Brand New Model F April Update – printed key sets and keyboards continue shipping, second container shipment, major project milestones, new firmware options, and more!

Project status summary – what has been going on lately, when is my keyboard shipping, etc.:

This section is nearly the same as other recent updates: For those who have not been following recent updates and frequent postings over on the Deskthority and geekhack project threads, I will note that there is still time to customize and order your Brand New Model F Keyboard and/or any accessories like the First Aid Kit for future repairs, extra key sets, inner foam, extra flippers/springs, Model F key pullers, custom made 3 meter USB cables compatible with these keyboards, and other parts. Also I will note that the keyboards have started shipping – it does not mean that your keyboard will be shipping right away! There is still a ways to go to get everyone’s keyboard out.

If you have a new shipping address please do email me to let me know your order numbers and the new address. Check your order email and our email communications (if applicable) to make sure the latest address I have on file for you is the correct one.

The major news is that I’ve QC’d and shipped out 1000+ keyboards so far and am continuing to send out keyboards. Now that the shipping is going into full speed mode, split shipping is no longer available; please hold off on split shipping requests which were designed to fill in the down time and reduce the backlog before the printed keys arrived.

Important note: please do not ask when your keyboard is going out or about separate shipping. Hoping to continue shipping out everyone’s orders over the coming months. Sorry I can’t be more specific just yet or let anyone know exactly where they are in the queue. So far more than 1000 Brand New Model F Keyboards have shipped.

Major project milestone – $1.5 million in Brand New Model F orders!

It is a great honor to announce that this month the project reached the $1.5 million milestone for total orders so far! (This figure includes shipping costs.) With every order received I am glad to know that another Brand New Model F Keyboard will be out there in the world being put to good use.

Dye sublimation and shipping updates: printed key sets and keyboards continue to ship out

I continue to QC and mail out the Brand New Model F keyboards.

As noted above, there is still a ways to go to get everyone’s keyboard out and I cannot estimate when any specific keyboard is expected to ship or where someone is in line. I spend a lot of time with each keyboard (about 20-30 minutes to process each shipment) and personally take care of an extensive quality control checklist for each and every keyboard. I am not willing to rush this process or skip steps in order to get all the keyboards out earlier.

The factory has been very busy with the sublimation over the past couple months. As noted in the prior updates, the factory succeeded with the IBM Model F XT quality dye sublimation just before their CNY break started in late January and have been busy getting all these key sets sublimated. While the factory was training the new workers last month, production was of course not full speed, and they were also keeping a closer eye to make sure that the dye sublimation quality standards were being met. So far the sublimation quality has been outstanding, either meeting or beating the 90th percentile original IBM Model F samples in my opinion. I have posted some of these scans in prior blog updates. The quality of these key sets made the whole extended process well worth the wait!

In early March, the factory received additional sublimation equipment and custom manufactured more jigs in order to sublimate with three machines at one time. Their goal is to have daily production capacity of about 180 jigs’ worth of keys in total. The sublimation process is extremely temperamental to get the results up to the original IBM standards – even small changes in sublimation time, machine temperature, room temperature, and humidity can cause trouble.

The factory reports that so far about 1,900 US regular pearl/pebble key sets, 50 UK sets, over 275 blue printed US key sets, and over 225 dark gray sets have been produced, as well as hundreds of the Mac sets and over 1,300 HHKB 6 key sets. The factory is on schedule to finish up the sublimation in the next month or so.

Most of the international artwork has been completed and submitted to the factory. They are preparing to start sublimating these sets upon returning from the holiday in early May. A big thanks to Deskthority.net forum member Zed as always for taking on the key artwork.

Many key sets are expected to arrive by air at some point next week, including a whole bunch of regular pearl/pebble sublimated sets, blue printed US, dark gray printed US, pearl/pebble UK, and regular pearl/pebble US sets (and associated HHKB 6 key sets for each option). I will be posting photos soon after!

Once this batch arrives I will have enough keys to start mailing out the key sets for the folks who chose the separate shipping option, alongside my mailings of the full keyboards and key sets for those who have been waiting for everything to ship all at once.

This means that orders containing these key sets will be eligible to get into the queue for shipping assuming everything is in stock (the split shipping option is not available any more) – we are still going in the original shipping order where possible so shipping is still going to be months away for most orders as I am the final bottleneck of the project, inspecting each keyboard and putting each order together one at a time. As noted earlier I am unable to estimate where any one particular order is in the queue but I send out a tracking number by email as soon as each order ships.

Only the “all in stock” shipping and all in stock separate shipping will go out – the factory is doing all the front printing stuff and extra keys last, expected towards the end of May (so those who have ordered F1-F12, Industrial SSK, and extra keys will get everything starting after I receive those keys – there is no “separate separate” shipping option to get your main key set a little earlier and the standard separate shipping option is no longer available).

Additional dye sublimated key set options now available:

Check the “full key set” product page to check out the additional key sets that can now be ordered. In the near future (not at the moment), I hope to offer the beam spring type and beam spring APL type layouts for the new Model F keys, as well as regular APL (both light orange and red variations) and JIS. Check out the Deskthority.net project thread for recent discussion on the key sets and renderings of the proposed legends to be included in each key set (renderings are also below, at the bottom of this post – click on a layout to enlarge the image). As a note, nothing is finalized or guaranteed to be as represented. The keys in the front print, Apple, HHKB, etc. sections are not included in any of the main sets (approximately the top half of each image). These images are drafts and you will not receive all of the keys below in any set. Each language file contains multiple sets that can be ordered separately (front print, base key set, etc.). The Apple specific keys in the below proposed artwork would be for new orders only. I will not be changing any prior front print orders for the new apple front print.

Also added are text color options for the keys (see the extra keys page on the project web site for the new graphics) – green Alt keys, gray SSK front print keys, and green SysRq front print. No other colors or other options are currently available until I see how the green sublimation turns out.

If interested in any of these sets or color keys please message me or email me so I can let you know when they are ready to order (let me know which you are interested in). First I’m going to make sure one of each comes out nice from the factory.

Second container shipment update:

The second container shipment finally arrived! Container shipping demand has skyrocketed in recent months, along with delays. Normally shipping is about 45-55 days but it’s much longer nowadays – for this shipment it took a little over three months including shipping and processing time, making arrangements, etc.

The separate shipping option is no longer available as there is no more down time waiting for the keys.

After the shipment arrived last month, I had to spend quite a bit of time checking and organizing the inventory. First up, getting out of the way quickly a few dozen orders for people not ordering keys or keyboards and who just ordered solenoids, solenoid drivers, beamspring controllers, and F122/F107/PC AT foam. After that I proceeded mailing out the “all in stock” low serials and the rest of the queue generally in order of when the order was placed, oldest going out first.

For most orders of keyboards with unprinted keys installed, the factory installed the unprinted keys to the keyboards and currently there are extras of the keyboards with installed unprinted black and pearl/pebble keys if anyone’s interested in switching to unprinted or adding an unprinted key set to their order, with the unprinted keys installed to the keyboard.

The below photos show all new keyboards that arrived in the current container shipment (none from the last batch in these photos) and show a peek inside lots of the compact case boxes. The bottom photo shows one of the boxes of solenoids and solenoid drivers packed and ready to go.

This time I asked the factory to label each box with the variation number (100+ variations in total!) so that will save me a couple weeks of opening up each box to determine the variation as I needed to do last time. You can see these on the little sticky post it notes on each box. All the keyboards were initially, jumbled so I needed to organize and index their locations so I know where to find each variation (this work has been completed).

Also arriving in this batch are unprinted blue and dark gray key sets.

Professional key storage solution idea

If you want a step up from the buckling spring key set holders I have custom made and have just added to the store, Deskthority.net forum member darkcruix has produced a very professional key storage solution for spare key sets. Check it out over on the Deskthority thread: https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=483790#p483790

Firmware update for all Model F keyboards / introduction of Via offline GUI configuration support:

I have updated all of the firmware with the below changes and have also added Via support. For more details, check out the firmware section in the project manual, available at www.ModelFKeyboards.com/manual

The zip file in the above manual includes the layout files and hex files for Via QMK and for non-Via QMK – these files have the latest firmware updates. The new firmware fixes include an update the factory default solenoid dwell times (the new Model F solenoids won’t work properly and a full force without this fix), darkcruix’s QMK patch for excluding certain keys for the solenoid, a change in the factory default setting to allow NKRO but disable it by default (for maximum compatibility), etc.

I want to thank pandrew and darkcruix for their great work on QMK and Via for the Model F! I was surprised that Model F QMK compatibility could be added so quickly to Via. I have tested out Via and so far it is working well and it is pretty easy even for me to use!

The background is that Clint from Lazy Game Reviews reviewed the Brand New Model F last month. I also provided feedback on what was brought up in the video through a YouTube comment which was pinned to the top of the comments section for the video. The consensus from Clint and from many of those posting in the YouTube comments was that Via support would be a great addition to the project.

Via is a great way of configuring your keyboard with an offline, standalone software GUI program that does not require updating the firmware every time you want to change something or going to a web site every time you want to reconfigure your layout. For more details, check out the manual.

Right now the pandrew utility is not yet up and running with the Via firmware but other than that I believe everything else is working.

I have also updated the manual’s firmware section to make it more organized and a bit easier to follow. It now includes a beginner’s guide to full configuration of QMK/Via (this is completely unnecessary to do unless you want to change options that cannot be changed in the QMK GUI / Via GUI, such as the options I mentioned above. It is a local way of compiling the firmware through the command line).

Additional commands in the current firmware:

Hold down the keys Fn+Spacebar+
T–>Toggle the Solenoid On/Off Any key HPT_TOG
+= Increase Solenoid dwell time HPT_DWLI
-_ Decrease Solenoid dwell time HPT_DWLD
E–>EEPROM Reset (erases all settings like if you adjusted a dwell time for solenoid)
R–>Reset (enter bootloader)
D–>Debug

Command keys: hold Left Shift + Right Shift +
B–>Enter Bootloader
N–>Toggle N-Key Rollover (NKRO) (off by default to maximize compatibility)
Others: https://beta.docs.qmk.fm/using-qmk/adva … re_command

NKRO note as relayed to me:
Why there is not NKRO by default: When the USB Human Interface Device protocol was designed, they had a limit of 6 keys in there. This is the minimum all systems agree on (including BIOS etc.). NKRO is not standardized and there is a good chance, the keyboard doesn’t work in certain circumstances. In fact, on a Mac you can’t get into the recovery mode or NVRAM. On a PC, it depends on the UEFI designer, but I have seen problems with HP laptops.

Update on the solenoids:

As part of the second container shipment, all the solenoids and solenoid drivers were delivered to me and I have been mailing them out, along with beam spring controllers and the new Model F keyboards. These new solenoids, at more than double the weight of the IBM originals, are great for adding some extra beefiness to your IBM beam spring keyboard or to your new Model F keyboard. Check out the solenoid product page for more details.

Below are photos of the mounting hardware for the solenoids, along with photos showing the process to adjust the solenoid throw distance and securely mount the solenoid in any classic case (F62 or F77). These are included for free by default with all orders of solenoids – no need to request it.

Also included are two nylon washers so as to protect the case finish from the mounting screw. One washer goes between the top of the screw and the bottom of the case, and the other washer goes inside the case, between the case and the solenoid.

The L bracket case hole is 6-32 thread so you can actually use the L bracket as the nut for any bumpers with 6-32 threads or with a 6-32 screw that you can order elsewhere. For example, the 1 inch tall bumpers on the project web site include a 6-32 thread screw. No need to drill another hole in the case if you want both a screw on bumper as well as a solenoid! Unfortunately the 1/2 inch bumpers known as “medium with the threaded stud” are 8-32 thread I believe so you’d have to buy a stick on bumper or drill another hole, or mount the solenoid internally with something like 3M VHB tape. Might be better to purchase a set of 1/2 inch bumpers with a hole in the middle, instead of with an included screw, so that you can use a 6-32 screw of your own.

Some helpful advice from pandrew.

There were some reports of the new solenoids not operating under full power – this is due to the default QMK settings that require adjustment.

For the new solenoids, since they are far beefier than the originals, they need a little more dwell time to actuate to the full force and full volume. Examples of different dwell settings and the sounds for each can be found in my YouTube video below.

My recommendation is to set the dwell time to 20 ms to 30 ms. This is what I have done as the default setting in the latest firmware noted above – all you have to do is load the latest firmware – no adjustments required.

To do this with the old firmware if you don’t want to upgrade, go into Via or the QMK configurator and per pandrew: “map the HPT_DWLI (and HPT_DWLD) keycodes into their keymap, and press HPT_DWLI 16 times, to get it to 20 ms.” (the default setting is 4ms). This isn’t needed to be done if you load the latest firmware.

There is a retract setting for xwhatsit firmware that does not exist in QMK – for xwhatsit firmware the important thing is to set the retract to longer than the extend time, say 30ms to 40ms. If you do not do this, the solenoid may not function properly. Per pandrew: “The current QMK implementation doesn’t have a retract time (it’s effectively zero), and can’t currently be adjusted.”

I have posted a 30 second video on adjusting the solenoid settings. Some solenoid settings may result in a lower sound, or no sound coming from your solenoid. This video compares the sound with two different solenoid settings. With maximum throw, extend 20ms, retract 30ms, you get a full volume solenoid click sound. With extend reduced to 15ms, retract 30ms, you get a reduced volume solenoid sound. You can also adjust the physical solenoid settings with the two screws found on the solenoid – another solenoid video in this channel discusses how to physically install and adjust the solenoid in your keyboard.

IBM Key legends and key descriptions – what do all of those funny old symbol keys mean?

Last month I tallied the extra keys and submitted these keys to the factory, along with the finalized legend designs from forum member Zed. During this process I came across some old files describing some of the IBM Key legends and key descriptions for the key functions on their keyboards – hope it might be of interest. I had no idea what many of these keys actually did on the old terminals!

Copied below are pages from the IBM 3179 (F122 keyboard)

IBM 3270 Operations Guide 1972, pages 31-47 – see this link for details of the following keys and more
http://bitsavers.trailing-edge.com/pdf/ibm/3270/GA27-2742-1_Operators_Guide_for_IBM_3270_Information_DIsplay_Systems_Jul72.pdf
|← Back Tab
CLEAR
ERASE INPUT
ERASE EOF (End of Field)
TEST REQ
RESET
DUP
FIELD MARK
PA1 and PA2
INS MODE
DEL
PF1-PF12
NUMERIC (Shift)
ALPHA

IBM 3270 Oct 1988 revision (incl Unsaver 3290 Keyboard), starting with page 5-3 – see this link for details of the following keys and more
http://bitsavers.trailing-edge.com/pdf/ibm/3270/GA27-2739-22_3270_Information_Display_System_Introduction_Oct88.pdf
“General Controls” (Left side of keyboard)
Attention key
Copy key
Cursor Select key
Doc On/Off
Enlarge
Erasing controls-Clear, Erase Input, and Erase to End of Field keys
Extended Select Shift
Print key
Record and Play keys
Rule key
Setup Mode
System Request key
Work Station Control Mode
o<->O Zoom

Screen Management, Program Access, and Editing Controls
Note: The following functions are not available on all keyboards.
Backspace erase
Change Screen key
Cursor Home key
Delete Word key
Double-Speed Cursor, Left and Right keys
Duplicate key
Field Mark key
Insert and Delete keys
Jump Partition (3290)
Jump Screen
Left and Right Cursor keys
Next Word key
Previous Word key
Program Access keys (PA1, PA2, PA3)
Selectable Field Tab key
Up and Down Cursor keys
3174 Entry Assist

Program Function and Attribute Selection Controls
Note: The following functions are not available on all keyboards.
Attribute Select keys
Cursor Appearance keys, Alternate Cursor and Cursor Blink
Graphic Cursor ( + Cr) keys
Program Function keys, PF1 through PF24

IBM 3179 (one terminal used with F122 keyboards), page 6 onwards
http://bitsavers.org/pdf/ibm/3179/GA18-2180-1_3179_Color_Display_Station_Operator_Reference_and_Problem_Solving_Guide_Sep84.pdf
(relevant pages are copied above)

Custom Model F foot design:

Someone sent me a great custom foot design on Thingiverse for both the new Model F keyboards and original F77 keyboards that can be 3d printed with rubber. Here’s the link:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4786112

Someone else was talking about designing a 3D printed plug (and maybe putting in the Shapeways marketplace) where you remove the barrel and snap in the plug, or you put the plug on top of a barrel with no key so as not to require opening up the keyboard. I can’t seem to find my old discussion on this with the person.

Model F vs. Model M keyboard:

There was some discussion on the forums on comparing the IBM Model F keyboard to its successor, the IBM Model M keyboard. Here were some thoughts I posted:

The Model M was actually IBM’s effort to cut two-thirds of the cost out of their Model F which originally went for $600 or more in the early 80s, adjusted for inflation. The Model F produces a much crisper sound with each key press. Over time the Model M inner plastic top plate begins to separate from the metal bottom plate as the brittle plastic rivets break off one by one, and that further dulls the sound of the keyboard. Once those Model M rivets fall out they can’t be put back! The “bolt mod” is an option but it irrevocably changes the original sound of the Model M in my experience and is often a last resort to keep the keyboard going. The brand new Model F keyboards are also native USB with NKRO and are fully customizable with function layers, macros, and the option to customize each key and layout. They work with beta QMK firmware and xwhatsit firmware.

Draft key set renderings for the additional key sets: