Zenith ZFA-161-416 keyboard - Green Alps

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snuci
Vintage computer guy

12 Jan 2016, 02:04

I hesitate to post this but I was cleaning the keyboard and thought I'd take some pictures while the keyboard was apart.

We have here the Zenith ZFA-161-416 that is a portable XT class computer. With a removable keyboard (I don't have the keyboard cable), it had a distinctive pop-up dual floppy mechanism. The keyboard that was included is a variation of the Zenith XT keyboards with a different case so that it could attach to the portable case for transport. This keyboard is from 1984 so it's fairly early. As you can plainly see, the key caps are ABS, unfortunately but the key switches are SKCL green Alps.

Question: Does anyone who has a similar Zenith XT keyboard know if I can use a coiled 5 pin DIN keyboard extender cable as a replacement for the original keyboard cable?

Here are some pics:
Zenith ZFA keyboard - keyboard top.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard - keyboard top
Zenith ZFA keyboard - keyboard top.jpg (247.6 KiB) Viewed 1446 times
Zenith ZFA keyboard - keyboard bottom specially made for the ZFA.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard - keyboard bottom specially made for the ZFA
Zenith ZFA keyboard - keyboard bottom specially made for the ZFA.jpg (201.53 KiB) Viewed 1446 times
Zenith ZFA keyboard - keyboard top no key caps.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard - keyboard top no key caps
Zenith ZFA keyboard - keyboard top no key caps.jpg (186.37 KiB) Viewed 1446 times
Zenith ZFA keyboard - keyboard mechanism top.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard - keyboard mechanism top
Zenith ZFA keyboard - keyboard mechanism top.jpg (219.43 KiB) Viewed 1446 times
Zenith ZFA keyboard - keyboard mechanism bottom.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard - keyboard mechanism bottom
Zenith ZFA keyboard - keyboard mechanism bottom.jpg (271.18 KiB) Viewed 1446 times
Zenith ZFA keyboard - Alps and Heath (Zenith) identification.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard - Alps and Heath (Zenith) identification
Zenith ZFA keyboard - Alps and Heath (Zenith) identification.jpg (420.79 KiB) Viewed 1446 times
Zenith ZFA keyboard - case date stamp.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard - Alps and Heath (Zenith) identification
Zenith ZFA keyboard - case date stamp.jpg (196.91 KiB) Viewed 1446 times
Zenith ZFA keyboard - portable computer.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard - portable computer
Zenith ZFA keyboard - portable computer.jpg (215.9 KiB) Viewed 1446 times

User avatar
Chyros

12 Jan 2016, 02:13

Very nice pictures, and a nice board! These old Zenith boards have something IMO. Surprised it's made in Japan - I guess it was actually made by Alps themselves then! It's also one of the older ones I've seen, interesting how it already had ABS caps by that time. I can see the subtle differences in the case and the feet. Never heard of this model before, looks like the Zenith catalog was bigger than I thought!

User avatar
HaaTa
Master Kiibohd Hunter

12 Jan 2016, 02:15

As long as the connector is the same (Epson used some odd shaped DIN connectors that are hard to get/find) you should be fine. I haven't seen any DIN cables that did any sort of cross-over (like ethernet and serial cables often do).

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ohaimark
Kingpin

12 Jan 2016, 03:02

Wait... What is that space bar switch?

Edit: Is it a White Linear switch that hasn't been documented?!

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Chyros

12 Jan 2016, 09:32

SKCL Cream or SKCL Grey. They're spacebar switches for old Zeniths.

terrycherry

12 Jan 2016, 10:21

It's rare to see your keyboard's front & back case are differ to other Heathkit/Zenith Z-150 84key keyboard!(which made in 1984 both)
As I know white logo Zenith Z-150 keyboard are XT and AT compatible.(black logo is XT)
http://deskthority.net/wiki/Zenith_Data ... y_Keyboard
And what color is your switch under the space bar? It's quite unusual.

Engicoder

12 Jan 2016, 15:03

Pretty sure that is what is referred to as SKCL Cream. All of my Zeniths use this switch for the space bar.

User avatar
Chyros

12 Jan 2016, 15:52

Yeah they're not that unusual really, they're well-documented to be in old Zeniths :) .

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ohaimark
Kingpin

12 Jan 2016, 15:58

I hadn't seen one before. >.< Mine uses a regular Green SKCL for the spacebar and it's from '86 or so, I think.

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Chyros

12 Jan 2016, 16:13

Some used a normal switch, some used SKCL Grey, and some use SKCL Cream :) . The boards aren't rare so they're fairly well-documented. Neither of the spacebar switches are very common outside Zeniths, though.

User avatar
seebart
Offtopicthority Instigator

12 Jan 2016, 16:42

Super nice, it's got the same wild return key as my ZKB-2 from 1987.

Engicoder

12 Jan 2016, 16:52

This Zenith XT layout is actually a significant improvement over the IBM XT layout.

User avatar
seebart
Offtopicthority Instigator

12 Jan 2016, 17:02

Engicoder wrote: This Zenith XT layout is actually a significant improvement over the IBM XT layout.
Yes agreed, it looks more practical and less clustered than the IBM XT, especially on the right hand side which is the biggest drawback for me when using my XT without any modification.

User avatar
Chyros

12 Jan 2016, 17:31

seebart wrote:
Engicoder wrote: This Zenith XT layout is actually a significant improvement over the IBM XT layout.
Yes agreed, it looks more practical and less clustered than the IBM XT, especially on the right hand side which is the biggest drawback for me when using my XT without any modification.
Not to mention it doesn't have those stepped keycaps. I always found that both impractical (just use proper stabilisers ffs) as well as distracting.

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seebart
Offtopicthority Instigator

12 Jan 2016, 17:38

Right, I always found stepped keycaps to be a waste of space. What was the point? I don't "get it" to this day. Doesn't look great either. The only practical use could be preventing the user from hitting the cap on the side, on some technically less than perfect switches this might prevent the "stall" on the switch you know what I mean Chyros. But IBM buckling spring does not have this problem IMO. Stepped caps saving out on stabilizers obviously. DUH. :(

User avatar
Chyros

12 Jan 2016, 17:47

seebart wrote: Right, I always found stepped keycaps to be a waste of space. What was the point? I don't "get it" to this day. Doesn't look great either. The only practical use could be preventing the user from hitting the cap on the side, on some technically less than perfect switches this might prevent the "stall" on the switch you know what I mean Chyros. But IBM buckling spring does not have this problem IMO.
The smaller keys, no, I agree completely. But I'm sure some of the bigger keys like the 3u + key would. Perhaps their reasoning was that it looked more elegant if all keys had the same 1u size topside.

andrewjoy

12 Jan 2016, 17:49

seebart wrote: Right, I always found stepped keycaps to be a waste of space. What was the point? I don't "get it" to this day. Doesn't look great either. The only practical use could be preventing the user from hitting the cap on the side, on some technically less than perfect switches this might prevent the "stall" on the switch you know what I mean Chyros. But IBM buckling spring does not have this problem IMO. Stepped caps saving out on stabilizers obviously. DUH. :(

ITs so you dont press it by mistake ( or at least thats what people cliam)

Now if they had left control there and kept caps lock out of the way like in unix layout it would not be a problem :)

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seebart
Offtopicthority Instigator

12 Jan 2016, 18:00

andrewjoy wrote: ITs so you dont press it by mistake ( or at least thats what people cliam)

Now if they had left control there and kept caps lock out of the way like in unix layout it would not be a problem :)
Yeah that makes some sense. IBM used this heavily on the XT and terminal keyboards in Model F series but also with the Model M. It has nothing to do with keyobard size or space that's for sure. My IBM 3104 Display Terminal keyboard has plenty stepped caps in the in any case crazy terminal layout.

http://deskthority.net/keyboards-f2/ibm ... hilit=3104

User avatar
snuci
Vintage computer guy

12 Jan 2016, 19:22

This keyboard looks like an interesting cross between and IBM XT and IBM AT keyboard. Does anyone know when the IBM AT keyboard was introduced?

I'll check the color of the space bar key switch and take it apart if it's helpful. I may take one of the greens apart too.

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seebart
Offtopicthority Instigator

12 Jan 2016, 19:25

snuci wrote: Does anyone know when the IBM AT keyboard was introduced?
http://deskthority.net/wiki/IBM_Model_F ... T_keyboard
The Personal Computer Advanced Technology (PC AT), released in 1984, was the successor to the IBM PC and XT.

User avatar
Mattr567

14 Jan 2016, 07:50

terrycherry wrote: It's rare to see your keyboard's front & back case are differ to other Heathkit/Zenith Z-150 84key keyboard!(which made in 1984 both)
As I know white logo Zenith Z-150 keyboard are XT and AT compatible.(black logo is XT)
http://deskthority.net/wiki/Zenith_Data ... y_Keyboard
And what color is your switch under the space bar? It's quite unusual.
Indeed. Never seen this before. A Z-150 but with a squarer case. Layout and internals are identical. Also am author of that article!

User avatar
Mattr567

14 Jan 2016, 07:58

Chyros wrote: Some used a normal switch, some used SKCL Grey, and some use SKCL Cream :) . The boards aren't rare so they're fairly well-documented. Neither of the spacebar switches are very common outside Zeniths, though.
Ah, didnt know some came with SKCL Creams. Will add that to my article! My Z-150/84 Key had a normal SKCL Green underneath the spacebar. Somewhat common in Zeniths, but pretty much no where else. Rare Alps switches for sure. Would do great in my Alps switch tester project...
Chyros wrote: Very nice pictures, and a nice board! These old Zenith boards have something IMO. Surprised it's made in Japan - I guess it was actually made by Alps themselves then! It's also one of the older ones I've seen, interesting how it already had ABS caps by that time. I can see the subtle differences in the case and the feet. Never heard of this model before, looks like the Zenith catalog was bigger than I thought!
And sorry Chyros, I know of your love for Zeniths, but alas my Zenith has been dismantled for its SKCL Greens :?
At least they now belong in a V60 MTS with LED backlighting! (A project soon to come to light, once I finish it)

At least their common as you say ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

User avatar
snuci
Vintage computer guy

20 Jan 2016, 02:07

Here are some pics of the key switches dismantled. The only difference between the green and cream key switches appears to be the stem colour, naturally, and the internal spring windings.

Here are some pics:
Zenith ZFA keyboard -key switches top.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard -key switches top
Zenith ZFA keyboard -key switches top.jpg (233.29 KiB) Viewed 1162 times
Zenith ZFA keyboard -key switches side.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard -key switches side
Zenith ZFA keyboard -key switches side.jpg (237.08 KiB) Viewed 1162 times
Zenith ZFA keyboard -key switches bottom.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard -key switches bottom
Zenith ZFA keyboard -key switches bottom.jpg (274.33 KiB) Viewed 1162 times
Zenith ZFA keyboard - green Alps key switch.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard - green Alps key switch
Zenith ZFA keyboard - green Alps key switch.jpg (228.38 KiB) Viewed 1162 times
Zenith ZFA keyboard - green Alps key switch angled.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard - green Alps key switch angled
Zenith ZFA keyboard - green Alps key switch angled.jpg (230.46 KiB) Viewed 1162 times
Zenith ZFA keyboard - cream Alps key switch.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard - cream Alps key switch
Zenith ZFA keyboard - cream Alps key switch.jpg (299.81 KiB) Viewed 1162 times
Zenith ZFA keyboard - both Alps key switches.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard - both Alps key switches
Zenith ZFA keyboard - both Alps key switches.jpg (281.99 KiB) Viewed 1162 times
Zenith ZFA keyboard - both internal springs.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard - both internal springs
Zenith ZFA keyboard - both internal springs.jpg (292.43 KiB) Viewed 1162 times

User avatar
Chyros

20 Jan 2016, 10:10

Oh wow, this would mean SKCL Cream was one of the very first Alps CM switches Oo . Is the slider reversible like the one on SKCL Green, too? If so, I suspect they were developed side-by-side. Very interesting.

User avatar
snuci
Vintage computer guy

20 Jan 2016, 23:34

This should answer that question.

It's funny but when you look at these, they almost look like they are made of "jade" and "bone" respectively.
Zenith ZFA keyboard -key stem bottom.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard - key stem bottom
Zenith ZFA keyboard -key stem bottom.jpg (211.92 KiB) Viewed 1085 times

User avatar
Chyros

21 Jan 2016, 00:29

It's hard to judge from that picture, actually Oo . Is it asymmetric like the later sliders or is it completely the same on both sides?

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snuci
Vintage computer guy

21 Jan 2016, 00:37

Sorry, completely the same on both sides. They are both symmetrical.

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Chyros

21 Jan 2016, 01:08

Cool, thanks! Definitely SKCL Cream were extremely early then.

User avatar
snuci
Vintage computer guy

23 Jan 2016, 16:35

Just posting the last couple of pics of the components on the PCB board to date the actual board.
Zenith ZFA keyboard - 8048 controller.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard - 8048 controller
Zenith ZFA keyboard - 8048 controller.jpg (299.88 KiB) Viewed 1029 times
Zenith ZFA keyboard - PCB components.jpg
Zenith ZFA keyboard - PCB components
Zenith ZFA keyboard - PCB components.jpg (302.11 KiB) Viewed 1029 times

Luneth

17 Apr 2017, 16:18

Sorry to necro this thread. I've got one of these and I want to use it with my modern computer. Are there any converters that will work? Is it the same as XT, the wiki says the connector is proprietary?

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