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ScreamingAtTheRadio

Atari 130XE keyboard rebuild: vintage keycaps on modern switches

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Here's what you'll need to do if you have the circular version of the XE key caps and you received a Rev. C aluminum plate from me.

 

First, here are the two original Atari keyboards on top of one another, which can help you determine what version you have. The circular version is on top, the square version is on the bottom:

IMG_0001.thumb.JPG.61aa81ab5168944ce1d2875554e01824.JPG

 

Here are the places where you'll need to make adjustments. A simple drill with a good sample of bits and a set of files should be sufficient. Please be careful, aluminum is an easy metal to work with, but there will be dust and various debris flying around, so wear eye and hand protection.

IMG_0006.thumb.JPG.4a4e753e61913c105bf4f0b6c46e7fb9.JPG

 

Specifically, the function key holes need to be made larger, and a second one, symmetrical to the existing one, should be added:

IMG_0001.thumb.JPG.aa9f321d21e4952db27f8e989c6cfeac.JPG

 

The space bar's stabilizer is much wider on this model, so some space must be made for it. You have a choice here to setup your space bar upside-down and use the existing stabilizer hole, like in the photo below. In this case, drill to the bottom of the keyboard to make way for the T-shaped legs.

IMG_0002.thumb.JPG.70f758072508597cdde389461e531a58.JPG

 

Alternatively, you may be able to keep the correct orientation for the space bar by using the larger cross-shaped holes next to the original ones to set-up your stabilizers. Since those holes are larger however, you will have to either modify the design before printing it so it's longer, or fill with hot glue. I'd recommend modifying the design, it's very easy to do: look for `total_length` and `hole_length` and add the necessary additional length to both. You'll also want to add half of that value to `rod_hole_offset` so the rod hole stays close to the edge.

 

The right shift and control key have stabilizers, but since these keys are 1.75 units wide, they're superfluous. We do need to make a little more room for the plastic supports to go through:

IMG_0003.thumb.JPG.18645f12062014afa78a4d2e756ddab6.JPG

 

With the square keys, the left shift stabilizer has the rod above the key. In the case of the circle variant, we need to do two things: remove the separation between the two rectangles to make way for the plastic column to go through, and make the outer rectangles wider towards the center so we can put the standard Costar stabilizers in that rectangle, but closer to the center so the rod still has enough space to travel. Note that in this configuration, the rod should be under the key, not above, so orient stabilizers accordingly. This key is the trickiest part to get right, because that hole was not designed originally to receive stabilizers. Once you get this right, the stabilizers will probably have more wiggle room than they should, so setting them in place with some hot glue is not a bad idea, and should make them stable enough.

 

The PCB, including fabrication files, has already been revised to accommodate for both versions:

Atari130MXPlate.thumb.png.1b6d614bd11c3cafc714326ec431a29d.png

 

The SVG file for laser-cutting has not been revised and probably will remain square-only.

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I've finally received my FFC connectors, and I found out that the adapters are wired backwards for FFC. I think I'll have to redo them. Sorry about that. I think I'll make separate FFC and IDC adapters in fact, so I can make them smaller and easier to fit on any motherboard.

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Thank you ScreamingAtTheRadio for making this keyboard for all to enjoy.  I have most of my stuff needed but forgot to order the ribbon cable and IDC connectors until the boards arrived. it will be a few more weeks before I can test the keyboard out.

 

 

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21 hours ago, ScreamingAtTheRadio said:

I've finally received my FFC connectors, and I found out that the adapters are wired backwards for FFC. I think I'll have to redo them. Sorry about that. I think I'll make separate FFC and IDC adapters in fact, so I can make them smaller and easier to fit on any motherboard.

In fact that should be fine if unlike me, you use the proper cable, that is one that has the contacts on opposite sides, such as this: https://www.digikey.com/en/products/detail/molex/0151670424/3281677

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14 hours ago, venom4728a said:

Thank you ScreamingAtTheRadio for making this keyboard for all to enjoy.  I have most of my stuff needed but forgot to order the ribbon cable and IDC connectors until the boards arrived. it will be a few more weeks before I can test the keyboard out.

 

 

I second this! Thank you ScreamingAtTheRadio for this project. I just sourced the square version of the keyboard (no Atari’s were harmed! It seemed that  it was a returned service part. Need to do some serious retrobriting on it though since it so yellowed!) Trying to find someone to make me a  make a couple of sets of the switch stems and stab holders. I also build custom keyboards and I am some group buys at the the moment, so this project was really appealing to me.

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2 hours ago, scorpio_ny said:

I second this! Thank you ScreamingAtTheRadio for this project. I just sourced the square version of the keyboard (no Atari’s were harmed! It seemed that  it was a returned service part. Need to do some serious retrobriting on it though since it so yellowed!) Trying to find someone to make me a  make a couple of sets of the switch stems and stab holders. I also build custom keyboards and I am some group buys at the the moment, so this project was really appealing to me.

WildStar87 may still have an extra set, if not I also have an extra set of the square stems.

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Here's something that might interest those of you who want to replicate this but don't have a donor XE... I purchased a couple of new-old keyboards from Best Electronics this week (ref. CB101702), and they are of the circle variety, but they are also double-shot, which is different from the one I had had access to so far. Key cap quality is pretty good.

 

Here are the three key cap variations I know of side by side:

IMG_0001.thumb.JPG.c8841c56b22288d9060ef0f4c9ebac7a.JPG

IMG_0002.thumb.JPG.d2b5754370c8547de99253569b10b215.JPG

 

And here are the two full circle-stem keyboards (single shot on top, doubleshot bottom, and yes, the color differences are real, the function keys in particular look much better in doubleshot IMO):

IMG_0003.thumb.JPG.a527afcb5e6051029b4c44de8592669e.JPG

 

So yeah, the keebs from Best are good to go for this project, just make sure you wait for rev.D to be ready before you get PCBs made, especially for the plate.

 

-- little bonus, rev. D will also have space for F1-4.

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2 hours ago, ScreamingAtTheRadio said:

Here's something that might interest those of you who want to replicate this but don't have a donor XE... I purchased a couple of new-old keyboards from Best Electronics this week (ref. CB101702), and they are of the circle variety, but they are also double-shot, which is different from the one I had had access to so far. Key cap quality is pretty good.

 

Here are the three key cap variations I know of side by side:

IMG_0001.thumb.JPG.c8841c56b22288d9060ef0f4c9ebac7a.JPG

IMG_0002.thumb.JPG.d2b5754370c8547de99253569b10b215.JPG

 

And here are the two full circle-stem keyboards (single shot on top, doubleshot bottom, and yes, the color differences are real, the function keys in particular look much better in doubleshot IMO):

IMG_0003.thumb.JPG.a527afcb5e6051029b4c44de8592669e.JPG

 

So yeah, the keebs from Best are good to go for this project, just make sure you wait for rev.D to be ready before you get PCBs made, especially for the plate.

 

-- little bonus, rev. D will also have space for F1-4.

Thank is good to know, thank you!  I am still waiting for my switches and a couple more components to arrive before I start to work on my keyboard. Those keys look a lot better than the ones I acquired for this project (they need to go through the retro rite process because they were so yellow).

 

One question: Does the switch stem designed for the circle based keycaps work with this new variation without modification? It looks slightly different in the photos.

 

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3 hours ago, ZuluGula said:

MicroCenter has resin printer for $100. Is it going to be good enough for this project?

https://www.microcenter.com/site/content/specialoffer3dprinter-2.aspx

It looks like this one: https://www.creality.com/goods-detail/creality-ld-002h-resin-3d-printer which has a 51 micron resolution, similar to the Elegoo I've been using. Whether is does quality prints reliably, I can't say, you should find some reviews and decide. At this price, if it does work well, that's quite the bargain.

 

13 hours ago, scorpio_ny said:

One question: Does the switch stem designed for the circle based keycaps work with this new variation without modification? It looks slightly different in the photos.

Yup, they fit just fine:

image.thumb.png.b0be49fc0e6df219aa1da197152f3d4a.png

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I printed some new stems today from a slightly modified model (I basically made the spring column thinner to give more leeway and be more tolerant to so-so printing conditions), and it is glorious. I like the circle caps better now in fact because the keys end up being way more tightly bound to the stem. I pushed the changes to Github, you can download the new STLs for both variants:

https://github.com/bleroy/3d-junkyard/blob/main/Atari130MX/keeb-stem-circle.stl

https://github.com/bleroy/3d-junkyard/blob/main/Atari130MX/keeb-stem.stl

 

I also recorded a short video to show the new stems in action (check out that delicious click, too):

 

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On 10/6/2021 at 7:13 PM, _The Doctor__ said:

this would be even better with the auxiliary choice to have the extra diagonal function keys continue all the way across. @MEtalGuy66 style.

You'll be happy to know Rev. D, that I merged earlier today, has support for F1-4.

 

Atari130MX_PCB_Front.thumb.png.d8b721b74fe7754904d3e56a1a77210f.png

 

image.thumb.png.628ef9717168d9efaa91726767a525db.png

 

I've also made two new adapters, one with just IDC and on with just FFC. I strongly recommend using the FFC one for your keyboard connection as it is the smallest one, and it is a very tight fit around that connector... Really not much space.

 

image.thumb.png.01996b915af8d8ad093cb62f9c293453.png

 

image.thumb.png.5ee35fa70df91b0b147a4f74955e38e9.png

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So I got this $100 printer. I'm complete newbie when it comes to 3D printing and I will need some help.

1. Resin. Elegoo has four kinds, standard, ABS like, water washable and plant based, which one is the best? Does color matters?

2. Temperature. I'm reading about the fumes. My garage is cold in the winter and hot in the summer? What's the best range? Is stable temperature important? My basement has stable temperature ~70F but doesn't have good ventilation.

3. Washing. All I need is two cups nad IPA?

4. Curing. What kind of light? Led, how much watt? I have some UV CFL bulb I used for retrobrighting, don't know the specs, can I use it.

 

I would like to see how those prints looks before they get detached from the plate.

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10 minutes ago, ZuluGula said:

So I got this $100 printer. I'm complete newbie when it comes to 3D printing and I will need some help.

1. Resin. Elegoo has four kinds, standard, ABS like, water washable and plant based, which one is the best? Does color matters?

2. Temperature. I'm reading about the fumes. My garage is cold in the winter and hot in the summer? What's the best range? Is stable temperature important? My basement has stable temperature ~70F but doesn't have good ventilation.

3. Washing. All I need is two cups nad IPA?

4. Curing. What kind of light? Led, how much watt? I have some UV CFL bulb I used for retrobrighting, don't know the specs, can I use it.

 

I would like to see how those prints looks before they get detached from the plate.

There's some general advice on the readme: 3d-junkyard/Atari130MX at main · bleroy/3d-junkyard (github.com)

 

1. I get my best results with standard clear red. I've had worse results with other colors of standard resin such as black so I guess it does? Not a scientific study, just personal experience... ABS-like has been very bad in my experience but I may not have configured the print optimally for it. Water-soluble was meh and once I started cleaning with alcohol, I couldn't find a justification for that. Plant based I haven't tried yet. There are sources you can find with Google that give best parameters for each resin kind.

2. Temperature is important. In the winter, I keep a small portable heater close to the printer. I also keep a fume extractor next to the printer that I keep on while operating. Good ventilation is essential, that stuff stinks and is toxic.

3. In principle yes. 99% IPA does give better results. So does an actual washing station with agitation built-in, but that's an additional cost. Then there's the question of disposing of used IPA (after a while re-using the same alcohol, you'll get precipitates of resin on the bottom and the alcohol will become less transparent), which needs to be done responsibly: transfer to another container, evaporate, and cure the deposit at the bottom before disposing of it.

4. I've started this project with a home-made UV box that I built for retrobrighting. Works fine. Just get one of those cheap solar-powered rotating tables so your prints get exposed on all sides. Don't overdo it, a few minutes is enough. Now I use an Elegoo washing+curing station, but that's not necessary to get good results.

 

I also blow-dry the parts between washing and curing.

 

Here's how it looks like after washing:

IMG_20211024_212131.thumb.jpg.60ed82c6d63a53ec28d30aa6dd58fcf9.jpg

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3 hours ago, 55five66six said:

Will there be another order for the PCBs? If so, I'd like to order two. 🙂

Probably not from me, but the Gerber files are on the repo, and the PCBs are so cheap to make that you should be able to get 5 faster and cheaper directly from JLCPCB than through me :)

 

I'd wait for a couple of days if I were you however, since rev. D is almost here and I'll be able to validate it soon.

Edited by ScreamingAtTheRadio
one more thing
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Ok. I'll wait for a bit for the new revision and then check out JLCPCB's pricing.  👍 

 

BTW, thank you for this way cool project. I'm a new owner of a few 130XE's and after touching the keyboard for the first time I had to look up how to replace it with a mechanical keyboard. I love the look of the XE but damn, that keyboard is horrible! 

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I am nearing completion of this project myself.  I have 3 pcbs from pcbway if anyone is interested.


i have the square keys.

 

Question, is there any particular costar model that works?  The ones i bought bind with the shift key when the key is pressed.  Key works fine once the costars are removed, but i have to strike the key on center to get a good keypress.

 

Observations and tips:

 

  1. I printed both versions of the square posts, both work well, using an Elegoo mars 2 pro and black resin.  I used supports and printed 30* off vertical.  When i printed straight up they came out warped along the vertical, very strange.
  2. i did have about a 15% failure rate with post binding.  I found that testing the key assembly before inserting into the frame and pcb saved on frustration 😁
  3. i ended up using pla to print the space bar costars.  The resin prints are too rigid and shear off when pressed from top down.  I guess bottom up could work but i am past that option.
  4. I used the ffc connector with a reflow workstation.
  5. i ordered a steel frame from ponoko, media blasted and baked engine enamel on it 🤪 for a nice finish
  6.  

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2 hours ago, pseudografx said:

Would this work with backlit key switches?

Probably not really. The key caps are opaque, so you'd only see the outline. I mean, the plate is technically a (single layer) PCB, so you should be able to add a bunch of surface-mount LEDs on there and have something that emits light. It's not something I want personally, but all the files are on GitHub, if you want to contribute that, I'll gladly merge it.

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3 minutes ago, ScreamingAtTheRadio said:

Probably not really. The key caps are opaque, so you'd only see the outline. I mean, the plate is technically a (single layer) PCB, so you should be able to add a bunch of surface-mount LEDs on there and have something that emits light. It's not something I want personally, but all the files are on GitHub, if you want to contribute that, I'll gladly merge it.

It could still shine from below the keys or one could print transparent keycaps (and not have to print the Atari keycap adaptors).

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1 hour ago, pseudografx said:

It could still shine from below the keys or one could print transparent keycaps (and not have to print the Atari keycap adaptors).

Sure, you can also add LEDs under the switches on the main PCBs, aligned to shine through the little window the switches have for this, you'll get some light this way. You'll have to figure out how to power them too. As for printing key caps, well, printed keycaps tend to be sub-par, and in that case you might as well give them the MX footprint and skip the whole printed stem stuff... That leaves you with just the main PCB as a starting point from this project. The PCB not being the hard part :)

 

16 hours ago, Mrd1234 said:

I am nearing completion of this project myself.  I have 3 pcbs from pcbway if anyone is interested.


i have the square keys.

 

Question, is there any particular costar model that works?  The ones i bought bind with the shift key when the key is pressed.  Key works fine once the costars are removed, but i have to strike the key on center to get a good keypress.

 

Observations and tips:

 

  1. I printed both versions of the square posts, both work well, using an Elegoo mars 2 pro and black resin.  I used supports and printed 30* off vertical.  When i printed straight up they came out warped along the vertical, very strange.
  2. i did have about a 15% failure rate with post binding.  I found that testing the key assembly before inserting into the frame and pcb saved on frustration 😁
  3. i ended up using pla to print the space bar costars.  The resin prints are too rigid and shear off when pressed from top down.  I guess bottom up could work but i am past that option.
  4. I used the ffc connector with a reflow workstation.
  5. i ordered a steel frame from ponoko, media blasted and baked engine enamel on it 🤪 for a nice finish
  6.  

Nice, I'd like to see photos of that plate, looks very nice (and expensive :D).

 

Stabilizers I've been using: https://amzn.to/3EFHNzw

Weird about the warping when printing vertical. Check your exposition settings for the specific resin you're using. There are helpful tables online for that.

There's a significant failure rate. I test the stems in the switch and reject anything not perfectly sliding.

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2 minutes ago, ScreamingAtTheRadio said:

Sure, you can also add LEDs under the switches on the main PCBs, aligned to shine through the little window the switches have for this, you'll get some light this way. You'll have to figure out how to power them too. As for printing key caps, well, printed keycaps tend to be sub-par, and in that case you might as well give them the MX footprint and skip the whole printed stem stuff... That leaves you with just the main PCB as a starting point from this project. The PCB not being the hard part :)

There is a guy on facebook who is modeling Atari keycaps and the results aren't half bad, with a resin printer.

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35 minutes ago, pseudografx said:

There is a guy on facebook who is modeling Atari keycaps and the results aren't half bad, with a resin printer.

I've seen those, yes, and I've printed my own as well. You may be getting better results, but mine felt and looked sort of bad, and they also broke way too easily. I much prefer to keep the vintage caps, which is also what makes this project different from other Atari mechanical keyboard projects.

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