DTK SPK-101 Keyboard

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01 Dec 2019, 02:52

I didn't know much about this board, but liked the look and so picked it up. The board's case is stamped 1990, and it turned out to have white Alps switches. It has an AT connector and works fine with an AT to PS2 adapter and a $7 PS2 to USB converter.

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I have a Zenith ZKB-2 with green Alps (I wish I had kept the computer it came with and not just the board!), but have never tried white Alps. The keys were rather yellowed, several of the switches didn't work and a fair number were rather scratchy.
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Someone must have tried working on the board before because one of the non-functioning switches was missing a pin. I was able to solder a length of wire to the stump and save the switch. I opened and cleaned the scratchy switches and got the rest of the non-functioning switches working by desoldering them, cleaning, and soaking the switchplates in 91% IPA. I went ahead and retrobrighted the keys. I'm not sure if I'm going to bother with the case.
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Over its a nice board and I was happy to get a chance to try white Alps. I like the switches quite a lot, but actually prefer NEC blue ovals - the NECs have really become one of my favorites. I'm sure opinions vary on this!

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01 Dec 2019, 03:08

I wasn't a big fan of NEC blue but then again the board I do have is extremely filthy and have a NOS white Alps board so it's not a fair comparison for me. Also I do have another very well used white Alps board that is heinously terrible.

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01 Dec 2019, 03:33

Interesting. Mine has a slightly lower serial number than yours (01407500), but has SKBM (simplified Alps) switches. I wonder if all your switches were swapped? In my experience it would be unusual to find a "Made in China" keyboard with SKCM Alps switches.

White SKCM switches were made in so many variations over so many years that trying just one set of them is not really meaningful. And that's not counting condition or the differences in the keyboards themselves. Personally I like the very early ones that feel and sound like blues, but others may prefer one of the later versions. I have only one board with NEC blue ovals, pretty well used, so I can't really say how a nice set of those would compare.


01 Dec 2019, 05:59

Never heard of DTK, but the keyboard doesn't look bad. Nice keycaps, the case seems ok, yellowed in a nice way, no rust on the plate.

You can improve the Alps White switches with lubing the sliders and bending the click leaf.
Thomas made a video about it

There is a sweet spot in how far you should bend the leaf, it will take some trial and error before you get it.

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01 Dec 2019, 23:11

DTK, also known as Datatech, was a big supplier of do-it-yourself parts back in the XT and early AT clone days. Nice quality stuff, and if anything they were more IBM-compatible than IBM. By that I mean that their parts were designed to work with all the other clone stuff being sold, while IBM only had to worry about their hardware working with itself. A common problem was buying an XT clone motherboard and having a video card or hard disk controller not be recognized. When that happened the solution was to use a DTK (or Phoenix) BIOS ROM, even if it wasn't a DTK motherboard. Anyway, when you went to the corner computer store to buy a motherboard, card, or case back in the day, DTK was one of the big suppliers, and of course they sold keyboards also.

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02 Dec 2019, 06:34

Thanks for the feedback everyone and interesting info Polecat, thanks! For sure can't make broad statements based on one board. I did open up and clean all the switches on both boards and the switches did clean up nicely on both. The sound of the white Alps is for sure hard to beat and they feel very nice too. I think the NEC blue ovals feel just a little bit lighter and I like that just a bit more than the Alps.

I put a couple short videos up of banging away on both boards, and while they're just cell phone videos, I think the sound comes across pretty well. Overall I'm very pleased with the switches on both!

DTK with complicated white Alps:

NEC with blue ovals:

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02 Dec 2019, 11:10

White Alps are a joy on the ears. I’ve a couple of boards that sound very similar indeed to yours.

The NEC, meanwhile: even I’d give retrobright a chance on that! I’ve heard those switches are well regarded, by those few who know them. They’re a bit obscure, like Space Invaders, if not exactly rare either. I’ve a couple of the latter boards but no NEC of my own. Just a lonesome switch. I’ll take your word on its feel.

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02 Dec 2019, 14:59

Muirium wrote:
02 Dec 2019, 11:10
... The NEC, meanwhile: even I’d give retrobright a chance on that! ...
The NECs do seem to end up looking like bananas! I do have a NEC H410E that I did retrobright:
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The H412 in the video was in really bad shape, very dirty with at least a third of the switches not working at all until I opened and cleaned them. I kind of thought I'd leave it yellowed as a reminder of its rough life lol.

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