Admiral Shark's Keyboards is now four years old! This year has been really busy for the website, though a lot of changes made and planned aren't immediately obvious. I've in fact been working on a lot of planned internal updates (mostly backend infrastructure and database changes) to make the website easier to develop and extend and to eventually help revamp accessibility features. So whilst I hoped to put out more content since last year, I think the website is heading in a direction that will be better suited for busier years!
I'm always extremely thankful for the love and support I get working on this project! It baffles me that what started out as a portfolio piece ended up becoming this respected website. I try my best to research and write content that's as factual and interesting as possible, and when I can, make content that is helpful for newcomers to our hobby, so it really makes my day to know that's appreciated. You make it all worthwhile. So yeah, thanks for sticking by Admiral Shark's Keyboards and let's see what has happened since September 2022 and what I hope to achieve and release by September 2024!
Whilst there were even fewer proper articles written (just one!) compared to last year, I still published some neat content this year. Here are some of my favourites!
Article: IBM Japan 5576-C01 TrackPoint Keyboard and its Unicomp descendants
My latest to-date article showcases the very cool and unique IBM Japanese Keyboard/TrackPoint II (model 5576-C01). What's essentially a reduced-size variant of the IBM Model M13 actually has cool design traits and has a long-reaching legacy since it served as the tooling progenitor for Unicomp's EnduraPro/SpaceSaver/Ultra Classic family. This article goes through what's unique about the 5576-C01 compared to the M13 and how Unicomp developed the design over time.
Guide: ASK Model F/Model M Buyer's Guide (overhaul)
Much-needed attention was given to my buyer's guide on Model F and Model M keyboards. Two completely new sections - "What to look out for when buying Model Fs and Model Ms?" and "What adapter or converter do I need for my keyboard?" - were released to tackle those specific topics.
Topic: Differentiating IBM 3101, 3270 & 5250 terminal keyboards
This new topic is a guide on how to tell keyboards from IBM's three largest terminal families - 3101, 3270 and 5250 - apart from eachother. Background on the three families is provided, as well as how the keyboards changed between the Model B, Model F and Model M eras. For each era, it's explained how to tell the keyboard families apart.
Wiki: Unicomp Mini Model M
This new wiki page of course covers Unicomp's latest keyboard, the Mini Model M. The long-awaited return of the tenkeyless buckling spring keyboard. As you may expect from a wiki page, covered are its history, pricing changes and general design (notably including its key-matrix and controller designs).
Wiki: Model M Screen Reader Keypad
This other new wiki page covers a cute little Model M based keypad that was designed for an honourable purpose. The Screen Reader Keypad (SRK) was the peripheral component of the IBM Screen Reader series, which on introduction was a pioneering screen reader designed to help people with hard or lack of sight access a PC. As usual, included is a bit of history, historical pricing, the general design and some interesting stuff about its connectivity (since despite using a PS/2 style cable, SRK was not a typical PS/2 device).
Wiki: SK-8835, SK-8840 & SK-8845 pointing stick & UltraNav keyboards (rewrite)
The wiki page for the LITE-ON made SK-8835/884X pointing stick & UltraNav keyboard family was completely rewritten. Whilst how it was previously had long served its purpose adequately, my understanding of these keyboards and their history has evolved a lot since 2021. This revamp added 60 new photos and resulted in an approximate 240% increase in wordcount!
Guide: Unicomp's RP2040/Pico controller purchasing & Vial-QMK guide
Due to Unicomp's main USB controller IC chip becoming 'end-of-life' this year, Unicomp was forced to quickly develop new controller card designs for all its keyboards. This resulted in these new Raspberry Pi Pico based controller cards. A pleasant side effect from this change to them are that they are reflashable, so I developed this guide explaining the new designs, how to check if your existing [Unicomp
Wiki: Model M6 & M6-1 ThinkPad Laptop Keyboard Assemblies
The latest update is in fact the biggest, the long-awaited IBM Model M6/M6-1 wiki page. These were once IBM's flagship laptop keyboards using IBM buckling sleeve key-switches. Included are of course design details, but this wiki page focuses more on describing the possible differences between M6 and M6-1, differences in form-factor/layout (for which I devised a six-type scheme for categorising them), and providing a list of known M6s and M6-1s.
At the time of writing, the Keyboard Part Number Database is now only 51 part numbers away from reaching the glorious 3,000 milestone! I had hoped to reach it in time for this anniversary, but instead of being down about not doing so, I'm just happy the database is still getting bigger! My best guess is that I'll find some time to reach 3,000 part numbers some weekend later this month. When I do, I'll be writing a celebration then, so I'll say my commentary for that.
I hope to crank out a lot more content next year. I have a lot of ideas that aren't solidified yet (especially for articles), but there's also a lot currently in development such as:
- IBM Card Punch keyboards wiki page - The long-awaited wiki page for the final big IBM keyboard family not covered in the wiki.
- Differentiating IBM data entry, operator console and typewriter style keyboards topic - A sort of sequel to the "Differentiating IBM 3101, 3270 & 5250 terminal keyboards" topic that will explain what these styles of keyboards were, how to tell them apart, and how they influenced modern keyboards.
- Comparison & classifications of 104-key & 122-key Model F keyboards topic - A sort of prequel to the existing 122-key Model M version of the topic, covering the development and changes to the IBM "function key keyboard" during the Model F era.
- Comparison & classifications of operator console keyboards topic - Since in vintage keyboard Discord server communities operator console style keyboards have been getting some love recently, this topic will describe the development of the IBM operator console keyboard design from the printer-keyboard era to Model Ms.
- Getting Started guide series - Initially for Model F and Model M first-time owners; a sort of checklist of things to check when you receive your keyboard, what issues you might find, how (and/or where) to deal with them, and how to use any specific features.
- Basic self-assembly converter guide - How it sounds, a basic Pro Micro/Elite-C (or similar) project to convert an old keyboard to USB.
- Firmware guide - Two parts; summary, explanation and basic comparison of existing firmware for keyboard converters and controllers (Soarer's, TMK, QMK, with or without VIAL, etc.), and a basic firmware flashing guide.
- Model M1/M2 recapping guide - I've had a draft written for like 2 years but I haven't finished it! It's time that I did...
In addition to new content, I've also been practising a sort of overarching theme to a lot of the new stuff I'm writing - including more information about the host systems many of these keyboards came with. There has always been some drama between the keyboard community and the vintage computing community regarding the overlap of interest in keyboards and the waste that comes from separating the keyboard from the host. Whilst I don't expect to change an entire hobby, I've been hoping to at least generate appreciation amongst keyboard enthusiasts for what the keyboards were designed for. If I can save just one terminal or typewriter (etc.) from being recycled because the person after a keyboard wasn't interested in that part, then that's a small victory at least. I encourage everyone not to waste something - especially of historical significance - that could be useful to someone else.
I've been thinking a lot about how to improve accessibility for this website. This includes optimising layouts, improving readability, and implementing proper tab indexing and guides for screen readers. I'm planning to circulate an "accessibility review" survey to people on /r/ModelM and Deskthority Discord servers to see what people think of the website's layout and usability right now, and I'm investigating whether stuff like bionic reading (i.e., where you bold the first few letters of a word) is effective and a worthwhile investment (some people are skeptical about it).
Modular Keyboard Converter
A lot of you probably know about my almost two-year project to develop a keyboard converter development kit with a modular interface. In the coming months, I plan to post about it. The goal is to make a keyboard converter platform where you don't need a dedicated controller (e.g., Pro Micro, Raspberry Pi Pico) with a soldered socket for every keyboard you might want to convert, and it's easy to develop new converters with. You have a single 'motherboard' that can accept one of many daughterboards with a socket onboard.
Stickers & "merch"
A few people have asked me for some 'merch' with ASK (and Admiral Shark in general) branding and various keyboard themes. As such, I'm working on a few ideas right now including a Shork (the name of my avatar) sticker collection, keyboard pixel art stickers, desk/mouse mats, and maybe a meme-tier shirt or two. We'll see.
MKUK Meetup 7
Whilst a date hasn't been set in stone, the intention to host MKUK 7 has been announced. I will likely submit an idea to do a talk again like last year.
This year's anniversary post seems a bit shorter than last but I hope it's still sweet nonetheless. There's been a lot of work behind the scenes and on the surface that I hope you'll continue to see and enjoy. My thanks again for reading this and being an awesome reader. See you next year!
- Public announcement SNPA-202309A
- Published 2023-09-12