In praise of Bigfoot

quantalume

18 Oct 2014, 20:10

The Model F keyboard from the IBM 5291 terminal, affectionately (or not) dubbed "bigfoot," seems to be much maligned in the keyboarding community. However, I recently restored one that I obtained through one of Cindy's hauls and have been using it daily. Thanks to the brilliance of Soarer's controller (and the instructions for adapting it to bigfoot here), it's a relatively simple matter to interface it to a modern computer and have greater flexibility in key mapping than with just about any present-day factory keyboard.

I'm currently using it with my standing desk.
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Set to its middle elevation (the legs allow 3 different heights), it is perfectly level with my CST trackball. While the extra case material in front of the space bar might be objectionable for seated use, it works perfectly well for a standing desk, and I find it convenient to rest my hands there when not typing. The extra case material on the sides places the pointing device 12 mm further away than the XT, but it's still on par with the AT in that regard and 67 mm closer than the "enhanced" Model M.

Being essentially an XT sans controller on the inside, it has the same clicky, pingy goodness (on the upside for most) and layout (on the downside for most).
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However, I've never had any issues with the XT layout, and bigfoot has rather nice numeric caps with front-printed legends that lend themselves to remapping the function keys there. I use F13-F24 for quick-launch functions, so this is a definite plus for me.
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Putting the function keys on top frees up the left-hand cluster for macro and other usage, and this is the mapping which I currently use on my XTs and bigfoot:
bigfoot2.png
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Am I the only one who likes this board?
Last edited by quantalume on 05 Nov 2014, 06:10, edited 2 times in total.

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Hypersphere

18 Oct 2014, 21:04

Thanks for your homage to Bigfoot. Glad to see the board appreciated and put to such good use.

I have not yet tried using a Bigfoot, but I use my refurbished XT, which has the same layout. Because I use a Mac and I like the HHKB layout, I have remapped my XT accordingly. The XT/Bigfoot layout has some distinct advantages, such as some "extra" keys to the right of each Shift that are perfectly suited as Fn keys.

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Muirium
µ

18 Oct 2014, 21:31

The 5 key on your numberpad: do you really have it set to UP, Quantal? I use my XT's numpad the same way (I consider it a nice roomy navigation island first, and a numpad second via Fn) but either leave 5 UNASSIGNED or set it to DOWN on the base layer, in case the inverted T haunts my muscle memory when I'm on it.

quantalume

18 Oct 2014, 22:35

Yes, you're right, it's down. I made a mistake in the layout editor.

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snoopy

19 Oct 2014, 14:52

Basically a nice keyboard, but I'm not a big fan of that layout, especially the return key would drive me crazy.

But good to see that this keyboard got a good home.

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Arcoril

19 Oct 2014, 19:13

I have one of these boards (thanks, Cindy!) and I really want to like it. However, I've trained myself to hit enter and backslash squarely in the center of the key on an ANSI layout. Unfortunately this means that my fingers awkwardly land in between keys when I do that on the Bigfoot. I'm going to hold out for an XTant conversion before I really put this board to use.

As much as I like Model Ms, nothing else feels like a buckling spring over capacitive. I can't wait until I can fully enjoy this thing with an updated layout.

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Muirium
µ

19 Oct 2014, 19:41

Indeed. Model F is significantly better than M for sharp, precise, pure buckling spring feel. I think it's really due to the different hammer / flipper shape (the pivoting bit at the bottom of the spring) as both sensing systems rely on an obvious snap from one position to another. Capsense can pick up much more subtle movements (Topre's the obvious example) but IBM made it particularly easy with a click.

andrewjoy

19 Oct 2014, 21:50

The bigfoot is nice , its like an xt with a nice arm rest, and yeh F vs M its no comparison at all F is far superior.

quantalume

19 Oct 2014, 23:03

Arcoril wrote: I have one of these boards (thanks, Cindy!) and I really want to like it. However, I've trained myself to hit enter and backslash squarely in the center of the key on an ANSI layout. Unfortunately this means that my fingers awkwardly land in between keys when I do that on the Bigfoot.
Perhaps it's my training on the violin which allows my fingers and brain to be flexible enough to adapt to different keyboard layouts. For me, remembering that I'm on an XT which has an enter key up and to the right is no different than, for example, remembering I'm in the key of D minor on the violin and that B is now B-flat, etc.

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Hypersphere

19 Oct 2014, 23:35

On my XT, I have remapped the Backslash key as Enter/Return and Right Bracket "]" as Backspace (Back Delete) as part of an overall remapping/reconfiguring of the XT into a hybrid ANSI/HHKB/Mac layout. This works surprisingly well without any modification other than remapping and swapping some keycaps.

I was very happy with my SSK until I rediscovered the XT. Now I am looking forward to refurbishing other Model F keyboards. The capacitive buckling spring switches on the Model F boards are among the best ever made.

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webwit
Wild Duck

19 Oct 2014, 23:41

Don't forget, can also be used as a keyboard cover.

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rindorbrot

20 Oct 2014, 01:41

:lol:

REVENGE

20 Oct 2014, 07:32

webwit wrote: Don't forget, can also be used as a keyboard cover.

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I DIDNT KNOW THIS WHEN I GAVE UP MY ORDER
:cry: :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry:

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Arcoril

20 Oct 2014, 20:09

quantalume wrote:
Arcoril wrote: I have one of these boards (thanks, Cindy!) and I really want to like it. However, I've trained myself to hit enter and backslash squarely in the center of the key on an ANSI layout. Unfortunately this means that my fingers awkwardly land in between keys when I do that on the Bigfoot.
Perhaps it's my training on the violin which allows my fingers and brain to be flexible enough to adapt to different keyboard layouts. For me, remembering that I'm on an XT which has an enter key up and to the right is no different than, for example, remembering I'm in the key of D minor on the violin and that B is now B-flat, etc.
You know, it's really strange. I have no doubt that you have way more finger dexterity than I do since I'm not a musician. However, what really screws me up is when keyboards are only slightly different as is the case here.

When I use my ErgoDox, for example, I have zero issues adapting to it. It's almost like a standard layout and an ErgoDox layout are two completely separate skills in my head. But slightly move around one or two keys? Now I'm really confused. The new board doesn't feel natural. And to make things worse, things don't feel natural when I go back to the old layout either and it takes a little bit of time for me to get reacquainted with it.

I'm horrible at dealing with change. :lol:

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Hypersphere

21 Oct 2014, 03:08

quantalume wrote:
Arcoril wrote: I have one of these boards (thanks, Cindy!) and I really want to like it. However, I've trained myself to hit enter and backslash squarely in the center of the key on an ANSI layout. Unfortunately this means that my fingers awkwardly land in between keys when I do that on the Bigfoot.
Perhaps it's my training on the violin which allows my fingers and brain to be flexible enough to adapt to different keyboard layouts. For me, remembering that I'm on an XT which has an enter key up and to the right is no different than, for example, remembering I'm in the key of D minor on the violin and that B is now B-flat, etc.
Musical training could definitely help -- probably earlier the better. I started learning classical guitar in my early 30s, and I find that my adaptability is limited. For example, I find it easier to deal with sharped keys than with flatted keys. And of course with both guitar and violin, the left and right hands are doing very different things. I've never tried typing with crossed hands as one does sometimes on the piano; that might be an interesting experiment.

Computer keyboards are generally a much simpler set of instruments than one finds in an orchestra. Accordingly, it should be easier to switch from, say, a HHKB layout to a standard ANSI layout than it would be to switch between a harp and a clarinet. However, neurologically, if one learns a variety of different skills early in life -- languages or musical instruments -- the brain is generally better at adapting to new situations or learning new skills.

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Arcoril

21 Oct 2014, 17:59

Hypersphere wrote:
quantalume wrote:
Arcoril wrote: I have one of these boards (thanks, Cindy!) and I really want to like it. However, I've trained myself to hit enter and backslash squarely in the center of the key on an ANSI layout. Unfortunately this means that my fingers awkwardly land in between keys when I do that on the Bigfoot.
Perhaps it's my training on the violin which allows my fingers and brain to be flexible enough to adapt to different keyboard layouts. For me, remembering that I'm on an XT which has an enter key up and to the right is no different than, for example, remembering I'm in the key of D minor on the violin and that B is now B-flat, etc.
Musical training could definitely help -- probably earlier the better. I started learning classical guitar in my early 30s, and I find that my adaptability is limited. For example, I find it easier to deal with sharped keys than with flatted keys. And of course with both guitar and violin, the left and right hands are doing very different things. I've never tried typing with crossed hands as one does sometimes on the piano; that might be an interesting experiment.

Computer keyboards are generally a much simpler set of instruments than one finds in an orchestra. Accordingly, it should be easier to switch from, say, a HHKB layout to a standard ANSI layout than it would be to switch between a harp and a clarinet. However, neurologically, if one learns a variety of different skills early in life -- languages or musical instruments -- the brain is generally better at adapting to new situations or learning new skills.
There's so much to be said for learning things early in life. If I knew then that I'd lose the ability to pick up languages and music without really trying, I wouldn't have spent nearly the amount of time I did on watching TV and playing Nintendo. I tried learning the piano in my 20s, but never really got anywhere. Now that I'm in my early 30s I'm thinking of giving a different instrument a shot but I always worry that it's too late. Hearing that you had success picking up classical guitar at around my age is good to hear. Maybe I'll give it a shot one of these days. :)

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Laser
emacs -nw

04 Nov 2014, 02:27

Quantalume, did you, by any chance, use a pro micro with Soarer's controller for the Bigfoot, instead of a teensy?

If so, were there any problems, or do you have any special notes deserving to be shared? Missing pins?

I am reading Soarer's docs/threads about his controller + Bigfoot combo, and also Scottc's thread about using a Pro Micro with Soarer's converter (where i have to see what changes when using the controller instead), but i'm still figuring out how to use the combined information (if possible).

quantalume

04 Nov 2014, 15:02

Hi, yes I did use Soarer's controller. You can't use a Pro Micro because it does not have enough contiguous pins for the multiplexer (muxstrobe_port PB6:0). I used an actual Teensy instead. I cut the end off an old 20-pin ribbon cable and soldered it to the Teensy and plugged the other end into the Bigfoot PCB.

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alinh

04 Nov 2014, 16:01

quantalume wrote: Hi, yes I did use Soarer's controller. You can't use a Pro Micro because it does not have enough contiguous pins for the multiplexer (muxstrobe_port PB6:0). I used an actual Teensy instead. I cut the end off an old 20-pin ribbon cable and soldered it to the Teensy and plugged the other end into the Bigfoot PCB.
how many pins do I need to connect to the teensy? I'd like to use a DB15 to 8p8c connector, but I think 8 wires are not enough.

andrewjoy

04 Nov 2014, 16:49

I think there is a larger version of the pro micro if thats easier to get for people in the EU

quantalume

04 Nov 2014, 17:21

alinh wrote: how many pins do I need to connect to the teensy? I'd like to use a DB15 to 8p8c connector, but I think 8 wires are not enough.
You need 11 altogether: 7 muxstrobe, 1 strobe gate, 1 sense, +5V, ground.
andrewjoy wrote: I think there is a larger version of the pro micro if thats easier to get for people in the EU
Yes, you can use one of these: http://www.ebay.com/itm/200945267300

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Laser
emacs -nw

04 Nov 2014, 23:25

Thanks Quantalume & AndrewJoy - i ordered the larger pro micro (nice reset button).
I'll probably have more questions later, about its pins mapping (compared/vs. teensy)

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Laser
emacs -nw

05 Nov 2014, 18:01

Actually, i'll ask now (i hope it's ok to continue this thread - if not i can start another one, of course):

Q1. What is the teensy 2.0 <-> arduino micro (not the micro pro, but the larger model, with the reset button) pin mapping, usable for Soarer's controller?
Or, alternatively (teaching fishing instead of asking for fish), how do i find out this mapping?

(edit: i may have found it, after some reading)

Q2. Will Soarer's tools (scas, scwr etc.) work with this arduino board?
Last edited by Laser on 05 Nov 2014, 20:57, edited 1 time in total.

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gogusrl

05 Nov 2014, 18:19

I've seen in a thread here or on gh that someone modified a bigfoot to an almost standard TKL but I can't manage to find it again. If anyone knows what I'm talking about, please link it here.

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Laser
emacs -nw

05 Nov 2014, 18:26

gogusrl wrote: I've seen in a thread here or on gh that someone modified a bigfoot to an almost standard TKL but I can't manage to find it again. If anyone knows what I'm talking about, please link it here.
Perhaps you want the XTant (DT), XTant (GH) mod, for the XT Model F (?)
Spoiler:
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gogusrl

05 Nov 2014, 18:43

That's the one but I thought I just had to switch some caps / barrels around :)

Guess I'll wait for the group buy.

quantalume

05 Nov 2014, 21:14

Laser wrote: Q1. What is the teensy 2.0 <-> arduino micro (not the micro pro, but the larger model, with the reset button) pin mapping, usable for Soarer's controller?
Or, alternatively (teaching fishing instead of asking for fish), how do i find out this mapping?

(edit: i may have found it, after some reading)
Yes, that's the chart to use. You might want to take the Arduino Micro pin out I've pasted here and annotate each position with the actual processor pin function from the chart you linked, as it will make hookup easier.
ArduinoMicro_Pinout3.png
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Laser wrote: Q2. Will Soarer's tools (scas, scwr etc.) work with this arduino board?
Scas does not talk to the board at all, it merely assembles the config/macro file into a format that can be uploaded. The scwr utility talks to the enumerated Soarer's keyboard controller, so it will work regardless of which Arduino you are using.

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Laser
emacs -nw

05 Nov 2014, 21:21

Quantalume, thanks, much appreciated!
Between your information, and Soarer's docs (from both converter and controller), things become pretty clear.

quantalume

05 Nov 2014, 23:17

Assuming you are going to install the controller inside, one thing you might want to be careful of is the difference between the way IBM numbered the 20-pin connector and the way ribbon cables are usually numbered. Getting this wrong could fry something! This little diagram shows the difference:
ribbon numbering.png
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This table brings everything together:
connections.png
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Of course, you could also connect to the external 15-pin D connector.

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Laser
emacs -nw

06 Nov 2014, 13:01

Great! I'm saving this info, you know.

I was reading Soarer's thread and thought to combine the connector information from the 5291 maintenance manual (p38) with the picture of the teensy hooked to the PCB jumpers, and go from there, but your data above solves it :)

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