I know there are a lot of options for customizing your Brand New Model F Keyboard and I have to do a better job with the photos and descriptions, so feel free to message me with any questions or concerns.
My goal is to be able to make as many of these Model F’s as possible before production shuts down for good, and every order helps!
If you know anyone who might be interested in a Brand New Model F please do send them this way! I’m always glad to read in the order comments that someone discovered this project through a friend.
Any more thoughts on the 60% dark gray v. 80% dark gray keys? So far I am leaning towards changing it to 60% unless people are fine with 80%.
Four major notes this month:
- The key factory is fixing up the molds and expects to be finished by the end of next week (as you saw in the prior update, almost all keys meet the tight tolerance requirements and are approved for production). They are also working on the color matching. So we could have the final samples in hand in ~2 weeks and then start mass production of the keys in June.
- The spring factory is still working on the final samples. They had to put in a special order at the wire factory in Japan as the wire is no longer common enough to stock.
- We are wrapping up here. Again my apologies for the factory production delays, and I thank those who are excited as I am about bringing the Model F back into production!
- Speaking of wrapping, I have ordered a gummed paper tape dispenser and reinforced paper tape so the actual keyboard boxes will have a more professional IBM-like appearance, along with the dot matrix printer and green bar computer paper for everyone’s packing slip. IBM used paper tape on shipping boxes of many of their 1980s computers and Model F keyboards, and also on their 1390131 two-pack shipping boxes – see third photo here: https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/product/brand-new-in-box-ibm-1390131-model-m-keyboard/
Catching everyone up on the project:
After speaking with some very helpful advisers including engineers and someone who helped run a successful large Kickstarter campaign, I waited until the factories were able to produce fully functional prototypes and could produce the keyboards for $350 or less before accepting any orders. That was probably the most important piece of advice I’ve received for this project.
I have studied the challenges of hardware projects, especially those requiring less conventional production processes. One of the issues with some crowdfunded projects revolves around developing new technology and the project fails as they ran out of development resources – this issue is not the case here as the software and controller firmware were fully developed thanks to xwhatsit and the factory has completed the Model F molds and tooling for all the plastic and metal parts (save the keys) so the final round will be able to go much more smoothly. The Model F parts went into production with no yield issues. I read recently about e-ink phone cases and 3D VR headphones as examples of production and technology development problems resulting in them running out of money.
In summary: 100% functionality was achieved with the prototypes; the factory delays have enabled us to move towards meeting the original Model F aesthetics, sound, and experience.
The factories have eventually succeeded in producing the several hundred thousand parts I’ve ordered so far – PCBs, die cast cases, flippers, barrels, ribbon cables, inner steel assemblies, etc. All but the keys and springs passed my inspection, were produced, and are boxed up waiting to be assembled.
In general the factory production delays have historically focused on whether to proceed with the original timeline with working but substandard parts or rejecting the prototypes to make the new Model F as close to the originals as possible – I have always chosen the latter option. Few issues were with parts being non-functional. The goal of this project from the beginning has been a reproduction of the Model F, not a Model F style keyboard.
The two “key” parts remaining are the key sets and springs. The factory has proven they can make the springs within tolerance and actuate correctly; just trying to get them to sound as close as possible to the original Model F.
If the keys become a bottleneck we will still be able to deliver the orders using Unicomp keys for those who would prefer not waiting any longer for the new keys (but again almost all of the keys are now approved and within spec, and the factory is just finishing up a few corrections and matching colors).