where to get a usb controller/adapter for a 5251 beamspring?

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06 Jun 2019, 12:54

i've been working on rebuilding an old ibm 5251 beamspring keyboard for the past month or so, and i'm finally ready to rebuild it after having de-rusted all the springs, stems, and baseplates. but alas, i cannot find any adapter of any flavor to hook it up to my modern computer. i am well aware of the classic xwhatsit controllers, but everywhere i look they're completely out of stock or nonexistent. is there any alternative i can search up? or if anyone here has a spare 5251 beamspring usb controller i'll gladly pay you for it. please either respond to this thread or contact me regarding any info or help in getting my problem-child of a keyboard up and running!
thank you!

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06 Jun 2019, 14:43

You can buy the bare PCB from OSH Park:


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06 Jun 2019, 16:48

You can also ask to Steven. He lives in Hong Kong and made for me a fantastic F3178 USB converter with solenoid. The converter doesn't need any soldering and it's connected straight into the keyboard male plug. I bought mine on ebay (https://www.ebay.it/itm/IBM-Model-F-317 ... 3653446631) but I am not able to provide any further url I don't know why ebay says that there aren't any items in his listing?!? Anyway, I think an email is worth of it. Write him at stevenlvv@hotmail.com

ibm_F_3178.jpg (208.72 KiB) Viewed 535 times
ibm_F_3178_conv.jpg (114.66 KiB) Viewed 535 times
ibm_F_3178_conv_extra_ps.jpg (80.27 KiB) Viewed 535 times
on this pic you can see where goes the second wire coming from the converter. It is connected to an extra power supply useful to provide extra voltage to the keyboard solenoid.


here follows what is written on ebay item description:
Apply for: ONLY work on IBM Model F 3178 “Blue Switch” keyboard with original control board, original cable and harness, and original solenoid.

Function: Convert proprietary DB15 interface of IBM Model F 3178 keyboard to standard USB HID keyboard. Perfectly drive internal solenoid with one external power supply, and use “Blue Switch” to mechanically control CapsLock (‘A’ position to enable CapsLock, and ‘Aa’ position to disable CapsLock). The solenoid on/off setting will be saved in Non-volatile memory, and the last status of solenoid on/off will be restored automatically from Non-volatile memory next power-up.


1) Only few keys can generate break code in IBM 3178 keyboard, so the functionality of Ctrl/Alt/Shift with letter combination keys are restricted.

2) The drive capability of legacy USB single-port is limited, and maximum 5V/500mA, which is difficult to fully drive solenoid. So, the IBM 3178-USB converter has one external Power Adapter for fully solenoid drive. Notes that the modifiers can’t trigger soldnoid action.

3) If you don’t use external Power Adapter, the IBM 3178-USB converter also works well except for solenoid clicking.

Includes: IBM 3178-USB converter (1 pc), 25cm Micro USB cable (1 pc), Power Adapter (1 pc)

demo video: https://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNDE1NDY0 ... lts.dtitle

For International Shipping, please confirm the shipping cost before placing order.

Following vintage keyboard converters are available, if you are interested in these, feel free to contact seller:

* IBM Beam Spring 3278 to USB Converter

* IBM Beam Spring 6580 to USB Converter

* IBM Beam Spring 3101 to USB Converter

* IBM Model F 3178 to USB Converter

* IBM 5576-002 to USB Converter

* IBM PCjr to USB Converter

* DEC LK201 to USB Converter


06 Jun 2019, 17:35

You can make one yourself for about 10 USD if you get yourself a capsense controller.


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06 Jun 2019, 21:15

i have asked steven about a 5251 adapter after seeing his listings of his other adapters. he says that he does plan on making 3277 and 5251 adapters, but currently they are unavailable. i am pretty trash at soldering, so an already completed xwhatsit or wire adapter would be best for me. i do not mind paying extra.

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