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Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 18 Jun 2019, 06:44
by Polecat
I have two Focus keyboards that I'm hoping to make into one useful one. The PC board/plate/switch donor is a clean, but irregularly yellowed early FK-2001 with blue SKCM switches. I'm hoping to put the guts into a black FK-2002 case. The black one I bought new many years ago, and I used it until I wore the legends off the pad-printed caps. I never really cared for the layout of that one, especially the small left shift key, ISO-style, even though it has US legends. More on that one once I get the donor board ready. Yesterday I desoldered all the switches and cleaned and painted the plate. I'll let it dry for a couple days before I reassemble it. That's where I'm at now. Here are a few photos. I mentioned this in the Alps Appreciation thread a few days ago, but this should probably be in a separate place, so I've posted it here in the Gallery. I also wanted to document the FK-2001 here since the early, blue Alps ones aren't very common. If anyone wants detail photos for the wiki I took quite a few.

It's interesting to see that Focus used the same PC board for BAE and ISO versions. As I mentioned in the other thread this FK-2001 has a single stabilizer and guide pin on the Enter key, unlike later Focus models, which had two stabilizers and no pin. And it came with a silver (bare metal) plate, instead of black-painted as on the later versions. All similarities to the Northgates.

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 18 Jun 2019, 07:13
by //gainsborough
Very nice!! That paint job looks very clean!! The blue alps have almost no color deviation as well! Can’t wait to see the final product!

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 18 Jun 2019, 07:23
by ZedTheMan
I must also say, I am quite looking forward to the final product. I'm a sucker for those black focus keyboards.

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 21 Jun 2019, 05:11
by Polecat
Minor update. Switches, stabilizer inserts, and guides for Enter and spacebar installed. Switches are like new, so I didn't mess with them.

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 21 Jun 2019, 06:24
by Polecat
The other half of this project, a black FK-2002 that I bought new at a computer show many years ago. The guy had a stack of these, but by the time I made the rounds and came back there was only one left.

This is the only Focus I've ever seen with an ISO-style Enter and US legends. I never did figure out how the Macro key was supposed to work, not that I tried very hard, I mostly just wished it wasn't there. The door says "Enhanced Keyboard", which apparently isn't all that unusual.

Anyway, this will be the case donor for the blue Alps PC board and plate above. I won't be using the caps, as they're pad printed and showing years of wear, and of course they don't match the layout of the FK-2001.

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 23 Jun 2019, 07:56
by Polecat
Almost there. I'm typing on it now. Still undecided on BAE Or ANSI. It's easy to do either on this model, and completely reversible if I change my mind. I have nicer BAE and spacebar caps here someplace.

I'm also up in the air on the alpha caps. I had swapped NeXT alphas onto the 2002 several months back, which are shown in a couple of the photos. The Tai Hao doubleshots on there now are as close as I could find to what Focus would have used, although they apparently did use doubleshots on some of their black keyboards.

This is THE keyboard I would have bought back in the '90s, if it had been available. Early (blue) SKCM Alps, 2u backspace, black (non-yellowing) case, and (mostly) doubleshot caps. And a full-sized left shift, which was my biggest gripe about the 2002.

Very minor modification was needed to use the older PC board and plate in the 2002 case. The XT/AT switch actually lined up with the hole in the black case, which wasn't used on the board that came in it. Lots of little changes on the Focus keyboards over the years. What else? I stuck some white LEDs in there to replace the greens, after diffusing them a bit.

I had forgotten that I had flipped the dipswitch to swap Ctrl and Caps Lock on the 2001 back in my Wordstar days, so I need to open it back up to change that. Or maybe I'll leave it that way for old time's sake. I don't think Focus provided the alternate caps with the black models as they did on the early beige ones; at least mine didn't come with them.

One more similarity to Northgate (not shown)--the numpad has positions on the PC board for 1u + and = keys, just like a Northgate. But I've never seen those used on a Focus keyboard. The guide pin sockets on Enter and spacebar are identical to Northgate, as are the stick-on rubber pads at the ends of the spacebar. I'll post some comparison photos of the two if anyone is interested.

I apologize for the quality of the photos. I really need to replace my $2.99 thrift store camera one of these days.

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 23 Jun 2019, 17:59
by Polecat
Comparing early Northgate 102 and early Focus FK-2001.

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 23 Jun 2019, 19:30
by Chyros
Focus gotta go Focus layout yo ;D .

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 24 Jun 2019, 16:12
by andrewjoy
You should have done a black keys cream case and tried to find some grey alphas .

That would have looked amazeballs!

Good job tho mate !

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 26 Jun 2019, 04:37
by Polecat
andrewjoy wrote:
24 Jun 2019, 16:12
You should have done a black keys cream case and tried to find some grey alphas .

That would have looked amazeballs!

Good job tho mate !
Thank you, I still have the cream case and several other Focus keyboards, so anything's possible. I only have three sets of gray Alps caps, and all of them are pad printed. Those are from an Industrial Monterey K104, a Costar CSK-2101 (industrial gray), and a luggable board with gray alphas and brown modifiers. If there's a nicer gray set available out there please enlighten me!

For what it's worth, the rebuilt Focus works fine, and the switches are like new, but it feels and sounds "cheap" compared to my Multitech KB-101A driver, and to the Monterey K104 I used for ten years before that. Now I remember why I never used a Focus keyboard for very long.

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 26 Jun 2019, 05:33
by Polecat
Hey, wait a minute! Does Dolch count as gray? I built one of those a year or so back...

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 26 Jun 2019, 10:24
by andrewjoy
Impressive.

One day i will tell you about my industrial grey Z-KB2 :D

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 27 Jun 2019, 04:48
by Polecat
andrewjoy wrote:
26 Jun 2019, 10:24
Impressive.

One day i will tell you about my industrial grey Z-KB2 :D
Oooh, I'd like to see that!

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 01 Jul 2019, 05:28
by Polecat
Soooo...what have I learned from this project (you might ask)?

1) Alps switches, even perfectly mint blue ones, sound and feel "cheap" in some keyboards.

2) The front clips on Focus cases are even more fragile than those on a KB-101A. I have a working fix for that on the Focus, but it doesn't give me warm fuzzies about those cases.

3) The cables on at least some Focus keyboards are crap. The wires tend to break internally, which some, including myself, can misdiagnose as a bad PC board or controller chip. If the keyboard stops working, check the damn cable first!

4) The XT/AT modes on early Focus models are selected by two dipswitches on the back of the PC board, accessed behind the left side folding leg. The slide switch on the back edge of the board and poking through the case is to swap Ctrl and Caps Lock positions, not XT/AT as I had assumed. I guess I could have read the sticker on the bottom.

5) The early Focus models had a PC board that supported multiple layouts. So it's easy to reconfigure one if you have the plate that matches the version you're after. This does not cross all generations and models, but I wasn't expecting any interchange between the different versions. More on this later, once I forget how cheap this keyboard sounds, and dig into the next one.

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 02 Jul 2019, 06:12
by Polecat
But...much to my surprise, my impromptu fix for the broken case tabs completely, and I mean completely changed the character of this keyboard! The "cheapness" is gone, and the sound and feel are now very solid. The case is very resonant, much like a Monterey K104, and I'm loving typing on it in its "after" state. Will it replace my KB-101A driver? We'll see...

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 02 Jul 2019, 06:27
by //gainsborough
I would like to hear about this fix!

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 02 Jul 2019, 07:02
by Polecat
Sure, I'll take a couple pics and do a quick writeup, but not tonight.

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 03 Jul 2019, 05:28
by Polecat
Ok, here's the short version of the Focus case mod. In the process of opening and closing the black FK-2002 case a zillion times the clips across the front edge broke off, one by one, until there were none left. If it had been a beige case I would have just grabbed the next best one from the pile, but since it's the only black one I have it needed to be saved.

So...I dug out an old, broken Datacomp case and snipped off four of the stems for the screws. I bored four holes in the front edge of the bottom cover with a special drill bit, not sure what it's called, but it's like a spade bit with flat cutting edges, made to drill reliefs for screw heads in wood. The bottom cover goes from thin to thick at the front edge, so there was plenty of meat there for the relieved holes. With those holes in place I cut the stems to length and filed the ends flat, then attached them to the lower cover with black #6 sheet metal screws. Applied some ABS plumbing glue, which literally welds plastic to plastic, to the upper cover and the stems and clamped the two cover halves together to let the glue dry. There's just barely room there for this to work, so location is critical. The only hard part was waiting a few days to be sure it was completely dry before taking it back apart to install the PC board and plate.

Also notice the two screws at the upper edge. The Focus case had two stems there from the factory, unused, and two matching hole reliefs in the bottom cover that were undrilled. I just drilled them through and stuck two more of the black #6 screws into those two holes. I can't believe how much this changes the sound and feel of the Focus!

I'm still undecided on whether to ANSIfy this keyboard like I did my Avant/Northgate. The plate has the hole punched already for the ANSI backslash, currently being used for the pin guide for the BAE key. All that's needed is to pop out the pin guide and pop an Alps switch into the hole, and wire it into the matrix. The Tai Hao keycap set came with an ANSI Enter and backslash. The current backslash next to the right-shift would be rewired as a Macro key, provided on the Focus matrix already, and easily reassigned to something that's actually useful. I have the original Macro cap from the black 2002, for lack of anything better. Hmmm...

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 04 Jul 2019, 06:19
by Polecat
Tried it with BAE for a couple days. Now I've ANSIfied it. Completely reversible mod, so why not play with things a bit?

I stuck the Macro cap on the old backslash (and rewired it to its proper spot in the matrix), even though I've never figured out how to use it. Did this do anything internally on the Focus keyboards, or was it just there to use with an external macro program?

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 04 Jul 2019, 06:29
by //gainsborough
That fix is pure badass - very nice work. I'm a fan of the ANSIfication as well! Nice work, man!!

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 04 Jul 2019, 21:49
by Polecat
//gainsborough wrote:
04 Jul 2019, 06:29
That fix is pure badass - very nice work. I'm a fan of the ANSIfication as well! Nice work, man!!
Thanks, much appreciated coming from one of the pros

With the Macro key wired to its designated spot in the matrix it generates (in Windows)...wait for it...wait for it...a backslash! Yep, same as what was in that spot originally. It does give a different scan code at least, so it can be separately reassigned.

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 04 Jul 2019, 22:09
by //gainsborough
You flatter me - all I do really is de-rust/paint mounting plates and solder in different switches - I've never done anything as cool as fortifying cases! Your work is much more impressive =)

You can ignore this request if things are busy, but I would very much be interested in hearing a before-and-after sound test of the focus! You can just use any other focus as the "before" test =P

Happy 4th, my man! Hopefully, it's not too hot down there. It's a pretty warm one in the Willamette Valley, but much cooler than it was at the end of spring, which is nice.

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 05 Jul 2019, 01:50
by Polecat
//gainsborough wrote:
04 Jul 2019, 22:09
You flatter me - all I do really is de-rust/paint mounting plates and solder in different switches - I've never done anything as cool as fortifying cases! Your work is much more impressive =)

You can ignore this request if things are busy, but I would very much be interested in hearing a before-and-after sound test of the focus! You can just use any other focus as the "before" test =P

Happy 4th, my man! Hopefully, it's not too hot down there. It's a pretty warm one in the Willamette Valley, but much cooler than it was at the end of spring, which is nice.
Well, there's the thrill of the chase, which for me is mostly digging through my own storage to see what I hoarded twenty five years ago. When you're old you can hide your own Easter eggs and have just as much fun. I'm truly in awe of your ability to track down the real gems that are still hiding out there. Then there's the matter of taste, which isn't missed by those like me, who have none whatsoever. Yours being impeccable by my estimation. My keyboard quest for the last few decades has simply been a search for the ultimate driver for my own personal needs. But thanks to the people and info here I'm finally getting close...very close.

I literally do not have the technology here to make a video, unless my VHS camcorder still works and you have a functional player to watch it on. And it wouldn't be a fair comparison without another blue Alps Focus to compare to. I have probably a dozen Focus keyboards here, but as far as I know the rest of them all have later white Alps. Next time you're down this way stop by in person, and you can have a mini-tour of the whole collection.

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 05 Jul 2019, 04:51
by //gainsborough
Ah yeah, that's true - you'd need two with blue alps, hahaha. That's awesome you have a VHS camcorder, BTW. My dad had one growing up, but he didn't use it much.

You will definitely hear from me the next time I make my way down south!

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 15 Jul 2019, 02:12
by Polecat
Figured I'd better take a few photos in its "done" state before I start using it up. I've decided to keep the ANSI Enter for now, and I'm quite happy with everything so far. I wish I could have bought this keyboard twenty five years ago!

I don't think I've ever seen it mentioned, but it should be noted that the overlays on the black Focus keyboards are different than those on the beige ones. The plastic is a darker shade, so they are unique to the black models. Luckily I bought this keyboard new, or at least the case, and it's pretty well preserved.

I'm no photographer, and this crappy camera doesn't help, but black keyboards are hard to take good photos of! They seem to mess with the light and focus settings, and every bit of dust and dirt shows up painfully well.

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 15 Jul 2019, 07:14
by Chyros
Haha, yes, black keyboards are a pain to shoot xD . Usually requires a lot of messing around with lighting, sensitivity, exposure etc. To get down well.

Beautiful keyboard though! Very interesting project this!

Re: Focus FK-2001/2002 Project!

Posted: 18 Aug 2019, 01:06
by Polecat
I've determined that the black Focus is "done" (as much as any of my projects are ever done...), and I'm now using it as my driver. I dug out a less-shiny spacebar, and made a custom badge since the "Enhanced Keyboard" seemed a bit too generic. I'll try to find a better camera, or at least a better photographer, to take some real photos of this one. Thanks to all for the encouragement and kind words.