June 2024 Leeds, England MKUK Meetup 7

On 22nd June 2024, I attended the Mechanical Keyboards UK's 7th meetup - MKUK Meetup 2024 - which for this year was based in Leeds. Once again, I went to fly the flag for IBM and family keyboards just as I did at the MKUK Meetup 6 in London. The 7-hour coach journey from Wales to Leeds was painful, but all worth it. This meetup was much larger than the May 2024 Exeter, UK Mini Meet I recently went to - I'm not sure of the exact attendance on the day, but I heard around 300+ tickets were sold. The event ran from 12pm to 5pm. The venue was Project House (LS12 2DR), a good place for such a meetup with an adjacent restaurant and bar. For accommodation, I stayed at Roomzzz Aparthotel Leeds City West for two nights.

For what is the highest profile keyboard enthusiast event in the UK, I took a robust sampling of my collection totalling 11 keyboards. Normally, attendees are advised to bring only 3 keyboards so there is enough table space to go around, but since I also volunteered to do a talk, I was allowed to bring more as a "notable collection" in support of it. I managed to fit 10 keyboards and 2 ThinkPads into a particularly large backpack and suitcase. The ThinkPads with me were an IBM 365ED to be used as a display (and it features a notable keyboard) and a Lenovo T480 for hosting the presentation and leisure in my hotel room. Like last month, I also took several of my Modular Keyboard Converter series prototypes and a BLÅHAJ as an on-brand mascot of sorts.

I took the following keyboards:

Photo table_1.jpg

Scattered across my table were some ASK QR code cards, some Alps and SMK key-switches, and a makeshift portable capacitive buckling spring key-switch module. The 365ED was turned on for the entire time, looping through a PowerPoint presentation advertising my website, socials and the major IBM keyboard families. The 365ED was running Windows for Workgroups 3.11a and Microsoft Office 4.3 Professional & Bookshelf.

Once again, the reception was very positive, which was great to see. I was also glad I could bring some Model B keyboard representation as well, something I lacked at MKUK 6 and last month. It seemed most interest was geared towards the aforementioned Model B, the Unicomp Mini M, the M3 keypad, the M4-1 keyboard and the M9. The Screen Reader Keypad with its "HELP" and "STOP" keys and the M9 with its manager's keylock were both particularly nice conversation starters. I periodically removed and put back the Model B's top cover piece so everyone could also get a view of the inside of such a keyboard. Here are some photos I took of my table during the event.

My talk was a presentation on IBM buckling sleeves, which I billed as "the most popular switch no one has heard of" and "IBM's last stand against rubber domes". For MKUK 6, my talk was an "IBM keyboard history crash course" which briefly touched on IBM buckling sleeves. This presentation builds on that. I emphasized explaining that Model M does not strictly mean a buckling spring keyboard, which is largely a popular belief/association. I introduced it as meaning IBM's flagship keyboard offering for a given type of device or market segment from the mid-80s onwards. From that, I introduced the concept of IBM buckling sleeves, its start on IBM's portables (IBM PS/2 L40SX and early IBM ThinkPads), and its enduring utilisation on IBM and later Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions point-of-sale keyboards. This talk and my previous one are available on my Presentations page.

The other talks were "Custom keyboards and their role in mental health" by Matty DM and "The mechanical keyboard market: Perspectives from an Economist" by Ru. They both did their talks before me. Whereas my MKUK 6 presentation was conducted in the same hall as the meetup and with most people standing, this time they had an outside marquee with dedicated seating. The turnout was good and I was asked some interesting questions after my talk. Afterwards, quite a few people came to my table to try my buckling sleeve Model Ms for themselves.

Attendees were given the opportunity to vote for their favourite keyboard across various categories. For the "vintage" category, my keyboards won me best and second best vintage keyboards! The prizes were an assembled Vortex "Model M" SSK, a GMK ASCII V2 keycap set and a Sour Weave Dark deskmat. Thank you to everyone who voted for my keyboards!

Here are some photos I took of attendees' keyboards:

After 5 hours of meetup, I stayed behind for a short while to help move tables before heading back to my hotel room to get ready for dinner with people afterwards. I would like to give a shout-out to MKUK and everyone behind it and who supported it throughout the event to make it the biggest and best MKUK Meetup yet! Names who deserve thanks for making this event possible include Goaty, Alvi, snicket, Mosquishe (ClackyKeebs), Purrlin Merlin, Jae (Prototypist), Chris, Jono, Daniel, and Shannon. Thank you.

Roll on next year where hopefully I can volunteer to do another talk, spread more wisdom on the IBM and family, and make it an annual event for Admiral Shark's waffling on about old keyboards.