Victor Data Systems KB-720 cache - a Topre time capsule

User avatar
subcat

25 Sep 2018, 11:20

Hello :)

Recently I picked up some old Victor stuff from Japan, including:
2 brand new CRTs
1 machine
3 keyboards (2 used, 1 NOS)

The seller appears to have been a repairman for Victor at one point, but I'm not 100% sure because all this only cost $95 with free domestic shipping in Japan (a huge generosity for 28kg of stuff). Needless to say I'm still reeling from the international shipping fee, but I don't regret the decision!

The keyboards are the oldest Topre keyboards we know of, from 1985. The cases were produced by Asahi Chemical, with great build quality and a very usable, compact layout. They are almost identical to the KB-620JV, documented on the wiki. One difference is the inclusion of a glossy finish on the 720s' keycap walls. Speaking of the keycaps, they are gorgeous dyesubbed PBT in a warm white colour with thick, rich printing and katakana sublegends.

As for the purpose of the system, I can't be sure but the listing said something about general input/output for Kanji.

Here are a lot of pictures :)
Spoiler:
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despite their colour these domes are likely not 55g
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not quite 002 :)
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a sticker emphasising the caution that must be exercised during high speed yo-yo usage, apparently
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User avatar
Half-Saint

25 Sep 2018, 13:23

Nice looking boards. I still don't understand what's the obsession with Topre tho. They look like glorified rubber domes to me?

samuelcable

25 Sep 2018, 13:28

Half-Saint wrote: Nice looking boards. I still don't understand what's the obsession with Topre tho. They look like glorified rubber domes to me?
Hey the design of a switch doesn't matter if it feels good and doesn't break
If it were a membrane rubber dome I wouldn't understand the hype but it has good technology behind it and feels to be a decent switch to me (third favorite switch behind vintage blacks and mx clear)

User avatar
subcat

25 Sep 2018, 14:08

Half-Saint wrote: Nice looking boards. I still don't understand what's the obsession with Topre tho. They look like glorified rubber domes to me?
i would really rather this thread not turn into this tired discussion, but it is a high-quality switch with lots of modding potential which is without exception found in high-quality, purpose built keyboards.

As for the switch itself, it's smooth and tactile, with a pleasant sound. Want it quieter? There are plenty of 3rd party options that work great, or Topre's own OEM silencing method which is even better, and I'd argue the best of any keyboard switch in history. Want more tactility or a different weighting? There are replacement domes. Sure, it can be expensive, but people blow that massively out of proportion. Used realforces from a few years ago are actually really not that difficult at all to find cheap with a bit of patience and discretion. MX keycap compatibility is even possible, though it's still finding its footing.

Before the Realforce, Topre built (and still continue to build) durable, high quality keyboards designed for corporate use. They emphasised a comfortable, anti-fatigue typing experience and industry-standard build quality. Thus, if you find one, you're basically guaranteed a keyboard that is nice to type on, and built to a high standard with a purpose in mind. It's fun to refurbish and use a board with history like that. Ignoring their old stuff, they continue to put out products of a similar caliber, in a range of switch weightings, colours and layouts, along with nice little limited edition caps and boards now and then. It's fun to keep up with and mix and match what they offer.

Also, we know for a fact that there are keyboards out there from Topre that are yet to be acquired and documented, because we have morsels of information from obscure Japanese PC component catalogues, or pictures of the display cabinets at their manufacturing plant, or whispers from an old forum post.

Think about Alps, which can be great switches. But, you find an alps keyboard on ebay, odds are it's some garbage with bindy bamboo skcm whites and pad printed abs that's turned a shade of yellow similar to a deskthority smiley. There is no bridge between the nice old alps (of which there are of course plenty) and their modern day equivalents, because the modern day equivalents in the form of Matias are simply not up to par. Not to mention the non-existent keycap support.

With Topre there is no need to wade through the piles of shit that have carried alps in order to get to the good stuff, because it's all good.

Yes, if you really want you can boil it down to 'but it's a rubber dome! xd' but that is very obviously discrediting its merit. Go look at some of the old high profile stuff they've done for data entry purposes like the Nissho KB106DE, and Juki Datum and (not old, but still) Celavi'i. They are absolutely stunning. Have a look at the wiki that 002 has put together so well, maybe you'll find something interesting there.
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So to sum up:
- Smooth, tactile switch with lots of modding potential
- Stock keyboards are some of the best of this century
- Great source of vintage boards with plenty of unexplored territory
- High quality 100% of the time because of their industrial history
- Lots of obscure and fun limited edition keycaps and keyboards released often
- Japanese 80s and 90s cool factor that is unparalleled

User avatar
Half-Saint

25 Sep 2018, 14:59

Thanks for the extensive write up!

andrewjoy

25 Sep 2018, 15:12

Toshiba tubes ! Noooice .

Can you fire them badboys up and feed them as signal . Looks like composite on a BNC to me.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

25 Sep 2018, 16:45

Nice vintage Topre set!

And yes, I absolutely agree the Topre mystique is fully deserved. They're the real deal. Topres feel like nothing else out there, and their caps are a joy, even today. What Topre got right they kept right, and they're still in business making top notch hardware with new takes on the classic design. They're mine and many people's favourite manufacturer still alive and well in the whole keyboard racket for good reason.

Can't say I'm as enthusiastic about those great big tubes as Andy, though! What OS does the computer run?

User avatar
Dingster

25 Sep 2018, 17:31

Man those look great...Mind sharing some more pics of the crt?

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