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2020 December: State of The Website

Welcome to the third major website update post! This update introduces some minor updates to the keyboard database, two new (and already popular) pages for keyboard icons and a keyboard icon wallpaper generator, a guides section to the keyboard knowledge base, and a redesigned home page. Overall, a mixture of fun and helpfulness all round.

Design stuff

For the first time since August, a new user interface/experience change has been implemented. I wanted the home page to give a better picture of what sort of content the website has, so I decided to replace the entire thing with something that samples content from the main attractions of the website; the database, articles, and the various topics of interest and guides.

Screenshot of the website's index page as of October 2020
The index page then (October 2020)
Screenshot of the website's index page as of December 2020
The index page now (December 2020)

As you can see, the change is quite dramatic... Whilst the near-full screen collage photos were nice, all you got with the old design was the main site links that didn't really explain what's behind them. As such, I scaled the collage's size back and added three sections to give the prospective reader a taste of what I've got to offer:

New stuff

Keyboard database entries

This update's big milestone is the first Model B (beam spring) keyboard part numbers! Thanks to a very handy PDF, I was able to find all the part numbers for the 87-key IBM 3278 keyboards in one place which is something of a rarity for Model B part numbers. Due to the lack of '70s documentation, building the Model B database will be an uphill struggle indeed. Besides that, we also got a healthy increase in part numbers (just shy of 270 in total). Some of the newest additions include:

Keyboard database data fields

Straight off the bat, a new field is now present - credits. This field is reserved for those who have helped me add a particular part number through conversation on social media, email or via the P/N submission form. If you've realised I'm missing a particular IBM/Lexmark/Unicomp/Lenovo keyboard, please do get in touch and you can possibly be immortalised in the database too!

In other news, I have also overhauled how keyboard connections are displayed. I wanted to display more information about cables themselves and be more specific with data, hence two fields now become three fields. "Connection" specifically also flags if the keyboard is using Bluetooth, infrared or internal connectivity instead, in which case the "Cable" field will not be visible. Below, find an example of the change (using P/N 1391401 as an example).

How connection was displayed
How connection was displayed
How connection is now displayed
How connection is now displayed

Keyboard database external access

The external access feature has received a few updates. Firstly, I've added a new parametre to facilitate search requests using the searching strategies already employed by the site's public database (ie, the exact, additive and subtractive searching I first described back in the August update). Secondly, I've added another new parametre for specifying a number of results limit. And finally, I've improved error handling and parametre validation. Finally, the JSON/XML output has changed somewhat with a single success field and hits counter now bundled in the data. Due to the changes, I also took this opportunity to rewrite the entire API description page to make it more detailed and flow better.

Keyboard icons

As per popular request, I've made the keyboard pixel art icons previously exclusive to the keyboard types topic and part number overviews easily accessible. I've also added several new ones currently unused elsewhere on the website, namely, several beam spring keyboard icons! Whilst I made all these myself, I drew heavy inspiration from the "Keyboard pixel art things" geekhack forum thread sealcouch started.

Keyboard icon wallpaper generator

Another point of interest several r/ModelM and deskthority members voiced was a wallpaper assembled from the keyboard icons mentioned above. As such, I developed a user-configurable wallpaper generator to cater to this interest and has since become one of the most popular things I've done! You can see for yourself what the customisation options are, but as a brief summary:

Topics

This update's new topic is the keyboard patents page. I thought it would be handy to have a single place one can look at to see the various patents IBM and family have filed relating to keyboard technology. As such, here you are with currently five to get it started!

Guides

After wanting to separate the Soarer's 101 guide from the other topics and add some separate guide-style pages anyway, I decided to separate guide pages into their own thing. The two inaugural new guides are linked below. The first one explains how English-locale users can make use of the 'extra' keys found on JIS keyboards with AutoHotkey or Soarer's Converter, and the second one is an expansion on a previous Keyboard FAQ entry that explained how you can achieve middle-click scrolling on pointing device-equipped keyboards that only have two mouse buttons.

Upcoming stuff

New articles

I've got three articles currently in the pipeline; a retrospective on the Unicomp Ultra Classic, a research piece on the Kanji beam spring keyboards, and a review of the Unicomp New Model M! So hopefully, a lot of reading for y'all coming soon!

IBM keyboard toolkit software

A beta of the mouse acceleration functionality will eventually be available soon™.