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

  • Published 06 August 2021
  • Est. Reading Time: 5.09 minutes

Here's an in-depth tour of the IBM 4683 Matrix Keyboard, an ortholinear-style relegendable point of sale terminal keyboard from the '80s. Whilst this keyboard has been discovered and posted about on deskthority and geekhack before, I've not come across an actual teardown of the keyboard. Just like my exploration article on the IBM Model M7 POS keypad from last year, this article will be an unstructured and free-following affair with annotations available to provide context and help screen readers. All images can also be clicked to enlarge.

Photo matrix4683_front.jpg

As a bit of background, the IBM 4683 is noteworthy for being the first PC-based point of sale retail system from the company. This keyboard was not the only large ortholinear-style keyboard from IBM - in fact, IBM was making the titanic 254-key IBM Multi-Shift Kanji Keyboards in the previous decade. But it's definitely an unusual sight from the company. This keyboard seems to be spiritually succeeded by the IBM Model M11 Modifiable Layout Keyboard (such as P/N 92F6290) in 1993, which was a dome-with-slider keyboard with an integrated magnetic stripe reader originally made for the IBM 4694.

The box & the outside

Photo matrix4683_box.jpg

Starting with the box, it's very spartan with a single blue IBM square logo, the number 5 written on various faces, and the serial number/part number sticker.

Photo matrix4683_box_inside.jpg
Photo matrix4683_packing.jpg

Inside the box, the keyboard is packed in a red-tint plastic bag and is secured with two foam rings on either side of the keyboard. The foam does a good job of securing holding the keyboard in the box.

Photo matrix4683_stickers.jpg
Photo matrix4683_windows.jpg

Also in the box are two bags that contain a kit for making labels to put on the keycaps. In one bag, you get many paper sticks to write text onto, and in the other, you get many plastic 'window' covers.

Photo matrix4683_back.jpg

Going back to the keyboard, the back sports four rubber feet, two mounting holes, a grille for the internal speaker, and several stickers indicating several part and serial numbers and proclaiming the keyboard was made in the USA.

Photo matrix4683_sdl.jpg

The keyboard uses the same 8-pin POS SDL connection that other IBM POS input devices such as the Model M7, M8, M9 and M11 keypads and keyboards also used. A standard Model M SDL connector has only 6-pins and will not fit properly in the socket.

Photo matrix4683_sdl_54P8831_cable.jpg

To test the keyboard, I tried using an IBM P/N 42M5599 (P/N 54P8831 equivalent) POS SDL to PS/2 cable that I know works with the later Model M7 and M8 POS keypads and... the LEDs light up but the keyboard is unresponsive. For reference, the cable I'm using has the following SDL-end pinout. I need to run more tests, but right now, it's possible that the SDL-end data and clock pins are different or it simply doesn't speak Set 1, 2 or 3.

Photo matrix4683_speaker_grille.jpg
Photo matrix4683_keycap_texture.jpg
Photo matrix4683_keycap_under.jpg

The keycaps are well-textured and double-shot. Very nice keycaps, in fact.

Photo matrix4683_switch_no-sleeve.jpg
Photo matrix4683_switch.jpg

The switches are the tactile variant of Key Tronic foam and foil capacitive switches. That said, I honestly thought these were just stiff linears when I first tried them. I have yet to open up a switch to check the foam.

On the inside

Photo matrix4683_case_marking.jpg
Photo matrix4683_keycaps_side.jpg
Photo matrix4683_leds.jpg

Here's the mainboard split into three photos. The left-side 2-pin connector is for the speaker, the right-side one is for a microswitch shown below.

Photo matrix4683_microswitch.jpg

An actual Micro Switch. It is used for sensing if the keylock is activated or not.

Photo matrix4683_speaker.jpg

The speaker is rated 8 ohms, 0.2 watts.

Photo matrix4683_pcb_back.jpg

Depending on your viewpoint, the mark of the beast.

Photo matrix4683_ribbon.jpg

Final remarks

I'm sure many will say it's a big shame that this keyboard uses Key Tronic foam & foil switches. Indeed, it's a cool looking keyboard and it's built fairly well. There's little flex in the case and the internal assembly is quite sturdy. In their current condition, the keys do not feel as bad as I've been told they can be. But, that could change since this is a switch that could literally rot (or, it could have rotted already). If you're wondering about the keyboard's metrics:

  • Weighs 1.849kg (4.08lbs)
  • Measures 48.1cm x 15.8cm x 4.6cm (18.94" x 6.22" x 1.81")

As aforementioned, I tried to test the keyboard with a modern PC to no avail. I'll be working on figuring out the keyboard in my spare time and I hope to write a follow up on this keyboard along with a proper assessment on the condition of the foam. Documentation for this keyboard is also very scarce, so if you happen to know anything about the keyboard (especially if you know how it communicates), please get in touch!

Cheers!