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July 7, 2017

IBM’s ultimate Model F mechanical keyboard makes a brief comeback

by John_A

Why it matters to you

If you’ve been pining over that IBM Model F keyboard that you lost 30 years ago, here’s your chance to buy another one.

For some people, a keyboard is a keyboard is a keyboard. If the keys don’t stick and the right letters appear on the screen when the keys are pressed, then any keyboard is as good as another. That doesn’t describe everyone, however, particularly anyone who types thousands of words a day and who’s particularly sensitive to a keyboard’s quality. For such a person who’s also old enough, the IBM Model F keyboard is probably the gold standard.

The biggest problem with the Model F, however, is that it was originally released in the early 1980s with the IBM PC 5150 and it ended production by the end of the decade. What made the Model F special was the buckling spring switch technology that IBM developed in the 1970s, and for anyone who remembers its satisfying tactile feel, there’s great news — the Model F is now available for purchase for a limited time.

Interestingly, it’s not IBM that has resurrected the Model F, but rather keyboard enthusiast Joe Strandberg, as PCMag reports. Strandberg invested roughly $100,000 on the endeavor, lining up a Chinese factory and organizing the production of Model F keyboards that are identical to the original. Duplicating the Model F design wasn’t an individual effort, however, but rather involved numerous Deskthority, Reddit, and Geekhack community members.

At the heart of the keyboard is the buckling spring switch technology that IBM developed and that provides what many people consider to be the ultimate in mechanical switch action. Today’s mechanical switch keyboards are essentially modeled after the IBM switches, aiming to provide the same responsiveness, accuracy, and comfort that created such a following, In addition, the Model F was constructed from durable materials, including more than five pounds of steel and other metals.

Time is running out to order one of Strandberg’s Model F keyboards, however. He’s only taking orders through July 31, 2017 for the first run, with a price of $325 for a metal base keyboard without keys. Key sets start at $29, and layout options include ANSI, ISO, and HHKB-style. This isn’t a crowdfunded effort, however — much of the up-front costs have already been paid and that’s the final price for a keyboard that will ship in two to three months. If you’re interested in taking a moderately priced trip back in time, then head here to order your own Model F, or you’ll be waiting until next year for another chance.




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