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Texas Instruments Low Profile Customizable Layout + Fat Brown Alps?

Posted: 28 Oct 2017, 18:19
by JP!
I finally received a very interesting Texas Instruments keyboard in the mail today. I've been waiting a few weeks for this particular keyboard and could not be more excited.

The keys feel just awesome on this keyboard. In fact, every key works perfect. The switches are a lovely clicky tactile switch. Nice and smooth with a light clicky sound. I will need to do a full tear down, but am leaving for the weekend. More pics to follow.
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So it appears this keyboard is one big array of switches! Removing one of these plastic caps reveals the extra switches. I've never seen anything quite like this before. I assumed it was empty space. Now I can experiment with different layouts.
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Posted: 28 Oct 2017, 18:26
by Daniel Beardsmore
OK now that's weird — those switch shells have Alps-style markings on them. Maybe it really is Alps.

Posted: 28 Oct 2017, 18:30
by seebart
Wow, not often we see new switch discoveries. :shock:

Posted: 28 Oct 2017, 18:37
by Myoth
Myoth wrote:
JP! wrote: So I am working with a seller who has a bunch of vintage gear including keyboards. I have not seen one like this before. It is a Texas Instruments keyboard. Sorry about the potato pictures. Does anyone else know more about this and what kind of switches it has?
Brown Alps ;)
if they are brown and Alps ... :D

though what generation of Alps would it be ?

Posted: 28 Oct 2017, 18:42
by JP!
It almost seems like a prototype keyboard to me, yet there is a serial number which shows many were produced. It really would be expensive to build keyboards with a ton of extra switches. If an end user could move their keys I guess they would just need software or write their own to remap the keys.

It seems like every key can can be moved except for the spacebar and big enter key.
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Posted: 28 Oct 2017, 19:20
by Mattr567
Open a switch up!

If these are real Alps then this is one of the biggest discovery's this year, in the Alps world at least.

Posted: 28 Oct 2017, 19:22
by seebart
That last pic... :shock: :o

Quite a find after all, when you have time you really need to go into detail on this one JP! !
Mattr567 wrote: If these are real Alps then this is one of the biggest discovery's this year, in the Alps world at least.
Absolutely. #DTA7

Posted: 28 Oct 2017, 19:23
by mike52787
This has to be one of the strangest things I've ever seen. nice find!

Posted: 28 Oct 2017, 20:36
by Chyros
Wait WHAT? xD

Posted: 28 Oct 2017, 21:45
by //gainsborough
This is so cool!!!!!!!!! I agree that you should open a switch! Also allow me to formally request a typing video! =)

Posted: 29 Oct 2017, 02:33
by ohaimark
It's from a Texas Instruments Business-Pro computer (circa ~1985).

Posted: 29 Oct 2017, 02:35
by ohaimark

Posted: 29 Oct 2017, 02:36
by JP!
Wow, thanks for sharing that. I did not find much online. This business pro system seems pretty obscure. I did find a system manual. It's really interesting that such an emphasis was placed on adjustability. This is evident with the multitude of keys which can be rearrainged, adjustable keyboard foot to change the angle, three different notches for routing the keyboard cable and a monitor with a keyboard connector on both the right and left side.

Posted: 29 Oct 2017, 03:06
by Darkshado
Are these actually discrete switches or a slider over membrane setup?

The curved profile makes me suspicious. (I know, I know, Kinesis and Model F have curved PCBs.)

Posted: 29 Oct 2017, 04:21
by paecific.jr
Interesting! I also second the motion for making a video!

Posted: 29 Oct 2017, 08:13
by flowerlandfilms
Looks like Fat Alps really are a thing.
I wouldn't put it passed Texas Instruments to commission their own switch.
They were a big deal then as they are now, and when they want to do something they just do it.
They are pretty ruthless, but it's a Silicon Prairie vs Silicon Valley mindest, an interesting corporate culture.

Posted: 29 Oct 2017, 08:30
by seebart
I doubt it's a prototype and I doubt the swtich is Alps Electric until proven in detail. :ugeek: The PCB might give some insight. Nice ad ohaimark!

Posted: 29 Oct 2017, 10:40
by Menuhin
Mattr567 wrote: Open a switch up!

If these are real Alps then this is one of the biggest discovery's this year, in the Alps world at least.
+1 !!!

Posted: 29 Oct 2017, 13:48
by JP!
Stay tuned for the teardown. I may need to defer to the experts here to get a switch safely disassembled.

Posted: 29 Oct 2017, 14:57
by seebart
JP! wrote: Stay tuned for the teardown. I may need to defer to the experts here to get a switch safety disassembled.
At least you have enough switches. ;) :lol:

Posted: 29 Oct 2017, 15:08
by E3E
If it's Alps Electric, cool. Looks like they screwed up a batch of SKCM Brown. :))

They aren't compatible with SKCM/SKCL so it's more of a novelty in my eyes, but I am certainly curious to see what the teardown and switch disassembly comes up with.

Posted: 29 Oct 2017, 15:20
by JP!
I'm thinking a comparison video between my brown Alps IBM 5140 keyboard and the TI is in order.

Also my current theory is that this design makes it easier to remove keys with the included key puller tool.

Posted: 30 Oct 2017, 05:17
by JP!
Just got home and couldn't wait to take this board apart :D I'm going to take a shot in the dark and say this is Alps Electric. I currently do not own a soldering station so am not able to remove a switch.
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Posted: 30 Oct 2017, 05:42
by Mattr567

That thing is crazy! 12KC513B PCB code sounds a lot like normal SKCM/SKCL PCB codes, specifically the "KC" part. Curved PCB and mounting plate is :o

You don't need to desolder a switch to open it up, at least with normal SKCM/SKCL switches. Looks like you can here as well. Super curious to see what the inside holds :twisted:

Posted: 30 Oct 2017, 07:35
by JP!
The guts. Sorry for the potato iPhone camera as usual.
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Posted: 30 Oct 2017, 07:40
by seebart
Alright I'm NOT in doubt anymore, at all. :o :shock: :oops:

Really impressive find. #DTA7

Posted: 30 Oct 2017, 07:54
by Chyros
So they ARE a type of brown Alps? There's a dummy plate in there as well.

Is that a GREEN switchplate, too? And that thing in the spring?


Posted: 30 Oct 2017, 08:04
by seebart
Yeah this find expands the Alps Vortex yet again. Shocking really. I wouldn't call them "a type of brown Alps" though, at least not yet. Oh yeah since you discovered these you get to name them JP! Good luck with that... :evilgeek:

Posted: 30 Oct 2017, 08:06
by E3E
Wow. Yeah, they're essentially a custom variant of SKCM Browns specifically for this model of board. Interesting pastel blue switchplates too. What's with the captive return spring on the slider and the loose one on the housing? It uses two springs per switch?

Is the tactile leaf part of a dummy switch plate that is removable like SKCM Brown Alps?

Yeah, I wouldn't say these are SKCM/SKCL. They're a unique switch clearly based on the aforementioned switches, but obviously incompatible keycap wise.

I wonder if they'd fit in standard Alps plates. Really weird stuff.

Posted: 30 Oct 2017, 08:08
by seebart
E3E wrote: Wow. Yeah, they're essentially a custom variant of SKCM Browns specifically for this model of board.
I'd think that's way too early to say that. Rare yes as we've never seen them but even that means little to nothing.