected to have found doubleshot keycaps on this board. Instead, they were pad-printed ABS. Most of the caps had intact legends, but some were considerably worn.

Packard-Bell_Pad-Print_as1.jpg
Packard-Bell_Pad-Print_as1.jpg (1.5 MiB) Viewed 2018 times

The keycaps and especially the case were unevenly yellowed. I considered doing some variant of retrobrite treatment, but even if I could restore the case to its original color, I prefer a dark case, which usually entails painting. However, I need to do painting in my unheated garage, and lately the temperature here has been -17 F (-27 C), which is much too cold for the paint as well as the painter.

Being impatient, I started searching for other ways to color the case. I tried vinyl wrap, with disastrous results. I was a one-man Laurel and Hardy movie. Another fine mess I'd gotten myself into!

LH25.jpg
LH25.jpg (26.42 KiB) Viewed 2018 times
http://insureblog.blogspot.com/2013/08/ ... -mess.html

Then, I stumbled upon something called "Forever Black", a black dye intended for restoring faded tires and bumper guards on cars. An entire kit including cleaner, dye, and foam applicator was available on Amazon for $13.25 shipped, so I decided to give it a try. The applicator included with the dye resulted in some streaking, so I switched to the foam-tipped swab shown in the picture below.

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ForeverBlack1c.jpg (106.13 KiB) Viewed 2018 times

This worked rather well. After applying four coats with a few minutes' drying between coats, I was satisfied with the result.

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Packard-Bell_up-rt-ar1.jpg (1.78 MiB) Viewed 2018 times

The original LED overlay got damaged, so I replaced it with an overlay from Unicomp. I had to cut the Unicomp overlay to align it with the LEDs in the Packard Bell.

Packard_Bell_lt_ar.jpg
Packard_Bell_lt_ar.jpg (221.24 KiB) Viewed 2018 times

Inside the keyboard, I added an internal Soarer converter and a panel-mount micro-USB connector. I put rubber spacers on the screw mounts before reattaching the PCB-plate assembly to the case and put 1/8-inch "art foam" between the PCB and the rear metal case.

On the surface, I replaced the yellowed and worn keycaps with alphanumerics and some of the F-keys from a Northgate Omnikey 101, red and black legended keys from Tai-Hao, and blank black modifiers and spacebar from Matias. I lubed the stabilizers and installed new foam pads under the spacebar.

The overall result is a very solid keyboard with a satisfying sound and feel. Time will tell if the automotive dye will work as well as other types of finishes, but it is certainly easier to apply than spray paint, and the job can be done in the house with no need for a paint booth or special ventilation.
Last edited by Hypersphere on 03 Feb 2019, 14:05, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
snacksthecat
✶✶✶✶

01 Feb 2019, 01:32

Holy moly. That dye job is amazing. I'm going to have to try this. Thanks for the tip!

Lbibass

01 Feb 2019, 02:25

Holy cow that plate is incredibly clean. I assume the switches feel great too?

User avatar
Hypersphere

01 Feb 2019, 15:31

@snacksthecat: Thanks and welcome. If you do try the dye, let us know how it worked for you.

@Lbibass: The switches feel rather good, and I left them intact -- no switches were opened for cleaning or lubing. A few switches have a bit of binding if pressed well off-center.

The typing experience is a composite of appearance, feel, and sound. Although I am reasonably pleased with this keyboard's first two attributes, I am not entirely satisfied with the sound of the right-side modifiers. Every chassis has its own acoustics, and this one seems to be a victim of its solidity -- the bottoming-out sounds are accentuated yet lacking in the deep resonance found in some other blue Alps boards. The spacebar has thin foam pads where the stabilizer inserts hit the plate; I might install these for some of the modifiers as well. It would be good if keyboards had something like a violin's sound post that could be moved easily to change the tone!

Lbibass

01 Feb 2019, 18:02

Hypersphere wrote:
01 Feb 2019, 15:31
@snacksthecat: Thanks and welcome. If you do try the dye, let us know how it worked for you.

@Lbibass: The switches feel rather good, and I left them intact -- no switches were opened for cleaning or lubing. A few switches have a bit of binding if pressed well off-center.

The typing experience is a composite of appearance, feel, and sound. Although I am reasonably pleased with this keyboard's first two attributes, I am not entirely satisfied with the sound of the right-side modifiers. Every chassis has its own acoustics, and this one seems to be a victim of its solidity -- the bottoming-out sounds are accentuated yet lacking in the deep resonance found in some other blue Alps boards. The spacebar has thin foam pads where the stabilizer inserts hit the plate; I might install these for some of the modifiers as well. It would be good if keyboards had something like a violin's sound post that could be moved easily to change the tone!
Interesting. Having variable mounting points could be interesting. Have you thought about placing dampening foam in the case in the areas that are lacking the resonance?

User avatar
Hypersphere

01 Feb 2019, 19:52

@Lbibass: The foam sheet that I installed covers the area of the PCB plus a bit extra toward the top and bottom edges of the keyboard. It could be that removing the foam altogether might be the best solution for the sound.

We might like to think that acoustics is an exact science, but I recall how the best engineers were tasked with creating an acoustically perfect concert hall when they built the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in New York. It turned out to be a dud. They spent millions trying to retrofit to make the hall at least acoustically acceptable. They even tried changing the fabric on the seat backs and cushions. Engineering gave way to trial and error.

cloudhax

03 Feb 2019, 02:07

keyboard looks amazing. this is one of the only ansi layout blue alps boards I've heard of. anyone know of others? your idea about tuning a board like a violin sounds pretty awesome

User avatar
ZedTheMan

03 Feb 2019, 02:48

cloudhax wrote:
03 Feb 2019, 02:07
keyboard looks amazing. this is one of the only ansi layout blue alps boards I've heard of. anyone know of others? your idea about tuning a board like a violin sounds pretty awesome
Acer KB-101A keyboards are known to come with blue Alps sometimes.

User avatar
Polecat

03 Feb 2019, 02:58

ZedTheMan wrote:
03 Feb 2019, 02:48

Acer KB-101A keyboards are known to come with blue Alps sometimes.
Also some but not all Leading Edge DC-2214 and DC-3014.

User avatar
Hypersphere

03 Feb 2019, 14:17

@cloudhax and @ZedTheMan: Thanks for pointing out the fact that this Packard Bell has a US ANSI layout -- one of the few in this configuration that came equipped with SKCM blue Alps switches. The layout was obscured in my pics because I dyed the case black and exchanged the mods with blank black Matias caps, so I've revised the title post and the first sentence to make it explicit that this is a US ANSI board with blue Alps.

The list of US ANSI keyboards with SKCM blue Alps now includes the following:

Acer KB-101A (at least some)
Acer KB-101AS (at least some)
Forward Electronics FDA-102/A (e.g., branded Packard Bell, perhaps other brands; at least some)
Leading Edge DC-2214 (at least some)
Leading Edge DC-3014 (at least some)

Does anyone here know of other US ANSI layout boards that were produced natively with SKCM blue Alps?

orihalcon

03 Feb 2019, 16:45

Can’t forget the blue ALPS M clone!

viewtopic.php?t=12798

uttindar

03 Feb 2019, 17:18

Plate is amazingly clean, indeed. One of the cleanest plates I've seen were on Dah Yang (aka Unitek) keyboards, but they kind of cheated with additional protective laminated matte paper layer to achieve that result. It makes me want to add own paper layers to some frequently used keyboards, just to avoid extensive cleaning in future.

User avatar
Hypersphere

03 Feb 2019, 18:54

@orihalcon: That blue Alps M clone is a real oddity!

@uttindar: Interesting idea to put a protective layer over the top plate. With the right material, this might also serve as a silencing technique.

keyboard Kultist

19 Sep 2019, 13:09

Hypersphere wrote:
01 Feb 2019, 01:30
Here is a presentation of a Packard Bell keyboard with blue Alps switches, US ANSI layout, and uncertain model number....


Being impatient, I started searching for other ways to color the case. I tried vinyl wrap, with disastrous results. I was a one-man Laurel and Hardy movie. Another fine mess I'd gotten myself into!

Then, I stumbled upon something called "Forever Black", a black dye intended for restoring faded tires and bumper guards on cars. An entire kit including cleaner, dye, and foam applicator was available on Amazon for $13.25 shipped, so I decided to give it a try.

How has the forever black held up durability wise?

User avatar
Hypersphere

23 Sep 2019, 23:25

@keyboard Kultist: Thanks for the question! The Forever Black finish seems to be holding up very well, although I have not been using that keyboard much. I have been quite busy with work, and when I have serious work to do, I usually use my silenced and lubed HHKB Pro 2.

In general, both with painting and with Forever Black, I find that it is a good idea to allow the paint or stain to "cure" for quite a long time before using the board heavily. It seems that the longer the paint or stain is allowed to sit unperturbed, the better the bond to the plastic.

BTW, since trying Forever Black, I experimented with PVC color and leather dyes. These did not work at all well on ABS plastic keyboard cases. I think that PVC color ought to work on IBM Model F and M cases, but I have not tried this. So far, my best results have been with Dupli-Color "Vinyl Dye" spray paint and Forever Black.

Forever Black has the advantage of being able to be used indoors without much ventilation and without the mess of spray paint. However, it has the disadvantage of being available only in black. I tend to like the Burgundy Red color of the Dupli-Color spray paint.

keyboard Kultist

24 Sep 2019, 17:16

Thanks! When I get a little free time I may give it a try.

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