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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 switches in the machine as KHH10908 (used for the small pushbuttons) and MX1A-0NNN (used for the keyswitches). 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.

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

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

MX Linear Grey

The colour of this switch is confusing. In the 1982–3 part number schema, it is given simply as “grau” (grey), but even as late as 1984, it was found as black with a red spot of paint on the bottom for differentiation in US-made keyboards. The grey colour was formalised in the 1988 part number schema as grey 37, but early examples were found as a paler grey with a subtle cream tint. No clarification has been made as to the point that the grey colouration was introduced or when the shade of grey changed.

Part: MX1A-21xx
Introduced: 1983?
Stem: Black, grey, grey 37
Shell: Black
Type: Linear, for space bar
Actuation force: 80±25 cN
Preload: 30 cN min. (2016), depicted as ca. 50 cN
Terminal force: ca. 110 cN

MX Lock

MX Lock was found in a Xerox 1109 type 2 keyboard tentatively 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 a German 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.

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. (2016), 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 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.

Part: MX1A-A1xx
Introduced: 1983?
Stem: Clear, white
Shell: Black
Type: Tactile with hysteresis
Actuation force: 75±25 cN (1985), 70±20 cN (2016)
Preload: 30 cN min. (2016), 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 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
Preload: ?
Terminal force: ?

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 (2016)
Terminal force: ca. 95 cN

MX Tactile Grey

This is the space bar counterpart to MX Clear. It was discontinued prior to 2016, so there is no 2016 datasheet available for it.

Part: MX1A-D1xx
Introduced: ca. 1987
Stem: Grey (ca. 1988 onwards)
Shell: Black
Type: Tactile, for space bar
Actuation force: ?
Preload: ?
Terminal force: ?

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. (2016), depicted as ca. 37 cN
Terminal force: ca. 60 cN

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. (2016), depicted as ca. 45 cN
Terminal force: ca. 90 cN

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. (2016), 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. (2016)
Terminal force: ca. 58 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.

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: ?