George Risk Industries keyboards
- Series 500
- 700 family
- 7000 family
- 9000 family
- Series 8000
- 3000 family
George Risk Industries (GRI) was a prominent computer keyboard manufacturer in the late 1970s. As of 2019, numerous keyboard models are still listed on the GRI website. The “2017” catalogue (see Documentation, below) provides more details than the GRI website, which only has PDFs captured from a previous version of the site. The actual availability of most of these products remains uncertain, especially the models that rely on Sejin switches that have long since ended production.
Further details were given in George Risk Industries Bulletin KB-20: Keyboards Product Selection Guide, which was advertised in Personal Computing magazine in June 1981. This document has yet to be found.
Series 500 was advertised in Computer Design magazine in December 1968 and February 1969. It is a fairly bulky reed switch keyboard. Standard models came with 47, 56 or 73 keys, but any number of keys between 10 and 73 was permitted in custom models. The advertisement noted:
High reliability magnetic dry reed keys plus solid-state encoding. Solid-state keys available Jan. 1969. Will be completely interchangeable with present designs.
The wording indicates that from January 1969 there would be a choice of solid-state keyswitches instead of reed switches, but it seems more likely that they meant that the solid-state encoding implementation would be available from that date, with diode matrix circuitry used up to that point: George Risk are not known to be associated with solid-state switching.
These older keyboards don’t yet match up to any available data.
Model 2-103-001-A-10 is an undocumented assembly with KB-01-01 reed switches (where KB-01-01 denotes SPST-NO 2.5 oz). Curiously, one of the switches is marked “KB-01-01 6 oz”, instead of the expected “KB-01-03”. Another switch is marked “KB-01-0X 6 oz”.
It’s not clear what exactly this unit is. Pictures indicating that it was an RCA 8752 video data terminal are now lost from the forum topic. It is very similar to a Sperry Rand Univac Series 70 video terminal, and the Univac Series 70 is the continuation of the RCA Spectra 70 series that was sold to Sperry in late 1971. The only ICs in Jacob Alexander’s 2-103-001-A-10 with visible markings are a group of Signetics SP380A quad dual input NOR gates, all dated to week 17 of 1970. While this unit would seem to be have been a terminal originally, Jacob reported that the case contained only a keyboard, and it is possible that the remaining circuitry was removed in order to use the terminal as a simple keyboard. The switch and lamp on the front have the distinct resemblance of having been added later, which fits with the modifications to the cover.
Model 647 was advertised in Computerworld, 14th July 1971. This was the 47-key model, sold alongside 56-key and 73-key alternatives. Model 647 was listed as $88 when sold in quantity. Options include 9-bit ASCII plus strobe, odd and even parity, electronic lockout (blocking), quad mode and TTL/DTL compatibility. Presumably the other types would have been models 656 and 673, neither of which is currently known.
These older keyboards pre-date the oldest archived copies of the GRI website. All examples observed thus far use KBM mechanical switches. There seems to be very little difference between 700 family and 9000 family.
Carter Keyboards 700 Series appear to be George Risk keyboards. Model 753 appears not to be included here, only 756, 771 and 777.
This is a steel enclosure for models 753 and 756. The assembly instructions warn you to be “sure you have an enclosure which is pre-cut for your unit”, presumably because keyboard models 753 and 756 have different numbers of keys and cannot in fact share the same enclosure.
This is a ten-key numeric keypad with KBM switches, advertised in Interface Age, November 1977. Keys 1–9 are single-unit, while 0 (zero) is around 1.5 units. The KBM switches are advertised as “gold contact”. The price in 1977 was $9.95 ($41.37 in October 2019). This is the oldest depiction of KBM, and they are shown to be the expected design, seemingly with a black shell and base.
This is an unenclosed 53-key ASCII keyboard with KBM-series switches. Enclosure Model 702 is used with this keyboard. This type was advertised as new in Interface Age, March 1977. Two model numbers are given:
- 2-753-101-4: assembled, $59.95
- 2-753-1-1-4K: kit, $54.95
According to the advertisement, “the key to 753’s versatility is the unique interface, which allows user selection of data and strobe sense, parity inversion, upper-case lock, and access to three user-definable keys for custom keycode or function assignment. Similar details are given for the Model 756. The switches are listed as KBM, but they are not depicted and no other details are given about them.
Model 753K is the kit version, which was supplied in blister pack form with the PCB, switches, keycaps and (in this particular example) an SMC KR2376-012 encoder, supposedly a George Risk custom part. The switches in the 753K example are black/black/clear.
Model 753 was advertised by Electronic Systems in Byte Magazine, July 1980 as follows:
53 Keys popular ASR-33 format • Rugged G-10 P.C. Board • Tri-mode MOS encoding • Two-Key Rollover • MOS/DTL/TTL Compatible • Upper Case lockout • Data and Strobe inversion option • Three User Definable Keys • Low contact bounce • Selectable Parity • Custom Keycaps • George Risk Model 753. Requires +5, -12 volts. $59.95 Kit.
In Byte, February 1978, reference is made to enclosure 701, made of plastic, and retailing for $14.95.
Model 756 was advertised as new in Personal Computing, May 1978. A slightly later advertisement appeared in Kilobaud magazine, June 1978. It was stated to provide encoding for all 128 ASCII characters. The interface was advertised as offering “user selection of parity, positive or negative logic and strobe outputs, alpha lock operation and both dc level and pulse strobe signals.” It used “reliable IBM series key switches and low-power MOS encoder circuitry”. As IBM are not known as a switch manufacturer, the claim of “IBM series key switches” is rather confusing.
This model was sold assembled as Model 756 ($75.95) and in kit form as Model 756K ($64.95). Those wishing to have the switches plate-mounted could order the optional Model 756MF ($8.95); presumably this only applied to kit assembly as the mounting frame cannot be placed over the top of the switches once they are soldered in place. The optional enclosure was offered for $29.95. Prices are taken GRI Bulletin KB-12, from October 1977, as well as Kilobaud and Personal Computing magazine. The July 2019 equivalent prices are $316.34, $270.52, $37.28 and $119.50 respectively.
- Model 756A (PCB code 2-756-001) — it has KBM switches that appear to be clear/black/orange (the most common type)
- Unknown Model 756 variant (PCB code 2-756-013) — it has KBM switches that appear to be black shell and black base
- GRI Bulletin KB-12
- Model 756 technical data
This model is only known from a photograph of the cover of the instruction manual for models 756 and 762, which depicts model 756 on the cover. Model 762 should have 62 keys, which is six more than model 756. Model 756A seems to have around six spare switch positions either side of space and adjacent to right shift, that would accommodate model 762; this is coincidentally how the equivalent 9000-family keyboards are arranged.
This is effectively a Model 756 with an added 15-key numeric keypad. In examples observed to date, the numeric keypad has the digits 0–9, the decimal point, and four cursor keys making up the fourth column on the left. Only one set of photos shows the KBM switches, which are fully cream in colour on most keys, and fully black on the alternate action key.
This model was announced in Computer Design magazine in March 1979. More details were given in the advertisement in Personal Computing, April 1979 where it was described as the Model 771 Keyboard Subsystem and priced from $150 ($546.77 in October 2019). Unlike other models, 771 was supplied fully assembled with an enclosure. As with other models, the output of the keyboard is highly configurable. It can also be fitted with an internal RS-232 adapter offering 110–9600 baud serial communication. The full 128-character ASCII set is again supported. Two-key rollover is provided.
- Model 2-771-001
- Unknown Model 771 variant (all-cream switches, and black switch for shift lock); the model number does not appear to be marked on the PCB
- Model 771 schematic
PERK is variously the “professional encoded Remote Keyboard” and “External Real Keyboard”: an external keyboard designed to be attached to the Commodore PET. The PERK and the PET’s internal keyboard are both active at the same time. Visually the PERK appears to be a fairly standard keyboard, most likely a variant of the Model 756.
The 7000 family of keyboards was advertised in Electronic Engineers Master 1985–86.
This is a 56-key keyboard, shown unenclosed. Output is full 128-character ASCII.
This is the same keyboard as Model 7056, with the addition of cursor control keys, with Up and Left to the left side of the space bar, and Right and Down placed to the right of space bar. All keys support auto-repeat. There is one user-defined key, which with the cursor control keys would give 7061 keys; the photographs are hard to make out in the scans.
Model 7078 adds a 15-key numeric keypad. Instructions were included for minor modification that would make it compatible with the Apple II.
The 9000 family of keyboards and keypads are pre-DIN models, offered in both mechanical and reed switch form. The 16-key ASCII keypads are the only type where the switch models are given: KBM mechanical switches for commercial-grade keyboards and KB reed switches for military-grade keyboards. Confusing the term “Series 9000” refers to specific pair of models, rather than to the entire family of 9000-series models. 9000 family is extremely similar to 700 family.
Keyboards from this family are still listed on the GRI website.
Series 9000 covers the 56-key model 9056 and 62-key model 9062; both appear to have double-shot keycaps. These microprocessor-driven keyboards offer parallel and serial connections via an edge connector at the back of the PCB. The latter model should not be confused with the related model 9062 XT/AT. By default the keyboard is unenclosed; the catalogue indicates that the enclosure can be metal or moulded structural foam.
Manual Entry Keyboard part no. 13415680, as used by the US Army, appears to be a Series 9000 keyboard judging by the number of wires used in the connecting cable (indicating that it is not an XT or AT model). Despite being military hardware, it was only specified with commercial-grade KBM switches, specifically the most common type (clear/black/orange). The PCB number on this keyboard is 2-334-013, suggesting 34-key keyboard model 334, which would not make sense.
Series 9062 XT/AT
Series 9062 XT/AT is a derivative of model 9062, offering a choice of XT, AT and enhanced AT protocols. The choice of protocols is part of the ordering code, and XT/AT switchable was not given as an available option.
These are simple unencoded 16-key keypads. The switches can be given dedicated connections, wired in a matrix, or set to output a hexadecimal code via a parallel connection.
These keypads were already no longer listed for sale in 1998.
9016 ASCII Series
These are fully-encoded keypads, offering a wide choice of parallel (with optional N-key rollover), serial, XT, AT and enhanced AT connections. Additionally there is a wide choice of switches: KBM mechanical, KBR reed, KB reed, and KB illuminated reed switches.
Deepak Kandepet collected a 9016 keypad with KBM switches with sealed switches topped with adapters to accept normal GRI keycaps. The switches are the white–black–red type identical to Futaba MD-4PCS.
This is a 62-key keyboard advertised in Electronic Engineers Master 1988–89. In contrast to Model 8000, it is not listed as microprocessor encoded, but the fact that it supports PC-XT and PC-AT protocols would suggest that it does contain a microprocessor.
Series 8000 keyboards are microprocessor-encoded and use KBM-LP switches. While still listed on the GRI website (and listed back in 1998), they were omitted from the catalogue provided in 2017. As such, the full list of configuration options is not available. Connection options are said to include parallel, serial TTL, and serial RS-232. The series was advertised in Computer Design, August 1983, perhaps not co-incidentally on the same page as the Keytec Inductric, the latter being said to comply with DIN standards. Possibly Series 8000 was George Risk’s own DIN-compliant series.
Model 8000 was advertised in Electronic Engineers Master 1985–86 and 1988–89.
The standard models are given as:
- Model 8053: 53 keys in standard typewriter-style arrangement
- Model 8066: as above but with a 13-key numeric keypad
- Model 8076: “adds the 10 cursor-pad-and-control keys at the left of the 8066” (of unclear meaning)
- Model 8095: as above but with 19 special function keys at the top
Custom layouts can be specified instead.
Model 8095-12321-5200 appears externally identical to the illustration on the George Risk website for Series 8000.
A variation of model 8095 was used in the Xcel UP/DOC portable computer. A support chip on the PCB is dated 1979, but the PROM is hand-labelled “3-28-83”. This latter date is consistent with the earliest known examples of Futaba ML, of 1983. The actual introduction date of the machine is not known. Curiously, the illuminated keys were achieved by simply sawing off a corner of the switch to make room for the LED. The PCB code is “2-247-001A”, which sadly does not bear any relationship to the model number or the number of keys.
Both 8095-12321-5200 and the UP/DOC keyboard have non-illuminated switches with a corner cut off to make space to place an LED next to the switch; it would seem that a suitable illuminated model from Futaba ML series was not available.
Series 3000 is not a documented series. Keyboards with 3000-series models appear to be the DIN-compliant family with KBM-DIN switches. Both known models are still listed on the GRI website as of 2019.
Model 3075 is DIN-compliant 75-key keyboard with double-shot keycaps. Unlike the 9000 series keyboards, these use KBM-DIN tactile switches. The protocol can be XT, AT, enhanced AT (“EAT”), RS-232 or TTL serial. The electronics can be commercial or military grade, but there is no military-grade switch type. The keyboard can be ordered unenclosed or with a “ruggedized” metal enclosure. Part number 3075-XTAT-CABL covers the optional cable.
Model 3032 is a 32-key keypad. Despite being only a keypad, it still offers all of the same protocols as the full 3075 keyboard, as well as RS-422 serial.
- Series 500 keyboards advertisement, Computer Design, December 1968
- Model 753 advertisement, Computer Design, August 1977
- PERK advertisement, Computer Design, January 1979
- Model 771 keyboard advertisement, Computer Design, March 1979
- 8000 series advertisement, Computer Design, August 1983
- GRI advertisement, Electronic Engineers Master Catalog 1985–86 Volume B
- GRI advertisement, Electronic Engineers Master Catalog 1988–89 Volume B
- GRI catalogue (2017) part 1 — keyboards, keypads, switches (see the main GRI page for notes on this document)