Multitech KB-101A Restoration and Mods *NEW VIDEO 6.1.2019*

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JP!

05 Mar 2018, 22:25

Thanks for posting this. Glad to see another Multitech here. I've never fully disassembled an Alps board this far down before and I have one of these as well that needs a good cleaning.

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twinrotor

05 Mar 2018, 23:33

Its fairly straight forward. Having not done a keyboard, I was a bit intimidated. Once I figured out exactly how the switch plate/switch/PCB all mesh together, its not such a mystery.

From case removal to separation took two hours. Would have taken about fifteen minutes less if 20% of the pins were not bent. I did find a sweet spot with the right size tip on my de-soldering gun. I ran it at 340 degrees Celsius and probably took about five seconds a pin to melt and vacuum. The five pads I damaged could have been prevented by being a bit more cautious when running the gun. Those damaged pad still had just enough solder on the edges of the pins to pull the laminate. The rest simply popped off, much easier than my first/second attempt in the video above. The one broken pin was probably a bit of both work hardening and me being a bit rushed.

I'm ready to tear apart this MX clone board I have. Its waaay newer, which I'm thinking is going to open up other little dark alleys of crap to deal with. I have not really studied any to see if they are built in a similar fashion. I know most the custom 60% boards I have looked at online are similar, just more surface mount components that I will not have to mess with. Its not necessary to replace the passives on this Multitech, but I'm going to anyway, while the keyboard is apart. Its fairly common knowledge very few electronics come with electrolytic or tantalum caps that are stable for 20+ years. Sure, its all low power, but loss of noise suppression could really be a big issue, especially using a ARM32 as a PS/2 to USB adapter like I do. I've already found it to be extremely sensitive to connection resistance. No pull-up resistors needed here!

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twinrotor

13 Apr 2018, 19:18

Still waiting on the weather and timing.. We are having a typical spring, but more rain and cooler temps than normal.

The crack in my top case is spreading :( At least I can work on it inside. Will post pictures as I mess with it. In another thread, I recieved a bunch of great ideas on how to treat this crack and I'm most likely going to use most. The crack just happens to line up with a screw stud that holds the two halves together :(

Meanwhile, I have taken the switches and cleaned the outsides of the housings. I disassembled about a dozen switches, mostly picking them from the cleanest to the dirtiest switch, finding the insides to all be almost perfectly clean, as seen in the pics I've already posted. I kinda knew already that they were fairly clean (not scratchy at all), but I wanted to double check.

I so want this thing back on my desk.....

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twinrotor

25 Oct 2018, 16:12

It has taken forever to find time, but I'm finally getting this thing back together. I had planned on doing a bit more video, but just have not been able to set up anything.

Went ahead and decided to do the keys. I'm leaving the case alone, as there are come cracks and I don't want the heat of the retrobright spreading it anymore.

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Grey keys still have some brown after 8 hours in the sun

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Sanded the rust and imperfections from the original paint. Did not get carried away, as this is not a visible piece. I just wanted to make sure no more rust would come through. Here are some pics from sanding to final paint

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Hopefully I will be able to get to assembly here soon. I do want to set a camera up and record putting the board back together. Some of you have asked about this process and how difficult it is, so I plan on recording! Please be patient, but it will not be much longer; I'm really starting to hate these Kaihl MX blues I've been using since I tore this guy down.. I WANT MY ALPS BACK! :)

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twinrotor

06 Jan 2019, 14:40

Yes, it took entirely too long, but here is the latest:

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twinrotor

20 Jan 2019, 13:27

It has been almost five weeks since I put the Multitech back into service. I'm happy to say no issues so far, other than I wish my notebook had these caps/switches :)

I hoped this might help someone out there who is scared of this "size" of a project. It really just is 90% pulling key caps and 202 solder points, twice; a bit of time. Disregarding metal/paint work, the "time-lapse" was around 3 hours of actual work. I was also in a horrible position when I did this. That workstation is more intended for quick repairs, but had the best lighting at the time. I just use a different chair now to keep the strain off the back.

Doing this without a station might be a bit of a head ache on some boards. This one, for sure. The vacuum by trigger is a must with these pins. I still only broke two off, and that was mostly due to still hardened solder with me pushing on it to hard. Take your time, keep the heat down and it isn't a bit deal. It might could be done with wick and careful heat, but heat-soak is an issue. I did feel a few pins move in their housings. Any that I felt were suspect were placed aside to be disassembled and inspected. I never found any damage inside any of the switches, other than ever so slight case distortion around the pin that had a little too much heat. Temperatures though-out the entire project stayed between 300-350C, and I tried to do one pin per switch, then moved to the next, both removing and during replacement of the switches.

Now for some different switches for the MX clone I suffered using during this rebuild!! It needs key caps first! It will be interesting to compare build quality and design with older boards. Many of you might have pulled a bunch of these guys apart, but I really have not worked on anything newer than this, with "mechanical" switches. I know its for another thread, but please throw out any suggestions for MX replacements simliar to a blue Alps in feel/weight. I understand its apples and oranges, but you would think with all that is available, something is close.

Polecat

21 Jan 2019, 05:28

Nice, thanks for the great writeup! I've been using my resurrected KB101A exclusively since about September, with zero issues. I don't see the point of not using my favorite keyboard. I'm not at all worried about "using it up"; I just haven't had that problem with any early Alps switches. And it doesn't make any sense to keep it packed away. I've had more problems with Alps switches sitting than in use, and I'm not going to avoid enjoying it so the next owner can have a perfect keyboard. But what do I know? ;)

I've been doing some reading about Multitech and Acer, and it's not as simple as Multitech becoming Acer. Acer was apparently created as a marketing branch of Multitech for the U.S., but probably not for the rest of the world. That explains the "overlap" of the two names, and why some later Multitech stuff existed. There was also DSE Multitech, which after doing some digging I realized the DSE stood for Dick Smith Electronics. Dick Smith was a chain of electronic stores in Australia, but they also had some retail outlets in California and a mail order business in the U.S. No idea if the DSE Multitech keyboards were ever sold in the U.S. as I've never seen one in person. And my old Dick Smith catalog only has crude illustrations and no brand names listed for their keyboards. Anyone have more info on this?
Last edited by Polecat on 21 Jan 2019, 07:05, edited 2 times in total.

Lbibass

21 Jan 2019, 06:27

Fantastic write-up. I missed this a while ago, happy to see it now! The board looks amazing now, good job!

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twinrotor

21 Jan 2019, 16:09

Polecat wrote:
21 Jan 2019, 05:28
Nice, thanks for the great writeup! I've been using my resurrected KB101A exclusively since about September, with zero issues. I don't see the point of not using my favorite keyboard. I'm not at all worried about "using it up"; I just haven't had that problem with any early Alps switches. And it doesn't make any sense to keep it packed away. I've had more problems with Alps switches sitting than in use, and I'm not going to avoid enjoying it so the next owner can have a perfect keyboard. But what do I know? ;)
I still don't get this scratchyness that is associated with these Alps. This keyboard was not stored in horrible conditions, but the "bad Alps" must have been stored were there was a very fine abrasive in the air or lots of moisture. This one sat on a shelf for twenty years, not covered, all kinds of crap piled on top of it and removed. And you all saw the damage from countless bags of Doritos and finger goo.

Glad to hear yours is still clacking away, Polecat! I really have not looked for any other boards since I started messing with this one. After the cheap MX fiasco (they are actually a "respected" clone, but I don't get it), this is so wonderful to use! I'm looking at the Kaihl boxes with the click bars..
Polecat wrote: I've been doing some reading about Multitech and Acer, and it's not as simple as Multitech becoming Acer. Acer was apparently created as a marketing branch of Multitech for the U.S., but probably not for the rest of the world. That explains the "overlap" of the two names, and why some later Multitech stuff existed. There was also DSE Multitech, which after doing some digging I realized the DSE stood for Dick Smith Electronics. Dick Smith was a chain of electronic stores in Australia, but they also had some retail outlets in California and a mail order business in the U.S. No idea if the DSE Multitech keyboards were ever sold in the U.S. as I've never seen one in person. And my old Dick Smith catalog only has crude illustrations and no brand names listed for their keyboards. Anyone have more info on this?
That is interesting. Would not surprise me. Too many examples in all industries cashing in on marketing wank. Then again, the idiot market is here, so more power too them! Me, I'd rather have a Honda NSX, like the rest of the world :)
Lbibass wrote:
21 Jan 2019, 06:27
Fantastic write-up. I missed this a while ago, happy to see it now! The board looks amazing now, good job!
Thank you very much! Its a dream to type on, if you like this type of switch :)

I've decided to go ahead and whiten the case. Its cracked again and chipped; most likely from my haste in assembly. Still concerned about damaging the logo though.

Polecat

22 Jan 2019, 04:52

twinrotor wrote:
21 Jan 2019, 16:09

I still don't get this scratchyness that is associated with these Alps. This keyboard was not stored in horrible conditions, but the "bad Alps" must have been stored were there was a very fine abrasive in the air or lots of moisture. This one sat on a shelf for twenty years, not covered, all kinds of crap piled on top of it and removed. And you all saw the damage from countless bags of Doritos and finger goo.

...

Glad to hear yours is still clacking away, Polecat! I really have not looked for any other boards since I started messing with this one. After the cheap MX fiasco (they are actually a "respected" clone, but I don't get it), this is so wonderful to use! I'm looking at the Kaihl boxes with the click bars..

...

I've decided to go ahead and whiten the case. Its cracked again and chipped; most likely from my haste in assembly. Still concerned about damaging the logo though.
A couple people have recently mentioned moisture as a possible factor in Alps degradation, and I think that's well worth considering. My KB-101A was stored in a bedroom closet for the last twenty-some years. It was badly yellowed already when I got it, but I saved it because it was immaculately clean and felt like brand new. And it still does. I've typed on early Alps keyboards just about forever, and I've never killed one off (besides wearing the legends off the printed caps) or noticed any change in the switches with age or use. And I don't do anything special to keep them clean, besides trying not to spill food or drink into them.

The cases on these are definitely fragile. Mine was broken where the tabs engage along the front edge, which I covered with a strip of aluminum tape. You're probably aware that some of the later Acer keyboards used a case that was the same, or very nearly so. I picked up a 6312 model (Italian ISO if anyone wants the caps) in the event that I had to swap to a new case, but I'm very happy with how mine came out and how it's holding up. The later models had Acer spring-over-membrane or rubber dome switches, so they usually go cheap. I think it's the 6311/6312 models with a K7x suffix that had the similar case, but I might be wrong about that. There were many different brandings on these, and a couple versions even came in special colors.

I'm not suggesting you try this, but I've had really good luck removing logos by carefully slipping a razor blade under the edge and working them loose. Apparently the Multitech logos weren't attached very well, because I've seen as many keyboards with them missing as with them present. Mine was already gone when I got my keyboard decades ago.

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