The world's best keyboards. I'm talking about the IBM buckling-spring keyboard that clicks twice for every keypress to make it sounds like you're typing really fast. It also provides juuuust the right resistance on the way down to keep your fingers from think they've been stabbed into a wad of week-old marshmallow all day long. They're also huge and heavy, keeping them from sliding all over the desk; and if you throw it at something in frustration you can be fairly certain that the target, not the keyboard, will break. You can have mine after you pry it out of my cold, dead, fingers.

Update: I have the 12 foot cord. I guess that makes me cool or something. For me it just means I can pick up the keyboard and walk across the room with it...

I also got a newer IBM keyboard that weighs about half as much as the originals. Still has the nice clicky action though.

One of the marvels of modern science. I believe that IBM's name for this style is Selectronic, as the clicky key design was engineered to emulate the feel of an IBM Selectric electric typewriter, though I've heard it referred to as the model M. I've had mine for five years now. None of my other original computer hardware remains but this.

You can pry off the keys easily and clean hair/food/crud from between the keys. The cable is replacable, letting you connect it to both AT and PS/2 sockets. You get badass points if you manage to get the 12 footer RS/6000 keyboard cord. You can beat someone to death with it and still use it to compose nodes.

Some varieties include a Trackpoint nipple betwixt the G, H, and B keys. These keyboards have a pass-through port to allow an external mouse to be MUXed with the Trackpoint. This may seem redundant until you find yourself eating a sammich and trying to node simultaneously.

The truly 31337 have one of the Trackpoint models in all black. These were once options for the Thinkpad. The flat black model has achieved a degree of sex appeal that no amount of transparent corrugated plastic, USBness, or Eurodynamic styling can muster.

I love it like Tender Vittles. I love it like a milkshake.

I will die slumped over this keyboard. I wish it to be buried alongside myself.

One of the best keyboards ever manufactured. Almost completely indestructible, these keyboards have the best tactile feedback imaginable while typing. Every time I see one I try to acquire it, most people seem more than glad to let go of their old grungy Model M's. I give them a quick clean up, and viola.. Good as new, and still working perfectly. I've never seen an IBM Model M keyboard that is not functional. I've seen some with missing keycaps, but even with them missing, they still work fine.

IBM Model M's are also really heavy. This is great; the keyboard won't walk around on your desk as you type. Some of them also have replaceable cables. I doubt you'll find a replacement cable these days, but the fact that IBM did that shows how much thought they put into the design of these wonderful keyboards.

Each key has a separate keyswitch. You get a nice, satisfying click when you press a key. You get another satisfying click when you release the key as well. This is due to the buckling spring design. The keyboards also have greater reliability, due to sealed keyswitches which are based on capacitance (two metal plates getting closer together when the key is pressed) rather than actual electrical contact. Modern keyboards tend to have a large printed circuit board upon which a rubber conductive mat is laid, with little bumps. when the bumps are depressed, a keypress is detected. Cheap design, but when dirt and oxidation gets under that mat, it's toast. Model M's don't have this problem.

If you find a Model M, try to get it. Best of all.. no annoying Windows Keys, so it's great for Linux users. }:)

Really cool keyboards that are satisfyingly weighty, repel dirt and have ultra-mechanical keys. Each key has a metal strut thing like a proper typewriter and two caps, to allow switching around of letters for foreign key layouts. The cables are extra long and shielded and have PS/2 adaptors. Not really something you can put on your lap but achieves a far faster typing rate than this Logitech Deluxe Keyboard I am hunt-and-pecking this writeup on ... oh, and they're indestructable and immortal of course.

Excellent keyboards made by IBM to resemble selectic typewriter keyboards. The "clicky" sound was caused by a buckling spring. The IBM keyboard technology was eventually bought by Unicomp, who still makes the clicky keyboards. The web store http address is

http://store.yahoo.com/pckeyboards/ibmkeyboards.html

IBM made a clicky keyboard without a numeric keypad to save desk real estate. It has part number 1391472. Don't buy the short keyboard at the url above, it's got weird key placements at the lower left. I think you can find the short keyboard at

http://www.pckeyboard.com/ibmlist.html

But these things show up periodically on ebay too. Try there first, as you may get one for $5. The last one I bought cost more for the shipping. If you are concerned about wear, don't be -- they're practically indestructible.

Another product that was influenced by the IBM M series keyboards is the Linux Cool Keyboard. Not as heavy, but reportedly a similar feel.

One of the most important features is that the backslash key is in the Right Place. Many modern "Windows" keyboards have a short backspace key with the slish next to it instead of below it (where it naturally belongs). Keyboards with emasculated backspace keys usually have engorged enter or return keys (the drawbacks of which are described here). In even more bizarre layouts I have witnessed the slish to the right of a chopped off right-shift.

Taking care of your Model M:

To protect my keyboard against dust and human debris I use a specific cleaning process. Since this takes a few hours I swap out with a backup keyboard for the interim, a more modern IBM soft-touch keyboard. First, remove all the keys (they pop out easily with the help of a screwdriver). This will leave the frame of the board open with the springs rolling around in their pits. Take the keys and put them in the sink with some hand soap. Swish them around for a minute or so and return to the frame. Use a miniature vacuum to clean out the obvious stuff, and then a Q-Tip (cotton swab) dipped in rubbing alchohol to remove the less obvious human grime. Scrub down the frame with a soapy sponge (due to the superior design, you don't have to worry about the electronics getting wet). Return to the sink and finish scrubbing your keys, then drain and dry. Let them sit for a while to air out. Put them all back in place and it's perfectly shiney and new. Keeping a regimen like this I hope to preserve my keyboard for generations. I have never had a mechanical failure in over ten years, but I keep an identical back up in storage incase I need spare parts. When I die, my IBM clicky keyboard will be willed to one of my children.
The IBM Model M keyboard went through 3 revisions.

  • The original keyboard was made in 1987. It is the de facto standard for modern keyboards today, minus the Windows keys. Featured a full length spacebar, tactile response feedback, a detachable cord, and no unnecessary keys. This keyboard was a marvel of engineering.
  • The second revision, made around 1992, took the original Model M design and added drain holes for liquid spills on the back of the keyboard, and side walls so the keyboard was inset into the frame itself -- acting as a sort of gutter for liquid spills. They also took the original grey logo and made it the IBM blue logo that we know today.
  • And then, the third revision, made circa 1995. For reasons unknown, IBM sold off their keyboarding division to Lexmark, who then proceeded to butcher the design. This revision features a cord embedded into the keyboard, no clickey keys, and a general feeling of integrated cheapness. This is the end of the original Model M era.

These keyboards truly are indestructable. Some time ago, I was at an anti-smoking assembly, and there was a part where they smashed old computers up to prove what a waste of money smoking is. They invited students to come up onstage and smash old IBM computers with a sledgehammer. The IBM PS/2 case split open like soft cheese when hit, and so did IBM's CGA monitors. However, when one student tried to smash a Model M keyboard, I couldn't believe what was happening before my eyes.

The keyboard would not break apart after repeated blows with the sledgehammer

Keys went flying everywhere, but the keyboard remained intact. The student gave up and smashed another PS/2 computer.

On June 10, 2002, my IBM Model M keyboard (tattooed 626-5569 by my local high school's surplus department) will turn 10 years old -- even after 10 of very heavy use. it works just fine.

More info can be found at www.modelm.org, where I learned about these revisions.

I found this thing in the free pile at Pratt and Whitney's surplus store; its design caught my notice.

IBM Model M, Plt Number: F3, 1985 edition

Differences: It's about 2 1/2 inches wider than the F2 (Normal Model M) and 5/8th of an inch longer.
The Numbers on the Numeric Keypad are not labeled other than numbers. (I.e. No Arrows or Home, end, etc etc)
The function keys are on a raised part of the keyboard that follows the same curve as the original F2's, which reaches a max height of 13/16th of an inch from the normal top of the keyboard.
The Cable is not detachable.
To raise the height, two buttons on the side of the keyboard must be pressed to release the stands.
The stands have variable heights:
  • 3/8 of an inch
  • 2 inches
It has a Metal IBM logo at the upper right corner of the raised section. Function keys are not separated, have a 'P' in front of them, and some have additional Labels:
  • F1: Lower Contrast level (Small Sun Symbol)
  • F2: Lower Brightness level (Half filled Circle symbol)
  • F3: Disable alarm
  • F4: Disable click
  • F8: A,a (I think it's another caps lock)
  • F12: Num Lock
There are an additional 12 Function keys above the original 12:
  • F13: Raise contrast level
  • F14: Raise brightness level
  • F15: Enable Alarm
  • F16: Enable Click
  • F17: Click OnOff
  • F18: Blink Cursr
  • F19: Alt Cursr
  • F20: Rvrse Image
  • F21: Extnd Dsply
  • F22: No Dim
  • F23: Kbd ID
  • F24: Model ID
To the left of the keyboard there is a new set of keys, which contain (read up to down):
  • Attn / SysRq
  • Cursr Sel
  • ExSel
  • Print / Ident
  • SetUp
  • Clear
  • (Blank) / Erlnp
  • Erase EOF
  • Play / Test
  • Recrd
Instead of (num Lock), *, /, -, and + on the Keypad there are (in that order):
  • (Blank)
  • (Blank)
  • '
  • Space
  • Tab
  • -
No Control keys. In it's place are:
  • Left: Reset / DvCnl
  • Right: Enter
No square brackets. (Therefore rendering it useless to noders. Unless you want to reprogram some keys)
No ^ key
No (Home), (insert), (Page up), (page down), (Delete), (end), (page down) keys. Instead there are:
  • Dup / PA1
  • Field Mark / PA2
  • Blank
  • Reverse Tab
  • (A with a ^ over it)
  • (a with a remove symbol through it / aaa with a remove symbol through it)
Instead of a normal Up, down, left, and right section there is a large + shaped section with:
  • (Up) / back
  • (Left) / left with 2 arrows
  • (Diagonal up/left)
  • (Right) / Right with 2 arrows
  • (Down) / Fwd
There is a (! / ¢) key between the 'P' and the (| / '\') key
There is a (> / <) key between the 'Z' and the Left shift key
Above the 1 there is a vertical strait line
Above the 6 there is a - with a hook down on the right side

Final Notes:
In conclusion, my advice is to keep to the normal F2's and steer far away from this thing.

Some time ago I spilled a large cup of honey tea into my Model M keyboard, which unsurprisingly turned all sticky and wet and refused to work... So I brought it into the shower and gave it several good rinsings with hot water. I left it to dry for a couple of minutes, and here I am typing on it again. As an added bonus, all the bread crumbs, hairs and other oddities stuck between the keys were washed away by the water.

As has been said, these keyboards are indeed indestructible... Or, well, almost. This is actually my second model M. I killed my first with excessive, deliberate violence in an attempt to show how they were actually indestructible.

It is possible to suffer from some level of failure using an IBM model M, but not in the keyboard itself. The cord, though as tank-like as a cord can be, is quite likely the most critical-damage-prone portion of the keyboard. Should you be suffering bizarre problems with your IBM model M, do NOT throw it away. Instead, try first giving it a thorough cleaning. If this does not resolve the issue, attempt to find a replacement cord. There are some available on the internet to those who use Google.

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