the inimitable IBM Model M.

friday, january 20th, 2023.

Most of the electronics I use these days are purchased secondhand— I don't particularly want to cause more gadgets to be manufactured. One of my recent exceptions is a Linux-layout Unicomp custom Classic 104. It is a beige behemoth that clocks in around 7 pounds:

my beige unicomp model M keyboard.

Unicomp purchased the rights and tooling to keep manufacturing the IBM Model M keyboard, which they do in Lexington, Kentucky. The Model M is a buckling spring mechanical keyboard, the sort that have been on IBM machines and typewriters since the 1970s.

The IBM buckling spring mechanism.

If you've not had the pleasure to type on one of these keyboards, it's a bit hard to describe how it feels to type on them. The spring offers more resistance than the rubber dome you'll find in most keyboards, until the spring bends and the switch under it actuates. Then, the resistance releases. The tactile experience is something like a plateau and drop-off:

the key force plateau, graphed.

It took about 2 months for Unicomp to manufacture and ship this keyboard to me, but it was definitely worth the wait. This is my second Unicomp Model M, the first I purchased in 2008 and used as a keyboard at work for a while until I replaced it with a second-hand Vortex Pok3r with quieter Cherry Brown MX switches:

my Vortex Pok3r keyboard.

I'm sure my colleagues were a lot happier with the quieter typing.

One of the things I really enjoyed about that Pok3r keyboard was that I could remap the keys and put the left control where the caps lock key is. Especially useful as the control key is used a lot in the Vim text editor. The downside with that Pok3r keyboard is that it seems to draw just enough power to give my KVM switch trouble. The KVM switch will periodically restart and my mouse and keyboard input goes dead for a second or so. Probably powering all those fancy LEDs.

The Model M seems to draw less power, something like 100mA. The KVM switch is happy and, thus, I'm happy since my mouse and keyboard don't go dead periodically.

This lovely beige Model M of mine has the caps lock & control keys swapped, along with the tilde & escape keys. And it is an absolute treat to type on. So much so that I can definitively attribute my recent spate of writing to this keyboard!

This is definitely one of those electronics whose manufacture I don't mind causing. I hope it'll keep serving me for decades to come!

Until next time, be well! :)