Futaba MD series

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Futaba MD series
Futaba complicated linear infobox.jpg
Manufacturer Futaba
Inventor Hideo Chiyuushiya, Katsuki Shimizu, Masao Miyagishima, Shiyouhei Tanaka, Sadanori Okada, Riyouko Yamaguchi
Family Futaba linear switch
Switch type Linear
Sense method Metal leaf
Rated lifetime 10M (KBM)
Bounce time 5 ms (KBM)
Peak force 3.5±0.8 oz (99±23 g) (KBM)
Pretravel 0.03±0.01″ (0.8±0.25 mm) (KBM)
Total travel 0.12±0.01″ (3.0±0.25 mm) (KBM)
Keycap mount Custom cruciform, bar
Switch mount Plate mount
Patents JPS5944725A (1982)

Futaba MD series (formerly Futaba complicated linear) a provisional name for series in the Futaba linear switch family. The GRI equivalent series is KBM.


The series name MD-4P is cited by Korean website ePartsHub, with a picture of Sandy's bar mount switch and the description "various switches".[1] With MD-4PCS being a known part number, this would put both bar and cruciform mount in the same series. However, the cruciform mount, illuminated version is cited by a related website as "MD-7", suggesting MD-4P is the bar mount version, MD-4PCS is the cruciform mount version, and that "MD" is the common aspect of the part numbers.[2] Provisionally this is being used as the series name.

ePartsHub cite the switch as being made by Sejin. The only known PCB photograph of the Futaba Texas Instruments TI-99/4A keyboard bears both the Futaba and Sejin logos, but all cited instances of the product family (Futaba MD-4PCS, the Acorn BBC Microcomputer simplified linear switches, and the complicated linear switches in the Lear Siegler ADM 36) all cite simply Futaba as the source. While Sejin may have been the manufacturer, the series was clearly marketed by Futaba.

The previous "complicated" moniker arose due to the significantly greater complexity over the visually very similar Futaba simplified linear.


Like most other Futaba linear switches, the shell is cylindrical with truncated sides, with a square top above the plate. It sits in a circular hole in the plate. The legs are threaded at the top and screw into place; the base plug of the shell is retained in place by the legs. The legs are forced inside small holes in the contact plates, and in forcing the holes larger, the legs make a good connection with the contact plates.

The switch has been seen in black with a deep orange base plug, in white with an orange base plug, all black, and all white. The black version with the orange base cap has part number MD-4PCS.[3]

The distance between the plate and PCB is 12.7 mm.

The switch comprises 16 parts in total, making it one of the most intricate switches ever designed (more so as it is only a linear switch):

  • Shell
  • Base plug
  • Two threaded legs
  • Return spring
  • Leaf spring
  • Contact assembly:
    • Base
    • Lower and upper contact leaves
    • Plastic separator
    • Rubber top
    • Seal
  • Slider:
    • Main slider shaft
    • Separate slider side (drops into the main shaft)
    • Rubber ring
    • Black dot


Two contact plates are placed around a plastic separator, inside a flat base. Above this is a thin flexible rubber sheet, which is sealed onto the sides of the base via an adhesive square. The leaf spring runs parallel to the slider, and it has a central tine with a nub that presses down on the rubber sheet. Via the rubber sheet, the pressure is transferred to the flexible legs of the movable contact, which touch the stationary contact.

The contacts have long exterior legs, with holes in them. The legs of the switch are of a greater diameter than these holes; when first screwed into the switch, they force a larger hole into the contact plates. As the metal is twisted inwards, it makes lateral contact against the sides of the legs.


This switch was also sold by GRI as the KBM (keyboard switch, mechanical).[4] While GRI keyboards and keypads have been found with the standard "bumblebee" colour scheme, GRI also had bright white switches made with GRI branding.[5]

KBM switches are described as having 3.5±0.8 oz operating force, which at just short of 100 g would make this the total force; assuming 35 g preload, then the actuation force would be around 67 g. Pretravel is given as 0.03±0.01″ and total travel as 0.12±0.01″; this gives pretravel of 0.8 mm and total travel of 3 mm.

GRI's part numbers are:

Alternate action


The following table compares the specification provided by GRI with that reported to be found in FS-5104P4.[1]

Parameter Sejin GRI
Total force 100±25 gf 3.5±0.8 oz (99±23 g)
Total travel 3.1±0.5 mm 0.12±0.01″ (3.0±0.25 mm)
Pretravel 0.8 mm or more 0.03±0.01″ (0.8±0.25 mm)
Overtravel 0.5 mm or more
Rated lifetime 10M 10M
Bounce time (max) 2 ms new, 5 ms at end of life 5 ms

MD-4P series has a mounting pitch of 19 mm.

It's not known whether FS-5104P4 (Futaba-Sejin? Futaba Specification?) covers the alternate action switches.


Cross mount

The cross mount version has a non-uniform cruciform slider approximately 4.0 mm by 4.7 mm, with 1.2 mm wide arms, taking a 4 mm deep keycap stem. It has been seen in black with an orange base cap, white with an orange base cap, all black[6], and all white.

The white/black/orange version has part number MD-4PCS. GRI KBM switches are also this variant.

The cross mount variant is keycap-compatible with the Futaba simplified linear switch.

The Futaba linear lock switch is the alternate action switch in this family.

Bar mount

All-black shell with a white slider[7], white[8] (base plug not visible), and black with an orange base and white slider.[9] One minor difference between the examples examined, is that the bar mount variant was found to have a transparent plastic cover over the contact assembly, instead of black rubber-like material.

This version may be model MD-4P.[2]

Multiple-switch return key

TeleVideo keyboards (specifically TS-800A, TS-802 and TS-825) have been found with dual switches for the Return key. [10] These switches are white with a cream base plug, and otherwise appear to be identical to the white/orange switches used on the rest of the keyboard. The reason for having two switches side by side instead of a stabiliser is not known, nor why the switches are a different colour.


The illuminated version, with a crucform keystem, is given as MD-7;[2] it is not clear whether this is a series name or model number.


  • Atari CX85 (ca. 1982) (black version)[11] [12]
  • GRI Model 771 Keyboard Subsystem (given as GRI KBM), as listed in Viper magazine, 1979, volume 1, issue 9
  • GRI 9016 ASCII Series Keypad[4]
  • Later Krown Porta-printer keyboards (ivory with black base)
  • Newbury 8000 series keyboard (white)[13]
  • TeleVideo Model 925 CRT Terminal keyboard (1981) (white version)[14]
  • TeleVideo TS-800A satellite station keyboard (white with orange base, and white/cream for dual enter switch)[10]
  • TeleVideo TS-802 workstation keyboard (as above)[10]
  • TeleVideo TS-825 keyboard (unknown product) (as above)[10]
  • Televideo 910

Other devices

  • PTC-45A machine keypad (white bar mount)[8]
  • Canon Canola BP1210-D (black/orange bar mount)[9]


Cross mount

The following switches (part number MD-4PCS) are NOS from Electronic Surplus.

No switches were harmed by this disassembly process.

Bar mount

The following switch was damaged during disassembly as it was not obvious that the pins had to be unscrewed.[7]



  1. 1.0 1.1 ePartsHub — MD-4P
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 ECPlaza — Push Button Type Switches
  3. (Wayback Machine) Electronic Surplus — MD-4PCS - Switch, P/B. NO Keyboard. Package of 20. Archived 2012-01-17. Retrieved 2015-07-26.
  4. 4.0 4.1 (Wayback Machine) GRI — 9016 ASCII Series Keypad Archived 2000-08-18. Retrieved 2015-07-26.
  5. Flickr — GRI Model KBM 01 01 Retrieved 2015-07-26.
  6. eBay — Altair George Risk Keyboard 2 756 013 A w 16 Pin Connector Used with My Merlin (DEAD!)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Sandy — Futaba_complicated_Linear
  8. 8.0 8.1 eBay — Machine Keyboard PTC 45A with Missing Key [Volatile reference] Retrieved 2015-07-26.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Geekhack — What are theses switches? Posted 2013-12-15. Retrieved 2015-07-26.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Geekhack — Televideo Terminal Keyboard Posted 2013-10-09. Retrieved 2015-07-26.
  11. Google+ — Atari CX85 Dated 2010-03-25. Retrieved 2015-07-26.
  12. Japanese keyboard blog — Atari CX85 (Japanese only) Dated 2013-10-20. Retrieved 2015-07-26.
  13. eBay — Newbury 8000 series vintage computer keyboard. retro computing at its best (DEAD!)
  14. Deskthority — Bunch from a storage unit