2021-Q3: State of the Website

Welcome to the 2021 Q3 website update post! In this quarter, we're celebrating the two-year anniversary of the website and detailing the addition of several new exciting features made in this very eventual quarter for Admiral Shark's Keyboards.


Two-year anniversary

On 12th September, this website celebrated two years of being hosted online at sharktastica.co.uk. For the occasion, I wrote a lengthy thank you and site development recall post for viewers to enjoy.

Infographic from the two-year anniversary post
Infographic from the two-year anniversary post

Am I indeed very grateful and thankful for those who visit to see my hard work. The messages of support and instances of where my work has helped someone is always amazing to read and witness. The act of writing this post also made me think about how far the website has come since 2019. Hopefully, there are many more years of growth to come!

Reader & compatibility modes

Throughout this quarter, I've been working on improving site accessibility on both modern and old web browsers, which resulted in the reader and compatibility mode features. The reader mode functions much as you expect from the browser's in-built reader mode except this preserves navigational elements, doesn't overzealously cull images needed for context, and allows for some instances of monospace fonts for elements like code snippet text.

Normal versus reader mode
Normal versus reader mode

The compatibility mode is essentially a minimalistic reimplementation of the website in HTML 4 with legacy tags, less CSS and no JavaScript. The idea was to target compatibility with Internet Explorer 4 and lynx (text-based browser), allowing people to access content straight from their old PCs or *nix terminals should they desire. At the moment, it lacks much of the main website's functionality since the only content it has is that which is stored in the site's database as (a dialect of) markdown rather than prewritten PHP pages. I'm continuously converting the website to markdown so these feature wholes will largely be plugged by the end of the year. To access this version of the site, you simply need to visit this website using an old browser or lynx and it will automatically redirect you to the compatibility version. It's not possible to access it on modern browsers though.

Compatibility mode on Firefox 2
Compatibility mode on Firefox 2

Opening of Shark's Wiki

As the heading says, this is my own wiki! A place where you can read factual information and expect it to be cited. The impetus for the wiki was largely the uncertainty regarding deskthority's future. At the time of writing, 12 wiki articles are present as a taster of what's to come! There are numerous wiki articles in the pipeline right now that are due for release in Q4. I'm hoping that the wiki will have its desired core content by the end of 2021. For now, I recommend the SK-8835/SK-884x family pointing stick & UltraNav keyboards, IBM/Lenovo TrackPoint pointing device and IBM 3210 & 3215 Printer-Keyboard wiki articles as samples you can read to figure out what to expect.

Reintroduction of archive documents

Once upon a time, there used to be a separate page for PDF documents stored on my website before they were demoted to a subset of the Content page. Now, it's back! The reason for its restoration was that I wanted to make archiving important documents a priority for this website. 11 new documents have also been added to the archive, so please do check them out! From the new documents added, I recommend the IBM Keyboard Operator's Guide and Unicomp's 2000 product catalog as interesting reads.

New articles

Exploring the elusive IBM 4683 Matrix Keyboard P/N 76X0100

The latest article from August explores the IBM 4683 Matrix Keyboard, an interesting Key Tronic foam and foil based ortholinear keypad released for IBM's first PC-based point of sale system from the mid-'80s. Just like with my old IBM Model M7 article, I simply explored the inside and outside of this keypad with lots of photos and annotates to help explain what you're seeing. The existence of this keypad is in fact known but it was seldom written about on forums like deskthority and geekhack, thus this is likely the first serious compilation of photos of this keyboard.

Revealed: The Story of the Model M4 family

This article from July is what I consider to be my 'magnum opus' thus far. This behemoth of an article was my attempt to create the definitive resource of the IBM Model M4 and M4-1 keyboards, clearly explaining their origin as the IBM PS/2 L40SX keyboard assembly, what's inside them, and how they evolved into the ThinkPad keyboard. The article was the result of many weeks of research, writing and revisions, and collaborations and participants from a number of third parties.

My motivation for this effort was the fact I'm partially dismayed at how little attention the outliers of the Model M family (and indeed IBM keyboards in general) get. I get and don't deny how cool buckling spring and beam spring based keyboards are, but my goal was always to display the far-reaching majesty of IBM's keyboard heritage. My hope is that the Model M4 article will become the first in a series called "Revealed" that will attempt to address this. The next instalment focusing on the Models M3 and M6 laptop keyboard assemblies is already being worked on.

New guide

Soarer's 101-#2: Remapping & Macros

After many months of neglect, I finally finished and published the second part of my Soarer's 101 guide. Part two explains all you need to know to get started with writing configuration files for your Soarer's Converter. My intention and aim with the writing style was to blend many examples with sufficient hand-holding explanations as to what's going on to satisfy those just looking for sample code and those how are struggling to understand the concepts of the code. Not everyone is a programmer, after all. Part 3 is due sometime in Q4 and will tackle layers and ifselect commands.

New keyboard database entries

Only 43 new part numbers were added in this quarter, however, a lot of work has been done in revising and improving data instead. Specifically, as I've been working on new articles (general and wiki), I've been working to improve the supporting database data for some of them. Anyway, the newest additions are:

Updated keyboard database finder tool

The final item for this update is the long-awaited attention for the Keyboard Database Finder tool! One of the great things about having my keyboard data in a database is that I can try out cool and innovative ways to present and query this data, and I like to think this is now one of them! Prior to August 2021, I hadn't updated the tool in a while. Whilst it technically worked, it was lacking complete support for different types of IBM and family keyboards and was missing a lot of representative icons beyond the first 2 questions. Now, these gaps have been plugged.

Keyboard Database Finder in action
Keyboard Database Finder in action

As it stands, you take a five-question quiz and the tool will try to find IBM (and Lexmark, Unicomp, etc.) keyboard part numbers from the database based on your answers. This is could be used for:

Basically, it's a more friendly way to explore the giant repository of data I have. With this, you don't have to worry about thinking of search terms to try or spelling and grammar.