Factual updates and other interesting changes are reported here. Adjustments and tweaks are not listed.
Updates for 2020
Thursday, 16th January
With the help of Holm Tiffe and the Robotrontechnik-Forum, we have made some progress understanding the Hall IC scene of the past. It seemed unlikely that VEB HFO B 461 G was around at the introduction of RAFI RS 74 C, and this was compounded by RAFI RC 72 C offering a variety of outputs (including separate level and pulse types) beyond what HFO are known to have produced.
According to the Ältester B461G? (oldest B 461 G) topic at the Robotrontechnik-Forum, B 461 G is known to go back to 1981, which corresponds with the age of TGL 38658, from June 1982. This indicates that RAFI must have been using an older product range, and this is reported to be Siemens Hall ICs. Unsurprisingly, the Siemens data matches up exactly with the RC 72 C data.
Wednesday, 15th January
At any one time, I have a considerable amount of both businesses and individuals from which I am still waiting for a response to a question or enquiry, going back days, weeks, months, or in some cases, years. Every so often, I remember or encounter some of them and give them another nudge.
The other day, I nudged RAFI again, in the hope that they might recognise the high-profile Hall effect switches found in Jacob Alexander’s Express-2 keyboard from the mid-80s. This time, I did get a reply: they are RC 72 C and RC 72 L. RC 72 is a series of high-profile Hall effect and mechanical switches. These series numbers seem to correspond with the year of introduction: RS 74 ca. 1975, and RS 76 in 1976. Tentatively these seem to be from 1973, making them slightly older than the reduced-size switches for which RAFI is better known. RC 72 is reported by RAFI to have been discontinued in 1993. Curiously, the part numbers slot in directly behind those of RS 74, which come directly before those of RS 76.
Some basic details are up; more details will come as time permits, including a complete list of part numbers. RAFI provided a single catalogue page; if they can provide further pages from it (including the extra details on RC 72), I will post those collectively, otherwise I will upload the single page available, which is just a parts list with no specifications.
Saturday, 4th January
José Soltren (XMIT) of XMIT Keyboards and now Metadot (Das Keyboard) has produced a set of photos of Das Keyboard Gamma Zulu switches (now proven to be part of Omron B3K series), revealing the part number to be B3K-T135M. The final “M” appears to indicate “Metadot” as suspected. The “35” may indicate that these have 3.5 mm travel instead of Logitech’s 3 and 3.2 mm.
This only leaves finding the part number of Creative PRES, the third customer product based on B3K.
Wednesday, 1st January2019 knowledge round-up
2019 has been another fantastic year for keyboard knowledge, so much so that it seems unlikely that 2020 will beat it. Two major successes were Micro Switch and Fujitsu. Micro Switch has seen by far the biggest gains in knowledge, thanks to charts and literature from Honeywell Sensing and Internet of Things, National Museum of American History Library and the Computer History Museum:
- “Micro Switch magnetic reed” is finally identified as the reed subset of Micro Switch KB, a series primarily advertised for its mechanical switches, with lots of data on both the keyboard and non-keyboard types now available (thus confirming that calling it “RW” would have been incorrect; RW keyboards use KB reed switches).
- There is now a wealth of information on SW Series (“First Generation Dual Magnet Honeywell Hall Effect”), including full disassembly of the newly-discovered double action types. The keystem colour coding appears to be largely explained.
- Likewise, we now know far more about SD Series (“Honeywell Hall Effect”), including how the tactile type works (using a sprung pin design, not a leaf spring).
- SN Series is now understood to be a companion series to SW, offering different assembly options to SW.
- The symbol codes on the KB reed switches appear to indicate the manufacture date of the internal reed capsule, separate from the manufacture date of the complete switch.
- FES-1, FES-2 and FES-3 comprise the original Fujitsu reed switch family, found listed for sale by UncleFan in model N860-1131-T010 (we guessed that these were called FES-1 from the keyboard model number, but Fujitsu keyboard numbering is far from straightforward!)
- FES-5 introduced tactile feedback to the reed switches; these were introduced in the early-to-mid 1970s and have yet to be seen in the wild. They were a whole new design that seemed to use magnetic separation.
- FES-8 is the familiar Fujitsu reed switch design, in its original full-height form; these have optional tactility and may instead be Hall effect for when you need to drive logic circuitry and cannot tolerate contact bounce.
- FES-9 is a reduced-height version of FES-8, believed to also offer tactile feedback; details on FES-9 are scarce.
- FES-4 is the “cross reed” low-profile type, possibly introduced for DIN compliance.
- FES-360 is the fully discrete leaf spring switch, seemingly adapted from FES-300 sheet key and FES-301 semi-discrete leaf spring keyboards. (The idea that FES-360 is “first generation” leaf spring seems unlikely.)
- FES-370 is the rare “lever action” type, conceivably a DIN-compliant replacement to FES-360, but hard to tell when you can only read a few words of Japanese.
Numerous Mechanical Enterprises types have been discovered (corresponding to unmatched patents), although most are yet to be observed:
- LFW is a mechanical type, with “gold V-bar” contacts; these may use a similar shell to T-5 and M-5.
- LM is a low-profile “gold V-bar” type.
- Mercutronic is a whole family of mercury-contact switches, introduced to avoid contact bounce; introduced around 1971, Mercutronic seems to be MEI’s answer to Micro Switch SW (Hall effect, 1968) and Licon Series 550 (ferrite core inductive, ca. 1970). M-5 series looks to be largely identical externally to T-5 mechanical switches, and shares the same actuator bar.
Some other discoveries made in 2019:
- The existence of SMK reed switches is now known (found by Deepak Kandepet); sadly no further details on these are recovered.
- Understanding of Alps series names and model numbers has increased significantly, including the revelation that the product codes appear to have changed twice: once from S-codes to K-codes, and then the K-codes split into SK (keyboard and Tact switches) and KF (full-size keyboards). We now know that (S)KCC green was KCC10903 before it became SKCCBK, corresponding nicely with KFL10903 (the (S)KFL equivalent), just leaving us to find its SCH part number from before that!
- Understanding of SMK series and part numbers is not as complete, but now there are lots of clues and more details by far than we had before.
- The Cherry reed switch patent is now confirmed to have gone into production, although Cherry’s reed switches seemed to have only been advertised briefly before disappearing. The models were 201-0100 (single pole) and 202-0100 (double pole). The corresponding mechanical types saw the second digit become “6”: 261-0100 (single pole) and 262-0100 (double pole). Shortly afterwards, the leading “2” changed to “M”, hence M61-0100 and M62-0100. This gives us the first hints as to why the mechanical types began at M6. Custom types (so it seems) were placed into M5, and then illuminated types were given M4. Over in Germany, their own production line took M7, and unlike the US, they placed the whole series under that designation, using the pole position to also indicate subfamily.
- Investigation into Licon, Cortron and ITW gives us some series name for their keyboards, in particular 550 for the original ferrite core keyboards and FC2500 for the DIN-compliant low-profile keyboards. Switches often have two-digit prefixes, suggesting that the switches fall under 55, 35 and 25 series just as the keyboards do. (45 was used for their CP-4550 Digitran-like leaf capacitive keyboards.)
- Digitran series are starting to make sense now.
- Maxi-Switch series are becoming clearer too.
- Controls Research Corp’s concentric spring switches are now identified as “Bi-Pac”, as noted in Electronic Design magazine in 1972.
- Clare-Pendar S820 is now known to have at least three different designs over its lifetime: one screw-fitted and two plate mount. The type from the 1986 catalogue is sold by Radwell at the time of writing.
- The orange RAFI RS 76 M diode switches are now tentatively identified as 3.13.005.002/0000, as this part number was found in a huge list of RAFI RS 74 M, 76 M and 76 C types, and corresponds with the “2” written on the switches themselves.
- Some details are now documented about RFT East German reed and Hall effect switches, although more work is in the pipeline.
- Alps SCK turned out to be a hysteresis design, seemingly a copy of Datanetics DC-50.
- The customer number on the Cherry M11-0101 drawing turns out to be the HP part number for the Datanetics DC-60 space bar switch, seemingly proving that M1 was created specifically to replicate DC-60.
- GRI KBR reed switches are now known to be Futaba MR, after it became clear that our understanding of Futaba 1st generation was flawed due to errors on the Korean sites used as reference material for series names. MR-6C is a reed type, and the standard height mechanical types that we put under that name, are just a variant of ML. The sealed type is probably MD as it seems that the two-letter prefix is a classification code, not a series name.
- There are “FD”-branded blue Alps switches!
- It now seems that Cherry had a separate US production line for MX switches, giving us three separate MX designs.
Additionally, I have now a huge list of Alps patents for anyone who can read Japanese, including several for “fat Alps”.
2019 has brought with it a couple of other changes. The site graphics are now all converted to vector, to be DPI-independent (and this includes MouseFan’s site). With the exception of the switch collection, the thumbnails are all rebuilt in higher resolution (generally 150–175% DPI, as a compromise). Although my photos range from passable to execrable in quality, the increased detail level of the thumbnails does make a real difference even on a screen at only 120 DPI (125%), with the added sharpness clearly evident.
Additionally, the presence of “.php” in URLs is no longer required. The old URLs will continue to function, but they will redirect to the cleaner URLs.