January 2024 Unicomp's Raspberry Pi Pico controller card and factory updates

If you're in the IBM Keyboards Discord server, you may have heard about how Unicomp's Raspberry Pi Pico controllers are temporary out of stock. If you're not or otherwise haven't heard about this, let me bring you up to speed.

Controller situation

Around the 9-12th January, IBM Keyboards Discord community members began reporting that they were told via Unicomp support that the Pico based controllers were no longer available, which caused some understandable concerns. The reprogrammability they allow for has been a welcomed change we'd rather not lose. They and myself reached out for clarification. On 12th January, they thankfully heard back that they're only temporarily unavailable. Yesterday, I received a comment from Unicomp about it.

They're in the process of designing a revision of the Aristides (New Model M, Ultra Classic, etc.) and Justify/Mike Smith (Mini M) controller cards to satisfy some manufacturing complexity issues they identified and to reduce cost. They will still be Raspberry Pi Pico controllers and they specifically said "fully intend to bring them back". In the meantime, they're not accepting orders on at least individual controller cards. Keyboards purchased now may be fulfilled with Cypress-based parts (aka, their previous designs), so if you're hoping to purchase a Unicomp keyboard with QMK support in mind, I would recommend waiting on any purchases for a short while. They don't want to commit to a solid date on their return yet, but at least anticipate their return to "shortly thereafter" the following news.

Factory moving

Unicomp is in the process of moving factories, to a newer, less costly and more efficient building. They have built up some stock of keyboards ahead of the move, but they anticipate about 4 weeks of production disruption whilst they complete the move and you may see delays. They hope to be back up and running in March. After ~28 years, I guess we'll be saying goodbye to 510 Henry Clay Boulevard. :(

That's it for now!

I'll of course post updates as soon as I know more. I'm sure we all hope that their new controllers are great and their factory move goes smoothly! In the meantime, the Unicomp's RP2040/Pico controller purchasing & Vial-QMK guide has been updated to inform the reader on the former news.

For discussion, please see my r/modelm post on the subject.


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