Restoring&Converting the IBM 4978 Beamship

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Noobmaen

13 Jul 2018, 18:29

I recently purchased a working IBM Series/1 system with a 4978 Display Terminal. Due to greater familiarity, the first thing I want to do is to restore the keyboard and convert it to USB in an easily reversible manner, so that I can continue to use it for its original purpose. When I opened the keyboard I was surprised by its plate and pcb, which has a LOT of vacant positions left. The matrix seems to have 22 columns and 8 rows if I counted correctly, which makes it bigger than the usual 16x8 matrix for model F and 23x4 of most other beamsprings. As far as I understand, the CommonSense firmware with the CY8CKIT-059 prototyping kit supports a maximum of 24 rows and 8 columns, so conversion shouldn't be too difficult. Does anyone here know where to get fitting card edge connectors?
I will update this thread as I make progress, so stay tuned!
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width vs displaywriter
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height vs displaywriter
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top case and keycaps removed
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contamination shield removed
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bottom of the switches
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pcb front
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pcb back
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Chyros

13 Jul 2018, 22:52

Hate, hate, hate. That beamship is just so cool xD .

Good luck with the restoration though :) .

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Bass

14 Jul 2018, 02:21

That PCB looks absolutely stunning, so many capsense pads! And the fact that it seems none of those stems have any rust.

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PlacaFromHell

14 Jul 2018, 20:46

Would be the extra pads functional? :?

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depletedvespene

14 Jul 2018, 21:18

Oh, they BETTER BE!

As I mentioned elsewhere, I'd never suggest to drill holes into this unit's case, BUT... if the keyboard were to be used caseless (or with a purpose-built case) and enough replacement switches be procured, this ginormous PCB could be put to full use and get oh so many extra functionality from it. As some of us say, more keys is more goodness. :mrgreen:

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PlacaFromHell

14 Jul 2018, 23:49

You can turn it in the most modern beamspring keyboard ever built, with a full ANSI/ISO layout. I'm dying of envy right now.

EDIT: not full layout but who cares numpad.

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JP!

14 Jul 2018, 23:59

Chyros wrote: Hate, hate, hate. That beamship is just so cool xD .

Good luck with the restoration though :) .
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mark201200

15 Jul 2018, 01:34

that's fucking beautiful. how big is it in comparison to a regular Battleship?

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Chyros

15 Jul 2018, 09:24

mark201200 wrote: that's fucking beautiful. how big is it in comparison to a regular Battleship?
I'm also very interested in this.

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darkcruix

15 Jul 2018, 12:19

Just finished restoring my F107 and now I see this. I bet there are only a handful of those in existence anymore of these... WHAT A BEAUTY!

orihalcon

16 Jul 2018, 06:01

Yep, this is the one I think I'd stop collecting for if I were able to find/buy.

For the record, this is not the largest beamspring or the one with the most keys. For that, you'll need to beat 254 keys:
https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyb ... key_kanji/
There was some speculation on whether this actually was a beamspring (versus some other switch type like hall effect) or not for quite a while until a guy that worked in the IBM location in Japan where it is displayed was able to pull a cap.

During my hunt, I've spoken to people who claim that there are single vintage computer collectors who have 10 or more complete working Series/1 systems, but won't part with any of them. Then of course, if you Google it, all you find are articles about how the US military STILL USES the Series/1 to control nukes, so I'm sure the US government is in possession of A LOT of these. Even when they are eventually retired, I doubt they are going to show up at military surplus stores or anything, they'll probably be destroyed sadly.

The extra capsense pads are wired into the matrix, so they would be functional with a modern controller, but I'm sure that the original controller ignores them as those without a switch above them would be read as "pressed" constantly.

Since I'm a fan of the Xwhatsit controller myself, after spending a ridiculous amount of money on one of these, I probably wouldn't hesitate to commission a modern PCB redesign with a 16x8 layout for only the capsense pads that are actually being used, though with your wanting to have dual use with the original system, that option is kind of out, though it really wouldn't be that much more work to swap the capsense PCB depending on how often you'll do that.

As far as edge connectors, that's the easy part to find. This will work: https://www.ebay.com/itm/140887820549, but you will have to do a little cutting on the sides to have two of them to have enough space to plug in right next to each other. The other alternative would be to use original edge connectors from other original beamspring controllers that I'm sure other users have no use for once they've converted theirs to USB.

I never realized there were all of those extra capsense pads there AND the holes in the barrel plate for additional switches. Would be really easy to split the spacebar any number of ways, or turn all the 1.5 width keys at the top into single keys for like 30 FN keys in that top left block alone, all without any modifications to the case. I also like how the double width vertical keys each have two stems with capsense pads below each, meaning that you can move those wherever you want. It's too bad it's not ANSI convertible with those extra TWO keys on most rows in the main block. However, I think it is the ONLY beamspring that has a double wide horizontal ANSI style return key. If I were to eventually find one, I probably wouldn't mod the layout at all, but knowing the customization potential is there is just pain awesome.

Amazing find, no doubt about it!

DMA

16 Jul 2018, 06:12

22x8 won't fly. Max 128 keys. Internally, scancodes are single byte, and the high bit is "pressed/released".
Not that it's hard to fix - just that nobody needed a keyboard with more than 128 keys yet.

DMA

20 Jul 2018, 05:45

Correction: CommonSense now supports up to 255 keys. Max matrix size is 8x24 though - which makes it 192 keys.
Can make 16 rows - but this will require custom hardware because there's not enough pins in QFN case (read "on prototype kit").

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Noobmaen

21 Jul 2018, 17:59

I have created an album of some pictures of Series/1 internals on flickr here.
mark201200 wrote: that's fucking beautiful. how big is it in comparison to a regular Battleship?
It's slightly less wide and slightly deeper, the key density is pretty good for beamspring standards:
Image20180715_153044 by Alexander Unverzagt, auf Flickr
Image20180715_153134 by Alexander Unverzagt, auf Flickr
DMA wrote: Correction: CommonSense now supports up to 255 keys. Max matrix size is 8x24 though - which makes it 192 keys.
Can make 16 rows - but this will require custom hardware because there's not enough pins in QFN case (read "on prototype kit").
That's great news, thanks a lot for implementing this change!

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Chyros

22 Jul 2018, 09:35

Oh wow. I didn't think it would be as wide as it is. It really IS battleship-sized! Oo

xueyao

22 Jul 2018, 09:37

This looks like the biggest privately owned beamspring right now. ITS AMAZING AND I WANT IT

Sent from my SM-G965F using Tapatalk

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darkcruix

22 Jul 2018, 09:40

Honestly man - you have to document every step of your work on it here. I am so jealous :)

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Bass

22 Jul 2018, 11:31

orihalcon wrote: During my hunt, I've spoken to people who claim that there are single vintage computer collectors who have 10 or more complete working Series/1 systems, but won't part with any of them. Then of course, if you Google it, all you find are articles about how the US military STILL USES the Series/1 to control nukes, so I'm sure the US government is in possession of A LOT of these. Even when they are eventually retired, I doubt they are going to show up at military surplus stores or anything, they'll probably be destroyed sadly.
There are collectors with 10 complete Series/1 systems :o ? I am pretty sure they are worth at least $10k a piece conservatively, I have even seen some sources claim they are worth as much as $100k. And having enough space to store that many of them would be quite impressive at any price.

I actually work at a government laboratory where we have some old computer equipment still in use. Sadly I think you are right about the likely fate of these since my employer did say most old computer equipment gets destroyed. Occasionally a few things occasionally get sold in auctions, but usually these items are nothing special. It's a shame they are this rare since old pictures of the Series/1 give me the impression that they were once quite abundant:
Image

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Muirium
µ

22 Jul 2018, 14:06

Well, Jay Leno’s other garage is full of mainframes.

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Noobmaen

01 Sep 2018, 19:28

Quick update on the state of the restoration; case and keycaps are fully cleaned, metal stem inserts are pulled from the switches (luckily without any breakage!) and they were fully disassembled. Today the 2nd batch of housings is being ultrasonically cleaned, unfortunaly the foam is in worse condition than I thought initially, so that will need replacing too.

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Noobmaen

17 Dec 2018, 14:36

The restoration process is finally finished, here are pictures of the result. ImageIMG_3133

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Chyros

17 Dec 2018, 16:36

*spine tingles of delight*

andrewjoy

17 Dec 2018, 17:07

Yeh! Well i will have my own huge beamspring , with blackjack and hookers... in fact , forget the beamspring!

That is amazing tho mate, it is just beauty to behold!

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darkcruix

18 Dec 2018, 18:48

Noobmaen wrote: The restoration process is finally finished, here are pictures of the result. ImageIMG_3133
W O W

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OldIsNew

24 Dec 2018, 02:19

That shor is real purty fur sure!

Nice!

reichlinger

13 Mar 2019, 19:48

I bought an IBM Series I in 1978. Over the next few years, I added additional equipment. I have 3 4978s. It still IPLs (IBM lingo for "boots") and everything works.

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