//gainsborough's wild Ti Adventures!

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//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

30 May 2018, 07:14

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This board.... This fucking board... let me tell you about this board, dudes and dudettes...

Today I will be telling the tale of my Texas Instruments adventure - full of excitement and wonder! But also confusion and uneasiness. Be amazed and bewildered as I take you through the events that began to unfold almost exactly one year ago...

PART I - THE NEONE MEME

I remember seeing a board pop up on on my eBay phone app while I was changing my (at the time) 9 month old daughter. The board was described as a "Texas Instruments Low Profile" keyboard. Having just learned about a few different models that could come with SKCM brown, I jumped at this one!

After waiting the usual week and a half to receive it I opened it up and was delighted: definitely SKCM browns. This was my third SKCM brown at the time, so I knew what I was feeling was certainly SKCM brown. This particular keybaord had a key that was slightly off it's slider axis, so I pulled it up and then saw this:

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At this point I lost my shit. The only time I had even heard of SKCM green switches were from @e3eves' post on GH about his awesome docutech find. I remember being super excited and run around my house screaming "NOOOOOOO WAAAAAAYYYYYYYY". I took several pictures of the board's innards as well.

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The model sticker on the back of the board was pretty destroyed as well, but you could make out some of it:

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The board's exterior was pretty rusted and messed up so I ended up putting the switches in a xerox 6085 (that I bought from cindy! thanks again!) that originally had SKCM brown alps in it. The switches were of the pine variety - it was a very cool find. Here's a fun image I found of when I discovered it:

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Thanks for the memories, dudes, hahaha.


PART II - THE WTF SKCL CREAM FIND

Fast forward to last week - so about a year later. A dude with not a lot of post history named @double a posts this: https://imgur.com/a/oP0c31N

Basically a NOS Ti board! I messaged him immediately asking if I could buy it (save your judgment for some other time, haha). "this will be a fantastic addition to my collection of alps board," I thought. "Basically NOS SKCM browns!"

...it arrived in the mail today, but I was just headed out the door when the UPS guy came to drop it off. After he handed me the box I thought "I have a little bit of time before I actually have to go," so I opened it up and typed on it.

Utter disappointment...

...is what I felt initially. I was expecting something tactile, but instead, it was linear. It was crazy smooth too and felt nothing like any alps switch I knew. I thought about just leaving my house then, but I thought to myself "I'll just confirm what switch it is and then go." I set the board down on my kitchen bar and went to my office to grab my keycap puller... Except I couldn't find my keycap puller. I was starting to get really upset about not being able to find my keycap puller since I just remembered seeing it not 3 minutes ago! I was starting to throw shit around in my room and started talking to myself like "dammit, chris!! This is why you need to fucking organize your - " and then I found it underneath a pillow.

I frantically ran back to the keyboard in the kitchen and popped off a keycap and was very surprised: SKCL alps. It looked yellow at first but I though "no way, this board has to be older than that!" Upon closer inspection it was definitely SKCL cream, and with that knowledge I left for work.

I thought about how strange it was that it had SKCL cream switches in it - epsecially since it didn't feel like alps for two major reasons:

1) it was WAY smoother than any alps switch I had ever tried, and

2) the bottoming out sounded much different than the normal SKCL alps soundtrack.

Very strange stuff, but I was at work and couldn't inspect the board more.

When I finally got home I posted some pics in the telegram chat as well as a couple of videos:

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You'll have to excuse my perhaps over the top enthusiasm - I was just so amazed by them, hahaha. It was so strange! It even had black switchplates as well. I couldn't figure out why this board, which had only ever been documented with tactile switches - and really only SKCM brown since my first Ti board had never been seen before either.

Incidentally, in the video I mentioned how it sounded like dampened creams without the dampeners (I also failed to mention that I linearized them also) - but here is a sound comparison between the two, since, as luck would have it, I still have the video of how the linearized undapamened dampened creams sound:

First the TI board:
Now the linearized undampened dampened creams:


They sound, at least in person, extremely similar!

So anyway I was trying to figure out what was causing such a different bottoming out sound compared to my data general that also had SKCL creams in it when @matt567 wrote me a message that said "those are not SKCL creams."

I was like "uh....yeah...yeah they are, dude"

"no they aren't - look at the slider."

Then after examining the slider is when I realized what was causing the different sound - the sliders aren't "normal" alps sliders. I took some pictures to help show that:

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Do you see how it's different? It took me a while to see it as well - I don't have as young of eyes as matt, apparently.

It's the slider shape. One of the sides has a more drastic cutout than normal SKCL switches - it's not reflectionally symmetrical! Here are two SKCL switches side-by-side - the left switch is the SKCL "cream" switch and the right is a normal SKCL cream:

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Very strange indeed! It seems the SKCL "cream" is made of a lesser total volume of plastic, which could be why it sounds similar to linearized dampened creams with the dampeners taken out: because those also have less total volume of plastic! In short, I think it's because it's a more "hallowed out" alps slider.

Apparently it's the same kind of slider that is used in alps "double action switches" - they too have the same kind of non-symmetrical slider. Here's a picture of the slider from a double action switch, courtesy of matt:

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Though, there does seem to be a difference even with that switch. One side seems to have an additional cutout on the side face of the switch, whereas the switches on my board are just flat on both sides.

At this point the telegram chat and I were really curious about any kind of date codes, so I opened up the board and took some pics!

First I obviously checked the very detailed back label:

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Oh....right...

Next I checked the inside ICs:

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In the last pic we speculated that it was from 82 because of the 82 number on the NEC chip.

Next I got a look at the back of the PCB:

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And it's that last picture that made me really start to wonder... is this some kind of prototype board? I don't even know how to interpret " For technical investigation of a customer." How do you technically investigate a customer? What does that even mean? Also the big red "SAMPLE" is intriguing as well. I suspect underneath that sticker is the normal branding of the board - but I don't want to remove it.

Finally, a look at the back case:

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which yields not much additional information.


PART III - WHAT A RIDE....

I find it hilarious that both times I buy a Ti board like this, I don't get at all what I was expecting. The first board turned out to be neon greens when I was excpecting SKCM brown, and the second board turned out to be some weird variant of SKCL creams when I was expecting it to be SKCM brown/green - LINEAR alps was not even a thought in my mind when I bought the board from double a.

So my question to you guys is this: what is this thing? What are these switches? The alps vortex continues to be more and more of a mystery to me - it seems the more we know, the less it makes sense. Needless to say I'm going to basically buy every Ti board I come across from now on =P My only hope is that if one of you beats me to it that you comment in this thread about what kind of switches it has!

Thanks for reading this crazy long story of mine, but it was too wild to not write about!

Until next time!

またね。

//gains.
Last edited by //gainsborough on 29 Oct 2018, 07:28, edited 2 times in total.

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//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

30 May 2018, 07:21

I forgot to mention! Thanks again, Double a, for the neat keyboard!!!

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Mattr567

30 May 2018, 07:23

From the IC, at least to me if I'm reading it right this board looks to be from 1982. Quite significant as SKCL/SKCM dates back to 1983.

My thinking is that is may be an early version of SKCL before they settled on the final design. The missing link!

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Chyros

30 May 2018, 07:33

Holy crap. I need some time to digest all this.... Oo

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//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

30 May 2018, 07:36

Chyros wrote: Holy crap. I need some time to digest all this.... Oo
Take your time, my man - it's a lot to take in.

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Khers

30 May 2018, 07:46

Mmmm, SKCL Cream. I proxied a board with those for subcat some time ago and got a very brief test of them. Very nice linears. I don't recall the slider looking that way, but then again I wasn't looking for it. Nice find!

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Myoth

30 May 2018, 08:03

gainsborough, the unfortunately lucky man :lol:

that slider shape makes me think of SKCC, it also had something of the same sort, which makes sense since SKCL came from SKCC, oh well, I'm not great at discovering things haha

great find !!

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//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

30 May 2018, 08:09

Myoth wrote: gainsborough, the unfortunately lucky man :lol:

that slider shape makes me think of SKCC, it also had something of the same sort, which makes sense since SKCL came from SKCC....
Yeah you're right! It takes after the asymmetrical design of SKCC - I can see where you're coming from.
Myoth wrote: ...I'm not great at discovering things haha
What are you talking about, my dude!! You found SKCM undampened creams in a Bull branded AT101 with sick doubleshot caps! That's a fantastic find!

mcmaxmcmc

30 May 2018, 08:30

We should call the "cream" switches the "SKCL Short Cream" switches xD. Seriously though, great find! That might be where the "cream" color of the SKCC Tall Cream kinda descends down the generations. (Wasn't SKCC Tall Cream older than SKCC Green or is that just me?)

(God, I'm sorry for my bad English.)

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Chyros

30 May 2018, 08:49

According to former Alps employee I conversed with, they would make switches based on customer specifications. The one you have seems to be a sample they sent one of their customers for inspection, to see if it fit their demands. Judging from how we've never seen this switch before, it might be that it didn't xD . It would also make sense for it to have been used so little if it were a tryout sample.

Still, an amazing find to be sure! Are these smoother than SKCL in similar condition?

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green-squid

30 May 2018, 12:55

NOOOOOOOOO WAAAAAAAAAAY DUUUUUUUUUUDE WHOAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!

I wish you could get SKCM greens NOS for cheap!!

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Dingster

30 May 2018, 13:28

Woah thats awesome nice find dude :o

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//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

30 May 2018, 15:34

mcmaxmcmc wrote: We should call the "cream" switches the "SKCL Short Cream" switches xD. Seriously though, great find! That might be where the "cream" color of the SKCC Tall Cream kinda descends down the generations. (Wasn't SKCC Tall Cream older than SKCC Green or is that just me?)

(God, I'm sorry for my bad English.)
No worries, dude - your english is good enough to read! I thought about calling the switches "//gainsborough creams," but...well...that doesn't sound right...
Chyros wrote: According to former Alps employee I conversed with, they would make switches based on customer specifications. The one you have seems to be a sample they sent one of their customers for inspection, to see if it fit their demands. Judging from how we've never seen this switch before, it might be that it didn't xD . It would also make sense for it to have been used so little if it were a tryout sample.

Still, an amazing find to be sure! Are these smoother than SKCL in similar condition?
Interesting. That does make a lot of sense, though. If the '82 theory is correct, would these be the oldest documented case of SKCL switches?

As for smoothness, they are insanely smooth! Feels like hardy any friction at all. I have a board with NOS SKCL green switches (a z150) and these are far and away smoother than those. These switches lack the characteristic *shhhick* sound that linear alps have. They are very silent until the bottom out event. I was typing on it a bit more this morning, and it kinda now reminds me of your tandon board - the white space invaders "wood hitting wood" sound. Though, the piece of "wood" hitting wood here is much smaller, as it were. Your tandon board sounds much bassy-er.

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Chyros

30 May 2018, 15:48

//gainsborough wrote:
Chyros wrote: According to former Alps employee I conversed with, they would make switches based on customer specifications. The one you have seems to be a sample they sent one of their customers for inspection, to see if it fit their demands. Judging from how we've never seen this switch before, it might be that it didn't xD . It would also make sense for it to have been used so little if it were a tryout sample.

Still, an amazing find to be sure! Are these smoother than SKCL in similar condition?
Interesting. That does make a lot of sense, though. If the '82 theory is correct, would these be the oldest documented case of SKCL switches?
I think so. I know of Green Alps keyboards from 1983, but not 1982. That said, controller codes tend to lag behind the actual manufacture date of the keyboard pretty significantly, usually around a year at least, in my experience.

They do seem to be ACTUAL SKCL switches as well, judging by the keyboard PCB code, even if the slider is different. Possibly a first try? The fact that it's obviously a prototype helps this theory. Maybe this is what SKCL looked like before they were sold as SKCL xD .

It's also interesting to note timeline-wise. So far we've always though green Alps were the first SKCL switches. Possibly they still were at least the first COMMERCIAL ones. But we know very little about the timeline for SKCL cream other than that they were also first-gen switches, and it might be that they were even earlier!
As for smoothness, they are insanely smooth! Feels like hardy any friction at all. I have a board with NOS SKCL green switches (a z150) and these are far and away smoother than those. These switches lack the characteristic *shhhick* sound that linear alps have. They are very silent until the bottom out event. I was typing on it a bit more this morning, and it kinda now reminds me of your tandon board - the white space invaders "wood hitting wood" sound. Though, the piece of "wood" hitting wood here is much smaller, as it were. Your tandon board sounds much bassy-er.
Most interesting. It sounds highly intriguing.

00.

30 May 2018, 16:39

//gainsborough wrote: I thought about calling the switches "//gainsborough creams," but...well...that doesn't sound right...
SKCL //Cream? ;)

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Blaise170
ALPS キーボード

30 May 2018, 16:42

Even though it's said jokingly, no.

00.

30 May 2018, 16:54

Blaise170 wrote: Even though it's said jokingly, no.
you're right, SKCL Creamsborough is much better.

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//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

30 May 2018, 17:31

00. wrote:
//gainsborough wrote: I thought about calling the switches "//gainsborough creams," but...well...that doesn't sound right...
SKCL //Cream? ;)
I actually really like this!!!

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JP!

30 May 2018, 17:51

#dta2018 - Wow, very nice. Now you just need to find one with fat brown Alps ;)

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Brett MacK

30 May 2018, 18:32

Absolutely incredible find. The slider is just like all of the double action switches I have seen. That also might be one of the best sounding linear switches that I have heard. I love the bottoming out sound. #dta2018 For sure.

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//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

30 May 2018, 22:01

Thanks, dudes!

I put some art foam in the case to try and dampen the very hollow sound the board has - take a listen:
It still has a pretty hollow sound, but it's not as crazy as it was before the art foam. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out!

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//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

01 Jul 2018, 23:00

E3Eves contacted me with a possible explanation as to why the sound (and feeling) of these prototype SKCL switches! It was already pointed out that the slider of the SKCL //creams (still going with that) was similar in appearance to alps double action (DA) switches - E3E took that a step further with a pic of the bottom part of an alps DA slider:

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The stem hits the bottom housing first, causing a weaker sound and bottoming out feeling. So I took out my TI board again and checked the slider, but found that the slider does not have an extended stem. Looking at the bottom housing gave it away though:

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Effectively, the weaker sound and feeling is exactly as E3E had guessed, only the extended stem is not on the slider, it's on the bottom housing of the switch. Here is a normal SKCL cream bottom housing for reference:

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The stem on the //cream switch is significantly longer. It is also worth noting that the "stem" on the slider itself is far more recessed than a normal alps slider as well. E3E also suggested that perhaps since the travel distance may be slightly shorter than a normal alps switch, it essentially never "clears" the switchpalte "teeth," giving it the extremely smooth feeling of the switch itself. In other words, it may be lacking that typical slight tactile event that all SKCL switches inherently have because of their design.

You'll also notice that the switchplates are black, but there are a couple other things I felt would be worth pointing out as well!

First, the top housing seems to have no mold number - at least, there are no markings in the circle part of the mold, which is normally where a letter would go.

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The lack of a letter in the circle for me is further evidence that this is some kind of pre-production/prototype switch. It does have a "1G" marking on it, though.

Second, there does appear to be some kind of factory dry lube on the slider:

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Did SKCC switches have dry lube? Also, which switch came first between SKCC cream and SKCC green?

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Polecat

02 Jul 2018, 00:44

//gainsborough wrote:
You'll also notice that the switchplates are black, but there are a couple other things I felt would be worth pointing out as well!

First, the top housing seems to have no mold number - at least, there are no markings in the circle part of the mold, which is normally where a letter would go.

The lack of a letter in the circle for me is further evidence that this is some kind of pre-production/prototype switch. It does have a "1G" marking on it, though.
Here's what I found for mold markings on the blue SKCM switches in a very early Northgate:

keyboards-f2/blue-alps-question-t17963.html?

Four different sets of markings on the switches from a single keyboard that I'm 99.9 percent certain has never been messed with.

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//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

02 Jul 2018, 01:41

Polecat wrote:
//gainsborough wrote:
You'll also notice that the switchplates are black, but there are a couple other things I felt would be worth pointing out as well!

First, the top housing seems to have no mold number - at least, there are no markings in the circle part of the mold, which is normally where a letter would go.

The lack of a letter in the circle for me is further evidence that this is some kind of pre-production/prototype switch. It does have a "1G" marking on it, though.
Here's what I found for mold markings on the blue SKCM switches in a very early Northgate:

keyboards-f2/blue-alps-question-t17963.html?

Four different sets of markings on the switches from a single keyboard that I'm 99.9 percent certain has never been messed with.
Huh....that's very strange. Sometimes I wonder if alps just had a giant container full of a certain type of switch (like blue alps) of different molding numbers, and during assembly they just took them out at random.

Also should be noted that blue alps with black switchplates have been found before! So blue alps, to my knowledge, are the only SKCL/SKCM switch with all three switchplate colors - though I think green alps may be there as well.

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kakan

02 Jul 2018, 16:10

//gainsborough wrote:
Polecat wrote:
//gainsborough wrote:
You'll also notice that the switchplates are black, but there are a couple other things I felt would be worth pointing out as well!

First, the top housing seems to have no mold number - at least, there are no markings in the circle part of the mold, which is normally where a letter would go.

The lack of a letter in the circle for me is further evidence that this is some kind of pre-production/prototype switch. It does have a "1G" marking on it, though.
Here's what I found for mold markings on the blue SKCM switches in a very early Northgate:

keyboards-f2/blue-alps-question-t17963.html?

Four different sets of markings on the switches from a single keyboard that I'm 99.9 percent certain has never been messed with.
Huh....that's very strange. Sometimes I wonder if alps just had a giant container full of a certain type of switch (like blue alps) of different molding numbers, and during assembly they just took them out at random.

Also should be noted that blue alps with black switchplates have been found before! So blue alps, to my knowledge, are the only SKCL/SKCM switch with all three switchplate colors - though I think green alps may be there as well.
Using the wrong type of part happens every day in most industrial enviroment even though our technology has advanced tenfolds but it always comes down to human error. Not that it could be the case here but thats just a speculation.

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DatOtherJosh

20 Oct 2018, 17:47

Someone locally is selling this full computer for 300

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//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

29 Oct 2018, 07:26

DatOtherJosh wrote: Someone locally is selling this full computer for 300
Great price if you're local. My two boards aside, It very likely has brown alps. Go take a look if you're close by!

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