Sun space saving keyboard "Compact 1" (from 1994/95)

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10 Mar 2019, 16:17

As teased a few days ago, here comes the cleaned Sun keyboard, which I saved from the bin, because of its space saving appeal.

First the positive aspect: The looks (I really like that curved simple design)
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A nice quirky touch - the key that usually only shows the "accent aigu" and "accent grave" here has little squares as placeholders for the letter. (The legends are indeed dark blue/purple.)
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Lots of special German legends
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The small print (The big thick sticker from the renting company is pretty much the only piece of metal on this keyboard!)
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The accompanying mouse
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According to the sticker - specific for this compact keyboard
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10 Mar 2019, 17:38

Now to the darker sides of this keyboard ...

This keyboard is not meant to be taken apart.

Levels of frustration while trying to open it:

- Yippee! Five screws
- wait ... no, there are 3 clips at the front, that have to be bent simultaneously
- wait ... no, there are 2 more clips under the rubber feet
- wait ... no, there are 2 more clips at the sides
- so now I can flip it open (only held by more clips at the back) !!!!
- oh no, I can't, because the cut-outs for the top row of the keys is too tight to flip over the keyscaps
- so first I have to take the keycaps off, which is difficult because there's not much space between keys and case, made worse by an half open case top

Stabilized keys (even the 1.75u keys like CapsLock, left Ctrl ("Strg") and right Shift are stabilized)
... with 24 years old - but still juicy - lube, including collected dust
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Another detail of maintenance unfriendly-ness: When keycaps are taken off, the hooks of the barrel plate rip out a piece of plastic.
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The barrel plate - after cleaning
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The back plate with little arches that (should) clip onto hooks of the barrel plate. (One was already broken off)
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Others have never been clipped into the barrel plate, instead - after 24 years - they're bent to the side.
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The membranes. Interesting information on the controller board: a test date from Dec 29 1994.
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Plate sandwich, put back together. (The bent arches had been bent back - after slightly melting them. During assembling another half of an arch broke and a few others cracked in the middle of the top, but they're still doing their job.)
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Concerning key feel: It's the worst key feel of a rubber dome, that I have experienced so far.
Apart from the main cluster the keys are narrower than usual to save space (16 millimeters instead of 19). Somehow they managed to make the feel of these narrow keys worse. The power key even more so.
Then the Sun engineers must have thought, what can we do now? That can't be the end of terrible key feel. Ha! Let's put two more springs under the spacebar, that is already mushy and wobbly, and let's put them on the very ends of the key, so that the already struggling stabilizer gets a real workout.
And so they did. I present - the worst key in history:
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For documentation - one big and 2 small cracks, that must have been caused by an accident and which I glued back together. (Two more of the narrow beams of the top case broke during disassembling and after glueing them too, they broke during assembling - and 2 tiny new cracks appeared in other places.)
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The internals of the roller mouse (made by Logitech - as usual)
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Because I hadn't done my research, I tried to plug the proprietary connector into a PS2-USB converter, which pushed the additional pin in the middle into the connector. (top left - compared to the intact one bottom right)
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Last edited by AJM on 10 Mar 2019, 19:48, edited 1 time in total.

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10 Mar 2019, 18:03

I have an HP terminal keyboard with similar (if not the same) rubberdomes and barrels and it feels awesome :?


10 Mar 2019, 18:31

Interesting. According to the FCC code on the label, it was made by Key Tronic. Some of their early PC keyboards were also mushy but they shaped up, and some of their domes from the late '90s are among the best-feeling regular rubber dome keyboards IMHO.

The style is otherwise like the Sun Type 5 and 5c, which were made by Fujitsu. Thier domes are also mushy, but Fujitsu domes were improved in the Sun Type 7.

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10 Mar 2019, 23:13

Very nice! These Type 5-era Sun keyboards are super slick, really really elegant ^^ .


13 Mar 2019, 14:25

We need reproduction sun caps for cherry / alps and so on.

Thank thing just looks amazing!


21 Aug 2019, 17:16

I just found out that this keyboard had been issued with the SparcStation Voyager — a compact all-in-one with built-in flat-panel display, which was rare back in 1994, at least at its sizes: (1024×728 in colour, 1152×900 monochrome). It must have been an expensive machine even for a SparcStation and it was marketed towards the finance sector.
I saw the machine at a trade show back in the day, and found it super-sexy. I still think it is the best-looking all-in-one ever.
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I found a document about it and read that it was intended to be not just compact but also somewhat portable.
It mentions that the reason why it had a ball mouse instead of Sun's typical optical mouse (from Mouse Systems, with special mouse pad) was for this portability: it wouldn't be unusable if you had forgotten to bring the mouse pad.
It also had an IR port, PCMCIA and you could replace the PSU with a battery.

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