Unicomp retired black 104/105 Classic models + latest on the Mini M SSK

User avatar
sharktastica

14 Nov 2020, 19:05

After some of us over at r/ModelM discovered they seemingly retired black 104/105 key Classic Model Ms the other day, I've been in touch with Unicomp regarding this latest piece of news and got an update regarding the Mini M (the new SSK) production.

Retiring of black 104/105 key Classics
Unicomp is essentially taking measures to extend the life of its Classic (aka, the Enhanced Keyboard) moulds. As they put it:
As for the decisions concerning the Classic, we are basically trying to stretch the life of the of the Classic 104/105 top cover and bottom cover injection molding tool by moving black 104/105 Classic volume to the New Model M. Note the Pearl and Pebble Classic 104/105 is still available on the website. But the tooling for those covers is very worn and the texture shows it. Thus the price difference between the Classic and the New Model M. Also, we just spent the a lot or money on the new tooling for the New Model M and trying to move more customers to that product. Frankly, the New Model M is just a much better looking keyboard.
Whether or not you agree with the New Model M being a better-looking keyboard (I think it's gorgeous but YMMV), I think it is a wise decision on their part so that they can try to ensure the future of the classic and iconic beige Model Ms.

Update on the Mini M
The story is unfortunately the same as in August, although Unicomp has been transparent about the current issues with me and happy for me to share. Their current issue seems to be manpower - demand for their keyboards has increased during the last year (they reckon due to people setting up home offices due to various lockdowns), but due to COVID-19, they've had issues getting people into work and onto the production floor. Whatever people they have are usually tied into fulfilling orders. However, they seem to be optimistic they can find help for production soon.

My original Reddit post: https://www.reddit.com/r/modelm/comment ... _of_black/

User avatar
lhutton

14 Nov 2020, 19:50

sharktastica wrote:
14 Nov 2020, 19:05

Retiring of black 104/105 key Classics
Unicomp is essentially taking measures to extend the life of its Classic (aka, the Enhanced Keyboard) moulds. As they put it:
As for the decisions concerning the Classic, we are basically trying to stretch the life of the of the Classic 104/105 top cover and bottom cover injection molding tool by moving black 104/105 Classic volume to the New Model M. Note the Pearl and Pebble Classic 104/105 is still available on the website. But the tooling for those covers is very worn and the texture shows it. Thus the price difference between the Classic and the New Model M. Also, we just spent the a lot or money on the new tooling for the New Model M and trying to move more customers to that product. Frankly, the New Model M is just a much better looking keyboard.
Whether or not you agree with the New Model M being a better-looking keyboard (I think it's gorgeous but YMMV), I think it is a wise decision on their part so that they can try to ensure the future of the classic and iconic beige Model Ms.
This is certainly true. I just bought a New M and it's a solid product. More hopeful about the SSK now!

grasshopper

25 Feb 2021, 12:39

I'm surprised that this post hasn't attracted more attention. This sounds to me like the beginning of the end for the Classic Model M keyboard, and I personally think that's a shame.

Arguably the New Model M is a better looking keyboard (although that's subjective) but the Classic Model M is still Unicomp's flagship product. If they can't afford to refresh the moulds for it, then that suggests to me that they may be in even more trouble than we thought.

User avatar
sharktastica

25 Feb 2021, 12:50

grasshopper wrote:
25 Feb 2021, 12:39
I'm surprised that this post hasn't attracted more attention. This sounds to me like the beginning of the end for the Classic Model M keyboard, and I personally think that's a shame.

Arguably the New Model M is a better looking keyboard (although that's subjective) but the Classic Model M is still Unicomp's flagship product. If they can't afford to refresh the moulds for it, then that suggests to me that they may be in even more trouble than we thought.
I still don't understand where this "in-trouble" rhetoric comes from (especially before COVID). From what I've gathered talking to their staff, they're mostly fine and they got good demand as I stated when I first posted, just that they're dealing with COVID like everyone else right now. It's been a terrible year for everyone. Most of what staff they have in are trying to fulfil orders with only a few resources in 'R&D' at the moment (hence the previous Mini M delays) but they are optimistic and still managed progress eventually. Anyway, if I'm not mistaken from my subreddit's FAQ last year, they hinted that they may visit the topic of refreshing other moulds only after the Mini M is shipping. For now though, they need to extend the life of their Classic mould as long as possible (especially given one of their largest partners, General Electric for who they are still assembling keyboards for as of 2020 at least, rely solely on the Classic mould).
Last edited by sharktastica on 25 Feb 2021, 12:56, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

25 Feb 2021, 12:55

Aye. I was more worried about Unicomp a few years ago, when there were no signs of fresh life there at all. The thing to bear in mind is they are a small outfit, ultimately, and a cautious, conservative one at that. Be patient, you've no choice when it comes to new Ms!

User avatar
daedalus
Buckler Of Springs

25 Feb 2021, 16:00

It's here, although only for US customers right now, and no customization options:

https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/product/MINI_M
https://www.pckeyboard.com/mm5/graphics ... ements.pdf

Some small observations:

* They got rid of the gaudy icons on the lock light label
* They are using multiple colours on the keycaps, not just for the embedded numpad, but also for Alt and the Numpad keys. This is a nice touch, and reverses a cost cutting measure that dates back to the Lexmark days.

All in all, I am excited to get one once they ship to Europe. Will probably ask for an 86 key variant (i.e. 7U spacebar) and maybe some custom keycaps.

User avatar
XMIT
[ XMIT ]

25 Feb 2021, 16:18

As tempting as it is, I'm going to skip being an early adopter on this one, and wait until I can get my 7u Space bar.

I wonder if Unicomp can still manufacture Model F flippers. If they can, turning this one into an FSSK wouldn't be too far off. Maybe that could even be a factory option.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

25 Feb 2021, 16:22

Finally!

If they’d just been making these back when I was chasing after SSKs! Here’s to hoping Unicomp prospers with these, like we’ve been telling them they would all these years.

Now yes, personally, I’ve a nice SSK (or actually 3…) all my own and wouldn’t want something with the fiddled layout. But I’m not the audience for these. I’m the audience for the Model F kit!

User avatar
sharktastica

25 Feb 2021, 16:45

daedalus wrote:
25 Feb 2021, 16:00
* They got rid of the gaudy icons on the lock light label
* They are using multiple colours on the keycaps, not just for the embedded numpad, but also for Alt and the Numpad keys. This is a nice touch, and reverses a cost cutting measure that dates back to the Lexmark days.
Aye, my article coming later today will pick up on a few of those. Here are some better photos of those observations for people. Note, my example is a prototype thus there's a few minor issues (like the misalignmed right Windows key, that and maybe the other testers specifically reported to them about) that have since been fixed on the final version.
protomini_lights.jpg
protomini_lights.jpg (1.33 MiB) Viewed 2339 times
protomini_numpad.jpg
protomini_numpad.jpg (1.24 MiB) Viewed 2339 times
protomini_mods.jpg
protomini_mods.jpg (1.3 MiB) Viewed 2339 times
protomini_utils.jpg
protomini_utils.jpg (1.29 MiB) Viewed 2336 times
Brief typing demo:

User avatar
daedalus
Buckler Of Springs

25 Feb 2021, 16:58

XMIT wrote:
25 Feb 2021, 16:18
As tempting as it is, I'm going to skip being an early adopter on this one, and wait until I can get my 7u Space bar.

I wonder if Unicomp can still manufacture Model F flippers. If they can, turning this one into an FSSK wouldn't be too far off. Maybe that could even be a factory option.
I asked them many years ago, and the answer at that time was no.

feltel

25 Feb 2021, 19:04

Why does the bottom row of the new Mini differs from all other Unicomp keyboards? Does it serves any purpose to have [Space] [Alt] [Win] and not [Space] [Win] [Alt] ? So you cant get rid of the right Win key easily as on other boards. Hmm.

Besides that little nitpicking I'm eager to buy one. :P

stormcrash

25 Feb 2021, 19:30

feltel wrote:
25 Feb 2021, 19:04
Why does the bottom row of the new Mini differs from all other Unicomp keyboards? Does it serves any purpose to have [Space] [Alt] [Win] and not [Space] [Win] [Alt] ? So you cant get rid of the right Win key easily as on other boards. Hmm.

Besides that little nitpicking I'm eager to buy one. :P
Oh interesting I hadn't noticed that in the pics. I think it's more that on the new keyboard having the winkey and alt switched no longer serves a purpose. On the other boards the purpose was to allow use of the same key matrix membrane (and maybe the barrel molds) between both the 101 and 104 key models to simplify production/inventory costs. Since the Mini M has it's own unique matrix and no winkeyless model I guess they decided to give it a standard key layout.

Personally I kind of like the swapped winkey on my Classics, but I haven't had any trouble when going between boards with different layouts there so I don't think it would be a really big deal or anything to have a Mini with the "standard" layout

User avatar
daedalus
Buckler Of Springs

25 Feb 2021, 20:12

On a different subject, I was looking around their site and noticed the following:
Note: The Classic Trackball keyboards are temporarily unavailable. Check back in the 3rd quarter of 2021. Sorry about the inconvenience.
https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/categor ... cTrackball

I wonder if Unicomp has run out of the trackball modules for these keyboards, and maybe plans on developing a newer design? It may be an improvement, since I've heard that the trackballs on the originals are not particularly good.

User avatar
sharktastica

25 Feb 2021, 20:34

daedalus wrote:
25 Feb 2021, 20:12
On a different subject, I was looking around their site and noticed the following:
Note: The Classic Trackball keyboards are temporarily unavailable. Check back in the 3rd quarter of 2021. Sorry about the inconvenience.
https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/categor ... cTrackball

I wonder if Unicomp has run out of the trackball modules for these keyboards, and maybe plans on developing a newer design? It may be an improvement, since I've heard that the trackballs on the originals are not particularly good.
From my experience, they're not much different than the Model M5-2's trackball system (in fact, I used a Unicomp replacement module on my 1993 Lexmark-branded M5-2). The daughterboard the new module came with has some more up-to-date and simplified electronics compared to the '90s boards, but it functions about the same. That's to say, fast enough to get around but not as accurate as anything new these days. Dedicated single-step mouse buttons are still very much useful though, especially for making selecting things with a trackball easier. Their trackballs have aged better than their FSR-based pointing sticks, in my opinion.

micmil

25 Feb 2021, 20:58

My New Model M should be delivered today, and now this. Yer killin' muh wallet, Unicomp... I'm fine with that.

Findecanor

25 Feb 2021, 23:12

Chyros also got a Unicomp Model M SSK, apparently:

User avatar
wcass

26 Feb 2021, 01:31

i just ordered a mini.
i expect that i will try it out for a few days before i crack it open and start on the F conversion.
Ellipse has new F type flippers already; renrakS (and a few others, i think) are working on F type flippers too.
when i get it done, i would like to send it back to Unicomp to see what they think.

gipetto

26 Feb 2021, 23:18

looks like the leds are soldered to the membrane so it won't be easy to change them.
https://sharktastica.co.uk/resources/im ... i_leds.jpg

feltel

27 Feb 2021, 09:16

Thats a bummer. :-(

User avatar
wcass

24 Jul 2021, 01:18

I had the "feature" where Q doesn't register. It is not my most commonly used key, but i would have wanted it fixed if i had not already decided that i would be cracking it open to get to the matrix. Still, i would think that Unicomp should have found that bug before shipping. The 16 x 12 matrix is interesting. It is still 2KRO, but with so many "unassigned" spots in the matrix, blocks should be less common. But there is still potential blocking - most notably effecting the numbers and the QWERT rows. If you hold down any two numbers and test-press each key on the QWERT row, two of the keys should not register because they "form rectangle" and should be blocked (or ghost!). Change the numbers and the blocked keys will change. For example, if you hold down 1 and 2, then Y and U are blocked; holding 8 and 9 will block R and E. But if you don't game, you probably don't use many 3-key combos. You can check your combos on the chart below. A "block" will happen when two (or more) keys are on the same column AND two (or more) keys are on the same row (like the examples two sentences above, they "form a rectangle" on the chart).
M Mini matrix.png
M Mini matrix.png (24 KiB) Viewed 873 times
My pad card design for a Model F conversion is coming along nicely. I never had an original SSK, but it looks like the tenon pattern is the same as vintage SSK. The pad card i design for this (and for Extended) should be fully compatible with IBM's. It will use some of the features i had planned for Lot Lizard's project including USB connector on an under $5 daughter card (select A B or C). The F Mini matrix is 16 x 6 and traces are never closer than 1 mm from another trace or within 5 mm of a tenon hole.

User avatar
raoulduke-esq

12 Aug 2021, 01:15

Has anyone made a controller replacement for the Mini M?

I like the keyboard but not the Q problem or the lack of programability. I saw this for the original M but it would appear the matrix/connections are a bit different on the Mini M.

User avatar
wcass

14 Aug 2021, 00:03

it would be pretty simple to design a custom controller. I will be doing that for my F conversion, but "capacitance sensing" so not an appropriate fit for membranes.

The locking USB-A connector is this:
https://cdn.amphenol-icc.com/media/wysi ... le-usb.pdf
At $3 each, a bit pricey for a feature you might not want. The GSB12111031EU has the same footprint, but without the lock and is 1/3 the price.
https://cdn.amphenol-icc.com/media/wysi ... _gsb2x.pdf
Personally, i would have chosen USB-B or USB-C.

The controller uses two 16 pin, 2.54 mm pitch FFC connectors. The ones on the Unicomp controller are "right angle, bottom contact"; if those are hard to find, you might be able to substitute vertical. I think Unicomp is using TE 6-520314-6 but those are supposed to be "right angle, top contact".

Anyway, if someone wants to lead the project to make a replacement controller, i will assist where and when i can.

pandrew

14 Aug 2021, 00:15

@wcass when you have a sense pcb design ready pm me a top/bottom picture, so I can implement support for it in my qmk firmware port for xwhatsits.

@raoulduke-esq
There's a hansoldered implementation, using a Teensy2.0++ already available here:
https://github.com/qmk/qmk_firmware/tre ... omp_mini_m

tiltowait

16 Aug 2021, 21:19

raoulduke-esq wrote:
12 Aug 2021, 01:15
Has anyone made a controller replacement for the Mini M?

I like the keyboard but not the Q problem or the lack of programability. I saw this for the original M but it would appear the matrix/connections are a bit different on the Mini M.
Over the weekend, I built a controller for my IBM SSK. It's simple enough, but you have to be careful about height clearance. The Mini M has a 16x12 matrix, not 16x8, so be sure to buy the correct-sized ribbon connectors. And you'll have to map out the matrix yourself, which takes about 30-60 minutes but isn't difficult.

ETA: That project uses pin D6. You'll want to remove the Teensy's LED or skip over D6, or you might run into problems.

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