- Accessory Products Division
- Unknown sources
Accessory Products Division
Keyboard manufacturer The Keyboard Company was founded by Mike Muller of Datanetics at the request of Steve Jobs, to serve as a keyboard manufacturer for Apple. The Apple Accessory Products Division resulted from Apple’s subsequent acquisition of the Keyboard Company; this division was later sold to Alps Electric, the US plant first, and later the plant in Ireland.
The Keyboard Company developed an RFI (radio frequency interference) regulations compliant keyboard for the Apple II. This keyboard was based around a moulded frame that held all of the plungers. The general design was based on a patent filed in 1980 by ITT, shortly after ITT acquired Datanetics and after Mike Muller had left Datanetics form the Keyboard Company; there is evidence to suggest that this patent covers Datanetics DC-70. However, Apple filed their own patent in March 1981, granted as US patent 4371760 “Keyboard switch having combined actuator and jumper contact structure”, with Mike Muller as the sole inventor; this patent precedes the date at which Apple are believed to have acquired the Keyboard Company. The patent contains an illustration of the PCB layout that seems to be an exact match for the production Apple II RFI-compliant keyboard. The patent only seems to cover revisions to the design, with other details remaining as in the ITT patent.
Hairpin spring switches
Apple designed and patented their own clicky switch, hairpin spring. In most cases, these have a clear keystem. However, in the version of the Apple IIc keyboard with a vertical return key, a red switch was used.
Apple hairpin spring switches were rebranded by alterations to the moulds that replaced the Apple logo with the letter “G”. Such switches have been found in a Rhino Robots Keyboard Emulator, manufactured in 1989 or later. The same switches were also used in the Cybernetic Data Products KB-74, found with a manufacture date of March 1991. In the latter case, the hairpin spring is absent, presumably leaving a linear switch. Neither Rhino Robots nor Cybernetic Data Products appears to still be in business.
Some Apple IIe keyboards were sourced from unknown supplier. Apple’s own technical documentation (Apple Service Technical Procedures, Apple II Family, Volume One) notes simply that the Apple IIe keyboards with integrated numeric keypads were sourced from Mitsumi and TCI. Apple’s documentation explains:
There are two keyboards available that have built-in keypads. In order for either of the keyboards to work correctly with the Apple IIGS logic board, two jumper pads may need to be cut … The solder pads are located in different areas on the two keyboards. Identify the keyboards as Mitsumi or TCI. The Mitsumi keyboard has the name Mitsumi in the lower-left corner of the back of the keyboard.
Photographs of a keyboard matching the pattern of solder pads shown to be in the TCI keyboard suggest that the manufacturer would be “TSE”. The largest writing in the inscription reads “TSE”, and this name also appears on what may be the serial number label, that is affixed to the back of the PCB. The model is 2J-M9019#01, which is an SMK keyboard code, and these keyboards use SMK JM-0404 switches. The term “TCI” does appear on the PCB, in the line “TCI-ALS 94V-0 87-44 2J-M90190-02”. “TCI-ALS” could in theory be some kind of rating or certification, just as “94V-0” indicates that the PCB has passed UL’s 94V-0 flammability test. It’s not clear why Apple chose “TCI” to represent the manufacturer, and what “TSE” would mean instead.