Zenith Z-150 Makeover

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Hypersphere

02 Dec 2018, 16:55

In spite of myself, I like the form factor of the Zenith Z-150 series, and the 100-1886 model sports the visually appealing black label. However, the modified XT layout leaves something to be desired, and I prefer USB protocol with a detachable cable. I also dislike the gray modifiers found on the Zenith and many other keyboards from this era -- to me, they always look dirty, even after giving them an ultrasonic bath. Some folks like SKCL green Alps (ping and all), but I enjoy more tactility and a bit of a click that doesn't emanate from the Zenith's chirping speaker.

With these things in mind, I made a few changes to my Z-150:

+ Modded the switches with tops and sliders from SKCM White Alps.
+ Installed an internal Orihalcon-Soarer converter.
+ Installed a micro-USB connector for a detachable cable.
+ Lined the case with "art foam".
+ Remapped keys to a HHKB-style layout.
+ Replaced modifier caps with blank blacks from Matias.
+ Used red Tai Hao caps for my Esc and Fn keys.
z150_ulf1c15.jpg
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z150_rt1ca2_15.jpg
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z150_uusb1ca25.jpg
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I like the look and feel of the transformed board. It sounda great as well. When I can find the time, I will try to make some audio recordings and post them.

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madrobby

02 Dec 2018, 20:00

That looks amazing! I wonder if you can find a half-big-ass Return key replacement in red or black.

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//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

02 Dec 2018, 20:27

Wow!! You’ve outdone yourself, my man! This looks absolutely stellar! Very nice work.

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green-squid

02 Dec 2018, 20:28

Great job! I ruined mine and I'll never shut up about how I ruined it

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Hypersphere

02 Dec 2018, 20:29

madrobby wrote: That looks amazing! I wonder if you can find a half-big-ass Return key replacement in red or black.
Thanks! You noticed the gray Return key! ;-)

In a way, I sort of like the oddball Return. In any event, I doubt I could find one ready-made in red or black that would fit.

Polecat

02 Dec 2018, 20:46

What about NeXT? Not saying it will fit, but possibly?
Hypersphere wrote:
In a way, I sort of like the oddball Return. In any event, I doubt I could find one ready-made in red or black that would fit.

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Elrick

03 Dec 2018, 00:20

Hypersphere wrote:
madrobby wrote: That looks amazing! I wonder if you can find a half-big-ass Return key replacement in red or black.
Thanks! You noticed the gray Return key! ;-)

In a way, I sort of like the oddball Return. In any event, I doubt I could find one ready-made in red or black that would fit.
DON'T change anything, what you have there, is pure PERFECTION in an XT format.

Sometimes the very difference that you might not like in the beginning will grow on you, until it becomes vital to your layout and style.

See nothing wrong at all having a different coloured Enter key, it means you haven't gone all 'gestapo' with trying to separate differing colours, into a single entity.

Keeping them a little different is what makes everything so wonderful and exciting.

Polecat

03 Dec 2018, 00:30

Dangling the hook!
Polecat wrote: What about NeXT? Not saying it will fit, but possibly?
Attachments
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NeXT HBAE
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NeXT HBAE backside
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Menuhin

03 Dec 2018, 00:39

I think I read about another Zenith Z-150 restoration quite recently also somewhere, but I couldn't find it.
This is one of those vintage models that still receive love even until today.

Mine has a chopped cable and I think I might need an internal soarer solution as well.
Nice to see yours still rocking and having some TLK!

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Chyros

03 Dec 2018, 08:32

Menuhin wrote: I think I read about another Zenith Z-150 restoration quite recently also somewhere, but I couldn't find it.
This is one of those vintage models that still receive love even until today.
On one hand, yeah, you see a lot of Z-150 restoration jobs, but on the other hand, SO MANY of them bite the dust to harvesting as well. Regardless, it's a popular model, I guess!

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Hypersphere

03 Dec 2018, 14:42

Thanks to all for your kind words and suggestions!

@Polecat: Thanks for your suggestion to try a reverse-L enter keycap from a NeXT keyboard. It so happens I have one of those boards. Unfortunately, the NeXT cap does not fit the Zenith board. The main issue seems to be the stabilizer post on the horizonal section of the cap.I could remove the post, but this would destabilze the key. I might be able to drill new holes and move the stabilizer receptacle, but this might damage the PCB and I don't want to try detaching the PCB from the plate. In addition, the color doesn't match. The Matias caps are black and the NeXT cap is charcoal gray.

I like the Z-150 100-1886 keyboard. However, all is not well. I am experiencing intermittent issues with chatter on some keys. In addition, sometimes the Right Shift key acts as if it were the Caps Lock.

The chattering is likely due to faulty switches. All the more likely because this was one of my earlier efforts to make hybrid switches, and I probably applied too much of the synthetic oil lube. In future, if I lube at all, I will probably use a dry lube of some kind.

I'd be interested in knowing if anyone here uses a Zenith Z-150 on a regular basis with no problems with the board. Similarly, if you had problems with a Z-150 and solved them, please let us know how you did it.

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kokokoy

04 Dec 2018, 03:37

There were several issues discussed on this thread keyboards-f2/xt-zenith-z-150-converter-t12972-60.html not sure if it's the same as yours but either hasu or juryduty's fix seems to work fine as a converter for the black badge.

I have the beige badge thus my option was to wire the pcb to a pro micro directly.

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Hypersphere

06 Dec 2018, 14:54

@kokokoy: Thanks for the link to the discussion about issues with Zenith Z-150 conversions to USB.

I think that Orihalcon has addressed the problems, so presumably the chattering I am seeing on some keys indicates that the fault resides within the affected switches. When I can find the time and materials, I will try the converter on another Z-150, using no lube or perhaps dry lube.

At the moment, I am working on a Zenith ZFA-138-42. Fingers crossed!

Pumaeggs

07 Dec 2018, 16:04

fucking beautiful

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Hypersphere

17 Dec 2018, 02:06

The problems I was having with missed or repeated keypresses was not due to bad switches after all. It was the Soarer's converter. It turns out that Soarer's does not work completely with the Zenith Z-150 100-1886 XT-type keyboard. I got it working perfectly using a Teensy and Hasu's xt_usb hex file that I customized using his TMK Editor.

Details have been posted on another DT thread:

keyboards-f2/xt-zenith-z-150-converter- ... ml#p432296

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whiffysole

18 Dec 2018, 19:59

Man, I need something like this. Can't wait to hear some audio from it ;)

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Hypersphere

19 Dec 2018, 12:25

whiffysole wrote: Man, I need something like this. Can't wait to hear some audio from it ;)
I've posted some audio from a similar keyboard, the Zenith ZFA-138-42:

keyboards-f2/zenith-zfa-138-42-mods-vid ... ml#p432321

This one has hybrid green/blue Alps and the case design is somewhat different from that of the Z-150, but the two boards have a similar sound. However, I really should do a side-by-side comparison.

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