Monterey K104 with cream colored ALPS clones

User avatar
joebeazelman

28 Dec 2019, 22:19

This keyboard was one of those lucky finds from a local craigslist ad. It didn't come with the original box, but it looks practically new with the plastic still on the cord. With only photos to go by, it was worth risking $20 even if it turned out to be a rubber dome one (unlikely considering it is a K104). I was planning on salvaging the housing for another K104 PCB with SMK blue switches I recently acquired (I actually just bought a Chicony 5181 in almost the same condition).
Spoiler:
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The click is slightly stiff and not as smooth as I would expect from an ALPS, but still miles better than most Cherries and clones I've tried. It reminds me of the amber ALPS with the tactility taken down a notch. The stem is creme colored with no ALPS logo and according to the WIKI it has the tell tale 4 mounting tabs, making it a clone. Unfortunately, I can't tell who made this switch as none of the casting numbers (3A74) yields anything in Google.

The Windows keys is a welcome surprise which is normally mapped to the option key on the Mac. I’ve seen other Montereys with blank keys where the Windows keys are located. I never understood why they added them, since some of those keyboards were manufactured well before Windows 95. I guess their prescience paid off in retooling cost savings.

This keyboard brings back fond memories for me. It’s probably my second Monterey keyboard. My first one came with my cheap, generic, sheet metal box 386 back in the late 1980’s. It didn’t have a brand, but I do distinctly remember its cute fake grill marks located at the upper right corner. I wish I knew which switch it had, but I remember it being tactile, clicky and lightweight. My guess is it was either a SMK blue or ALPS white. It didn't really matter. The keyboard was just a compromise since I couldn’t afford a Model M or Model F. At the time, IBM PS/2s were newly introduced and older IBM models weren’t ready for the landfills yet. Apple keyboards, on the other hand, while not quite up to IBM standards, were way better than everything else, but were even more expensive and incompatible.

When I was growing up, even among techies, keyboards were just not a topic of interest. Discussing tactility and clickiness branded you as an overly eccentric nerd even among nerds. Keyboards receive the least amount of buying consideration as most users only care that it works. In fact, most prefer bland, quiet mushy keyboards over clicky and tactile ones. Computer manufacturers who one made excellent keyboards, Apple and IBM, never highlighted it as a selling point. Even Mattias, who still makes some of the arguably best mechanical keyboards, caters more to the keyboard louts and dilettantes than aficionados. It warms my heart to see the growing appreciation for mechanical keyboards. Sadly, it comes too late at a time when the desktop is slowly being retired as the primary computing platform.

User avatar
Polecat

29 Dec 2019, 01:06

joebeazelman wrote:
28 Dec 2019, 22:19
This keyboard was one of those lucky finds from a local craigslist ad. It didn't come with the original box, but it looks practically new with the plastic still on the cord. With only photos to go by, it was worth risking $20 even if it turned out to be a rubber dome one (unlikely considering it is a K104). I was planning on salvaging the housing for another K104 PCB with SMK blue switches I recently acquired (I actually just bought a Chicony 5181 in almost the same condition).

The click is slightly stiff and not as smooth as I would expect from an ALPS, but still miles better than most Cherries and clones I've tried. It reminds me of the amber ALPS with the tactility taken down a notch. The stem is creme colored with no ALPS logo and according to the WIKI it has the tell tale 4 mounting tabs, making it a clone. Unfortunately, I can't tell who made this switch as none of the casting numbers (3A74) yields anything in Google.

The Windows keys is a welcome surprise which is normally mapped to the option key on the Mac. I’ve seen other Montereys with blank keys where the Windows keys are located. I never understood why they added them, since some of those keyboards were manufactured well before Windows 95. I guess their prescience paid off in retooling cost savings.

This keyboard brings back fond memories for me. It’s probably my second Monterey keyboard. My first one came with my cheap, generic, sheet metal box 386 back in the late 1980’s. It didn’t have a brand, but I do distinctly remember its cute fake grill marks located at the upper right corner. I wish I knew which switch it had, but I remember it being tactile, clicky and lightweight. My guess is it was either a SMK blue or ALPS white. It didn't really matter. The keyboard was just a compromise since I couldn’t afford a Model M or Model F. At the time, IBM PS/2s were newly introduced and older IBM models weren’t ready for the landfills yet. Apple keyboards, on the other hand, while not quite up to IBM standards, were way better than everything else, but were even more expensive and incompatible.

When I was growing up, even among techies, keyboards were just not a topic of interest. Discussing tactility and clickiness branded you as an overly eccentric nerd even among nerds. Keyboards receive the least amount of buying consideration as most users only care that it works. In fact, most prefer bland, quiet mushy keyboards over clicky and tactile ones. Computer manufacturers who one made excellent keyboards, Apple and IBM, never highlighted it as a selling point. Even Mattias, who still makes some of the arguably best mechanical keyboards, caters more to the keyboard louts and dilettantes than aficionados. It warms my heart to see the growing appreciation for mechanical keyboards. Sadly, it comes too late at a time when the desktop is slowly being retired as the primary computing platform.
Nice find, thanks for sharing! I bought the twin to yours a few months back from an online vendor:

viewtopic.php?f=62&t=22545&p=449914&hilit=k104w#p449914

Mine came with the box, which identified it as a K104W. No "W" identifier on the keyboard itself, which might explain why the wiki says "yet to be sighted" for the Winkey version of the K104. From what I can tell they're much less common than the normal K104s. The mold numbers will vary from switch to switch, and probably identify the mold and cavity number. I haven't taken one apart, but from the other clone switches I've played with I'm guessing they're from Hua Jie.

Back in the day we called the extra key on the bottom row the "Any key", from the "Press any key to continue..." message generated by a Pause command in DOS. Besides Monterey the blank key was common on Focus, DTK, and a couple other brands, and usually generated a backslash with a different scan code than the normal one. And it indeed fulfilled the "Press any key..." request. Some Focus boards had a cap marked Macro there instead, which probably brought up an external TSR program from memory.

I must have been one of those eccentric nerds, because within my circle of computer users (when most folks were not...) it was taken for granted that keyboards needed to be clicky, and of course that Alps was the best.

User avatar
Polecat

29 Dec 2019, 19:29

Oh, here's the reason for the "Any key" on the bottom row:

viewtopic.php?f=55&t=23242&p=457612&sid ... a5#p457612

Apparently it was cheaper to use a switch and blank cap on the US layout than to make a second version of the case or install a filler block.

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