IBM Buckling Spring Keyboards

1391401_distrib_0001_angled

I have what some may consider an unusual amount of interest in “obsolete” IBM computer keyboards. Read on to see the details of some of them…

Part Number 1391401

When someone says ‘Model M’ without further descriptors, this is the keyboard they are talking about: the 1391401. This was my first buckling spring keyboard and it has served well since. It also definitely was responsible for a lot of my interest in mechanical keyboards, particularly IBM buckling spring.

  • Branding: IBM part number 1391401, ID number 8821502, designated ‘Model M’, manufactured in USA by Lexmark 1993-08-30
  • For use with: IBM PS/2-compatibles
  • Connectivity: PS/2 interface with detachable cable (6-position SDL connector at keyboard)
  • Key layout: 101-key US layout
  • Keyswitches: tactile and ‘clicky’ buckling spring over membrane
  • Acquired: 2004
  • Cost: $0

 Part Number 1386887

These are 122-key IBM dumb terminal keyboards. This part number was intended to be paired with 3179 terminals, but should actually work with a vast number of 3270 and 5250 compatible terminals of the 1980s.

I have two of this part number, manufactured on the same day. I obtained them in July of 2009 after looking around on eBay for interesting IBM keyboards, and finding a 1386887 available from a seller in the same city. After a couple back and forth emails, I had myself two beastly keyboards, filthy and missing keycaps – but to my astonishment, totally free.

They use a 5-pin DIN plug, but not the same one as the PC XT or PC AT…it has fatter pins and they are spaced further apart. The protocol is technically AT, but makes use of certain features of that protocol (or rather, does not make use of some) which cause modern computers to become confused when they are connected. Refer to Additional Resources at the bottom for further info.

Nicknamed “super carrier” by another Geekhack member, in the context of 101-key IBM boards commonly being called “battleships” and new-style 122-key boards being “aircraft carriers”, as the old-style 122 has a larger case.

  • Identification: IBM part number 1386887, ID numbers 1016259 and 1016722, designated ‘Model M’, manufactured in USA by IBM 1986-10-16
  • For use with: IBM 3179 display station
  • Connectivity: DIN5 ‘terminal AT’ interface with fixed cable
  • Key layout: 122-key 3270-type layout
  • Keyswitches: tactile and ‘clicky’ buckling spring over membrane
  • Acquired: July 2009
  • Cost: $0
  • Current Status: no longer used (pending bolt mod: boards have become unreliable due to lack of sufficient plastic rivets)

Part Number 13H6705

This is an “IBM Enhanced Trackpoint II Keyboard”, or something to that effect. It is the only buckling spring board that was available in black as far as I am aware, and has a second-generation TrackPoint pointing stick embedded within it.

I got this keyboard in December 2009 from a member of a forum I am active on. It was in excellent condition, apparently having not been used for several years but just tucked away in a storage closet. It was dusty, and the left shift legend was a bit worn (typical for these boards – the printing wears off quickly), but worked great and was in overall excellent condition.

This is the newest buckling spring keyboard I own; it was manufactured in 1997.

  • Branding: IBM part number 13H6705, ID number M311348, designated ‘Model M13’, manufactured in Mexico by Maxi Switch 1997-06-04
  • For use with: IBM PS/2-compatibles
  • Connectivity: dual PS/2 interface with fixed cable
  • Key layout: 101-key US layout (with IBM TrackPoint II pointing stick)
  • Keyswitches: tactile and ‘clicky’ buckling spring over membrane
  • Acquired: December 2009
  • Cost: about $30

Part Number 1394946

This is an “industrial” IBM keyboard. That means nothing about its construction; it is very much the same thing as a 1391401 or other 101-key Model M, but has some unique colouring to match IBM industrial computers.

I got this keyboard in April 2010 from an eBay auction for two units together, untested. I took a rather expensive gamble but it worked out well…because they were untested, they went for a reasonable combined price, and when I received them I found they both worked flawlessly and just required cleaning. I quickly sold the second one for exactly half of the original bid and shipping.

  • Branding: IBM part number 1394946, ID number 5005899, designated ‘Model M’, manufactured in USA by Lexmark 1991-10-28
  • For use with: IBM PS/2-compatibles
  • Connectivity: PS/2 interface with detachable cable (6-position SDL connector at keyboard)
  • Key layout: 101-key US layout
  • Keyswitch technology: tactile and ‘clicky’ buckling spring over membrane keyswitch mechanisms
  • Acquired: eBay auction win in April 2010
  • Cost: about $60 net

Part Number 1503206

This is the keyboard which came with the IBM 5150: the original personal computer.

I got this keyboard in March 2011 from the local Computers For Kids charity at one of their ‘garage sale’ events. It was in excellent condition, only a little dirty, and with a couple WordPerfect stickers applied to certain keys. It cleaned up quickly and easily, and after getting my converter set up correctly, I was typing on it soon after.

  • Branding: IBM part number 1503206, manufactured in USA by IBM 1980-1982. Commonly known as the XT Model F.
  • For use with: IBM 5150/5160
  • Connectivity: DIN5 XT interface with fixed cable
  • Key layout: 83-key US layout
  • Keyswitches: tactile and ‘clicky’ buckling spring over capacitive PCB
  • Acquired: rescued from recycler in March 2011
  • Cost: $0

Part Number 1387033

This is a very special board, to people who care: for a very long time, among the keyboard enthusiast community in general, it was the only example of this part number known to exist at all. This has since been proven to not be the case; they are just not easy to find in any kind of acceptable condition. Up until shortly after I acquired it, if you searched for images of “1387033”, the only relevant results would in fact be this exact same unit, by its previous owner and the parts reseller it came from before that.

After a long and fruitless search, in May of 2011 the previous owner and I came up with an arrangement and I obtained the board from him.

It is a 104-key (122 minus numeric keypad) terminal keyboard. This specific example was intended to be paired with a 3290 terminal, but should actually work with a vast number of 3270 and 5250 compatible terminals of the 1980s. It uses a 5-pin DIN plug, but not the same one as the PC XT or PC AT…it has fatter pins and they are spaced further apart. The protocol is technically AT, but makes use of certain features of that protocol (or rather, does not make use of some) which cause modern computers to become confused when they are connected. Refer to Additional Resources at the bottom for further info.

Nicknamed “space unsaver” (apparently by me) during discussion in the geekhack IRC channel, as it is the closest equivalent board of the Model F type to the IBM Space Saving Keyboard, but does the inverse and un-saves space with its size.

  • Identification: IBM part number 1387033, ID number R8871, designated ‘Model F’, manufactured in USA by Lexmark 1992-11-11 (more likely refurbished at this date, and manufactured years earlier)
  • For use with: IBM 3290 display station
  • Connectivity: DIN5 ‘terminal AT’ interface with fixed cable
  • Key layout: 104-key 3290-type layout
  • Keyswitches: tactile and ‘clicky’ buckling spring over capacitive PCB
  • Acquisition: bartering agreement in May 2011
  • Cost: barter/exchange
  • Past Life: in care of the previous owner, dw in the UK – before that, listed for sale by Recycled Goods in USA, and before that, unknown

Part Number 6110345

This is a 122-key IBM dumb terminal keyboard. This part number was intended to be paired with 3180 terminals, but should actually work with a vast number of 3270 and 5250 compatible terminals of the 1980s.

I obtained this keyboard in March of 2012 as part of a trade.

This and most boards of its type use a 5-pin DIN plug, but not the same one as the PC XT or PC AT (fatter pins and spaced further apart). The protocol is technically AT, but makes use of certain features of that protocol (or rather, does not make use of some) which cause modern computers to become confused when they are connected. Refer to Additional Resources at the bottom for further info.

Nicknamed “super carrier” by another Geekhack member, in the context of 101-key IBM boards commonly being called “battleships” and new-style 122-key boards being “aircraft carriers”, as the old-style 122 has a larger case.

  • Identification: IBM part number 6110345, ID number , designated ‘Model F’, manufactured in USA by IBM 1986-03-06
  • For use with: IBM 3180 display station
  • Connectivity: DIN5 ‘terminal AT’ interface with fixed cable
  • Key layout: 122-key 3270-type layout
  • Keyswitches: tactile and ‘clicky’ buckling spring over capacitive PCB
  • Acquired: March 2012
  • Cost: $0 barter/trade

Part Number 42C0000

This is (literally) a ThinkPad keyboard installed in a standalone plastic housing with UltraNav Trackpoint and trackpad. There are both PS/2 and USB versions of this product; this is a PS/2 example.

 

 

I bought this in April of 2012 while looking for a decent, lightweight and familiar-feeling keyboard to use at work. While it is not the same (not as good) as the keyboard Lenovo supplied in my ThinkPad W520, it is certainly not bad, and the pointing device options it presents are a nice change from a standard mouse.

  • Identification: IBM part number 42C0000, ID numbers 1016259 and 1016722, designated ‘Model SK-8840’, manufactured in China 2007-04-12
  • For use with: Anything with PS/2 ports
  • Connectivity: dual PS/2 connectors with fixed cable
  • Key layout: 87-key US ThinkPad layout
  • Keyswitch technology: scissor switch over dome/membrane
  • Acquisition: eBay purchase in April 2012
  • Cost: about $50

Part Number 6450200

In late 2012 I noticed some “parts” for an IBM AT keyboard being sold and upon further investigation found it was a whole keyboard, but in non-operational condition (poor condition cord and at least one stuck key). I bought it and had it shipped halfway across the globe for less than half what it could have cost to buy one without those issues, and was able to fix it with less than an hour of work and replacing two capacitive key switch components that I already had spares of.

  • Identification: IBM part number 6450200, manufactured in USA by IBM 1985-03-12
  • For use with: IBM 5170 Personal Computer/AT
  • Connectivity: AT DIN with fixed cable
  • Key layout: 84-key US layout
  • Keyswitches: tactile and ‘clicky’ buckling spring over capacitive PCB
  • Acquired: December 2012
  • Cost: about $60

 

Additional Resources