Hey guys, Colby here! If you missed my last blog post about my first three favorite keyboards, you can check it out here. I briefly talked about my iKBC MF108, PFU HHKB Pro 2, and Keyboardio Model 01 keyboards and why I like them. Today, I thought I would start out with a little bit of keyboard humor, “I just can’t get away from my broken keyboard…there’s no escape .” Ba-Dum Tshh.
Haha…ok sorry, that was pretty lame! With that…on to my three favorite vintage keyboards and some of their cool features.
IBM 6580 Display Writer
Let’s get things started with this beast. This keyboard has Beam Spring switches; clicky switches with an interesting click mechanism that gives them a very nice feel and sound. Beam Spring keyboards are really pleasant to type on. The 6580 has a thick steel switch plate with a beautiful cobalt plating that produces sort of a rainbow effect. The case is made out of thick plastic and raises the keyboard high off the desk. The highest point at the back of the case is almost 4 inches tall! I’m not sure why IBM designed it this way, but maybe they just liked how it looked.
The keycaps are decently thick doubleshot plastic. I’m not sure if they are ABS or PBT, but they feel pretty great either way. One fun feature of this keyboard is that the LOCK key has a latch that holds it down when you press it. You have to press either of the SHIFT keys to release it. I am able to write this blog with this keyboard because its previous owner refurbished it and installed an xwhatsit controller. Thanks, ekeppel!
Here are a few YouTube videos from my favorite keyboard channel, Chyrosran22. Fair warning, he does like to swear in his videos. (I meant to mention that in Part 1, but I forgot. Sorry!) IBM 3278, IBM 5251, and Beam Spring teardown.
Data General N860-2784-T021
I’m not 100% sure what this keyboard is. It doesn’t have a brand name, just a model number. I picked up the Data General name from Chyros in the Great/Interesting Finds thread on Deskthority. I agree that it’s probably a Fujitsu OEM board because there are several other Fujitsu boards that start with N860.
The switches definitely look like Fujitsu Leaf Spring switches, but they don’t feel like it. According to the Deskthority Wiki, clicky Leaf Spring switches have a weak click. These switches have a pretty strong click that feels and sounds much more like Alps Plate Spring. I have another keyboard, a Fujitsu FM Towns FMT-KB107, that I’m pretty sure actually has clicky Leaf Spring switches because their click is barely noticeable.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. The Data General is a wonderful keyboard with a heavy case and plate and those switches are really fun. Also, those thick doubleshot keycaps are just gorgeous. I look forward to the day when I get a converter for this keyboard’s unusual connector so I can use it on my computer.
IBM Model F XT
And finally, the wonderful Model F. The capacitive Buckling Spring switches in this thing are simply exquisite. They have a great weight, their tactility is excellent, and the noise they make is just beautiful. Beam Spring switches may be rarer and more expensive, but it’s honestly a toss up between these 2 for my favorite switch of all time. I honestly love them both. Like the 6580 Display Writer, this thing is built like a tank. It has a thick and heavy (and slightly rusty) steel plate and thick plastic shell. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that the case can be a bit brittle, so don’t drop it!
The XT part of the name is because there are actually many different Model F versions and this is the one built for XT computers. AT came afterword and added things like the lock lights and a little better layout. The XT layout is pretty funky compared to what we have on modern keyboards, but it’s really not too bad if you remap a bunch of the keys. I do my remapping with the Soarer’s Converter that I use to adapt this keyboard to USB. I bought mine from Orihalcon on eBay, but there are others if you look around. You can even build it yourself if you’re up to the challenge. Here is the Soarer’s Converter config file that I am currently using for my Model F. Because I love this keyboard so much I am super excited about the New Model F project. I preordered an F77 about a year ago and I think they’ll ship in the near-ish future.
Chyrosran22 has many Model F reviews.
There you have it! If you didn’t know collecting keyboards was the cool thing to do, now you do. Thanks for reading and letting me share my six favorite keyboards with you. Catch you guys later – Colby