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gobo

Atari 400 Keyboard Durability

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Was just thinking. I've never heard of anyone mention that they had an Atari 400 Keyboard fail. Back in the day, when it was my first computer, I beat on that thing! Are they virtually indestructible?

(Just bought a 400 to put the future 400 Incognito into)

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Never say never, but mine survived one hell of a battering fully functional and unmarked before eventually being replaced with a B-key...

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I've had to replace a faulty membrane before, but it was an Ebay purchase, so I have no idea how it was treated.

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13 hours ago, gobo said:

Was just thinking. I've never heard of anyone mention that they had an Atari 400 Keyboard fail. Back in the day, when it was my first computer, I beat on that thing! Are they virtually indestructible?

Mine failed, although it was still usable.

 

The glue holding the layers together on the left side of the keyboard started to come off. Eventually one of the keys, I can't recall exactly but I think control, "bubbled up" so that the top plastic layer was convex rather than concave. It still worked, but every press caused the plastic to move further than its design, and eventually it began to break off along the bottom white ridge. It was only a matter of time before it broke off completely, although it lasted me 3 years so likely at least that again.

 

I may be the only person to actually prefer the 400 keyboard to the 800. Once I got used to it I could type just as fast as any other keyboard. When, several years later, I got the chance to use an 800, I found the keys to be very short throw and not comfortable for someone coming from the VT-102 world. I understand the 1200 was the best-in-class, but I have never seen one in the flesh.

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I'm crazy that way too. While I like the real keyboards better I actually got so used to and good at using the 400 membrane it felt strange going to an 800XL. My fingertips did start to feel weird after a while after a long session on the 400 though. :) Membrane definitely worked well for what it was designed for..games.

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I've had 2 dead 400 keyboards. Luckily I was able to buy NOS replacements from best.

 

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I'm back to using my stock 400 keyboard as my BKey has become somewhat unreliable. I'm kinda enjoying it at the moment, but eventually I'll fix the dead BKey and use it again. Something I'm looking for is a brown "1" key from the BKey that I'm missing. Doubt I'll ever find one......but I'll ask just in case.

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2 hours ago, cornchip said:

I'm back to using my stock 400 keyboard as my BKey has become somewhat unreliable. I'm kinda enjoying it at the moment, but eventually I'll fix the dead BKey and use it again. Something I'm looking for is a brown "1" key from the BKey that I'm missing. Doubt I'll ever find one......but I'll ask just in case.

What do they look like?   Got a picture?

 

Had multiple 400's, used one of them exclusively for years, the membrane keyboard was rock solid.

 

 

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@cornchip what is wrong with your BKey?  The return key and delete key are unresponsive on mine.  Everything else works fine.  I’ve traced and beeped out all the pins and all sounds good.  What type of analysis would you perform to repair keys that are unresponsive?

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 I have a well used keyboard that had two issues. The worst issue was my letter "Y" key. It had a cracked contact....either from plenty of use or a botched repair. I was able to move it to the alternate "SHIFT" position. Other than that, the keys get dust/dirt and maybe even a little corrosion on the contact points. Cleaning seems to have largely fixed the other key.

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On 6/12/2021 at 1:45 AM, doctorclu said:

What do they look like?   Got a picture?

 

Had multiple 400's, used one of them exclusively for years, the membrane keyboard was rock solid.

 

 

 

Missed seeing this...sorry. Here's a picture of what the '1' keycap looks like.

 

 

bkey keycap 1.JPG

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For posterities sake: The Atari 400 B-Key issue was traced to a lifted trace line for pin 17 that disabled return, backspace, lower caps and other keys on line pin 17.   
 

This was difficult to diagnose as all pins from motherboard to keyboard beeped out with a connection.   
 

it wasn’t until I jumpered a DuPont cable from the return key to pin 17 on the motherboard that I was able to determine that is was a trace on the keyboard itself related to line 17.

 

The ‘fix’ for me was to add slight pressure towards the middle of keyboard which was enough to reconnect the line.  Interestingly and probably expected the pressure does not need to be constant.   This leads me to believe the pressure between the layers is slowly giving way over time.  Also and perhaps knowing to the manufacturer there is a thin foam strip on the back of the keyboard that provides a cushion between it and the metal plate to which the keyboard rest. 
 

This was a long torturous path for me as the original problem was thought to be related to a loose connection between the keyboard ribbon cable and the motherboard.

 

Pictures for the curious.
 


 

8C29FE8B-6DF4-4B68-B37A-E551B5F14875.jpeg

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14CFC8B7-F43B-48DE-9A37-CA15638D4088.jpeg

23130EDB-76B9-4177-92B8-31AAC4402584.jpeg

94E3A719-7E22-4843-B371-3913FD0E5D30.jpeg

30F90EDA-C9A1-4F9F-914D-13ADC31EF183.jpeg

C72EBC0C-54F7-4B46-9B92-B96D697AF03C.jpeg

A5F9476C-28DA-4431-AF2A-73651F58592F.jpeg

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My first computer was a 400. Used it pretty much daily for 3 years before upgrading to an 800xl.  During that time I did a lot of magazine program entry,  as well as messing around with my own little programs.  And at the time I was often not kind to the membrane keyboard or the 400 itself.  If I missed my high score by a little bit,  I might kick the 400 off the table to the ground.  If Basic locked up on me,  I might slam my fist down on the keyboard.  This was normal behavior when I was in high school.  Anyway,  the keyboard and 400 put up with it all,  and still works today. The membrane was pretty durable...today when I only very rarely play with the 400, I find it amazing that I used to program and type so much on it.... But back in the day I got used to it and could type pretty well on it. 

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