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Cherry MX variants

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Cherry drawing TS 00006, the original MX part number schema, first drawn in November 1982, lists MX1A-11xx (Black), MX1A-21xx (Linear Grey), MX1A-31xx (Lock), MX1A-A1xx (White) and MX1A-B1xx (Click Grey). The drawing was last modified in September 1983, which suggests but does not prove that these models were all available by that point. (Not all of those types were necessarily included when the drawing was originally created, either.)

The 1988 schema (drawing TS 00006-2) adds MX1A-C1xx (Clear), MX1A-D1xx (Tactile Grey), MX1A-E1xx (Blue) and MX1A-F1xx (Green).

Standard types

MX1A-0NNN

According to Hirose, “German MX switch was based on Japan version”. MX1A-0NNN is the part number given in Hirose’s datasheet, with 50 cN actuation. No Hirose patent has been found for linear MX.

The Yamaha QX3 Digital Sequence Recorder service manual gives the keyboard switches in the machine as MX1A-0NNN. Correspondence between UncleFan and online sellers indicates that these switches are both orange and clear, and within the same QX3 unit there can be a random assortment of both colours. Examples depicted online show them as orange. Surplus parts obtained from Yamaha in 2019 (the last three available) had clear stems.

Part: MX1A-0NNN
Introduced: 1983?
Stem: Orange, clear
Shell: Black
Type: Linear
Actuation force: 50±17 gf
Preload: ?
Terminal force: ?

The example below is one of the last three NOS MX1A-0NNN stocked in the European parts centre for Yamaha. It has the “A” movable contact type. As expected, it is slightly lighter than MX Black.

View full-size image Opened, showing “A” type movable contact

MX Black

Cherry’s own diagram shows MX Black as being introduced in 1984 (following MX Linear in 1983), but it was given in the 1982–3 part number schema as “schwarz” (black).

Part: MX1A-11xx
Introduced: 1983?
Stem: Black
Shell: Black
Type: Linear
Actuation force: 60±20 cN
Preload: 30 cN min. (2016)
Terminal force: ca. 85 cN

The last-order date for MX1A-11DW was 31st October 2019.

MX Linear Grey

In the 1982–3 part number schema, this type is given simply as “grau” (grey). In older keyboards, it was found as a pale grey with a subtle cream tint. In the 1988 part number schema the grey colour was formalised as “grey 37”. The plunger is currently a medium grey.

In US-made keyboards made around 1984, space bar used a black switch marked with a red spot of paint on the bottom for differentiation. It seems that Cherry US did not use standard German space bar switches.

The lack of illustrated examples from either factory makes it hard to be clear on what colours were used and when.

Part: MX1A-21xx
Introduced: 1983?
Last order date: 31st October 2019
Stem: Pale cream-grey, “grey 37”
Shell: Black
Type: Linear, for space bar
Actuation force: 80±25 cN
Preload: 30 cN min. (2015), depicted as ca. 50 cN
Terminal force: ca. 110 cN

Parts MX1A-21DN and MX1A-21DW were discontinued as of 24th September 2019.

MX Lock

MX Lock was found in a Xerox 1109 type 2 keyboard dated 1984. It was omitted from the German 1985 datasheet, but it was included in the 1982–3 part number schema. Although the aforementioned Xerox keyboard was made in Japan, the MX Lock switch was the one switch type with an 8 mm keystem intead of a Hirose keystem. MX Lock uses the same rotating-wheel latching mechanism as Cherry gold crosspoint, offering smooth operation without the detent feel associated with heart cam designs. This switch does appear in the 1985 EEM advertisement.

The following distinct types have been observed:

The all-black type may well be US-made, as it seems US-made MX switches were not colour-coded at their introduction. As Hirose was already importing M6 into Japan, they may have also imported the US-made alternate action switches, possibly out of a lack of need to create tooling for these domestically.

The grey colour scheme used in Germany was discontinued when supply of the pigment ended, and the colour arrangement was changed to black with a clear plunger.

Part: MX1A-31xx
Introduced: 1983?
Stem: Black, colourless
Shell: Black+grey, black
Type: Alternate action (linear)
Actuation force: 60±20 cN
Preload: 30 cN min. (2015), depicted as 35 cN
Terminal force: ca. 105 cN

MX White

In the 1982–1983 version of the MX part number schema, MX1A-A1xx is listed as “natur”, meaning that it was originally unpigmented. This is not unexpected, as Cherry Germany tended to use black and clear as the two main colour options in switches. The white pigmentation was added by 1988, as in the 1988 part number schema it is given as white.

MX White is the switch depicted in US patent 4467160, “Low profile switch”, filed on 1983-07-12 with a priority date of 1982-08-06 and granted on 1984-08-21. The patent makes significant mention of hysteresis (which Cherry always document as “movement differential”) but not of any kind of audible feedback. The G80-0928H brochure notes:

Einsatz der überlegenen MX Taste mit 4 mm Betätigungs-Hub und Gold-Crosspoint-Kontakten, in Linear- oder Druckpunkt-Version mit taktiler Rückmeldung ("Fühlbarer Click")

Further down, it also states:

Optionen:

Lineare Tastenmodulausführung mit akustischer Rückmeldung ("Hörbarer Click")

This brochure appears to be dated November 1986. At this point, the primary options were linear or tactile, although MX White is curiously described as “tactile click”. Additionally, you could select linear with “acoustic” feedback (“audible click”).

This serves to strengthen the argument that MX White was not intended to be a clicky switch. This is something that Günter Murmann has unfortunately neither affirmed nor denied.

Part: MX1A-A1xx
Introduced: 1983?
Last order date: 31st October 2019
Stem: Clear, white
Shell: Black
Type: Tactile with hysteresis
Actuation force: 75±25 cN (1985), 70±20 cN (2016)
Preload: 30 cN min. (2015), depicted as ca. 45 cN
Terminal force: ca. 85 cN

MX Click Grey

“MX Click Grey” is something of a misnomer, because although MX White and MX Click Grey can click, this is seemingly not intentional. This should really be “MX Movement Differential Grey” but that is something of a fingerful.

In the 1982–3 schema, these are “dunkelgrau” (dark grey); in the 1988 schema they are given specifically as “grey 36”.

Part: MX1A-B1xx
Introduced: 1983?
Stem: Grey (“grey 36” as of 1988)
Shell: Black
Type: Tactile with hysteresis, for space bar
Actuation force: 95 cN

MX Clear

The introduction of MX Clear has never been discovered. German patent DE3713775, “Tastenschalter” (filed on 1987-04-24 with a priority date of 1987-04-24, disclosed on 1988-11-10 and granted on 1996-02-08), depicts a tactile version of Cherry MX with a fixed slider arrangement. This would tentatively suggest that MX Clear was introduced around 1987–1988, and it was listed in the 1988 part number schema.

It may forever remain a mystery why Cherry chose to apply pigment to the slider of the existing MX1A-A1xx type. It is possible that both MX1A-A1xx and MX1A-C1xx were unpigmented simultaneously, with the “cam” on the slider being the sole means of identification. That is, black may have denoted linear, and colourless, tactile. The use of white pigment for MX1A-A1xx may have been applied at a later date when the cam was not felt to be a sufficient clue, although even then, one would imagine that a pigment more obvious than white would have been chosen. The purpose of the cam itself remains a mystery.

Part: MX1A-C1xx
Introduced: ca. 1987
Stem: Clear
Shell: Black
Type: Tactile
Actuation force: 55±20 cN
Preload: 40 cN (2015)
Terminal force: ca. 95 cN

The last-order date for MX1A-C1DN was 31st October 2019.

MX Tactile Grey

This is the space bar counterpart to MX Clear. There was no 2016 datasheet available for it.

Part: MX1A-D1xx
Introduced: ca. 1987
Last order date: 31st October 2019
Stem: “Grey 39” (ca. 1988 onwards)
Shell: Black
Type: Tactile, for space bar

MX Blue

Cherry give MX Blue as being introduced in 1987. No further details are known about its introduction. This model, too, appears to have been introduced without slider pigment, in the form of “Type B” vintage MX White. This would suggest that the additional pigmentation was applied in 1988.

The existence of “pale blue” and “dark blue” switches remains unexplained.

Part: MX1A-E1xx
Introduced: ca. 1987
Stem: Blue
Shell: Black
Type: Click with hysteresis
Actuation force: 50±15 cN
Preload: 25 cN min. (2015), depicted as ca. 37 cN
Terminal force: ca. 60 cN

The last-order date for MX1A-E1DW was 31st October 2019.

MX Green

This is the space bar counterpart to MX Blue. Strangely, it was not assigned a grey shade.

Part: MX1A-F1xx
Introduced: ca. 1987?
Stem: Green
Shell: Black
Type: Click with hysteresis, for space bar
Actuation force: 70±20 cN
Preload: 25 cN min. (2015), depicted as ca. 45 cN
Terminal force: ca. 90 cN

The last-order date for MX1A-F1DW and MX1A-F1NW were 31st October 2019.

MX Brown

This was a custom part introduced in 1992 for Kinesis, and made available from 1994 (according to the Deskthority wiki, unreferenced). Cherry generally do not use this in standard products.

Part: MX1A-G1xx
Introduced: 1992
Stem: Brown
Shell: Black
Type: Tactile
Actuation force: 45±20 cN
Preload: 30 cN min. (2015), depicted as 40 cN
Terminal force: ca. 60 cN

MX Red

This was a custom part introduced in late 2008, as a limited run (according to the Deskthority wiki). However, a few years later it had been reintroduced as a permanent entry in the range. As a linear switch, this should have followed on from MX Lock as MX1A-41xx, but it was bizarrely placed some distance into the tactile range as MX1A-L1xx.

Part: MX1A-L1xx
Introduced: 2008
Stem: Red
Shell: Black
Type: Linear
Actuation force: 45±15 cN
Preload: 30 cN min. (2015)
Terminal force: ca. 58 cN

MX RGB Black

The part numbers are the same as MX Black, except that N and W in the final position are replaced with A and B.

Part: MX1A-11Nx
Introduced: 2014
Stem: Black
Shell: Translucent base, clear top with lens
Type: Linear
Actuation force: 60±20 cN
Preload: 30 cN min. (2015), depicted as 35 cN
Terminal force: ca. 85 cN

MX RGB Blue

The part numbers are the same as MX Blue, except that N and W in the final position are replaced with A and B.

Part: MX1A-E1Nx
Introduced: 2014
Stem: Blue
Shell: Translucent base, clear top with lens
Type: Click with hysteresis
Actuation force: 50±15 cN
Preload: 25 cN min. (2015), depicted as ca. 37 cN
Terminal force: ca. 60 cN

MX RGB Brown

The part numbers are the same as MX Brown, except that N and W in the final position are replaced with A and B.

Part: MX1A-G1Nx
Introduced: 2014
Stem: Brown
Shell: Translucent base, clear top with lens
Type: Tactile
Actuation force: 45±20 cN
Preload: 30 cN min. (2015), depicted as 40 cN
Terminal force: ca. 60 cN

MX RGB Red

The part numbers are the same as MX Red, except that N and W in the final position are replaced with A and B.

Part: MX1A-L1Nx
Introduced: 2014
Stem: Red
Shell: Translucent base, clear top with lens
Type: Linear
Actuation force: 45±15 cN
Preload: 30 cN min. (2015)
Terminal force: ca. 58 cN

MX Silent Red

MX Silent Red introduced a damping mechanism to the switch, that softens both the upstroke and downstroke impacts of the plunger. The term “silent” is a widespread misnomer, as silent physical keyboards are fundamentally impossible. Further, “silent” was also applied by Metadot to their MX Brown keyboards, which are loud compared to standard rubber dome keyboards, and extremely loud compared to notebook keyboards.

“Silent” switches adopted the prefix “MX3A”.

The last-order dates for models MX3A-L1DN and MX3A-L1JW was 31st October 2019.

Part: MX3A-L1xx
Introduced: 2015
Stem: Pink (soft red)
Shell: Black
Type: Damped linear
Pretravel: 1.9±0.6 mm
Total travel: 3.7−0.4 mm
Actuation force: 45±15 cN
Preload: 30 cN min. (2015)
Terminal force: ca. 60 cN

MX Silent RGB Red

Part: MX3A-L1Nx
Introduced: 2015
Stem: Pink (soft red)
Shell: Translucent base, clear top with lens
Type: Damped linear
Pretravel: 1.9±0.6 mm
Total travel: 3.7−0.4 mm
Actuation force: 45±15 cN
Preload: 30 cN min. (2015)
Terminal force: ca. 60 cN

MX Silent Black

Part: MX3A-11xx
Introduced: 2016
Stem: Dark grey (soft black)
Shell: Black
Type: Damped linear
Pretravel: 1.9±0.6 mm
Total travel: 3.7−0.4 mm
Actuation force: 60±20 cN
Preload: 30 cN min. (2015)
Terminal force: ca. 85 cN

MX Silent RGB Black

Part: MX3A-11Nx
Introduced: 2016
Stem: Dark grey (soft black)
Shell: Translucent base, clear top with lens
Type: Damped linear
Pretravel: 1.9±0.6 mm
Total travel: 3.7−0.4 mm
Actuation force: 60±20 cN
Preload: 30 cN min. (2015)
Terminal force: ca. 85 cN

MX RGB Nature White

MX RGB Nature White was a short-lived model that aimed to bridge the gap between MX Red—held by some to be too light and too easy to accidentally press—and MX Black, which many people find too stiff to type on for long periods. In practice, it ended up virtually indistinguisable from MX Black. Unusually it was offered as a single part—MX1A-41NA—with no options for diodes, jumpers or fixing pins.

Part: MX1A-41NA
Introduced: 2016
Last order date: 24th September 2019
Stem: Colourless
Shell: Translucent base, clear top with lens
Type: Linear
Actuation force: 52±15 cN
Preload: 30 cN min. (2015), depicted as 38 cN
Terminal force: ca. 65 cN

MX Speed Silver

MX Speed Silver was introduced for gamers. The pretravel distance is reduced, making the switch “faster” as it does not need to be pressed as far (and thus not pressed for as much time) before it actuates. The total travel distance is also reduced. Operating force is 45±15 cN as per MX Red, but the force gradient is steeper.

Part: MX1A-51Nx
Introduced: 2016
Stem: Metallic grey
Shell: Black
Type: Linear
Pretravel: 1.2±0.4 mm
Total travel: 3.4−0.4 mm
Actuation force: 45±15 cN
Preload: 30 cN min. (2016)
Terminal force: ca. 70 cN

MX Speed RGB Silver

The part numbers are the same as MX Speed Silver, except that N and W in the final position are replaced with A and B.

Part: MX1A-51Nx
Introduced: 2016
Stem: Metallic grey
Shell: Translucent base, clear top with lens
Type: Linear
Pretravel: 1.2±0.4 mm
Total travel: 3.4−0.4 mm
Actuation force: 45±15 cN
Preload: 30 cN min. (2016)
Terminal force: ca. 70 cN

Custom types

Custom types have a letter instead of a number in position 6 of the part number (see MX part number schema). Although “N” for Hirose types is a customisation, these are classified as standard switches, above. “G” types denoting German-made customisations are covered below, along with types with no known part number.

Part Type Source Last order date
MX1A-1GAP No details recorded Cherry internal database
MX1A-1GBR MX Black, PCB mount, “179 CN PCB MOUNT N/O” Cherry US
MX1A-1GCX “350CN W/PINS” Cherry internal database
MX1A-1GCL MX Black, PCB mount, marked “lowest force possible” (bag dated 8-26-94) Cherry US
MX1A-EGEQ MX Blue, PCB mount, 180 cN Cherry US 31st October 2019
MX1A-1GER Unknown Surplus sites
MX1A-FGFB Unknown Surplus sites
MX1A-1GFD Unknown Surplus sites
MX1A-1GRE Unknown Surplus sites

The term “MX Super Black” refers to one or more models of MX Black with a heavier spring. Discovery of the variety of custom types indicates that there are multiple weightings applied to MX Black switches, and the various “super black” types are likely to be custom types.

MX1A-1GCX

This is a heavy version of MX Black. According to Cherry, as of May 2018, these were last in production in January 2016, with an order for 240,000 pieces. They had been available for sale at Arrow, who denied all knowledge of them, although the entry remains on their site as an “Unclassified” “Desktop profile keyswitch”. SwitchMod purchased these from Arrow and resold them as “Mega Black”, and there is a force curve for one of these.

The purpose of these switches remains unknown.

Part: MX1A-1GCX
Stem: Black
Shell: Black
Type: Linear
Actuation force: 350 cN
Preload: ca. 200 cN (per the force curve)
Terminal force: ca. 510 cN (per the force curve)

Olympia linear clear

Olympia linear clear” is a custom type found in some AEG Olympia typewriters. The stem shape and keycap mount differ, and the PCB–plate distance is 1 mm greater while the shell overall remains the same height. Due to the dearth of typewriter repair manuals (unlike IT equipment service manuals, typewriter service manuals are not generally available) it may prove impossible to find the part number for this type.

Part: ?
Stem: Clear
Shell: Black
Type: Linear
Actuation force: 60 cN?
Preload: ?
Terminal force: ?