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Atari 400 Aftermarket Replacement Keyboard Thread

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I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has had a go at making their own full-stroke keyboard replacement for the Atari 400.

 

I've tried to get hold of an aftermarket replacement keyboard recently and not been able to find one.

 

What are the issues to be overcome when making your own?

 

Cheers,

Hawk

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OK, so a bit of research tells me that the biggest issue to overcome in making your own replacement keyboard is the physical size of the keys.

 

The standard 400 membrane keyboard has spacing on about 15mm centres. Modern keyboards are 18mm keycaps on 19mm centres.

 

I guess that's why aftermarket keyboards had to come up with the alternative layouts.

 

I found that Cherry ML keys switches (~12mm x 12mm) would work for spacing, however you would need modified or custom keycaps, as I was unable to find any miniature keycaps. I guess it would be possible to 3D print keycaps these days.

 

My eeePC 701 has key spacing the same as the 400 and it feels really tiny. Why didn't the 400 ever feel that small. For me, back when it was my only computer, it was the membranes that were yuk. I didn't even notice the key spacing...but then I wasn't trying to touch type either.

 

Hawk

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It would be great to have a 400 upgraded with cherry mx blues. I wonder if you could just replace the switches and use the original B key keycaps? That would be awesome to type on.

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i picked up this keyboard. If anyone has any info, i'd be v.grateful!

It was grubby but cleaned up nicely. Shame its missing one shift key and the option key.

On closer inspection, the key switches are cherry brand! (albeit a primitive one) ive ordered 5x blank keys from ebay china so hopefully i can cut them down to size, spray them etc.. the centre "cross" fitting looks about right.

Although the PCB tracks look aged, continuity is still there! :)

 

 

post-38211-0-68665400-1546013099_thumb.jpg

post-38211-0-22374800-1546013107_thumb.jpg

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it is the very same, except my keys are black. - weird how the keys in your vid are varied, maybe there were different options at the time? i dont hold out much hope for finding my 2 missing ones tho...

Ive yet to do the dupont connector mod but it looks a good strong connection! (understatement)

there is a pic of another one here: http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/34098/Atari-400-with-Aftermarket-Keyboard but theres no further info

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There doesn't appear to be any rhyme or reason to the variation in key colour on the board I worked on, so either the keys are from different batches of plastic which discoloured differently over the years, or some of the keys went missing and were replaced at a later date. The keyboard is quite usable and far superior to the original, although the three-switch space-bar blocks awfully unless you hit it just so. :)

 

Interestingly enough, the same keyboard was later sent back here a second time in a different 400 but the Escape key was missing. I imagined replacing it would be a major problem, but the owner eventually found his cat playing with the missing key, which must have fallen off when he was boxing up the 400:

 

https://youtu.be/p3_QYvOVXxQ?t=2461

 

EDIT: the non-booting 400 was eventually repaired. It had a bad CPU, ANTIC, GTIA and PIA. :o

Edited by flashjazzcat
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Can someone with the b-key pop the space bar off and take a picture of the stabilizer? I've got a 400 with b-key, and I'm missing the plastic bits that connect the stabilizer bar to the ends of the space bar. I tried using the little piece at the ends from a cherry mx board with costar stabilizers, but they were a bit to tall. In a pinch, I think I could get a new set of those and shave down the cross top to make them a lower profile. The pieces are these bits

http://www.wasdkeyboards.com/index.php/products/keyboard-parts/cherry-mx-keycap-stabilizer-insert-2pcs.html

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Hi. I had the same problem and created this replacement part. You might need shave these a bit with an exacto knife to get it to fit depending on the quality of your 3d printer. Good luck.

400 B keyboard space key standoff_v2.zip

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I remember one of the after market keyboards, I think it was the B-key one, pictured in the very first post, came with extra keys of a different color so if you wanted you could have all the keys the same color, or some, like function keys, etc. in a different color. I've been kinda looking off and on the last few years for a 400 to pop -up on ebay, at the same time I have extra cash, with an after market keyboard.

 

I really like the look and style of the 400 with the membrane keyboard, but I also know that my warm-fuzzy feeling for the original look of the 400 would wear thin after a while, and I'd want an after market keyboard like ones shown in this thread. But I'd rather have one like the B-key that has the lower profile and retains some of the 400's sleekness too. The ones that are raised all look terrible to me.

 

I like the different colored keys of the 'B-key' and it's low profile, but I think the keyboard #2 in the first post looks the best out of all of them, nice and neat rows and no keys sticking out like the 'B-key.' BUT, I think it's probably a little too cramped, the 'B-key' keyboard looks like they got it closer to full-stroke size. The 'B-key' keyboard is the one I've been looking for on a 400.

Edited by Gunstar

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I remember one of the after market keyboards, I think it was the B-key one, pictured in the very first post, came with extra keys of a different color so if you wanted you could have all the keys the same color, or some, like function keys, etc. in a different color. I've been kinda looking off and on the last few years for a 400 to pop -up on ebay, at the same time I have extra cash, with an after market keyboard.

 

I really like the look and style of the 400 with the membrane keyboard, but I also know that my warm-fuzzy feeling for the original look of the 400 would wear thin after a while, and I'd want an after market keyboard like ones shown in this thread. But I'd rather have one like the B-key that has the lower profile and retains some of the 400's sleekness too. The ones that are raised all look terrible to me.

 

I like the different colored keys of the 'B-key' and it's low profile, but I think the keyboard #2 in the first post looks the best out of all of them, nice and neat rows and no keys sticking out like the 'B-key.' BUT, I think it's probably a little too cramped, the 'B-key' keyboard looks like they got it closer to full-stroke size. The 'B-key' keyboard is the one I've been looking for on a 400.

These low profile Cherry MX keys might be an option for a new replacement keyboard:

 

https://www.cherrymx.de/en/mx-low-profile/mx-low-profile-red.html

 

Not sure if keycaps are available for them specifically.

 

Edit: Just found these (different brand) keys and keycaps:

https://novelkeys.xyz/products/kailh-low-profile-switches

https://novelkeys.xyz/collections/keycaps/products/kailh-low-profile-keycaps-with-legends

Edited by mozzwald
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I've been looking into making a new keyboard for the 400 and picked up some sample switches and keys for experimentation. Regular cherry keys are quite tall but the low profile kailh brand keys are a bit shorter. To use the Kailh switches with Cherry keycaps you need an adapter which I 3D printed.

post-50653-0-65915600-1551881300_thumb.jpg

post-50653-0-21966500-1551882073_thumb.jpg

Cherry keycaps are 18mm square and are meant to be on 19.05mm centers which does not allow the original 400 layout to be used. I came up with this layout. Any recommendations are welcome.

post-50653-0-61007600-1551881380_thumb.png

The keycap samples I got are from MaxKeyboard. They seem a bit thin but I think they would be alright to use. It looks like you can get a complete set of custom printed keycaps for less than $50. This would allow for custom legends on the keycaps. I had one key printed as a sample and it looks good. The brown, orange and yellow keys don't match the original 400 colors but I think would look alright.

post-50653-0-01283400-1551881313_thumb.jpg

I also made this 3D printed chicklet style key that fits the Kaihl switches. It's only 16mm square and I think would be possible to get the original A400 layout. Problem is making the legends on the keys. I had the idea to make an indent on the top of the keycap and have custom cut stickers with the legend to put in them. Then perhaps clear coat it for protection. This path seems like the most work and I'm not really sure how the sticker idea would hold up over time. But, this is probably the only way to keep the original layout (other than having expensive custom injection molded ones made).

post-50653-0-96604000-1551882230_thumb.jpg

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Nice work. Do you have a URL for the $50 custom printed keycap set?

 

Thanks!

Starglider aka Perifractic http://youtube.com/perifractic

http://www.maxkeyboard.com/ansi-layout-custom-color-cherry-mx-keycap-set.html

 

I *think* it can be done with the ANSI 87 Key Layout (6.50x Spacebar and Top Printed Keys) but I haven't completely verified it yet. Depending on available extra keys, might need to use the 104 layout.

still would love a color matched bezel around the keys making them look integrated into the 400.

Yes, I had that idea also and should be possible to 3d print something. Can add some screw holes to the keyboard pcb for attachment of the bezel

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I don't own a 400 but was curious about this. I put a 400 keyboard assembly over my PC keyboard with MX switches. The PC keycaps appear to be ~18mm wide arranged on ~19mm centers. 13 keys works out to 247.65mm minus the spacing that's not needed outboard of the two end switches. Looks like a really close fit when compared to pics of the 400 keyboard installed in the case.

post-30371-0-90237500-1555383257.jpg

I'm guessing that the 19.05mm spec is so that the PC board doesn't crack along the locating pins. Could you arrange the switches closer together if you alternated every other switch rotated 90 degrees? Is there anything that prevents the keycap from being installed rotated 90 degrees? Will the keycaps rub against each other and stick or get damaged if too close?

 

It appears that the back of the keyboard assembly is propped up by the cast metal shield. The factory keyboard assembly has no traces on the back. This might be a problem with using the through-hole switches if there is a chance of shorting to ground. Or shorten the standoff and 3D-print an insulating cap to fit between it and the PCB?

 

Here is a sample layout that I created at http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com. I put the layout on Github if you want to play around with it: https://gist.github.com/wt808/fc456c4bbe0fddf072870a60fdb9c78a. I did not verify whether the yellow keys are positioned correctly.

 

I think that there is a way to generate a template from the JSON file for laser-cutting a metal mounting plate. That might be another answer to creating a bezel or a frame to attach one.

post-30371-0-09121900-1555383536_thumb.jpg

Edited by wt808
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I like the layout that you're coming up with. I also like the idea of using Kailh Cherry ML-type keyboard switches. Have you considered 3D printed frame (including mount) and a dual colour laser cut insert? The insert could be a thin as 0.8mm.

 

Not really what you'd want to do for mass-production but might work for a few keyboards.

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I think you're right about the smaller Kailh switches. They will make the assembled keyboard easier to install and don't protrude below the PCB like the low-profile MX switch.

 

Instead of 3D-printing the keycaps, it might be easier to dye sub the keys that are unique to the Atari, and then buy preprinted keycaps for the remaining keys.

Here's a simple dye sub setup:

https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/comments/6egoot/idea23_how_to_dye_sub_your_own_caps/

https://imgur.com/a/Bc5BE

 

Here are some blank and printed Kailh low-profile keycaps. Fairly reasonable price.

https://novelkeys.xyz/products/kailh-low-profile-keycaps-blank?variant=3747977068584

https://novelkeys.xyz/products/kailh-low-profile-keycaps-with-legends?variant=3747938664488

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Does one know whether we can do a complete keyboard replacement.

Edited by JoSch

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It is possible but costly in money and time. Here's what we know...

 

- Keyboard schematic is available. https://www.atariarchives.org/creativeatari/Standard_Keyboard_for_the_Atari_400.php

- PCB is 109 x 287mm and the position and dimensions of mounting notches and holes can be copied from the existing keyboard assemblies.

- We need 61-63 keyswitches laid out in a matrix. Ribbon cable header with 0.1" spacing. Spacebar stabilizer mech is still unknown, but just pick a good one and use it.

- I purchased two SP DSA keycaps and confirmed that the unmodified keycaps should work with a low profile switch. Key height will be 1/8" taller than B-Key keycaps. http://atariage.com/forums/topic/290931-keycap-replacement-b-key-keyboard-atari-400/

- To have SP manufacture the keycap set, they need AI or Inkscape drawings of the 4 custom Atari arrow keys. Can be 4 separate files or all in one file. Manufacturing time is 10 weeks from payment, but shipped to one person who will need to split and reship to individual buyers.

- The Cherry MX low profile switch seems to be only available to keyboard manufacturers at this time but will hopefully be more widely available later in 2019. Initial reviews seem to indicate that these are smoother than the Kailh low-profile switches for off-center keypresses, but it protrudes from the bottom of the PCB, so the metal supports on the shield may need to be cut down.

- If blank keycaps are used, will need to sketch and dye sub or laser etch the custom Atari keys.

 

Personally, I prefer the dark PBT doubleshot keys and MX low-pro switches as I think it looks closest to an 800, but that is $900 for one prototype and out of my budget. I have no experience with Kailh switches but they seem to have a loyal following. I think the Kailh keycaps look more like XE style, though. If you don't mind lighter colored keys, then the Kailh setup will be more economical and easier to fit.

 

I also contacted MaxKeyboard about a set of R3-only keycaps. Their process produces one set of R1-R5 keycaps according to their template, so a set of R3-only would require 5-6 passes at extra cost. They offer limited keycap colors.

 

I don't plan to pursue this project further. If someone wants to use this information and continue on, feel free to do so. I can also let my contact at SP know if you want to pursue the PBT doubleshot keys. If you need help with sketches or 3D-printed brackets, I'm willing to help too.

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Here's a blog entry from Rama Works, a keyboard manufacturer that chose the new Cherry MX low-pro switch over the Kailh low-pro switch. Mainly that the Cherry switch can handle 2u keys without additional support and takes standard MX keycaps. Some interesting pictures of their new POM stabilizer design.

https://rama.works/prototype/2018/7/13/instrument-low-profile-stab-seq-2

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On 5/7/2019 at 2:27 PM, wt808 said:

It is possible but costly in money and time. Here's what we know...

 

- Keyboard schematic is available. https://www.atariarchives.org/creativeatari/Standard_Keyboard_for_the_Atari_400.php

- PCB is 109 x 287mm and the position and dimensions of mounting notches and holes can be copied from the existing keyboard assemblies.

- We need 61-63 keyswitches laid out in a matrix. Ribbon cable header with 0.1" spacing. Spacebar stabilizer mech is still unknown, but just pick a good one and use it.

- I purchased two SP DSA keycaps and confirmed that the unmodified keycaps should work with a low profile switch. Key height will be 1/8" taller than B-Key keycaps. http://atariage.com/forums/topic/290931-keycap-replacement-b-key-keyboard-atari-400/

- To have SP manufacture the keycap set, they need AI or Inkscape drawings of the 4 custom Atari arrow keys. Can be 4 separate files or all in one file. Manufacturing time is 10 weeks from payment, but shipped to one person who will need to split and reship to individual buyers.

- The Cherry MX low profile switch seems to be only available to keyboard manufacturers at this time but will hopefully be more widely available later in 2019. Initial reviews seem to indicate that these are smoother than the Kailh low-profile switches for off-center keypresses, but it protrudes from the bottom of the PCB, so the metal supports on the shield may need to be cut down.

- If blank keycaps are used, will need to sketch and dye sub or laser etch the custom Atari keys.

 

Personally, I prefer the dark PBT doubleshot keys and MX low-pro switches as I think it looks closest to an 800, but that is $900 for one prototype and out of my budget. I have no experience with Kailh switches but they seem to have a loyal following. I think the Kailh keycaps look more like XE style, though. If you don't mind lighter colored keys, then the Kailh setup will be more economical and easier to fit.

 

I also contacted MaxKeyboard about a set of R3-only keycaps. Their process produces one set of R1-R5 keycaps according to their template, so a set of R3-only would require 5-6 passes at extra cost. They offer limited keycap colors.

 

I don't plan to pursue this project further. If someone wants to use this information and continue on, feel free to do so. I can also let my contact at SP know if you want to pursue the PBT doubleshot keys. If you need help with sketches or 3D-printed brackets, I'm willing to help too.

I've been looking into the whole 400 keyboard replacement as well and have come up with similar findings and would be interested in pursuing the project further.   

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Posted (edited)
On 11/2/2013 at 8:48 PM, wood_jl said:

post-16281-0-47022600-1383438831_thumb.jpg

What is this called? Never seen one! Anybody seen one? Let's call it #3.

 

On 1/14/2017 at 6:25 PM, BillC said:

It may be the Tara 400 keyboard mentioned in this article from the July 1983 Antic. It looks to be the only one other than the In-Home B-Key 400 that installed in the case.

 

http://www.atarimagazines.com/v2n4/400upgrade.html

 

It is the Tara 400 Keyboard. Here's a better picture of it. Not the prettiest thing in the world, but there it is. At least the one in this picture has a <SPACE> bar.

 

a400kbd.thumb.jpg.2ff583a9bd3b2d98cad4b722ad590da9.jpg

 

 

Edited by MrFish
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2 hours ago, MrFish said:

 

 

It is the Tara 400 Keyboard. Here's a better picture of it. Not the prettiest thing in the world, but there it is. At least the one in this picture has a <SPACE> bar.

 

a400kbd.thumb.jpg.2ff583a9bd3b2d98cad4b722ad590da9.jpg

 

 

Holy shit-balls.  Is that for real?  That's the ugliest thing I have ever seen.  Please don't tell me that turd just sat on top of the membrane kb underneath?

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