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Micro Switch KB

Contents

Overview

KB was a series of pushbutton switches from Micro Switch, that also contained the associated indicator units, buttons, spacers, mounting bars, interlock assemblies and wiring connector blocks. It sat in a family alongside Series DS miniature display switches and Series 3 power and reed switches, all of which assemble into strips by way of mounting bars. A photograph of a Series 3 switch in Electronic Design Vol. 21 No. 10 (10th of May 1973; page 27, PDF page 31) shows how similar KB and Series 3 are.

The series provided both mechanical and keyboard reed switches. The reed switches from this series were briefly used in keyboards, including RW Series from Micro Switch. KB switches in general provide alternate action, tactile feedback and mechanical interlock. The mechanical switches also support output encoding and illumination, and there are models suitable for power switching. The mechanical switches are documented as being single, double or quad pole; the reed switches are capable of quad pole, but only single and double pole models are known.

In the 1973 catalogue, the name “Series KB” is used in the table of contents, but the section for that series calls them only “KB”, as does all other literature discovered to date.

KB is also one of only two types found to have symbol codes stamped onto some switches. These appear to indicate the manufacture date of the internal reed capsule, according to an unclear remark given in the charts regarding the nature of the markings on the switches.

History

The earliest mention of the series is from Information Display, January/February 1966 (page 14, PDF page 12), where they are described as “NEW MICRO SWITCH KB”. The reed switches are not mentioned in the advertisement. Promotional material from 1966 to 1969 (see under Documentation below) also omits the reed switches, even though they are confirmed to have been in production since the end of 1966, based on manufacture dates stamped onto the switches. Dates on KB switches in general have been found ranging from 1966 to 1982.

The series was present in the 1973 manual switches catalogue (Catalog 51 issue C), but was absent from the 1988 manual switches catalogue, Micro Switch Catalog 30 Issue 8. This latter document includes Series 2, 3, 4 and 6, but lacks both Series KB and Series DS, suggesting that KB was no longer considered viable by that time (although manufacturing may have continued past that point for specific customers).

Keyboards using these switches have so far only been found in the 1966–1970 timeframe; KB reed switches were swiftly replaced with SW Series solid state switches for keyboard purposes, which former Solid State Keyboards staff member Larry Bishop confirms. Although reed switches offer high longevity and short contact bounce time, Hall effect surpassed reed in both performance and lifetime.

General features

Mounting bars

KB switches are mounted together in rows into pairs of metal mounting bars. The top edge of each mounting bar has regularly spaced notches; a small ridge around 2.25 mm wide on one side of the switch—called the “index tab”—locates it within a corresponding slot in the mounting bar. These slots are spaced at half-unit intervals. The top of the switch has overhanging ridges that sit around the mounting bar, and each switch has two threaded rubber pieces with corresponding ridges that secure the switch to the mounting bar from below. The lower grips are pressed against the mounting bar by turning the screws on which they are placed. Each row in turn appears to be attached to the keyboard by way of narrow modules that attach to both the mounting bar and the top case.

The illustration below is only approximate, as dimensions were taken only from a single loose switch.

Series 3 mounting bars come under subseries 3M. Catalogues only depict 3M1 full-height bars; the short bars for direct wiring is 3M2. KB shares the mounting bar system from Series 3. Mounting bars also exist in KB, under subseries 7E.

Mounting bars are used regardless of whether the switches are connected using flying leads or by a printed circuit board.

Connection blocks

KB switches can be connected to the circuitry using connector blocks. These are plastic bases that receive the switch terminals, with one receptacle for each terminal on the switch. All the terminals of the switch can be connected simultaneously as a result, which is useful for switch models with many terminals, such as those with both lamps and multiple poles. The reed switches have at two terminal types: quick connect (for wire wrap solder, tag attachment and connector blocks) and solder pins.

Mechanical interlock

KB switches can be grouped together to provide mutual operating control. Momentary lockout prevents more than one button from being pushed simultaneously, and all buttons are momentary. Bail and lockout with key-down memory functions like the buttons on a radio: one button at a time is held depressed, and pressing a different button releases the one currently held. These functions are provided by an extra row of modules below the buttons, which are worked by trombone slide–shaped extensions to the plunger that protrude below the switch.

Subfamilies

At least three KB subfamilies exist. This page focuses on the reed switches found in keyboards; brief details of all three subfamilies are given below.

View full-size image Left to right: illuminated snap-action, encoding and reed types
View full-size image Bottom views of the three types, showing the differences in terminal arrangements

Illuminated snap-action

These are mechanical switches that have space for as many as four incandescent bulbs. Travel is 0.250″, and the switch contact surfaces are silver. They are rated for 115 and 230 V AC for 5 A resistive loads, and 5 A resistive and 3 A inductive loads at 28 V DC. These are targeted towards control panels.

Although four lamps may be fitted, the switches only support addressing two sources of illumination. A switch can have one or two redundant pairs of lamps.

Reed switches

The reed switches were a specialist subfamily not included in the promotional material, and were only mentioned briefly in the catalogue. Travel distances of of both 0.250″ (as per the illuminated panel buttons) and 0.180″ (better suited to keyboards) was provided. Keyboards made using these switches were placed into RW Series.

Encoding switches

KB encoding switches generate their identifying codes through an 11-way gang of contacts that includes one contact for each bit of the switch ID. Although considerable detail is given in the promotional material for encoding switches, and surplus parts are available for sale dated from 1966 to 1969 (indicating that they were in production), no details on specific models are given in the known catalogues.

Reed switch subfamily

The reed switch models are omitted from known literature. The reed switches physically support single, double, triple and quad pole, although only single and double-pole types are known from the charts obtained to date. The double-pole types can have the two reed capsules in opposite corners, driven by two magnets (one magnet per reed), or the reed capsules can be on the same side of the switch, sharing a single magnet.

Typically the magnet is made of a smooth, bright, shiny metal, and is a cylinder 11.3 mm tall and 2.3 mm in diameter. Certain types instead have cuboid magnets, according to the charts.

Two shell colours are known: black and grey. The black shell is single-pole only, while the grey shell supports quad pole arrangement, the through-plunger wire that operates multi-key lockout, and the inserts for alternate action and click feedback.

The magnets sit in a magnet frame placed atop the return spring. The magnet frame may be a complete plunger, or it may bear a separate shaft that protrudes from the switch for attaching keycaps. This extension shaft can be black or grey; the reason for the separate colours is not known. Keycaps cannot fit directly onto this shaft: a flat metal adapter is also required, of suitable dimensions to mount the keycap family selected.

Travel can be 0.180″ or 0.250″ (4.57 mm or 6.35 mm). Keyboards typically use the shorter 0.180″ travel, although the longer travel types are occasionally seen.

Keycaps

There are at least three keycap families used with the reed switches. Two types are associated directly with the series: the 7B stepped types (such as those found on the Burroughs D8565 keyboard), and slot-mount “truncated” keycaps similar to those found on IBM beam spring switches, found so far in a single keyboard.

KB reed switches were also used with specially-modified 2SW Series keycaps.

Keycap mount

Keycaps cannot be attached directly to KB reed switches. The switch itself has a slot mount, that is a combination of two overlaid slots around 1.1 × 2.2 mm, one at 0° and one at 90°. A flat metal adapter is placed into this slot, bearing the desired keycap mount. It appears that at least two such adapters exist: a narrower one that fits older keycaps, and a wider one that takes specially-modified 2SW Series keycaps. The illustration below shows the design of the narrow adapter, with approximate dimensions based on photos:

The diagram below shows how 2SW keycaps were were revised to support KB switches. To retain compatibility with SW, SN and SD switches, the slots for the adapter (at 0° and 90°) had to be made longer than those in 7B keycaps—extending past the existing slot—requiring a wider adapter.

The diagram below shows the approximate dimensions of the slot within the plunger (or plunger extension) for the adapter:

Many switches appear to have a simple hole in the keystem, without the slots. Examination of 7A1H-X55 shows that there are small ridges on the inside that serve to define the slots. The shape is something similar to this; the image is only a suggestion as the details are too small to photograph or measure:

In other examples, these do not appear to exist at all, but there are no photographs clear enough to be certain, and there is likely to still be something within the hole to ensure correct orientation of the keystem adapter.

Within the switch there is a flat plastic frame which sits above the return spring and holds one or two cylindrical magnets. This frame may extend out to form the intermediate keystem. The intermediate keystem can also be a separate part that presses onto the magnet frame. The intermediate keystem fits onto a plain circular post on the magnet frame; correct orientation is set during manufacture to a tolerance of 0°30′ and is retained purely through a very tight fit. The intermediate keystem is hard to remove, and just as hard to orientate correctly when reattached.

The same general style of adapter system appears to be used with 1KS switches, being observed in 1KS1-T and 1KS3-T (which look identical).

Circuit attachment

Two terminal types are provided for reed switches: quick connect and solder. Switches with quick connect terminals do not have stand-offs. The solder terminals are wider just where they protrude from the switch, with a step in width; this short wide area may serve as a stand-off.

Alternate action

Alternate action reed switches have a flat metal leaf spring attached to the plunger. A small pin is pressed into the hole in the side of the plunger at the top, and this provides a pivot point for the leaf spring. A standard heart cam is used, and this is provided by way of a special insert that is placed into the switch and heat-staked using the upward-facing pin in grey switch shells.

Audible feedback

A single model—keyboard type 7A1HW with 0.180″ travel—is known to offer audible feedback. This uses a similar arrangement to alternate action, with a special insert added into the switch that is engaged by a leaf spring that pivots from the plunger. The insert used for alternate action is depicted in the charts, but not the insert for audible feedback. The design may be similar to that of Hi-Tek Series 725 which uses a cam track to generate a click sound. (In theory there should be a corresponding model with solder terminals.)

Models and part numbers

KB part numbers are anomalous. All the catalogue part numbers begin “7”, as though it were Series 7. The part number pattern follows those of actual numeric series, such as Series 2 and the closely related Series 3. The internal components are mostly from series KB, but there are exceptions. The reed capsules also have CS series part numbers, one of the spring types has both KB- and 10- prefixes (the remainder of the digits are the same), and some switches have 09- part numbers for the magnets (these part numbers differ entirely).

Subclassification

Subcategory Type
7A* Switches
7B* “Buttons” (keycaps/covers)
7C* Indicators (lamp-only units)
7D* Connector blocks
7E* Mouting bars, mounting blocks
7F* Lockout modules
7G* Spacers, lugs, screws

Switch groupings

The fourth character in the part number indicates the switch grouping. The known groupings are:

Subseries Type Poles Size
7A1A* Encoding switches Various 1 unit
7A1C* Illuminated snap action Double 1 unit
7A1D* Single 1 unit
7A1E* Quad 1.5 unit
7A1G* Double 1.5 unit
7A1H* Reed switch with quick connect terminals (unconfirmed) Single, double 1 unit
7A1M* Reed switch with solder terminals (unconfirmed) Single, double 1 unit

Reed switches

Numerous reed types have been discovered to date, either in keyboards or in Micro Switch charts. The charts only cover a portion of the total range of part numbers. (For the charts, see under Documentation below.)

Operating force given in the charts is somewhat confusing. Typically, two figures are given: the initial operating force (“INITIAL OPR”) and the force at basic travel (often “BASIC OT POS”). The term “basic travel” is not explained, and it is slightly lower than full travel. For a switch of 0.250″ travel, the basic travel is typically given as 0.230″, while a keyboard type with 0.180″ travel has a basic travel of 0.160″. Initial operating force is given as a minimum, and basic travel force is given as a maximum.

In the Arrangement column in the table below, the reed positions are given where known per the charts. However, all SPST switches are assumed to be reed X unless stated otherwise, for clarity. The reed positions are illustrated with the diagram below:

(Micro Switch note that the index tab should be at the front in horizontal rows, and on the left for vertical columns of keys.)

The discovered types are as follows:

Model Type Arrangement Preload End force Travel Terminals Source Observed dates Notes
7A1HA Momentary SPST 1 oz 5 oz 0.250″ Quick connect Charts 6832 NSN 5930-00-488-9958
7A1HB Alternate SPST 1 oz 8 oz 0.250″ Quick connect Charts
7A1HC Momentary, through plunger SPST 1 oz 8 oz 0.250″ Quick connect Charts
7A1HD Alternate, through plunger SPST 1 oz 8 oz 0.250″ Quick connect Charts
7A1HF Momentary DPST (X+Y) 1 oz 5 oz 0.250″ Quick connect Charts
7A1HG Alternate DPST (X+Y) 1 oz 8 oz 0.250″ Quick connect Charts
7A1HH Momentary, through plunger DPST (X+Y) 1 oz 8 oz 0.250″ Quick connect Charts
7A1HL Momentary DPST (W+X) 1 oz 5 oz 0.250″ Quick connect Charts
7A1HM Alternate DPST (W+X) 1 oz 8 oz 0.250″ Quick connect Charts
7A1HN Momentary, through plunger DPST (W+X) 1 oz 8 oz 0.250″ Quick connect Charts
7A1HP Alternate, through plunger DPST (W+X) 1 oz 8 oz 0.250″ Quick connect Charts
7A1HS Momentary SPST 1 oz 5 oz 0.180″ Quick connect Charts 6949
7A1HW Momentary, audible feedback SPST 1 oz 5 oz 0.180″ Quick connect Charts
7A1H-X1 Momentary DPST (X+Y) 1 oz 5 oz Charts
7A1H-X4 Support None Keyboards 6752 Dark grey plunger
7A1H-X17 Momentary SPST Quick connect Keyboards 6649, 7019
7A1H-X18 Momentary SPST Quick connect Keyboards 6651 Used for space bar
7A1H-X19 Alternate SPST 1 oz 8 oz 0.250″ Solder Charts
7A1H-X20 Alternate SPST 1 oz 8 oz 0.250″ Quick connect Charts
7A1H-X27 SPST Quick connect Keyboards 6738, 6826
7A1H-X33 DPST NSN NSN 5930-00-004-5017
7A1H-X34 SPST [1]
7A1H-X36 SPST [1]
7A1H-X39 Momentary SPST 0.180″ Quick connect Own collection 6916 Gold-plated terminals?
7A1H-X50 Momentary SPST 1 oz 0.250″ Quick connect Charts
7A1H-X52 Momentary, through plunger SPST 1 oz 8 oz 0.250″ Quick connect Charts No screws
7A1H-X55 Momentary SPST 0.180″ Quick connect Own collection 8215 Heat treated terminals; black plunger
7A1MS Momentary SPST 1 oz 5 oz 0.180″ Solder Charts 7030
7A1MT Momentary SPST 1 oz 5 oz 0.180″ Solder Charts 6950, 7001
7A1MW Alternate SPST 1 oz 11–13 oz 0.180″ Solder Charts
7A1MY Momentary SPST 1 oz 8 oz 0.250″ Solder Charts
7A1M-X1 Momentary SPST 28.0±3.8 g 0.180″ Solder Charts
7A1M-X2 Momentary SPST 38.0±5.3 g 0.180″ Solder Charts
7A1M-X3 Momentary SPST 53.0±7.5 g 0.180″ Solder Charts
7A1M-X4 Support 28.0±3.8 g 0.180″ None Charts
7A1M-X5 Support 22.0±2.9 g 0.180″ None Charts
7A1M-X11 Momentary SPST 4 oz 26 oz 0.180″ Solder Charts
7A1M-X12 Momentary SPST 1 oz 5 oz 0.250″ Solder Charts No screws
7A1M-X13 Support 1 oz 5 oz 0.180″ None Charts
7A1M-X14 Momentary SPST 1 oz 5 oz 0.180″ Solder Charts
7A1M-X18 Support 0.98 oz 0.250″ None Charts
7A1M-X19 Momentary SPST 1 oz 5 oz 0.180″ Solder Charts

7A1H-X39 and 7A1H-X55 are largely the same. The terminals on 7A1H-X39 are a bright orange-yellow colour, as though they are plated with some kind of gold alloy. Those of 7A1H-X55 have a dark grey surface finish with multi-coloured patches (similar to blued steel), suggestive of some kind of heat treatment. Both return springs are of wire gauge 0.008–0.009″ (around 0.22 mm) and are 3.45 mm diameter; the spring of 7A1H-X39 has 7.5 free turns and a length of 16.9 mm, while that of 7A1H-X55 has 7 free turns and is 14.7 mm long. Both appear to have the same operating force, give or take tolerance.

  1. Honeywell parts listed at Alfa-Inc

Illuminated panel buttons

The following models are known (with prices in US dollars):

Catalogue listing Action Poles Size Feedback Features Price (1967) Price (1973)
7A1DA Momentary Single 1 unit Tactile $4.30
7A1DC Alternate Single 1 unit Tactile $4.65
7A1CA Momentary Double 1 unit Tactile $4.90 $5.65
7A1CC Alternate Double 1 unit Tactile $5.25 $6.00
7A1CE Momentary Double 1 unit Tactile Extended plunger for momentary lockout $5.20
7A1CG Momentary Double 1 unit None Extended plunger for bail and lockout $4.90
7A1CJ Alternate Double 1 unit Tactile Extended plunger for momentary lockout $5.55
7A1GA Momentary Double 1.5 unit Tactile $5.50 $6.30
7A1GC Alternate Double 1.5 unit Tactile $5.85 $6.70
7A1EA Momentary Quad 1.5 unit Tactile $7.50 $8.60
7A1EC Alternate Quad 1.5 unit Tactile $7.85 $9.00

Encoding switches

See the KB encoding switches page for a list of types.

Keyboards

The following table lists keyboards made by Micro Switch customers using KB switches. For Micro Switch’s own keyboards, see RW Series. All such keyboards use reed switches. No encoding keyboards have yet been discovered.

Keyboard Switches Date Notes
Burroughs D8565 keyboard 7A1HA, 7A1H-X27, 7A1H-X4 ca. 1968
Mohawk Data Sciences keyboard 7A1H-X17, 7A1H-X18 ca. 1966?
Unidentified keyboard 7A1HS, 7A1CA ca. 1970?

Documentation

The Micro Switch Catalog 51 excerpt was provided by the National Museum of American History Library (part of the Smithsonian Institution). The promotional material was scanned in by the Computer History Museum. No literature has been found that covers the reed keyboard switches, but Honeywell were able to locate a subset of the A charts for them.