Serial keyboards

Santo Nucifora santo.nucifora at
Tue Jun 6 16:51:22 CDT 2017

I think I'm gonna get in trouble for this answer but while I am not a
keyboard collector, I do buy keyboards when the opportunity arises.

In my particular case, I started out with occasionally buying computers
with missing keyboards because they were inexpensive; far more then when
they had the keyboard.  I would wait for the keyboard to come up for sale
(hopefully) and try to buy it.  Sometimes, the keyboard cost more than the
computer system.

I tried to find out what the fascination was because there couldn't be that
many people looking for the keyboard to complete a system and found the
keyboard enthusiast forums.  I posted some info about my IMSAI IKB-1 (the
War Games keyboard that was matches with the early IMSAI 8080 in that
movie) because it was being discussed as almost being mythical.  I then
started posting pictures of my other keyboards.  These guys collected
keyboards while I collected computers and most came with the keyboard for
free.  I had a built-in keyboard collection.

Yes, there are many who collect mechanical keyboards because they are
interested in the construction of the key switches and the key tops.  As
with anything, the old adage goes, "They don't make them like they used
to".  Keyboards made today are garbage.  They are rubber domed keyboards
with cheap key caps that yellow over time and the type face literally wears
off.  The early construction is top notch in many cases and far superior to
what is available today.  Many of the early keyboard manufacturers have
gone to thin rubber keyboards.  Consider IBM.  The PC and terminal
keyboards could be used as weapons. Today, they crumble.

I am not making excuses for keyboard collectors because they are orphaning
terminals and computer systems that they go with.  I even posted an analogy
that they could understand.  There are people who collect key switches and
key caps only.  They don't even keep and cherish the keyboard these parts
come from!  I stated that a keyboard collector to a computer collector is
like a switch collector to a keyboard collector.  It goes down to that
level.  These switches and key tops are reused on new mechanical keyboard
construction projects.

This is where the Dolch PAC fits in.  The Dolch PAC fits into the key
switch/key cap collector's realm.  These Dolch key caps are used for other
projects because they fit new key switches.  In fact, Massdrop has a
replica set for sale here:

I bought a Dolch PAC to collect because I wanted to see the keyboard to see
what the fuss was about but mainly because it had Network General's Network
Sniffer software and a full set of manuals.

Sadly, we have to compete with keyboard collectors.  There are lots of
systems without keyboards.  Just last night I reached out to someone with
an IBM 5251 terminal with, you guessed it, no keyboard.  Ad here:  I do have a small
collection of terminals and am trying to save that one from destruction but
it will cost a fair bit to ship and the seller wants it picked up.  If
anyone can save it, please do.

I have also helped out some people who needed a keyboard.  I swapped a
non-working Zenith Z-100 keyboard for my working keyboard with someone from
the Yale library who was an archivist.  It allowed them to get their Z-100
running and archive some diskettes.  I've also bought some keyboards that I
have been able to pair with their systems and have functional examples
again.  In the case of the IBM 5251, I bought the matching keyboard from
someone in Greece, if I recall, a couple of years ago.  This, however, is
only a small part of my collecting.  I also now occasionally buy keyboards
that are interesting.  They are mostly worthless to keyboard collector and
they don't go with systems because they are newer but they are pretty cool.

So that's basically the story.  They collect keyboards like we collect
computers.  I don't agree with what they do and I make that clear whenever
I get the chance but they collect something and I can't fault them for

I hope this helps explain the keyboard phenomenon.


On Tue, Jun 6, 2017 at 4:40 PM, dwight via cctalk <cctalk at>

> If you look on the ebay for a dolch ethernet sniffer, you'll see
> many with no keyboard.
> Why would someone separate the keyboard from a box when it
> is clipped onto it?
> These are not just any keyboard. They have custom shaped cases
> and connector specifically for that model dolch.
> What would anyone want with those keyboards?
> Dwight
> ________________________________
> From: cctalk <cctalk-bounces at> on behalf of Dave Wade via
> cctalk <cctalk at>
> Sent: Tuesday, June 6, 2017 2:02:34 AM
> To: 'Henry Bond'; 'General Discussion: On-Topic and Off-Topic Posts'; 'Al
> Kossow'
> Subject: RE: Serial keyboards
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: cctalk [mailto:cctalk-bounces at] On Behalf Of Henry
> > Bond via cctalk
> > Sent: 06 June 2017 00:49
> > To: Al Kossow <aek at>; General Discussion: On-Topic and Off-
> > Topic Posts <cctalk at>
> > Subject: Re: Serial keyboards
> >
> > Seems somewhat counterintuitive / or simply is it just business?
> Just business. Its made worse by the fact that DEC keyboards were
> considered reliable, and cheap compared to the terminals and so often
> discarded, but the terminals kept s spares.
> I believe that the later PS2 variety could also be used on a PC with
> emulation software. Good keyboards are rare...
> > Am I just going to have to pay over the odds for a good condition one
> > whether I like it or not?
> "Over the odds" implies that its over the market value. The odds are that
> a good DEC terminal keyboard will go for "top dollar"..
> ... especially in the UK and as that was a UK link I assume you are in the
> UK...
> >
> > On 6 June 2017 00:30:17 BST, Al Kossow via cctalk <cctalk at
> >
> > wrote:
> > >
> > >
> > >On 6/5/17 3:12 PM, Henry Bond via cctalk wrote:
> > >> the same price for the keyboard as the terminal is greedy.
> > >
> > >
> > >Welcome to the world of the keyboard collector, who buys up keyboards
> > >and leaves terminals and classic computers behind, rendering them
> > >useless.
> >
> > -- H
> Dave

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