Missing Displaywriter keyboard

clh333

29 Aug 2019, 15:01

Greetings to all: First post here.

A while ago I stumbled across an eBay seller who had three IBM Displaywriters for sale. I was interested in the 8" drives but when I came to pick them up I also acquired a DW console and monitor. Unfortunately the seller had already parted with the keyboards.

I like to collect old computers and have refurbished / repaired several keyboards of various makes but I'm obviously not as skilled as some whose posts I have read here. I have a couple of F and a couple of M keyboards (and IBM PCs) but the Displaywriter had a different mapping and keycap set that was customized for use with the DW.

I'd like to find the dedicated keyboard, or the keycap set, or information about modifying a keyboard to emulate the Displaywriter codes.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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User101

29 Aug 2019, 18:38

You could probably try to wire up a model f keyboard to the displaywriter controller, problem here is that all model f except the displaywriter model f use different layouts.

I'm afraid that the only keyboard you can use properly and have an authentic displaywriter experience is the og keyboard. Sorry for the price man I know vintage computer collectors are unhappy with current market.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

29 Aug 2019, 19:02

Is this the Displaywriter keyboard you’re looking for?

wiki/IBM_Displaywriter

I’m no expert on the Displaywriter system itself, but its keyboard was a legendary IBM beamspring: the Selectric typewriter derived design that came along before buckling spring. Those command a price as they feel fantastic.

User avatar
User101

29 Aug 2019, 20:09

Muirium wrote:
29 Aug 2019, 19:02
Is this the Displaywriter keyboard you’re looking for?

wiki/IBM_Displaywriter

I’m no expert on the Displaywriter system itself, but its keyboard was a legendary IBM beamspring: the Selectric typewriter derived design that came along before buckling spring. Those command a price as they feel fantastic.
Yeah this is the exact keyboard. You have only two options for displaywriter keyboard. The og white whale displaywriter and the displaywriter model f(which is exceptionally rare).

User avatar
Redmaus
Gotta start somewhere

30 Aug 2019, 00:13

I have one, might you want the controller board?

clh333

30 Aug 2019, 14:25

User101 wrote:
29 Aug 2019, 18:38
You could probably try to wire up a model f keyboard to the displaywriter controller, problem here is that all model f except the displaywriter model f use different layouts.
I have built and used an F-to-M translator, but I don't know anything about the keymappings of the displaywriter board. The connector is different as well, as far as I can tell. However, I do know that some of the keycaps have front markings, pertaining I think to operations in DW, as well as top markings. So a translator would be an imperfect solution, as you noted.
User101 wrote:
29 Aug 2019, 18:38
I'm afraid that the only keyboard you can use properly and have an authentic displaywriter experience is the og keyboard. Sorry for the price man I know vintage computer collectors are unhappy with current market.
For the sake of historical accuracy and ease of use I would prefer to find an original DW keyboard. I haven't seen one for sale in two years of looking, but what is the (theoretical) current market price?

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User101

30 Aug 2019, 15:58

clh333 wrote:
30 Aug 2019, 14:25
For the sake of historical accuracy and ease of use I would prefer to find an original DW keyboard. I haven't seen one for sale in two years of looking, but what is the (theoretical) current market price?
They do pop up from time to time. Theres couple of them on ebay some weeks ago. You see, these keyboard are really expensive now because they do feel really good and people want to get their hand on them. You're looking at 800-1450$ depend on condition. Since people want to use them on modern computers some are even converted to usb. If you're looking for an unconverted(which is what you want for the original dw system), I think around 1000$. Again, I'm sorry that the market is so high and vintage computer collectors cant complete their system without cashing out huge sums of money.

User avatar
User101

30 Aug 2019, 16:16

clh333 wrote:
29 Aug 2019, 15:01
Unfortunately the seller had already parted with the keyboards..
You see, the seller parted with the keyboard because that is the most valuable and easy to sell item in the system. If you put up the entire system it usually wont even sell(individual keyboard sell quick and often, got more money.)

It is the case with my leading edge model d computer. I bought the entire system for 150, less than what people would pay for just the keyboard.

User avatar
ZedTheMan

30 Aug 2019, 16:31

If you want the original board and are willing to pay the prices, Redmaus is selling one.

clh333

30 Aug 2019, 21:30

User101 wrote:
30 Aug 2019, 16:16
clh333 wrote:
29 Aug 2019, 15:01
Unfortunately the seller had already parted with the keyboards..
You see, the seller parted with the keyboard because that is the most valuable and easy to sell item in the system. If you put up the entire system it usually wont even sell(individual keyboard sell quick and often, got more money.)

It is the case with my leading edge model d computer. I bought the entire system for 150, less than what people would pay for just the keyboard.
The seller sold three keyboards for $20 USD each. I think he would regret not understanding the profit potential, but then again he may never have looked back, either. He was cleaning out the attic in anticipation of a move; his wife had once worked for IBM.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

30 Aug 2019, 22:47

Wisdom is knowing not to look back.

orihalcon

03 Sep 2019, 15:40

Yeah, definitely a frustrating search to find beamspring keyboards these days as everyone is looking for them. I guess the one saving grace when you're looking for a displaywriter is that they are the most common type of beamspring I think, so they tend to fetch a little less than the rest when they do pop up for sale.

I do have a couple of parts displaywriter units where the switches have been removed (which I have sold to allow others to restore their own beamsprings that have bad switches). The issue is that it will be hard to come up with an alternate switch that you can put in there because when the key is not depressed, the capsense pad would have to be down rather than up which is the inverse of most (possibly all?) other capsense switches out there. Too bad there's not something on the controller that could "inverse" the capsense signals, then you could fairly easily convert it to a model F using those barrels and flippers if you just made a new top plate to contain the switches. Wcass has made a non-curved plate model F, so it definitely could be done (assuming you can find a way to get that inverse signal change on the original controller).

Another option I could see would be talking to the guy who has a displaywriter converter to USB on ebay. This guy must know the actual scan codes of the incoming data to then convert it to USB, so you'd think he might be able to make you something that takes a modern signal (like PS/2 which is apparently easier to work with than USB) and then convert those scan codes to Displaywriter ones. [Update] - Looks like he no longer sells them for some reason, but this is the auction/seller you'd want to talk to: https://www.ebay.com/itm/163766106614

Beamspring caps are also in pretty high demand, again, because no one really wants to part out a complete unit and they'd rather complete their existing unit with parts. I think I have at least one complete Displaywriter without switches that I could sell, but again, not sure how you'd do the switches, though it's a step in the right direction. 3D printing has come a long way though and I have seen a few users working on recreating the switch from 3D printed parts, so that might be an option in the near future perhaps.

PM me if interested.

User avatar
SneakyRobb

03 Sep 2019, 17:41

Spoiler:
orihalcon wrote:
03 Sep 2019, 15:40
Yeah, definitely a frustrating search to find beamspring keyboards these days as everyone is looking for them. I guess the one saving grace when you're looking for a displaywriter is that they are the most common type of beamspring I think, so they tend to fetch a little less than the rest when they do pop up for sale.

I do have a couple of parts displaywriter units where the switches have been removed (which I have sold to allow others to restore their own beamsprings that have bad switches). The issue is that it will be hard to come up with an alternate switch that you can put in there because when the key is not depressed, the capsense pad would have to be down rather than up which is the inverse of most (possibly all?) other capsense switches out there. Too bad there's not something on the controller that could "inverse" the capsense signals, then you could fairly easily convert it to a model F using those barrels and flippers if you just made a new top plate to contain the switches. Wcass has made a non-curved plate model F, so it definitely could be done (assuming you can find a way to get that inverse signal change on the original controller).

Another option I could see would be talking to the guy who has a displaywriter converter to USB on ebay. This guy must know the actual scan codes of the incoming data to then convert it to USB, so you'd think he might be able to make you something that takes a modern signal (like PS/2 which is apparently easier to work with than USB) and then convert those scan codes to Displaywriter ones. [Update] - Looks like he no longer sells them for some reason, but this is the auction/seller you'd want to talk to: https://www.ebay.com/itm/163766106614

Beamspring caps are also in pretty high demand, again, because no one really wants to part out a complete unit and they'd rather complete their existing unit with parts. I think I have at least one complete Displaywriter without switches that I could sell, but again, not sure how you'd do the switches, though it's a step in the right direction. 3D printing has come a long way though and I have seen a few users working on recreating the switch from 3D printed parts, so that might be an option in the near future perhaps.

PM me if interested.
Yes some of the recreation/new build projects *cough mine* operate on "DeskThority time." So my project will be done Soon™

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