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CIE Terminals - vintage Alps mount high profile dye-sub PBT sphericals

Posted: 16 Aug 2016, 17:15
Last year, in the big haul from elecplus, I found "79a2", a CIE Terminals branded DEC LK201 clone. I didn't think much of it at the time but, hey, it had spherical caps on an otherwise uninteresting linear slider-over-membrane arrangement. ... 303d08b72/


But, clearing out the garage recently for some upcoming renovations, I had a closer look at the board. I realized, wow, these are amazing key caps! As the title implies, they are something of a unicorn: all of: vintage, dye sublimated, PBT, high profile, spherical, with deep scopped F and J homing keys - everything that matt3o is working to make, and more.

It's hard to get much of a usable layout from something like an LK201, and, I had to modify the left and right arrow keys to fit by cutting them down to size. For now I'm using them on a V80MTS with some ABS double shots to fill in the balance. They caps are nothing short of magnificent, everything I've ever wanted from a key caps (almost - WoB PBT doubleshots of these would be ideal...)
KBParadise V80MTS (Matias Quiet Click) with spherical alphas, Signature Plastics ESC, and ABS doubleshots elsewhere.
KBParadise V80MTS (Matias Quiet Click) with spherical alphas, Signature Plastics ESC, and ABS doubleshots elsewhere.
DSC_0199.jpg (153.91 KiB) Viewed 1766 times
Let's have a closer look at the caps and their profile.
PBT spherical key cap molding detail.
PBT spherical key cap molding detail.
DSC_0205.jpg (77.98 KiB) Viewed 1766 times
PBT spherical key cap profile detail.
PBT spherical key cap profile detail.
DSC_0202.jpg (35.7 KiB) Viewed 1766 times
Has anyone seen these before? Who could have made them? If only there were some way of bringing them back into production...

Posted: 16 Aug 2016, 17:20
by seebart
Amazing keycaps. No I have never seen ones like these. Tai-Hao? They look really nice on that KBParadise V80MTS, quite a find.

Posted: 16 Aug 2016, 17:32
Thanks! Oh, I forgot to mention: not just PBT, but thick PBT, not thin. These are pretty substantial key caps. These are the first profiled sphericals I've liked enough for daily driver use. DSA is great but not profiled, SA isn't as deep as I'd like, Topre HiPro has weird square-edged key tops that are not completely spherical, and the various vintage sphericals I have (Beam spring, Alps) are not on a keyboard with a usable layout.

These caps got a long bath in the ultrasonic cleaner before use. They are as clean as can be.

The V80MTS wasn't one of my favorite boards but with these key caps (and the odd fact that sphericals somehow make all switches feel lighter) I don't see this one leaving my desk for a while!

Posted: 16 Aug 2016, 17:36
by seebart
While I do own some profiled sphericals they are all from quite old keyboards that have unusable layouts and/or are not converted or cannot be converted. I wish we could have these reproduced.

Posted: 16 Aug 2016, 18:17
Looks like CIE Terminals were made by C. Itoh, now Itochu Corporation. So, these key caps were very likely made in Japan.

keyboards-f2/vintage-alps-mount-spheric ... 13626.html looks apt, I'll cross post there.

Posted: 16 Aug 2016, 18:43
by E3E
Hey XMIT, awesome find. I'd love one of these if you ever find another. I know Haata and jacobolus mentioned having these. Been keeping on the look out for one ever since.

In my opinion, I think these key caps are Alps made. They have the signature molding style on the undersides of the key caps that other PBT Alps caps have, which I have not seen on other makes.

Please give me a poke if you ever find another one of these, XMIT. I'd appreciate it.

The caps have a really neat profile. Up until now, I thought they looked like uniform, albeit tall, sphericals.

Oh, and thanks for the additional info on these. I knew these were C. Itoh, but all I really had on them was "C. Itoh LK201 clone" pretty much.

Posted: 20 Aug 2016, 11:10
by jacobolus
Lucky lucky. These are some of my favorite Alps caps, and very hard to find. I’ve only ever seen 2 pop up on ebay. I asked HaaTa about the first one and he immediately bought it out from under me :evil:; I found another, with one broken cap and another missing.

The switches are (IMO) crap though. They’re supposed to be linear with a progressive spring thing going on. I dunno, they might be usable if you added a beeper at actuation.

Keycaps and switches were both definitely made by Alps, their clone (sorta) of the LK201 keycap profile and switch.

Also see