New Apple 2 Keyboard replacement

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New Apple 2 Keyboard replacement

I've been working on an ASCII keyboard that can be used in general for the Apple II, as well as other retrocomputers.  Here's a photo of the keyboard configured for Apple II.   The keyboard has connectors for Apple II/II+ and for the Apple 1.  It supports two different types of keymaps for the Apple II: All CAPS, and Upper/Lower with the repeat key used as a capslock.  However, the keymaps can be modified to pretty much anything.  This keyboard supports CTRL+BREAK for the /RESET signal, and also supports CLEAR on the Apple 1.

 

The keyboard can use Cherry MX keys, or Futaba MD4-PCS keys (which I prefer). 

 

I do have to make a couple of modifications still, to make the keyboard fit properly in the Apple II case, but that will happen soon.  The whole project is up on GitHub:

 

https://github.com/osiweb/unified_retro_keyboard

 

I've attached photos of the keyboard configured for the Apple II, and also with a full ASCII layout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beautiful work.

Beautiful work.

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I want one.

I want one. PM me if I can afford it. Biggrin

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macnoyd wrote: I want one.

macnoyd wrote: I want one. PM me if I can afford it. :-D

I'm not selling the whole keyboard, but everything is open source, including the specification for the keycap set. I do have the keycap sets that I can make available (and I'm hoping some people will want to buy them because I bought a lot to get the volume discount and hope to break even eventually, even if it take several years).

It's not exactly cheap, but not super expensive either, compared with working vintage keyboards.

The breakdown for the most affordable keyboard kit would be approximately ($USD)

  • Keycaps: $65
  • Keys: $30 (if you use futaba MD4-PCS keys [URL=https://www.electronicsurplus.com/futaba-md-4pcs-switch-p-b-no-keyboard-package-of-20](from Electronic Surplus)[/URL]. I actually snagged a bunch of these at a lower price ($5 for 20) and am happy to make those available at cost along with the keycaps, which brings down the cost of keys to $15).
  • PCB set (keyboard, aligner, and encoder), about $20 if you have it made by JLCPCB in quantities of 5, and if you include shipping to US from China
  • Parts, about another $20, less if you have some parts on hand.

I will probably have some extra PCB kits made, and would be happy to provide kits of PCBs, futaba switches, and keycaps if there's demand.

So you could probably build the keyboard for $90-$120. You'd save money if you have some cherry keys and other parts already available, and may spend more if you want genuine Cherry MX keys in an expensive variety.

I recommend using futaba keys, not only because they are cheap, but because (I think) the feel closer to the originals (and I like their feel better). But I certainly understand someone might want to go for a certain flavor of Cherry MX.

But first, I do need to make some fixes to the keyboard and aligner PCBs, to make sure they fit right in the Apple 2 case.

Feel free to PM me if you are interested.

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Looks awesome. If someone

Looks awesome. If someone builds these, I'd buy at least two.

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I'd be interested in some of

I'd be interested in some of those keycaps, and keys. Probably two or three sets.

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Key Cap closeups

As requested (in a PM) I am posting some info on the keys, along with close ups of the top, bottom, and side views.

The keys are made by Signature Plastics. They are the SA profile keys, made from ABS plastic. Except for the POWER key, all the keys are molded, double-shot keys. The POWER legend was dye-sublimated rather than molded, since the double-shot process would block light and produce a noticeable pattern wnen illuminated from the back. The color is "GD" and the legends are "WFO" from the SIgnature Plastics color selection. The POWER key is color "WEL", with dye-sublimated black legend.

For this set, I ordered the "F" and "J" keys to have a "deep-dish" keycap top, which is a subtle but effective way of finding the home keys if you are a touch typist without adding little bumps, which were not common at the time.

All the keys are fully specified in a spreadsheet on GitHub, in case anyone wants to order some on their own.

IMAGE(https://www.applefritter.com/files/2020/06/12/keycap_3_views_0.jpg)

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dfnr2 wrote: As requested (in

dfnr2 wrote: As requested (in a PM) I am posting some info on the keys, along with close ups of the top, bottom, and side views.

The keys are made by Signature Plastics. They are the SA profile keys, made from ABS plastic. Except for the POWER key, all the keys are molded, double-shot keys. The POWER legend was dye-sublimated rather than molded, since the double-shot process would block light and produce

The original power key was a special product from Datanetics. I can take very detailed photos of one if you want to try to make them. It was a double-moulded key with a white top crown fuse to it.

I'm certainly going to need to order a set from you, and I am curious if the stem is compatible with factory mechs, for people who need whole sets, as it looks similar.

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One more thing, also in

One more thing, also in response to a PM question:

I tried these keycaps on an original Apple II+ keyboard, and they are do not fit well. I can press the key onto the angle post, but it ends up being a bit rotated (not the 11 deg. tilt angle, but rotated slightly with respect to the other keys). This may be due to the deformation of the stem as it pushes over the post.

I tried removing the angle adapters, and they didn't fit the bare keyposts either. I also tried slicing the edges of the "cross" with a razor blade to make the cap slide on easier, but then it's too loose.

I did find an ALPS to Cherry MX adapter here:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1720449

and that may be a decent option if someone wants to use these keycaps with an original keyboard. However, be aware that the POWER key is an actual key, not the flat plastic lamp cover on the later models.

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dfnr2 wrote: One more thing,
dfnr2 wrote: One more thing, also in response to a PM question: I tried these keycaps on an original Apple II+ keyboard, and they are do not fit well. I can press the key onto the angle post, but it ends up being a bit rotated (not the 11 deg. tilt angle, but rotated slightly with respect to the other keys). This may be due to the deformation of the stem as it pushes over the post. I tried removing the

 

What revision mechanism did you try them on? If you used a Model 4, with the step adapters, those are only intended for both a very specific Datanetics keycap and a lower stem pair. There are four models of keycaps used on the ][ an the ][+, off of the top of my head:

 

Full height Chocolate Datanetics, Half-height chocolate Datanetics, angled RFI, and Bell & Howell. There were three iterations of keyswitch types used, possibly four. I have seen RFI keyboards with and without the angle adapters, and in addition to all of that, some Datanetics keyboards used a straight stem. I have some of those switches, and they work far better than the DC50 series...I think that they are DC60s: https://deskthority.net/wiki/Datanetics_DC-60_series

 

In fact, I found a weird source for that switch type, and I had previously considered modding my Model 1 keyboard to use them, but I do not know if the keys will align properly without being tilted, an I have not tested if they fit. I don't know yet if the switches that I found will direct fit in place of the DC50s, either. Not that most of that matters for the scope of this, but it is mildly fascinating.

 

I will your keys a try on some various Datanetics switches, and the late RFI switches, as soon s I get a set, and provide what insight I may. 

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Keycaps

I also used Signature for my keycaps on several keyboard projects.  The Signature OZ mount works for most Apple II and II+ keyboards.  I also used the SA keys on my Apple II replacement key project but later went to SA Row 4 keys to get a little better angle. I also went to matte keytops.

I first built a replacement Apple II keyboard daughter board for use on Apple 1 with Clr Screen and Apple 1 back space and an Apple 1 cable.  I got a new keycap set for the Apple II keyboard for that.  The next project was a replacement keyboard that used Cherry MX switches and was compatible with the Apple II daughter board and my Apple 1 daughter board.  The next project was full custom using an Altera FPGA as the controller (no microprocessor just Verilog).  The result can create all ASCII codes and has a Caps Lock.  I used the power light location for caps lock with a 2 color led, green for caps lock, yellow for no caps lock and off if the power is off and settable option so it can power up with or without caps lock.  It also has auto repeat, Apple 1 and Apple II options and of course unlimited rollover.  I have another version of that keyboard specifically for Apple 1 that contains all the audio circuitry to put the tape audio on the tv.  I modified the keycap layout to move the return key to a better location and drop the repeat key but it still fits the Apple II outline.  I am in the process of redoing my Web site (apple1notes.com) and plan to include all the documentation for these keyboard options and some interesting Apple 1 (and clone) case options.  I am the principal caregiver for my wife and 85 years old so these things just don't happen very fast!

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Thanks for sharing that

Thanks for sharing that information.  It's great to know about the OZ mounts, and also about the Row 4 option.  I loved your keyboard project.  It helped motivate this project. 

 

 

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I find it quite amazing, and

I find it quite amazing, and posibly ordained by providence, that I was thinking of starting a project like this and was googling information to get me started on the exact day you first posted this.  I have been working on my own Apple 1 recreation for some time and I'm at the point where I want to create a keyboard for it.  You have saved me an incalcuable amount of time.

I would love to get a set or two of your custom keycaps if they are still available.

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kb0wwp wrote:I find it quite
kb0wwp wrote:

I find it quite amazing, and posibly ordained by providence, that I was thinking of starting a project like this and was googling information to get me started on the exact day you first posted this.  I have been working on my own Apple 1 recreation for some time and I'm at the point where I want to create a keyboard for it.  You have saved me an incalcuable amount of time.

I wo

Given that I was chatting about this very same thing with Brian about a month ago, I would tend to agree.
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kb0wwp wrote:I would love to
kb0wwp wrote:

I would love to get a set or two of your custom keycaps if they are still available.

 

Definitely! I have a lot of these keysets.  PM me if you are interested. 

 

The current PCBs work fine, but I'm about to push a round of minor fixes that will make improve the buildability of the keybaords in a number of ways, and I would like to test out the outlines on a laser cutter before finalizing.

 

If anyone is interested in building up a keyboard, I am very happy to help you.  If you start up a thread on the build either here, on the vcfed.org forums, or the osiweb.org forums, it would be helpful to record any issues that come up, for the benefit of others.

 

Dave

 

 

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I have a laser cutter if you

I have a laser cutter if you need anyone to test anything for you.

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Last weekend, I grabbed my

Last weekend, I grabbed my working Apple II from storage and last night I briefly fired it up to test the keyboard.  I noticed that hitting the RESET key seems to generate a RESET.

 

From looking at the schematic, I gathered that CTRL+RESET was required for a reset, and that's how I set up the keymaps.  I prefer that, but it would be trivial to change.  I want to make sure the behavior is correct.

 

So, can someone clarify the RESET vs CTRL+RESET behavior on the Apple II/II+

 

Please forgive me, I don't really have much experience with the Apple, having never had one back in the day, so I'm learning :-)

 

Dave

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I'll go fire my Apple II up,

I'll go fire my Apple II up, but IIRC, that was user-selectable.

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dfnr2 wrote:Last weekend, I
dfnr2 wrote:

Last weekend, I grabbed my working Apple II from storage and last night I briefly fired it up to test the keyboard.  I noticed that hitting the RESET key seems to generate a RESET.

 

From looking at the schematic, I gathered that CTRL+RESET was required for a reset, and that's how I set up the keymaps.  I prefer that, but it would be trivial to change.  I want to

 

The ][ and early ][+ just reset when you hit the key. The safeguard of requiring the user to hold CTL was added later, around the time that the RFI models came out, to address user complaints about accidental resets. 

 

I suggest putting a toggle switch on the board to select the behaviour. 

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Yeah, there's a switch on the

Yeah, there's a switch on the left side of the keyboard.  In this position it's CTRL-RESET, the other way is just RESET.

 

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I suggest putting a toggle
I suggest putting a toggle switch on the board to select the behaviour.

That would not even require a hardware change, since there is already a DIP switch on board.  It wouldn't even require a change to the software, other than adding a couple of extra keymaps: one for ALL CAPS and one for Upper/Lower.  The user could just select the keymap with the desired behavior. 

 

Right now, 5 of the 16 possible keymaps are used (DIP switch positions in parentheses):

0) Full ASCII ALL CAPS (0000)

1) Full ASCII upper/lower (0001)

2) Apple II ALL CAPS (0010)

3) Apple II Upper/Lower (0011)

4) Sol-20.  (0100)

 

I'd probably place the new keymaps at positions 6 and 7, so the only difference between BREAK and CTRL+BREAK would be the position of switch 2. (0010 -> 0110, 0011->0111)

 

So, is there  enough demand for both types of behavior to justify using up 2 more of the 16 possible keymaps?

 

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kb0wwp wrote:Yeah, there's a
kb0wwp wrote:

Yeah, there's a switch on the left side of the keyboard.  In this position it's CTRL-RESET, the other way is just RESET.

 

This is covered in the book The Apple II Circuit Description which I highly recommend. See p. 93 for the description and p. 219 for the schematic of the two-piece keyboard. See p. 218 for the schematic of the one-piece keyboard used in earlier revisions that did not have the switch.

Did you know there is a lowercase option in the two-piece keyboard scanner? It is decribed on p. 93, check it out!

 

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dfnr2 wrote:So, is there 
dfnr2 wrote:
So, is there  enough demand for both types of behavior to justify using up 2 more of the 16 possible keymaps?
 

I always used my Apple II+ in CTRL-RESET mode, so that's what I want, but I'd be ok with it either way.

You could use plain RESET to toggle Caps Lock mode, that would free up the REPT key, perhaps it could be used for  ^ and @ since those need to be moved somewhere.

 Here's the manual for the Videx Enhancer II which uses the RESET key to enable Caps Lock mode and SHIFT-RESET to clear Caps Lock, see p 5-5.

I prefer one key combo that toggles, especially if we have an indicator LED.

 

 

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Perhaps a toggle switch for

Perhaps a toggle switch for the more classic ALL-CAPS keymap, and then require a CTRL key combo for the upper/lower keyboard.  I think the RESET could be replaced with a Tile/Caret (~/^) key and the REPT key could be replace with Grave-at symbol ('/@) to make it more like the ASR-33 on which it's base (both keys are in the keyset), and CAPS LOCK could be placed at the POWER key location.  CTRL+& and some appropriate combination could be used for RESET, such as CTRL+^ (same position as RESET key), CTRL+CAPSLOCK (same position as POWER key) or CTRL-rt arrow (opposite size of row 3 on the keyboard).

 

On the other hand, it would be good to keep the default keymaps as close to the "classic" designs as possible, to keep the Apple II look.

 

The good thing is that if anyone wants a really customized keymap, it's not hard to add in a custom keymap (or modify an existing one), and recompile.  That's really the point anyway.  The extra keys that come with the key cap set (shown above) provide quite a bit of flexibility.

 

If anyone wants to have a go at creating a custom keymap, I'm happy to help.

 

Dave

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