Model M appreciation

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Obscure

25 May 2019, 03:05

Mother of all recent keyboards, you are just perfect as you are. All the others will be judged by your standards, and modifying you will be seen as sacrilege.

Is this the reason for (subjectively felt) thin reception on DT?
Or is it, because if you once start, you will look for even fancier stuff (like I did)?
Furthermore, there is really a lot of information available yet -- enough?

Technically maybe - but there are many stories to tell, and that's the real essence of why we go all the way through.

I guess, there are some people out there who still use a Model M out of habit and just do not know what gem is resting under their fingers. I saved two Ms from being dumped because the previous owners just did not have PS/2 any more. They liked the keyboards, but they did not think about the possibility of getting an equivalent replacement or even a converter. They thought it's obsolete like the computer it was attached to. Thus, end-users like them never will visit DT-site.

Who still uses it as daily driver?
Why/why not?
What are your stories?
What makes a Model M a Model M?
Can you type fast on it?

Primarily talking about the Enhanced Personal Computer Keyboard. But when it comes to Model M, I am thinking of the switch used synonymously for some reason, consequently of boards/typewriters with the same switch.

As for me, I take out the Model M constantly. It's just like my walking boots, my coffee in the morning, my tie for funerals, my best horse, my favorite screwdriver, my expression when facing a police officer, my life insurance. it's my reliable tool for any job of necessity.

Here is my two cents: My Model M found contribution in the Materials and Methods section of a scientific study:
https://aem.asm.org/content/early/2019/ ... ticle-info

As it is not free for download, citation as published:

"Materials. Line art was drawn with Noodler’s Ink no. 14005 and the manuscript typed on an IBM 1391403."
Last edited by Obscure on 25 May 2019, 03:21, edited 1 time in total.

samuelcable

25 May 2019, 03:11

Only thing I can really appreciate about them is their looks , they look nice as hell.

I think they serve better as background keyboards in movies than something I'd use daily but YMMV

Sorry to start this thread off so negatively

User avatar
Obscure

25 May 2019, 03:32

Like this Emiralite banker's lamp? That's just fine to put on the desk when you mother in law is visiting, or when you want to sell your house.
Last edited by Obscure on 25 May 2019, 08:49, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
depletedvespene

25 May 2019, 04:14

I started using Model M keyboards when I was in the university — there were plenty of computers with cheap-ass rubber domes for general use, but in the "research laboratory" we had a bunch of IBM PS/2 computers, each with its own Model M. That said, I didn't really realize just how damn good they were until I was working at my first job (at the Red Hot Chili Bank), where I had one for office work (while on my 286 PC at home I had a MITAC-branded Alps clone, with cheap lasered legends).

On my next job, at the Green Mud Bank, I was assigned a "temporary" computer, which came with a Model M — I kept that keyboard when the "proper" computer came in a few weeks later, with some disposable RD keyboard to accompany it. "Mechs" weren't a thing back then, and I was looked at as the weirdo (okay, more than usual) for actually preferring the Model M... and like I was outright crazy when I went to the trouble of salvaging three other Model M keyboards from the "unwanted hardware" piles here and there, and TRADING a RD for a fourth one (BTW, proof that back then we just didn't know better, I failed to save two M122 battlecruisers from those piles, believing at the time they were worthless). When 2004 rolled around into our calendars, I had a grand total of FIVE Model M keyboards in my collection, all of them Mexico-made ISO Spanish (Latin America) units.

I had definitely gotten a liking for those, and in 2005 I bought a Unicomp keyboard, too. Guess this: BLACK! USB! With Windows keys! How very modern!

Then, in 2008, I indulged myself, getting off eBay something called a "Model M ultra small clicky" keyboard... an SSK. It cost me 41 dollars. I bought a second one for 46 dollars, and in an act of complete self-indulgence, I got an industrial gray Model M for... 102.50. All of them sporting US ANSI layouts.

My collection was more or less stable, with an SSK firmly in the "daily driver" position at home and a full-size at the office (even after I had left the Green Mud Bank, from which —to nobody's surprise— I took my keyboards when I vacated my cubicle). Then, in 2017, I joined DT. And learned a lot. And started lusting for battleships... so I got an M122 and rotated the SSK away. Only to be rotated a few months later, in favor of an F122. With or without an auxiliary M50 nearby, as usage would require.

During last year, I finally managed to satisfy another self-indulgence I had been pursuing for long enough: a birthday Model M (and incredibly, after months of frustratingly fruitless searching, TWO of them showed up in the same week). I had one, the first one of those two, modded by the seller, to convert it to ISO and to make the numpad into the 19-key cluster I have always felt it should have been like, and it managed quite the feat: to rotate the F122 away. I am now, months later, back into using one of the SSK keyboards, albeit with an M50 to its left, as part of a layouting experiment. Then the M104, with its pimped APL keycaps, will take its position once again... although a particular Pingmaster is clamoring for its time in the spotlight.

I've collected some other units as well — a Spanish (Spain) keyboard, a Greek keyboard, a German Ambra branded keyboard, a couple rubber dome models (which I bought because they share my son's birth day)... and a couple more M122 that I got just because they were cheap enough (the official excuse for it — the truth is, both came with the APL keycaps I mentioned above). And a "PC M122" because lock lights. Ok, because collection.


So what do I like about Model M keyboards? First and foremost, their tactility is perfect — to the point that 30+ years later, switch engineers and/or enthusiasts are still trying to replicate that. Some people hate its sound... I love it, if nothing else for the familiarity of it (and the way it makes it clear what the environment is, much like the sounds of dot matrix printers of yore did). Built like tanks (yeah, yeah, rivets, blah, blah... sod off - bolt modding solves the problem), made up to a spec and not down to a price, and ready to withstand years of continuous usage.

The curved plate means no need for keycaps with different shapes (it wasn't until well after I had joined DT that I learned why "profiles" and "rows" are a thing on Cherry and Alps keyboards). I could swap keycaps around and do whatever I wanted with them on my Model M keyboards, was it for an actual need (an 1U Backtab key on EF4 on the M122 or the F122, which I had programmed to be Backtab), or for shits and giggles (invert the F1..F12 keys in my office keyboard and laugh at all the people that were confused as to where F5 would actually be), or for outright contrarianism (converting the SSK into the XXK and then parading it around).

Nowadays, I don't use a Model M (or an F) at the office for the sole reason that "open floor" plans put a heavy toll on everyone sound-wise, and a Model M is not really an option. But at home, they reign supreme (until my son starts recording a video for youtube, in which case I better not even breathe hard!).

And why M and not F keyboards? Weeeeeeeell... it's the layout. The F122 excepted for the obvious reasons, M keyboards have the advantage of the Enhanced layout, undeniably superior to the F AT layout and the F XT one (which, even back then, as a teenager, I could tell it wasn't good). If we could have a keyboard with the enhanced layout (or an improvement on it) with the F switches... things would be different. But they aren't.


Now, if I could score a black M13 to complete the collection...
Last edited by depletedvespene on 27 May 2019, 20:07, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Howard81

27 May 2019, 19:08

I use Model M and F keyboards. I prefer the earlier silver badge boards as i think they feel better, plus I have an abundant stash of them!

At home I have three machines, my daily HP Z220 tower I use a 1986 M. I also regularly use an IBM 5160 XT and an IBM 5170 AT; the XT has the F, and the AT being a later 8MHz machine has another 1986 M.

Personally I find an F layout frustrating on an everyday modern machine, but it’s fine when using the XT as I find the limitations of the layout in line with the limitations of the machine. I’ve never got used to layers or macros, I just like straightforward keyboard use! Alt Gr is about as adventurous as I get.

At work I have a 1993 M, as it sits on my desk I didn’t want to leave a precious early board unguarded! Thankfully my colleagues have no objection to me using this :lol:

I have a ton of other keyboards, along with more Ms, occasionally I break out the 1991 industrial grey or a 1989 SSK (but those being ANSI I generally don’t use for too long as I tire of the enter key).

I also regularly use a Selectric!

Why do I like the M? It’s just the keyboard I have always used. The key feel, the look, the curve, the colour, the weight of the keys and the sound.. it’s just completely perfect.

I am not a primarily a keyboard collector, I like using old IBM machines and with this I have come to love the keyboards they come with.

Problem is at work if I swap desks and get an knackered HP rubber dome, I can’t type... fingers turn to jelly 😂

User avatar
lhutton

29 May 2019, 05:49

depletedvespene wrote:
25 May 2019, 04:14
During last year, I finally managed to satisfy another self-indulgence I had been pursuing for long enough: a birthday Model M (and incredibly, after months of frustratingly fruitless searching, TWO of them showed up in the same week).
I think I'm a couple of years too old to have an actual birthday Model M. They started making them in 1986 IIRC, still looking for one for my wife.

Growing up we had a couple hand me down IBM ATs in the 90s. They had either Model M or Model F keyboards, I can't remember which ones exactly. Both went to the recycler when my parents got rid of the machines. From there I mostly used dome with slider boards (NMB) as they were common with the old Dells and Compaqs we had around at the time. I did inherit a couple of old Alps boards during that time for my Apple machines, one of which I still have from way back then. I've since replaced a few AEKs with the dampened Alps I lost along the way through moves and whatnot. Finally I picked up a couple of Cherry MX blue boards in the late 2000s when I was gainfully employed (Das KB 3 pre-media keys) and that got me looking back at old IBM boards. Realized Unicomp was still around and picked up the UltraClassic in black with the white/gray two-tone keycaps. I know folks have had problems with the Unicomps but this one has been great and I think it looks rather striking.

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Since re-discovering the M I've rescued and repaired several. I find them rather easy work on, certainly easier to completely tear down an M than desoldering an entire Alps board for a rusted switch plate. :-/ Model Ms are plentiful, reliable, usable with minimal fuss on a modern machine (or no fuss/adapters if you go the Unicomp route) and while not the best key feel out there they belong in the top five or so. Really if someone says "I'm just looking for a good keyboard" I point them at one version of the M or another.

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I'm pretty stingy with recommending products these days. I have a few criteria I check. It has to do what it says without a lot of marketing wank, be robust and reliable, not spy on you or be up to some other data gathering nonsense and if it's a physical product be easy to obtain parts for or repair. Unicomp has what seems to be a nonexistent marketing department and the keyboards work promised. Heck I'm really surprised they charge as little as they do for the new Ms. IMO even the worst turd they've cranked out is probably better than the vast majority of modern boards on the market. On the robustness front a woefully mistreated Model M will still work for years and years. My most recent "might not work" find was an M122 that came from a tire shop (I think they used it on their aligning machine) that was covered in grease and grime. That's probably one of the worst environments for any non-hardened electronics. Worked fine when I plugged it in and just needed a good deep cleaning. It's in the photo above with my American Airlines Sabre Model M. Following up on the spyware criteria there's no 12GB driver packages for obnoxious gamertrash LEDs and cloud connected keyboard remapping. Not a big deal for me since I'm on Linux but a lot of people at work who ask about my keyboard still use Windows and I try to steer them clear or such buffoonery. Repairability and customizability is simple too. You can still get basically any part from Unicomp and they'll even repair your board for a pretty reasonable fee if you're not up to it yourself. Custom printed stuff too. I live in the US so their shipping isn't insane, but I've heard other stories from people across the Atlantic. It's not even that easy to get OEM replacement parts for Cherry boards.

Think about it though, how many consumer electronic type products have been made for over thirty years straight now and are _still_ relevant? That speaks to the M's timelessness. When they started building the thing a freaking mouse was _optional_ and now the mouse is about to become a specialty input device thanks to touch screens and trackpads. Yet I still see some of the younger admins, devs, and researchers at my work getting a buckling spring board. That's really incredible.

User avatar
Chyros

29 May 2019, 11:25

Image

^^

Wazrach

29 May 2019, 11:32

Chyros wrote:
29 May 2019, 11:25
Image

^^
It's gorgeous, love the shiny coiled cable.

My early M122 with F-like feet and blue sublegends on the function keys is on the way. It's from April 1986! The drive to get the earliest Ms is strong.. https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/IBM-1986-Mod ... 2749.l2649

Wazrach

29 May 2019, 11:34

Oh yeah, where did you get the SSK caps?

User avatar
Chyros

29 May 2019, 17:52

Wazrach wrote:
29 May 2019, 11:34
Oh yeah, where did you get the SSK caps?
They're Unicomp repros. You can request them from there. The colour isn't exactly the same, though (it's darker).

Red_October

29 May 2019, 23:15

I used a Model M as a "daily driver" for years, sometimes a regular M, then an M5-2, then an M122, then an F-XT, and now an F-122. I remember my initial quest, looking through bins of keyboards at my place of work at the time before finally finding an F-AT that made the sound exactly as I remembered it in the past, not as the Model M made it; there's a slight difference. Up until recently I was using a Model M at work to type out eBay listings, with work winding down I was able to take it home, but it's not a special one, just a grey-badger. I have yet my M5-2, my M122 (a Unicomp) and a Honeywell-branded M, which is otherwise quite ordinary. I use the Models F as my dailies, though, I just prefer the sound and action slightly over the M, and the fact that they are N-key-rollover capable is a big draw as I am a bit of a gamer and the 2-key capacity of the M sometimes proved annoying.

User avatar
Guchay

30 May 2019, 03:47

Didn't think anyone would have the heart to scam me, let alone for a keyboard. I was sold this keyboard expecting to receive buckling springs but what I was greeted with when typing still haunts me to this day. I expected to press the switches and feel a smooth, consistent, and satisfying click only an American company could pull off such as the GOAT, IBM. But what I heard was nothing short of orgasmic, and this is where my heart dropped. I realized I wasn't sold the membranes I was promised, but rather a FAKE and imposturous wanna-be IBM Model M. This thing sucks, expecting to see a 2.5kg machine? Wrong, try 1.5kg, a measly 3.5 lbs! 2KRO, nawww, NKRO! Proprietary keycaps are awesome as you can tell from Apples success, too bad this one allows you to use keysets off other keyboards, pitty. I'll be reporting the seller to the FBI and let them take care of this in my time of grief. I paid my hard earned money for this keyboard, just to be a victim of a fraud. I will be doing the right thing, and taking a stand on this kind of toxic behavior. I will be burning and slaughtering this keyboard, which should have happened right when it was born. Support innovation and quality guys, you could cheap out and get one of these fakes but you get what you pay for. Instead you should be supporting the strong men and woman who have been bringing us original, creative, and never done or seen before keysets such as GMK Dolch, 9009, Skiidata+, Olivetti, Adler, and all of the variations where one of the timeless colors go modern which shows the dedication these people serve to us unconditionally. That is all, and I approve this message.
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User avatar
depletedvespene

30 May 2019, 03:49

I'll take one for the team! I'll trade you a Model M with buckling springs (plus one Model M rubber dome as well) for this atrocity, just so I can get to burn it myself. :mrgreen:

User avatar
lhutton

30 May 2019, 06:22

Whoa, I didn't know that fake Ms with blue Alps were a thing. TIL. How's the build quality vs the real deal? As far as knock offs go that's pretty sweet.

Edit: looks like they used pad printing or something that rubs off easily on the key caps in your photos.

User avatar
Guchay

30 May 2019, 11:50

lhutton wrote:
30 May 2019, 06:22
Whoa, I didn't know that fake Ms with blue Alps were a thing. TIL. How's the build quality vs the real deal? As far as knock offs go that's pretty sweet.

Edit: looks like they used pad printing or something that rubs off easily on the key caps in your photos.
Depends on your definition of build quality. It weighs about the same as a late model m and weighs less than a square badge, the main difference in weight coming from the thin abs keycaps vs. 2 piece thick dyesub keycaps with extra long stems allowing the keycaps to fit. The problem arises in how they executed it, which I will go into detail about once I have the time to make a detailed thread.

Donnelly20

30 May 2019, 12:47

:o
Last edited by Donnelly20 on 30 May 2019, 12:51, edited 1 time in total.

Donnelly20

30 May 2019, 12:49

Is there a way to tell from photos if the board is fake without the caps being pulled off, i purchased an ibm model m recently in america and had it sent to a relative, they will be bringing me the board when ever they are visiting which i think is soon. i just want to make sure i was not scammed.These are the only pictures i have and i didnt think model m's came with din plugs
Edit:The board has an sdl port and the din plug has ibm on it

Image

Image

Image

Fkazim

30 May 2019, 12:55

The early Model M's did come with 5 pin DIN connectors so you can rest easy. Also all the older ones with the DIN plug all had buckling springs the ones later (LEXMARK Model M's) were the ones that could have the rubber domes. Nice condition your Model M is too.

Donnelly20

30 May 2019, 13:41

whew, thanks for confirming that, i was hoping it was bucking cause as you said its in nice condition, i also plan to convert it to iso if im brave enough at the time but first ill have to figure out exactly what i need. furthermore plan on getting orihalcons sdl to usb cable or maybe din to usb cause i like the look of the coiled cable. :D Do unicomp sell a full iso set ?

Fkazim

30 May 2019, 14:03

When you say ISO do u mean UK ISO layout, German ISO or what? well I know the keys needed to change for the UK ISO layout.

These are the keys you will need for UK ISO layout.

1) 3£ key
2) 2" key
3) short left shift key
4) :; key
5) @' key
6) ~# key
7) ISO upside down L enter key
8) Single unit |\ key

Then you got a full ISO UK layout amusing UK ISO is what you want.

Hope that helps.

User avatar
Howard81

30 May 2019, 14:17

Unicomp do indeed sell ISO sets in any language you wish.

Donnelly20

30 May 2019, 15:11

Could you link me to them because i cannot find them anywhere on their site, also i would like to ask, is this the converter i would need to get https://www.ebay.com/itm/302711725609 if i wanted to keep the coiled cable and will it be able to work on windows 10 ? Sorry for the questions im kinda new to the keyboard stuff.

Fkazim

30 May 2019, 16:21

The Model M you have is the standard PC Model meaning it speaks with the AT protocol so you don't need any soarers converter all you need are the below cables

1) 5 pin DIN to PS/2: https://www.amazon.co.uk/kenable-AT-Key ... way&sr=8-6

2) PS/2 to USB active converter: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Top-Longer-USB ... way&sr=8-3

User avatar
depletedvespene

30 May 2019, 16:30

What Fkazim said.

In spite of that, you COULD get one of orihalcon's USB to SDL Soarer's converters anyway, but it's not strictly necessary; as long as the only physical changes you do to the layout are splitting the left Shift and replacing the ANSI Enter + 1.5 backquote key with an ISO Enter and a 1U key, you're good to go without needing to reprogram anything.

You WOULD need to do some minor reprogramming if you do split the backspace key, the right Shift key, and any of the three 2U keys in the numpad.

User avatar
depletedvespene

30 May 2019, 17:14

Donnelly20 wrote:
30 May 2019, 12:49
Is there a way to tell from photos if the board is fake without the caps being pulled off, …
First off, those Blue Alps "fake IBM" Model M keyboards are quite, quite rare, and from what we know, they use actual Alps SKCC blue switches, not clones, so that makes them rather appreciated (especially if, as in the picture above, they're clean). The existence of those "fakes" is one of DT's ongoing mysteries, as their existence makes little sense - manufacturing them can't have, at the time, cost much less (or take less time) than simply bringing in the real stuff in a container.

The quickest ways to determine whether a particular unit is or not a fake are: 1) the back label - the "fakes" we have spotted so far all use decidedly thinner fonts on the lettering; 2) the Alps caps are prone to yellowing (as they seem to be always made of ABS), while the "true" stuff is made of PBT (some UK space bars notwithstanding).


I'd frankly be more worried about buying a Model M and mistaking a rubber dome version (which aren't bad, in and of themselves!) for an actual mech. The quickest way to know is to look up the part number in the back label: 71G4644 is the most common rubber dome model, while 1391401 and 42H1292 are the most common mechanical models you'll find. The DT wiki has an article with details on most part numbers at wiki/IBM_Enhanced_Keyboard that should satisfy your needs.

Fkazim

30 May 2019, 17:50

You can also find IBM Model M part numbers in Wikipedia click on the features by part number tab.

Link:https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_M_keyboard

Hope that also helps as another useful source.

Donnelly20

30 May 2019, 18:46

Fkazim wrote:
30 May 2019, 16:21
The Model M you have is the standard PC Model meaning it speaks with the AT protocol so you don't need any soarers converter all you need are the below cables

1) 5 pin DIN to PS/2: https://www.amazon.co.uk/kenable-AT-Key ... way&sr=8-6

2) PS/2 to USB active converter: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Top-Longer-USB ... way&sr=8-3
Thanks i actually just ordered the top longer PS/2 to USB for my gateway 2000 board so all i have to do is get the 5 pin DIN to PS/2 and i can keep the aesthetically pleasing black coiled cable. i also bought an m122 but i do not have any good pictures of that, i know the cable is not great on it which is unfortunate since its fixed. Now all i need is a dell at102w which i have lined up :lol:
Edit: i also hope to be upgrading my pc soon to the asus strix b450-f board and that comes with a ps/2 port so i wont need a long line of converters 8-)

HC514

31 May 2019, 00:31

All this talk of AT connectors and bootlegs reminds me, the cable of my Model M bugs me. Surely they're not supposed to have a logo that looks like THIS, right?
IBerM.jpg
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That's got to be too far off model for IBM to tolerate. I mean, here's an XT's plug for comparison.
IBMXTplug.jpg
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So what's up with this cable? Is it some kind of replacement?

User avatar
depletedvespene

31 May 2019, 00:36

Let's see the rest of that cable (it could well be a replacement). But if that thin logo triggers you, buy a replacement from Cindy! (she should still have some of those fantastic black cables in stock)

User avatar
nelamvr6

31 May 2019, 00:56

depletedvespene wrote:
31 May 2019, 00:36
Let's see the rest of that cable (it could well be a replacement). But if that thin logo triggers you, buy a replacement from Cindy! (she should still have some of those fantastic black cables in stock)
Cindy?

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