Micro Switch SW Series
- Product groupings
- Other components
- See also
SW and SN Series are Micro Switch’s original series of Hall effect pushbutton switches. Solid State Keyboards use SW Series switches, which are mounted into special frames within the keyboard, and cannot be used separately. By comparison, SN Series switches are fully-self contained and can be snapped into a panel or attached directly to a PCB, depending on the model.
SW Series keyboards are comparatively uncommon. By 1976, Micro Switch had introduced a replacement series of keyboards—SD Series—and these are far more commonly encountered. SW Series keyboards continued to be produced until at least 1995, and the final update to the switch drawings was in 1999.
SW Series switches are all open at the base. The return spring protrudes out from the bottom, and the Hall sensor IC (“lead frame package”) is a slide-in fit. These switches clip into mounting frames placed onto the keyboard matrix PCB. These frames have locating nubs for each return spring, loops to secure each switch into position, and holes to allow the terminals of the Hall sensors to pass through to the PCB. Micro Switch give the reason for the mounting frame arrangement as being a way to prevent keystroke impact from reaching the solder joints on the PCB, although this seems to be contradicted by the fact that the frames are riveted to the PCB.
The design rationale for having open-base switches (instead of fully-enclosed switches) is not known, but one explanation would be serviceability. Since the switches are contactless, they would typically only need servicing to replace a fouled housing or broken plunger. In such cases, there would be no need to supply or replace an expensive Hall sensor: all that is needed to replace a broken switch is to swap out the housing assembly, without the need for any desoldering. Replacement switches bought singly do come with a fresh Hall sensor, as well as an instruction leaflet (except in later years) and a pair of pry tools, suggesting that service technicians would not buy boxed replacement parts as they would soon have a mound of unused sensors, tools and paper.
The return spring is not part of the bill of materials for the switch: the switch models cover only the physical design and choice of Hall sensor. When sold separately, the spring is included, and these parts have separate numbers indicating that they are replacement modules and—for models with a spring weight other than the default of 3 ounces—the weight of the included spring.
Switches are marked with an arrow on the top, which points towards the back of the switch. Confusingly, the corresponding arrow in SD Series switches points towards the front.
The diagram below depicts the general construction of an SW Series keyboard, starting from the printed circuit board (PCB). The PCB is often dual-layer, and consequently it is not uncommon to see some form of insulating material between the PCB and the mounting frames. In one keyboard this seems be to pieces of PCB substrate, while in others it is more like self-adhesive paper.
Metal mounting frames are placed above the PCB and secured with rivets. Each row of keys has a separate mounting frame, and these frames hold the switches in place. Replacement switches on eBay can be found both with the Hall sensor fitted and left separate. It is more likely that the switches were placed into keyboards with the sensor already fitted, but once the IC is soldered in place, the switch module can be extracted without removing the Hall sensor. This allows for easy switch repair.
Ghosting in SW Series keyboards is prevented during normal typing by allowing each switch to only conduct electricity briefly, for around 10–100 µs. This is achieved using the sink pulse Hall sensors. By the time that a second key is pressed, the first key should have already stopped conducting, and there will not be two keys conducting electricity at once. As such, even if the first key is held, it is no longer detected. With only one key active at a time, current cannot pass the wrong way through any of the switches (transistors will generally conduct in either direction between collector and emitter, but are only designed for current passing in the correct direction).
Micro Switch refer to this configuration as having “N-key rollover”, although this is not the normal understanding of the term, which typically denotes the ability to simultaneously detect an unlimited number of keys. Actual simultaneous depression of specific groups of keys would still generate ghosts, although this is unlikely to ever occur in normal use. Product Brochure SW reported that Honeywell’s Systems and Research Division found that use of N-key rollover reduced operator error by up to 30% over 2-key rollover.
Where keys need to be detected as held, such as modifier keys, current level sensors are used instead. Key repeat in such keyboards is handled by several methods, as noted below.
Keyboard enthusiasts who have studied Micro Switch’s keyboards—both SW Series and SD Series—with the intend to adapt them to modern computers tend to declare them to only offer “1-key rollover”. This is directly at odds with Micro Switch’s own SW literature, which specifically refers to keyboard models as having either N-key rollover or two-key rollover. The reason for this confusion is not clear. The high-end nature of these products would suggest that Micro Switch were competent enough not to make the kind of flagrant mistake that they are implied to have made from the accusation that their products have no rollover capability at all.
Key repeat in SW keyboards was achieved by the keyboard outputting a strobe signal. This strobe signal instructs the host equipment to apply repeat to the last keys depressed. There were at least three ways to enable the strobe signal:
- Double-action switches, referred to by Micro Switch as “bi-level” (this was designed to mimic electric typewriters): with stage two actuated, auto-repeat strobe is enabled
- Repeat key: a dedicated key enables auto-repeat of whichever other key you hold
- Standard auto-repeat, triggered by keeping a key held (by default, for half a second)
Bi-level (double action)
Bi-level switches—found in 1SW200 Series—have a larger sensor IC, with two separate Hall elements, positioned at the top and the bottom. The plunger has two metal pins protruding from the bottom, each connected to a stiff spring. As the plunger is depressed, these pins make contact with the switch mounting frame. Pressing the plunger further requires these extra springs to be compressed at the same time.
Bi-level switches still have four terminals on the sensor; they will thus not have redundant outputs. Because these switches are used for auto-repeat, they must be level instead of pulse switches. It is not known whether they are current sourcing or current sinking.
Lock keys are achieved using one of the following methods:
- Alternate action switches
- Mechanical secretarial shift, as with electronic typewriters
- Electronic secretarial shift: here, setting and releasing shift lock is done entirely in logic, with no mechanical linkages
SW illuminated switches are centre-lit using a small bi-pin incandescent lamp, the same as those used in Clare and Pendar switches. These have an ivory plunger. The plunger is tubular and rises up around the lamp. Special keycaps are required for illuminated switches.
Illuminated SW Series switches are rarely encounted; they can be seen however in a 101SW1 keyboard (possibly 101SW1-3-H or 101SW1-4-H).
Apparent tactile feedback is demonstrated in the switch model 1SW12-BL force curve. This switch is known from the IBM 3277 keyboard. The only characteristic visible in the photos that is different from normal switches is a pair of horizontal ridges across the back of the plunger, that look like they are designed to catch on something. The force curve also has the double step characteristic of Alps tactile switches.
No mention has ever been made of 1SW12-BL switches being tactile or clicky.
Product and part numbers are divided into two main groupings. Components use catalogue listings of the form “SW-” followed by five digits. This grouping includes magnets, shells, plungers, “spacers” (pry tools), PCBs, sensors etc. Switches, keycaps and complete keyboards have catalogue listings where “SW” is prefixed by a number.
|500SW…||Uncertain; includes 500SW90-3, which is a sealed keyboard plunger|
|Other nSW…||Keyboards, where n denotes the number of keys|
Replacement (-R) switches are supplied together with the spring and a pair of pry tools for removing the failed switch. Typically, the package also included an instruction leaflet for switch replacement; see under Documentation for a copy of the leaflet. Older switches were wrapped in thin brown paper and placed into a cardboard carton, while more recent switches shipped in a clear plastic packet, and often lack the instruction leaflet.
Before the switch can be placed into the keyboard, the return spring needs to be attached to the plunger. This is achieved by placing the spring over the boss on the plunger and rotating it anti-clockwise. It will then lightly grip the plunger and allow the replacement switch to be lowered into position.
The following photos represent neither a real unboxing nor the precise state in which the package contents were supplied. The sequence is a recreation using a previously-unboxed switch, where the box contents were returned to the box in perhaps a less suitable and less expert way than how they were placed originally. However, the instruction leaflet does unfortunately arrive just as creased as depicted.
The part number schema for SW Series switches is as follows:
- Prefix for keyswitch modules
- Series name
- Model number, in a range of at least 1–301
- Denotes a replacement part
- Operating force in ounces; where omitted, the operating force is the default of 3 oz
Switches in SW Series fall into at least two subseries:
|1SW Series||1SW1–1SW99||Non-illuminated||Odd sloped, even stepped|
|1SW200 Series?||1SW200–1SW299?||Includes double action (bi-level)||Unknown|
1SW1 Series switches appear to exist in pairs, with each odd-numbered model having a straight keystem for sloped keyboards, and each even-numbered model having an angled keystem for stepped keyboards.
1SW100 Series switches are not fitted with lamps: unlike 201SN Series, there are not pairs of part numbers depending on whether a lamp is fitted.
No useful data remains on 1SW300-R and 1SW301-R.
The allocation of part numbers to the secretarial shift types is not known.
SW Series was advertised in Information Display, Volume 5 Number 6 from November/December 1968. In this advertisement, the plungers were all shown to be grey. Leaflet PK 8503 2 (see Documentation, below) describes two plunger types: one grey (with a “hat shaped boss” for the spring) and one black (with a “plunger spring seat”). This document was drawn up in November 1971, but black plungers go back at least as far as 1970 (see under discovered keyboard examples). At this stage, all plungers of the same age appear to have been the same colour, either grey or black depending on age.
At some point in the mid-1970s, switches became colour-coded, primarily according to the sensor type. The oldest SW Series switch on eBay with a colour-coded plunger is from 1977, while the most recent one with a black plunger (of a type that would change to colour) is from 1974. Inspection of the SW and SN charts has allowed a reconstruction of most of the colour code.
Note that illuminated switches appear to all have ivory sliders, regardless of age and sensor type (just as they do in SN Series). This can be seen in a 101SW1 keyboard (possibly 101SW1-3-H or 101SW1-4-H).
White plungers in non-illuminated switches can be seen in an unidentified custom keyboard; frustratingly there is no photo that clearly shows the Micro Switch labels that would give the chassis model and manufacture date.
|Plunger colour||Era||Colour usage|
|ca. 1968–1970||Possibly all switches|
|Early to mid-1970s||Possibly all switches|
|Mid-1970s onwards||Alternate action and dummy switches; bi-level; additional types|
|Mid-1970s onwards||Sink level|
|Mid-1970s onwards||Sink pulse|
|Mid-1970s onwards||Source level|
Precise details on the various switch types are rare, in particular the output type of each model. However, some of these details can be derived from existing information.
Keyboard 54SW11-14 uses 1SW17 switches for most keys and 1SW11 for the modifier keys, which indicates that 1SW17 (sloped) and 1SW18 (stepped) must be sink pulse, with 1SW11 being a level type (sink level or source level). According to the SW and SN charts, 101SN1B1 and 1SW17 both used sensor SD-10023 (replacing SW-11504), and 101SN1B1 is demonstrated to be pulse type by Ed Nisley, as expected from the “B” designation shared with SD Series switch part numbers. This confirms the expectation of 1SW17 and 1SW18 being sink pulse. 1SW Chart 12 indicates that 1SW17 and 1SW37 are both sink pulse (by way of using the same sensor), and implies that both types have blue plungers (much of the data was previously deleted as parts went obsolete). Switch 1SW18 is confirmed to be blue, and the sensor inside is marked “B” as expected.
Keyboard 59SW9-1 has primarily blue switches (which will be sink pulse) with red switches for the modifier and repeat keys, and a few unexplained black switches. The red switches will be a level type. Switches 1SW51 and 1SW52 are both red types, and each have sensors marked “A”. This again corresponds with SD Series designation and would make these sink level.
This leaves green plungers, and source level switches, with the suggestion that these two correspond. 1SW41 is documented as being green, and as having sensor SW-11897. A number of types also have this sensor, including 201SN1C1, 201SN1C2, 201SN4C1 and 201SN4C1. “C” in SD Series denotes source level, which appears to confirm that indeed the green switches are source level as anticipated.
Although it is not possible to be completely certain about the above details, the various details all appear to fit in a way that makes sense.
The “R” suffix indicates a replacement switch sold separately in a box along with an instruction leaflet, return spring and two “spacers” (pry tools). The digits that follow the “R” indicate the weight in ounces of the spring supplied in the box and are only seen on “R” models. The exact spring weights are not yet determined, but taken at face value, “1.5” would be a half force switch (used together with a support switch on wide keys); “2” would be 2 oz semi-light, and “8” would be a heavy 8 oz switch. Testing with an R8 switch demonstrates that it is in the region of twice the weight of a normal switch, but proper testing is impossible without a spare mounting frame to hold the switches together.
Clearer details of the switches will be forthcoming, pending completion of collection and analysis of charts. The details below are a combination of the various charts together with the results of analysis and interpretation. The plunger colours listed are a combination of the documented colours (per the charts) and the observed colours.
A source of “↓” indicates that the switch is given in the keyboards table that follows the switches table.
|Catalogue listing||Action||Output||Plunger colour||Plunger style||Source||NSN|
|1SW11||Momentary||Source level||Black, green||Sloped||↓||5930-00-524-0338|
|1SW11-R||eBay (date 7409), 1SW Chart 1||5930-00-524-0338|
|1SW11-R1.5||1SW Chart 1|
|1SW12-R||Stepped||1SW Chart 1, eBay (date 7703)||5930-01-141-2002|
|1SW13-R||Alternate||Black||Sloped||1SW Chart 1, eBay (date 8121)||5930-01-039-3169|
|1SW15-R||Momentary||Black||Sloped||1SW Chart 1|
|1SW17||Momentary||Sink pulse||Black, blue||Sloped||↓||5930-01-046-3393|
|1SW17-R||1SW Chart 1||5930-01-046-3393|
|1SW17-R1.5||1SW Chart 1|
|1SW17-R2||eBay (date 9541)|
|1SW17-R8||eBay (date 8444)|
|1SW19-R||Momentary||Blue||Sloped||1SW Chart 1|
|1SW21-R||Momentary||Black||Sloped||1SW Chart 1|
|1SW31-R||Momentary||Green||Sloped||1SW Chart 1|
|1SW37-R||Momentary||Sink pulse||Blue||Sloped||1SW Chart 12|
|1SW41-R||Momentary||Green||Sloped||1SW Chart 1|
|1SW43-R||Momentary||Red||Sloped||1SW Chart 1|
|1SW45-R||Momentary||Green||Sloped||1SW Chart 1|
|1SW51||Momentary||Sink level||Black, red/pale red||Sloped||NSN||5930-01-046-0767|
|1SW51-R||1SW Chart 1, eBay (date 8446), eBay (9511)||5930-01-036-5181|
|1SW51-R1.5||1SW Chart 1|
|1SW52-R||eBay (date 8742)|
|1SW52-R8||1SW Chart 1|
|1SW53-R||Alternate||Black||Sloped||1SW Chart 1||5930-01-175-8352|
|1SW54-R||Stepped||1SW Chart 1|
|1SW55-R||R&J Components Corp|
|1SW71||Black||Sloped stemless||eBay (date 9412)|
|1SW201-R||Double action (bi-level)||Black||Sloped||Own collection|
|1SW204-R||Double action (bi-level)||Black||Stepped||Own collection|
|1SW300-R||“Momentary”||Black||Stepped||1SW Chart 1|
|1SW301-R||“Momentary”||Black||Sloped||1SW Chart 1|
The model number schema for SW Series keyboards is as follows:
- Number of keys (at least three, as “1” in this position denotes a single switch and “2” denotes a keycap)
- Series name
There are at least two known subseries:
- 12SW Series
- Current sinking non-encoded 12-station keypads (can be paired as a 24-station assembly)
- 16SW Series
- Current sinking non-encoded 16-station keypads (can be paired as a 32-station assembly)
For more details, see Documentation below.
|50SW11-50||Keypunch Keyboard||System 3 Code||NKRO||—||Sloped||Product Brochure SW (373)|
|51SW5-1||Key-to-Tape/Disc Keyboard||EBCDIC||2KRO||—||Sloped||Product Brochure SW (373)|
|51SW12-1||Typewriter Keyboard||6-bit address code||NKRO||Secretary shift lock||Sculptured||Product Brochure SW (373)|
|53SW1-2||Teleprinter Keyboard||US ASCII||2KRO||—||Sloped||Product Brochure SW (373)|
|61SW12-1||Communications Keyboard||Full US ASCII||NKRO||Electronic with LED||Sculptured||Product Brochure SW (373)|
|63SW5-4||Teleprinter Keyboard||Full US ASCII||2KRO||Alternate action||Sloped||Product Brochure SW (373)|
|70SW12-1||Remote Batch Keyboard||US ASCII||NKRO||?||Sculptured||Product Brochure SW (373)|
|75SW12-2||Communications Keyboard||US ASCII||NKRO||Alternate action||Sculptured||Product Brochure SW (373)|
The following is not a complete list of all known SW keyboards. It only lists keyboards where at least one switch model is shown, or where it is particularly early or late production. In almost all instances of SW keyboards found online, the switch part numbers are not all shown, or are not shown at all (except for where it seems the switches were not marked in the factory).
|Keyboard||Micro Switch model||Switches||Date code||Reference|
|Bare assembly||64SW1-4||Unknown; earliest example of black plungers||7012||flickr.com|
|Decision Data 8010||54SW11-14||1SW17 (sink pulse), 1SW11 (source level)||74/34||flickr.com|
|Custom keyboard||Unreadable||1SW17 (sink pulse), 1SW51, …||ca. 1980||deskthority.net|
|Honeywell TDC keyboard assembly||101SW1-4-H||Sink pulse, illuminated, …||9546||nriparts.com|
Keycaps for SW, SN and SD switches all come under 2SW. Part Target list 326 separate entries for keycaps, and this list appears to be very far from complete, as presumably every combination of legend and colour has its own part number and, where necessary, its own NATO Stock Number (NSN). There is no single catalogue listing format for keycaps; the catalogue listing numbers are quite varied in their format, and at times very long and complicated (e.g. “2SW1-4C-M-4-2-1598C”). In Part Target’s search result, 2SW1 is associated with around 26 different NSNs.
Standard 2SW keycaps are 0.475″ tall.
The catalogue listing numbers were largely not depicted and varied in formatting; thus, they have been normalised according to the Part Target listings for consistency.
|2SW1-M-4-2-4928||Double-shot||1 unit||SW||Green||PAGE UP||5930-01-213-1690||eBay|
|2SW1-M-5-2-95||Double-shot||1 unit||SW||Black||N / SO||5930-01-212-5854||eBay|
|2SW1-M-7-2-282||Double-shot||1 unit||SW||Black||4 / $||5930-01-212-2998||eBay|
|2SW701-04D-N||Illuminated||1 unit||SW illuminated||Green||—||—||eBay|
|500SW90-3||Sealed keyboard plunger (eBay); these can be seen in a 26SW3-3-S keypad|
|500SW90-5||Uncertain (NSN 5930-01-368-9087), allegedly a pushbutton switch|
|SW-11485||Keycap puller; depicted in PK 8919 2 for use with SD Series|
When fitting a replacement switch module, or returning a module to the keyboard, the return spring needs to be attached or reattached to the plunger. PK 8503 2 instructs repair technicians to “place the spring on the spring boss and compress and rotate it until the last coil of the spring expands around the boss”. For those who instinctively try to rotate the spring clockwise, note that in fact the spring must be rotated anti-clockwise. The leaflet recommends a pencil eraser for the task, but bare fingers are sufficient. Only a small amount of rotation is required for the spring to remain attached to the plunger, although this process can be a bit finicky.
Honeywell have kindly provided 1SW Chart 1, which is freely available to all. Additional charts will be posted at a later date, once they are suitably redacted.
Product Brochure SW “Solid State Keyboards” and Product Sheet 51SW12-1 “Typewriter Keyboard” are in item SILNMAHTL_31166 at the National Museum of American History Library (part of the Smithsonian Institution), who kindly provided scanned copies of both documents. The dates for these documents are derived from the three-digit codes placed at the bottom of the last page of each. Product Brochure SW—seemingly from March 1973—is mentioned on Electronic Design 17, page 118, from the 16th of August, 1973.
- Micro Switch Product Brochure SW: Solid State Keyboards, March 1973
- Micro Switch Product Sheet 51SW12-1: Typewriter Keyboard, August 1973
- Micro Switch 1SW Series Chart 1, issue 11, created 1995-09-11, revised 1998-04-13
- Micro Switch 1SW Series Chart 1, issue 13, 1999-12-11
- Instruction Sheet, solid state switch module replacement (PK 8503 2), November 1971