Datacomp Project

User avatar
Polecat

05 Aug 2019, 02:28

I had a bunch of leftover Datacomp boards and parts laying around, so I decided to play a bit. Not a big project, just messing around on this one.

There were at least two versions of the black Datacomps, without and with Windows keys. I didn't really care for the layout of either one. I also had some beige Mac Datacomps, with a layout closer to what I wanted, so here's what happened when I mixed the two. I used the Mac plate, and the PC board from the winkeyless PC version. Caps are a mix from the two black Datacomps, an ISO Enter from a late model board, and a few odd keys from other keyboards to fill in the blanks. Switches are the mystery white Alps SKCM (Datacomp?) that are completely unbranded, top and bottom. I've now found these switches in five of my keyboards, all Datacomps from around 1993, which have been talked about elsewhere, but are still a mystery.
Attachments
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top view
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DSCN0721.JPG
cap detail
DSCN0721.JPG (815.67 KiB) Viewed 758 times
DSCN0719.JPG
side view
DSCN0719.JPG (809.79 KiB) Viewed 758 times

cli

05 Aug 2019, 18:46

Nice 90's retro look! Like it very much.
Funny, few weeks ago I bought a similar white Datacomp keyboard from a fellow member.

User avatar
Polecat

06 Aug 2019, 03:44

Thanks! Datacomp was a bigger player than many folks realize, at least partly because most of their stuff was rebranded with someone else's name. They used that same basic case design (with variations) for decades, and in fact they still show current versions on their website.

What are the switches are in yours? I've got one with Futaba MA switches, several with branded Alps SKCM whites, and several with completely unbranded white switches. The unbranded ones are from 1993, and they have switchplates like normal SKCM switches, which I believe eliminates all the clones. They feel and sound like early SKCM blues or whites, not at all like ~1993 pine SKCM switches.

cli

06 Aug 2019, 19:00

Polecat wrote:
06 Aug 2019, 03:44
Thanks! Datacomp was a bigger player than many folks realize, at least partly because most of their stuff was rebranded with someone else's name. They used that same basic case design (with variations) for decades, and in fact they still show current versions on their website.

What are the switches are in yours? I've got one with Futaba MA switches, several with branded Alps SKCM whites, and several with completely unbranded white switches. The unbranded ones are from 1993, and they have switchplates like normal SKCM switches, which I believe eliminates all the clones. They feel and sound like early SKCM blues or whites, not at all like ~1993 pine SKCM switches.
Early whites are delicious ... yummy!

My copy is a standard white board. It has pine white Alps switches with slits, quite good after some cleaning and little bit lubing.
Image
It has also has nice double shot German keycaps, shame I had to replace some of it with dull Dell keycaps. If you want to have a compact keyboard with Alps switches this is the board to get.

User avatar
Polecat

07 Aug 2019, 07:07

cli wrote:
06 Aug 2019, 19:00

Early whites are delicious ... yummy!

My copy is a standard white board. It has pine white Alps switches with slits, quite good after some cleaning and little bit lubing.
It has also has nice double shot German keycaps, shame I had to replace some of it with dull Dell keycaps. If you want to have a compact keyboard with Alps switches this is the board to get.
Nice, we just talked about the cable on that one, with the early 5 pin connector on the PC board. Glad it found a good home!

The switches in mine are something other than early whites, but I'm not quite sure what they are. I have a couple keyboards with white SKCM from 1989 or so, the ones that sound and feel like blues. Those have no branding on the upper housing, but they have an Alps logo on the bottom just like blues. The whites I keep finding in Datacomps from around 1993 have no Alps logo top or bottom, but they have a switchplate inside like normal SKCM and feel and sound like blues or early whites. Nothing like 1993 SKCM white Alps. I found these references to them in the wiki, but no real explanation:

wiki/Simplified_Alps_Type_III

wiki/Datadesk_Switchboard

Did Datacomp buy or copy the Alps tooling for SKCM around 1993, or were they buying (unbranded) switches from Alps that weren't being sold to other customers, having been replaced with a later SKCM revision? Or did Datacomp or someone else clone the early SKCM switches, including the switchplate design? I've found these in at least five Datacomp keyboards from around 1993, and there must be many more of them out there.

User avatar
Wazrach

07 Aug 2019, 11:38

Maybe these Datacomps are a good way to get on board the Blue Alps train, if the switches feel and sound like them. These should go by unnoticed and hopefully won't be super expensive if they do pop up.

User avatar
Wazrach

07 Aug 2019, 11:38

I would love to try Blue Alps myself, but the prices are just absolutely ridiculous.

User avatar
Chyros

07 Aug 2019, 12:10

Wazrach wrote:
07 Aug 2019, 11:38
I would love to try Blue Alps myself, but the prices are just absolutely ridiculous.
Be patient, young padawan! Bide your time for a good deal somewhere :) .

User avatar
Wazrach

07 Aug 2019, 12:15

Chyros wrote:
07 Aug 2019, 12:10
Wazrach wrote:
07 Aug 2019, 11:38
I would love to try Blue Alps myself, but the prices are just absolutely ridiculous.
Be patient, young padawan! Bide your time for a good deal somewhere :) .
I'm not CRAZY about it, but it would be nice to see what the hype is all about.

Also, completely unrelated, but your glossy dark grey F107 is making me want to paint my F127 that colour. :o

User avatar
Chyros

07 Aug 2019, 13:56

Wazrach wrote:
07 Aug 2019, 12:15
Chyros wrote:
07 Aug 2019, 12:10
Wazrach wrote:
07 Aug 2019, 11:38
I would love to try Blue Alps myself, but the prices are just absolutely ridiculous.
Be patient, young padawan! Bide your time for a good deal somewhere :) .
I'm not CRAZY about it, but it would be nice to see what the hype is all about.

Also, completely unrelated, but your glossy dark grey F107 is making me want to paint my F127 that colour. :o
Typing on it right now, coincidentally! It' very nice ^^ .

The glossy effect comes from it being powder-coated. Unlike what I had expected, this doesn't result in a matte finish. It's a spectacularly good keyboard; even just having a PROPER numpad for once is such a relief :D .

Aran.E99

09 Aug 2019, 10:33

I love the look of these keyboards so much. I bought a beige one a while ago that came with pine SKCM whites and beautiful doubleshot ISO UK caps. While it is very unlikely, I think the caps are PBT because there isn't a single hint of yellowing despite the conditions the board was stored in. I'd be typing on it right now but sadly it is completely fried. I want to do a hand-wire but I've got too many other projects I need to finish.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

09 Aug 2019, 12:28

ABS can be surprisingly resistant to yellowing, sometimes. Remember that yellowing is not the plastic itself but the flame retardant that’s mixed in. Sometimes just not so much!

ABS and PBT are immediately obvious to tell apart when you have them both in hand. PBT feels chalky while ABS feels slick, like so many plastic things in modern life. Compare them side by side and you’ll see.

User avatar
snacksthecat
✶✶✶✶

09 Aug 2019, 16:39

Muirium wrote:
09 Aug 2019, 12:28
ABS can be surprisingly resistant to yellowing, sometimes. Remember that yellowing is not the plastic itself but the flame retardant that’s mixed in. Sometimes just not so much!
Wow that's an excellent point and something I never really considered.

Now I just need to wrap my brain around how sunlight can both cause yellowing and reverse yellowing.

User avatar
XMIT
[ XMIT ]

09 Aug 2019, 16:42

Sunlight has UV, it's just energy. It helps to catalyze whatever reaction would happen anyway.

Aran.E99

09 Aug 2019, 19:15

Ah that makes sense. I've had many yellow boards from the same seller so it was probably just stored better unlike the others. I've got the keycaps stored in a box somewhere so I'll see how they feel when I find them. Either way, the legends are incredibly sharp and they look brand new even though the keyboard was most certainly used and abused. I don't know if I'd want to type on them since they're so nice. That's why I sold my Wang (couldn't bring myself to use it since it was so goddamn pristine)

cli

16 Aug 2019, 00:51

Polecat wrote:
07 Aug 2019, 07:07

Nice, we just talked about the cable on that one, with the early 5 pin connector on the PC board. Glad it found a good home!

The switches in mine are something other than early whites, but I'm not quite sure what they are. I have a couple keyboards with white SKCM from 1989 or so, the ones that sound and feel like blues. Those have no branding on the upper housing, but they have an Alps logo on the bottom just like blues. The whites I keep finding in Datacomps from around 1993 have no Alps logo top or bottom, but they have a switchplate inside like normal SKCM and feel and sound like blues or early whites. Nothing like 1993 SKCM white Alps. I found these references to them in the wiki, but no real explanation:

wiki/Simplified_Alps_Type_III

wiki/Datadesk_Switchboard

Did Datacomp buy or copy the Alps tooling for SKCM around 1993, or were they buying (unbranded) switches from Alps that weren't being sold to other customers, having been replaced with a later SKCM revision? Or did Datacomp or someone else clone the early SKCM switches, including the switchplate design? I've found these in at least five Datacomp keyboards from around 1993, and there must be many more of them out there.


Hi Polecat,

I think they are early whites, according to the wiki https://deskthority.net/wiki/Alps_SKCM_White
The majority of complicated white Alps switches are branded "ALPS", but the earliest examples are reported to be unbranded
Curiously, it appears that the very first white Alps switches retained the dry lubricant and return spring material of blue Alps, indicating that the blue–white transition was not a clean break but itself a series of transitions; here, the older dry-lubricated version is held to be superior


So this explains why the switches feel and sound like blues. Are they in good condition?

User avatar
Polecat

16 Aug 2019, 05:45

cli wrote:
16 Aug 2019, 00:51

Hi Polecat,

I think they are early whites, according to the wiki https://deskthority.net/wiki/Alps_SKCM_White
The majority of complicated white Alps switches are branded "ALPS", but the earliest examples are reported to be unbranded
Curiously, it appears that the very first white Alps switches retained the dry lubricant and return spring material of blue Alps, indicating that the blue–white transition was not a clean break but itself a series of transitions; here, the older dry-lubricated version is held to be superior


So this explains why the switches feel and sound like blues. Are they in good condition?
Thanks for the reply! What's strange about these switches is that there's no Alps logo on the upper *or* lower housing. I have a few keyboards from 1989 or so with early white Alps, and no logo on the upper housings, but those have a logo on the bottom, just like (most) blues. But the Datacomps are from 1993 or so. I've dug five keyboards with these out of my storage now, along with several other Datacomps with branded Alps or white or cream 4 tab clones. I guess I need to lay out the dates and see if there's any obvious pattern.

All are very clean, and have been in storage since they were almost new.

cli

16 Aug 2019, 15:26

Polecat wrote:
16 Aug 2019, 05:45

Thanks for the reply! What's strange about these switches is that there's no Alps logo on the upper *or* lower housing. I have a few keyboards from 1989 or so with early white Alps, and no logo on the upper housings, but those have a logo on the bottom, just like (most) blues. But the Datacomps are from 1993 or so. I've dug five keyboards with these out of my storage now, along with several other Datacomps with branded Alps or white or cream 4 tab clones. I guess I need to lay out the dates and see if there's any obvious pattern.

All are very clean, and have been in storage since they were almost new.

Wow, 5 Datacomp keyboards with early whites in new condition. Your storage is a vintage gold mine
The Datacomp boards are quite good, much better than Chicony boards. Try knock on it with your knuckles, doesn't sound hollow. I think the keycaps are made by Tai Hao.

User avatar
Polecat

17 Aug 2019, 04:36

cli wrote:
16 Aug 2019, 15:26

Wow, 5 Datacomp keyboards with early whites in new condition. Your storage is a vintage gold mine
The Datacomp boards are quite good, much better than Chicony boards. Try knock on it with your knuckles, doesn't sound hollow. I think the keycaps are made by Tai Hao.
Well four of those are Mac/ADB, or I should say "were" because I used one of those as a switch and plate donor for the subject of this thread. The fifth is a black PC version, with a layout I don't really care for. I have (so far) six PC Datacomps, all black, and the four Mac ones. None of them have double shot caps, but they are very well made. Datacomp still shows current versions of these keyboards on their website, but I've never seen them actually for sale as a new item. It's intriguing because they also show three versions of their Alps-style switches, with red, blue, or white sliders, and those have long mounting tabs like real Alps, not four tabs like most of the clones.

The older Datacomps still show up frequently on ebay, usually under rebranded names. Unfortunately most sellers don't show the switches or the backside of the caps. But I really don't need to go buying any more keyboards. I just need to dig deeper into my storage to find the ones I stashed back in the '80s and '90s. But that's not as easy as it sounds; it's like digging a hole in the ocean.

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