An Introduction to IBM keyboards


Welcome: before you begin...

Welcome and thanks for stopping by! :) This website is my passion project to document, research and write about all IBM and family keyboards - famous or not - and I hope you can learn something or simply see and appreciate the sheer keyboard diversity from the company that played a huge role in ushering in our modern computing age. Before you begin, I want to point out some things that may improve your experience viewing this website.

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Navigating via image

This website by its very nature is very heavy on text and images. So as a potential method of navigating quickly (especially if you wish to find something when you don't know what something is called but may know what it looks like), you can navigate via image if desired. When available, you can open up image navigation by pressing the blue button with an image icon and then clicking any image of interest to automatically scroll to it on the current page. Most large pages (including this one!) that have a lot of text and images should have this option available.

Keyboard Dictionary

This website is by its very nature very technical, so don't fret if you find some terminology confusing regardless if you're new to IBM and family keyboards or experienced. The ASK Keyboard Dictionary is maintained and provided as a tool to find out what a lot of these terms mean.

The IBM keyboard families

As you may have gathered already, this website is dedicated to IBM keyboards. IBM keyboards are highly regarded by many people in the keyboard hobby, whether it's 'vintage' folk continuing to restore and use these behemoths of the last century or 'modern' folk who appreciate where the devices they're passionate about descended from. But, would it surprise you to hear that there's in fact a lot more than meets the eye with these keyboards? Not unlike how those in the 'modern' custom keyboard hobby are continuing to experiment with new materials, switch lubrication or switch component combinations, IBM keyboards contain a lot of nuances visually and under the surface. This website celebrates that diversity!

The keyboards this website covers can generally be summarised into seven distinct categories that constitute the main generations of IBM keyboards I recognise.

IBM Card Punch keyboards

IBM 026 Printing Card Punch Keyboard[1][1]
Ben Franske - File:IBM26.jpg [accessed 2022-02-07]. License/note: GFDL 1.2 or later.

IBM's first recognisable and unified generation of keyboards as we could recognise them today is considered to be the keyboard assemblies IBM used with their electromechanical keypunch systems, starting with the IBMs 024 Card Punch, 026 Printing Card Punch and 056 Card Verifier systems introduced in 1949. Keypunch machines were used for transcribing data or program code onto hard paper cards by punching precise holes with an operator's input, which can later be reinterpreted by another machine to load data or code. Before the heyday of the IBMs 024, 026 and 056, keypunching could be a labour-intensive hand-operated job and the electrical keypunches that did exist used tightly integrated keyboards. IBMs 024, 026 and 056 were special in that they were the first IBM keypunches with keyboards that were electrically separable as distinctive input devices in their own right. IBM began a practice of using such keypunch keyboard assemblies for non-keypunch-related systems like the ones in the following generation or the IBMs 2250 and 2260 keyboards, setting the stage for many recognisable keyboard designs and kickstarting IBM's keyboard pedigree.

IBM typewriter printer-keyboards

Various IBM printer-keyboards[2][2]
Oscar.nierstrasz - File:IBM2741.JPG [accessed 2021-07-22]. License/note: CC BY-SA 4.0.
Martin Skøtt - File:IBM 1130 [accessed 2022-02-04]. License/note: CC BY-SA 2.0.
IBM - IBM 3215 Console Printer-Keyboard Component Description [accessed 2022-01-22].

By 1958, IBM had started introducing terminal computers that used specialised input/output devices based on typewriter technology called a "printer-keyboard". As these were the days before CRT screens were popular, these devices used a typewriter-based printing element embedded in the keyboard itself to print output, hence their name. The printer-keyboard developed quickly after 1961 when IBM launched its famous Selectric line of typewriters known for using a whiffletree-style mechanical digital-to-analogue converter to translate a pressed key into a typed character from its "golfball" like typing element. IBM quickly began using the Selectric keyboard, Selectric typing element or both together for discrete keyboards for its period consoles and terminals, forming the bulk of the second generation of IBM keyboards. IBM also mixed in using Card Punch keyboard assemblies, resulting in various types of printer-keyboard varied on the mating of keyboard assembly to typing element. The IBMs 1052 I/O Printer-Keyboard, 1130 Computing System Console Keyboard and 2740/2741 Communications Terminal are the most well-known printer-keyboards.

IBM Elastic Diaphragm encoded keyboards

Various Elastic Diaphragm keyboards[5][5]
Henk Stegeman - IBM 5475 Data Entry Keyboard [accessed 2022-09-03]. License/note: used under fair dealing.
Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci - File:Interfaccia di acquisizione dati di IBM sistema 3 - Museo scienza tecnologia Milano D0832.jpg [accessed 2022-09-03]. License/note: CC BY-SA 4.0.
Computer History Archives Project - IBM Computer History: 2770 Data Communications System 1969 Announcement, vintage technology film [accessed 2022-09-03]. License/note: used under fair dealing.
Glenn's Computer Museum - The IBM System/3 Model 6: The "Real" First IBM Personal Computer [accessed 2022-09-03]. License/note: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

Slotting in between two larger IBM keyboard families, the seldom discussed brief third generation of IBM keyboards consisted of those using IBM Elastic Diaphragm key-switches. The elastic diaphragm switch was seemingly introduced in 1969 to replace both Card Punch and typewriter-based keyboards by eliminating the need for their complex key-stroke sensing systems. They were technically IBM's first family of keyboards that used a named switch design, which in its most common form takes an IBM Selectric keyboard element and attaches a form of membrane sensor to the typebars. As such, they were essentially an intermediate between IBM's practice of reusing said Card Punch and typewriter products to serve as keyboards for systems unrelated to both keypunching and typewriting and self-contained switches as we know them today. The IBM 2772 Multi-Purpose Control Unit Keyboard, 5404/5406 System/3 Operator Keyboard Console and 5496 Data Recorder Keyboard are perhaps the three most common keyboards to use these switches. As you can see by their appearance, IBM Elastic Diaphragm keyboards are distinctly styled and generally take on a wedge shape.

IBM Model B keyboards

Various Model B keyboards[9][9]
Spitzak - File:IBM 3277 Model 2 terminal.jpg [accessed 2022-02-07]. License/note: CC BY-SA 4.0 (cropped).
TheMK#1822 - donated photos. License/note: CC-BY-NC-SA.
Museo de Informática - R/Evolución 2010 | Equipos expuestos en UTN [accessed 2022-07-15]. License/note: CC BY-SA 2.0.
WorthPoint - IBM 3727 Operator Console Vintage Computer 1984 KEYBOARD & CRT [accessed 2022-08-13]. License/note: saved from volatile eBay listing via WorthPoint.

IBM Keyboard B (colloquially known as the Model B or beam spring keyboard) was IBM's fourth generation of keyboards that dominated the 1970s. Model Bs were IBM's first family of keyboards that used key-switches as you would expect today - the revered beam spring capacitive clicky switch. They completely displaced IBM's use of three separate keyboard families from the 1960s or earlier and IBM's short-lived use of keyboards with Micro Switch SW (hall effect) key-switches. IBM's keyboards were for the only time in history more or less unified under one umbrella with Model Bs employed with data entry stations, portable computers, terminal computers, operator consoles and word processing stations. Model Bs are known for being considerably large, robust and heavy, and many of them have solenoids to make them even louder and some even have compartments to store problem-solving literature for their host system. Today, they are considered by many to be the typist's 'holy grail' keyboard but they're extremely expensive, potentially cumbersome and acquiring one most likely results in the wasteful loss of a historically significant IBM terminal.

IBM Model F keyboards

Various Model Fs[ASK]

IBM Keyboard F (or Model F as per their printed marketing designation) constitutes IBM's fifth generation of keyboards. They were designed to improve ergonomics, resistance to contamination with dust, and reduce the part count over the previous Model B family whilst also reducing cost. They exclusively featured IBM's famous capacitive buckling spring clicky key-switches, had well-armoured construction and spawned a diverse number of variants for various IBM personal computers, portable computers, terminals and electronic typewriters sold in the first half of the 1980s. The most well-known Model F, the IBM Personal Computer Keyboard, played a huge role in the success of the original IBM PC and in a way they're a part of the reason x86-based PCs are still dominant today. Its terminal siblings are also well sought after and regarded amongst keyboard enthusiasts. As with most IBM products of the time, Model Fs and their physical layouts were instantly treated as a standard which many IBM-compatible clone manufacturers tried to emulate. Due to the falling cost of computers around this time, Model Fs would be the last time IBM spared no expense on its keyboard designs.

IBM Model M keyboards

Various Model Ms[ASK]

IBM Keyboard M (aka, Model M) was IBM's sixth major keyboard family and is perhaps the most famous, influential, enduring and once most widespread group of keyboards. Essentially a cost-saving evolution of the Model F, the average Model M with clicky membrane buckling springs or tactile buckling sleeves succeeded the Model Fs in all markets whilst retaining good enough reliability and build quality to last several decades. The definitive Model M, the IBM Enhanced Keyboard, is quite possibly the most famous keyboard of all time and is responsible for cementing the dominance of the ANSI and ISO keyboard layouts that we still use today with only minor revision. They spawned far more variants than previous generations, with Model Ms existing for the PC, laptop, workstation, terminal, server, point of sale (POS), typewriter and minor peripheral markets by the mid-1990s. IBM also experimented with integrated pointing devices and even split-keyboard ergonomics with them. Model Ms and their derivatives are still produced by Unicomp and TGCS, both legitimate successor companies to former IBM divisions and spin-offs.

TrackPoint keyboards

Various pointing stick keyboards[ASK]

The ThinkPad keyboards started as a variant of the Model M that grew into its own diverse seventh major family of IBM keyboards albeit largely limited to notebook computers. The original Model M6-1 keyboards set a high bar in the quality of portable computer keyboards upon their release, which started a pedigree that has survived to this day. Starting off with buckling rubber sleeve switches, ThinkPad keyboards have since become exclusively scissor-stabilised keyboards produced by a plethora of OEMs and are usually listed amongst the main selling points for IBM and Lenovo ThinkPads. By the 2010s, however, the original Model M6-derived line was replaced by the island/chiclet-style AccuType and Precision Keyboards that whilst having vastly different layouts are still regarded as being amongst the most high-quality laptop keyboards still in production.

The best of IBM

Amongst the seven generations of IBM and family keyboards, there are a select few that stand out above the rest. These 'greatest hits' of IBM and family keyboards are special for being the first of something particular, the genesis behind a particular feature or layout, or otherwise notable enough. There are many keyboards beyond the 15 listed that are special or notable, so consider this a taster for what's to come...

IBM 024/026/056/526 Card Punch Combination Keyboard (026 3-switch w/ correction key variant)[13][13]
M. Wichary - Flickr photo at Museu de la Ciència i de la Tècnica de Catalunya (MNACTEC), 2016 [accessed 2023-03-28]. License/note: CC BY 2.0.

1/15: IBM 024/026/056/526 Card Punch Keyboards

Announced in 1949, the IBM 024 & 026 Card Punch family popularised electrified keypunches (devices used to transcribe data or code onto hard paper cards) and had keyboard assemblies that could be electrically separated from the rest of the machine. It's debated where to pinpoint the first IBM keyboard in the modern sense of a device, but due to the aforementioned fact, I think this is a great place to start. Instead of distinct key-switches, IBM Card Punch Keyboards used a contact bail system known as a Keyboard Permutation Unit for registering pressed keys and their layout formed the basis of many data entry keyboards for future terminals.

The companies behind them

"IBM and family" is a term used quite often on Admiral Shark's Keyboards. It refers to keyboards of any company that made keyboards for IBM, was a former division of IBM, or purchased IBM's IP and continues producing their former or derivative designs. IBM designed most of their legendary keyboards in-house, but IBM has long been a company that spins parts of itself off. Some of these divestitures and sales of parts of their business has resulted in several companies producing products with a lot of former IBM 'DNA' present in some shape or form. Below are the key events and dates.

IBM and the companies mentioned below have all been involved in designing and manufacturing the keyboards mentioned above.


International Business Machines Corporation was founded as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company in 1911 and for the following century, it played a pivotal role in the development of computing and by extension modern computer keyboards. IBM's achievements are already impressive not considering keyboards, having been credited with inventing or at least played a major role in the development of ATMs, dynamic RAM, electronic keypunches, floppy disks, hard disk drives, magnetic stripe technology, relational databases, scanning tunnelling microscope and SQL to name a few. IBM of course also kickstarted the x86 personal computer market that persists to this day and designed the instrument unit for the Saturn V rocket that took humanity to the Moon. Today, IBM focuses on artificial intelligence, quantum computing and services. IBM's keyboard pedigree is also impressive, with every generation of their keyboards - from their first keypunch to their last ThinkPad keyboard - making a name for itself in their respective markets and eras and are revered by many.


Lexmark International is an American company that today specialises in printers and imaging technology. It was founded in 1991 via an IBM divesture of its IBM Information Products Corporation, IBM's US-based printer, typewriter and keyboard manufacturing in Lexington, Kentucky and Boulder, Colorado. For the first five years of its operational history, Lexmark and IBM were in an agreement that saw IBM market a vast number of Lexmark products as IBM products, including keyboards. Lexmark was at the helm of the Model M family during this time and saw the introduction of many new variants including the Models M4 through M15 and fuelled IBM's widespread adoption of buckling sleeve key-switches. Lexmark was also the primary OEM for IBM's portable computer keyboards such as many early IBM ThinkPads. Lexmark also marketed its own branded keyboards and laptops called Lexmark Lexbooks, both using the IBM-originating key-switch designs. Lexmark also produced IBM-originating keyboard designs for a plethora of other companies such as AST, Better On-line Solutions (BOS), Dell, GTSI, Lynk, Reply and Tadpole.


Unicomp, Inc. is an American keyboard manufacturing company based in Lexington, Kentucky and is the sole remaining manufacturer of buckling spring Model M keyboards. It was founded in 1996 by former Lexmark (and by extension, IBM) personnel after Lexmark decided to exit the keyboard business by April of that year due to the shrinking market for high-quality/high-cost keyboards in the 1990s and IBM's decision not to renew their US-based keyboard production contract with them. Unicomp picked up the pieces of Lexmark's keyboard operations and spent the rest of the 1990s reobtaining some tooling from IBM's other factories before debuting a robust lineup of keyboards by the turn of the millennium. Unicomp quickly found footing in the role of manufacturing keyboards for other companies, mainly in the medical, point of sale, and terminal emulation sectors where high-quality or legacy-designed keyboards would be needed. The companies included Affirmative Computer Products, Bed Bath & Beyond, BOS, Decision Data, General Electric (Healthcare and Marquette) and I-O Corporation. Unicomp also produced Model Ms for IBM until at least 2007. Despite their priority towards working for other companies, they maintain a consumer-facing presence and would sell its keyboards, parts of keyboards and customised keycaps to anyone.


Lenovo Group is a Chinese company founded originally as Legend in 1984 and grew to dominate the Chinese computer market by the late 1990s. Legend renamed itself Lenovo in 2003 and then bought IBM's Personal Computing Division in 2005, creating the modern Lenovo. They further acquired IBM's x86 Server Business in 2014. Both acquisitions gave Lenovo a considerable amount of former IBM IP, including the ThinkPad family and its laptop, tablet and keyboard designs, which makes them the main spiritual descendent of the original IBM PC. Until 2012, Lenovo continued to produce ThinkPad keyboards to a similar design as their immediate IBM predecessors but then created the AccuType and Precision style of island-key keyboard designs for its laptop and tablet lines. Despite this change, Lenovo continues to be well-regarded for its laptop keyboard designs. Lenovo also inherited a portion of the SK-8835/884x family of UltraNav desktop, server console and sysadmin keyboards and continued to have them produced as late as 2017.


Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions is a subsidiary of Toshiba TEC that is largely comprised of IP from IBM Retail Store Solutions, which IBM sold to Toshiba TEC in 2012. This included the only remnants of the Model M family outside of Unicomp that was still in production by that year. TGCS continues to manufacture IBM-designed and IBM-derived POS terminals, infrastructure and keyboards, the latter including the Retail series (Models M7, M7-1, M8, M9 and M11) and Modular series (67-key, MANPOS and MCANPOS Model M-e) POS keyboard designs that employ IBM buckling rubber sleeve key-switches. Toshiba quickly discontinued the Retail series around 2015, but Toshiba continues to produce Modular POS series keyboards to this day with a relatively unchanged design.

OEMs & third-party brands

Besides those 5 main companies, IBM and family keyboard history is full of many partner companies that have worked with the above companies in some capacity. Generally, they fall under two categories of relationship:

You may see keyboards branded or made by the following companies on Admiral Shark's Keyboards.

About this website

Photo index.jpg

Admiral Shark's Keyboards (ASK) is a passion project to document the keyboards designed and produced for IBM and family; IBM itself, Lexmark, Unicomp, Lenovo and Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions. It's a keyboard database, a keyboard wiki, a hub of well-researched articles, guides and documentation, and a place to showcase the author's personal collection.

It was created to satisfy my opinion that there was a lack of a centralised resource base for the IBM keyboard enthusiast hobby when I started out in August 2019. Great resources already existed and continue to exist such as the deskthority wiki and personal websites such as kishy's, but I wanted something that could be completed in one place. I consider this website always a 'work in progress' as I try to improve its content and its user experience, but it has already shown its impact and potential in the community as a valuable resource for those needing to look something up or learn more about IBM and family keyboards.

General layout

Admiral Shark's Keyboards is structured in a way to hopefully make using this website an easy, clear and guided experience. As seen on the navigation bar/menu, the main pages of this website are:

  1. Intro - (here) you meet the core keyboard families, some of the greatest hits, the companies responsible for them, and a bit about this website and myself.
  2. Directory - list of known keyboards and where to find out more about them.
  3. Database - if you need specific per-part number info.
  4. Wiki - where the good, descriptive and properly cited stuff is.
  5. Articles & topics - if you're interested in cutting-edge research, original content, or reference material.

The level of detail and complexity generally increases with each page. Thus if you're completely new to the [IBM/vintage] keyboard hobby or IBM keyboards in general, the first pages you can visit will help give you the basic understanding needed for later.

Keyboard Directory

The Keyboard Directory is an exhaustive list of IBM and family keyboards with a brief description and common (usually Americas (North and South), European, Middle Eastern and African (EMEA), and Japanese) part numbers given and a link on where to find out more. A Yellow Pages for keyboards if you will. Each entry also has a convenient shareable link so you can bookmark a specific keyboard for later reference or share it with someone else.

Keyboard Part Number Database

The Keyboard Part Number Database (or simply Keyboard Database) is the main offering of this website, providing a centralised listing of per part number IBM and family keyboard information. Inspiration came from the IBM part numbers page on the deskthority wiki, but I wanted to deliver a more detailed alternative that could provide a lot more features, such as search engine-like querying, an API for external access, and the ability to develop 'applets' from using the data. And of course, I wanted to deliver more standardised data fields and include Lexmark, Unicomp, Lenovo and Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions part numbers as well. It's useful for:

Shark's Wiki

Shark's Wiki is my personal wiki on IBM and family keyboards, their history, the technology they employ, and the companies themselves. Development of the wiki is still in its infancy, thus the structure and quality of the wiki are subject to change. My current focus is researching and producing keyboard family articles and seldom-discussed keyboards.

Articles & Topics

Articles are my own opinion, research, or exploration pieces regarding one or more specific keyboards. These can be my findings when researching a particular keyboard, a comparison between two or more devices, digging inside one or more devices, or pretty standard reviews. Topics [of interest] are the pure knowledge bases this website has to offer, from subjects like common questions, jargon-busting, plug and internal connections, notable external sites and pages, and recognised distinct keyboard types!

Recommended resources

Now with all that explained, feel free to have a look around and find stuff you're interested in! Below you can find some more recommended resources that may be useful.


Hi, I'm Kali (he/him)!

I'm a guy in his twenties from Wales, a small but beautiful country inside Britain where the valleys, sheep and several hundred castles dominate the landscape. My interest in IBM was ignited the moment I received my first laptop, an IBM ThinkPad T21, when I was thirteen or so years old. Whilst it certainly wasn't as sleek and elegant as the other kids' PowerBooks and MacBooks, the thing felt indestructible and I was more than happy to lug around an absolute unit of a laptop. About a decade later, I finally got interested in keyboards and decided to pull the trigger on a cheap eBay listing for a 122-key Model M in the summer of 2019. And, the rest is history...

This website is a testament to my love of high-quality and interesting keyboards and my dedication to this hobby. I like to think I'm the helpful sort of person, and I'm more than happy to spend time and effort building this site towards being the greatest centralised resource in the hobby. I've also happily taken on the role of moderator of /r/ModelM, and I frequent the forums deskthority and geekhack.

Outside of keyboards, I'm a lover of technology in general, a huge sci-fi fan, interested in naval history, and a listener of heavy and thrash metal. For a living, I work in research (computer science) and as a software/full-stack web developer and teacher.


ASK. Admiral Shark's Keyboards original content. License/note: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

  1. Ben Franske - File:IBM26.jpg [accessed 2022-02-07]. License/note: GFDL 1.2 or later.
  2. Oscar.nierstrasz - File:IBM2741.JPG [accessed 2021-07-22]. License/note: CC BY-SA 4.0.
  3. Martin Skøtt - File:IBM 1130 [accessed 2022-02-04]. License/note: CC BY-SA 2.0.
  4. IBM - IBM 3215 Console Printer-Keyboard Component Description [accessed 2022-01-22].
  5. Henk Stegeman - IBM 5475 Data Entry Keyboard [accessed 2022-09-03]. License/note: used under fair dealing.
  6. Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci - File:Interfaccia di acquisizione dati di IBM sistema 3 - Museo scienza tecnologia Milano D0832.jpg [accessed 2022-09-03]. License/note: CC BY-SA 4.0.
  7. Computer History Archives Project - IBM Computer History: 2770 Data Communications System 1969 Announcement, vintage technology film [accessed 2022-09-03]. License/note: used under fair dealing.
  8. Glenn's Computer Museum - The IBM System/3 Model 6: The "Real" First IBM Personal Computer [accessed 2022-09-03]. License/note: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.
  9. Spitzak - File:IBM 3277 Model 2 terminal.jpg [accessed 2022-02-07]. License/note: CC BY-SA 4.0 (cropped).
  10. TheMK#1822 - donated photos. License/note: CC-BY-NC-SA.
  11. Museo de Informática - R/Evolución 2010 | Equipos expuestos en UTN [accessed 2022-07-15]. License/note: CC BY-SA 2.0.
  12. WorthPoint - IBM 3727 Operator Console Vintage Computer 1984 KEYBOARD & CRT [accessed 2022-08-13]. License/note: saved from volatile eBay listing via WorthPoint.
  13. M. Wichary - Flickr photo at Museu de la Ciència i de la Tècnica de Catalunya (MNACTEC), 2016 [accessed 2023-03-28]. License/note: CC BY 2.0.
  14. ComputerGeek7066 - File:IBM 1052.jpg [accessed 2021-07-09]. License/note: CC BY-SA 4.0 (photo cropped).
  15. snuci - File:IBM 3277 typewriter keyboard - keyboard top.JPG [accessed 2022-12-07]. License/note: public domain.
  16. うぃき野郎 - File:IBM System370 model 138.jpg [accessed 2023-12-09]. License/note: CC BY-SA 4.0 (cropped).
  17. Museo de Informática - R/Evolución 2010 | Equipos expuestos en UTN [accessed 2023-01-19]. License/note: CC BY-SA 3.0.
  18. TheMK#1822 - donated photos. License/note: CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0.
  19. webwit - Index of /input/ibm_misc [accessed 2021-09-12]. License/note: public domain.