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Decent XE mechanical keyboard for Atari XE computers - how to order one


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A while ago, I started on the path of building an open-source drop-in replacement mechanical keyboard for XE computers.

 

ModernGraphite.jpg

 

All the details can be found in this thread: 

 and on the GitHub repo for the project: 3d-junkyard/Atari130MX at main · bleroy/3d-junkyard · GitHub

 

The interest and feedback from the community has been way beyond my expectations, and I'm thankful for that. A lot of people have expressed interest, reproduced the build, bought a kit or an assembled keyboard. I'm writing this post so it's easier to find how to buy one of those (if you prefer to build, follow the link above to the GitHub repo).

 

There are 2 base versions of the keyboard:

1. Modern: this is a full recreation and doesn't require scavenging any parts from an existing Atari. Everything is included so you can unplug your old keyboard, plug this one in and have a mechanical XE running in minutes. It has a modernized layout with a narrower spacebar, control and break around space, caps moved to where control was, a large ISO return key and a large backspace key. The keys exist in three colors: white, beige and graphite. The console keys should be painted by the user for better integration.

2. Vintage: this enables mounting the original XE keycaps on modern switches. It comes without key caps, so you'll have to scavenge them from your existing Atari.

 

By default, I'm making those with Kailh Box Pink clicky switches for the modern version and Kailh Robin low-profile clicky switches for the vintage. A choice of switches is highly personal, and I understand clicky switches are not for everyone, so you can specify what type of switch you'd like instead.

 

All keyboards come with blue backlighting (intensity can be tweaked through the pot on the adapter).

 

Let's talk about prices and delays. Those are expensive to make. They are made to order, by me alone (at least for now), from parts that I can't maintain a big inventory on, so expect 1-3 weeks between order and shipping. Also be aware that shipping can be expensive. I ship from the US. You may also have to pay taxes on arrival. Europeans, I feel your pain, the taxes can be very very high. By the way, if someone wants to build and sell those from a EU country, please contact me.

 

- Decent XE modern keyboard: $299 + shipping

- Decent XE vintage keyboard (bring your own caps): $179 + shipping

 

- Decent XE modern keyboard kit: $240 + shipping

- Decent XE vintage keyboard kit (bring your own caps): $120 + shipping

 

If you'd like to order something, please PM me with your choice of cap color (white, beige or graphite) for modern keyboards, and your switch preference if you'd like something else than clickies. For vintage keyboards, please share the shape of the stems for key caps you have (square or circle, look under one cap to find out). I'll then send you payment information.

Edited by ScreamingAtTheRadio
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I will jump in and say that the kit I built has completely transformed the usage experience of my 130XE.  Having a mechanical KB in the machine was my #1 dream upgrade, as a lifelong user of mechanical KBs starting with the IBM model M.  The only thing I have to do is work on painting in the text on the 5 function keys.

 

Sorry @flashjazzcat - I loved your video but I have to disagree with your comment on the clicky keys :)

 

 

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10 minutes ago, Stephen said:

Sorry @flashjazzcat - I loved your video but I have to disagree with your comment on the clicky keys :)

My console keys are actually clicky (owing to the fact the switches are low-profile to accomodate the original console keys and adapters; at least, that's what I was sent), but the rest aren't. I'll provide a full user experience report in the next video where I'll (finally) solder the keyboard up. :) I have the Falcon-grey keys and I think they're going to look awesome alongside the original console keys.

IMG_20230621_185452464.thumb.jpg.087cde0be74ca2eab23582d757203095.jpg

Is it possible to get non-clicky low-profile 'choc' switches?

Edited by flashjazzcat
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10 minutes ago, DrVenkman said:

Love this concept, though I don’t have a 130XE anymore (salvaged the parts for other purposes).

 

Now quick - do one of these for the 800. :)

Yup, the 800 desperately needs alternatives as sourcing replacement 800 keyboards and/or keycaps (be it stakpole or hi-tek and their keycaps or mitsumi), is very tricky.

 

I'd personally love to see a replacement for the same 800 key layout, but with the same tactile feel as the 800/1200XL mitsumi keyboards. :)

Edited by Beeblebrox
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13 minutes ago, DrVenkman said:

Love this concept, though I don’t have a 130XE anymore (salvaged the parts for other purposes).

 

Now quick - do one of these for the 800. :)

Also in plans, kinda, along with an XL model. Kinda, because I don't own a 800 at this point. I do own a 400 though, with the origianl, terrible membrane thing that I won't dignify by calling it a keyboard :D

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This is so cool.   I did the build from the other thread.  Which was very well documented and looked great.  I was almost sure I would post a success report on that, because everything fit and snapped together.

But for me it didn't work at all, which has to mean somewhere I didn't have a proper connection, but that's what my soldering skills often produces.

 

Offering a built version is so great!!  I love it.

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13 hours ago, Mark2008 said:

for me it didn't work at all, which has to mean somewhere I didn't have a proper connection, but that's what my soldering skills often produces.

@Mark2008 drop me a PM, issues like those can usually be easily diagnosed and fixed. There's only so many ways it can fail.

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Quick FYI if you want to make an order at this date: my part inventory has been severely depleted following the @flashjazzcat video, and I currently have backorders on FFC cables, switches and adapters. I'll update this thread when those arrive. Since I started this thread, most orders have been for vintage kits, which is very different from previous trends which had mostly been for modern (graphite, then white) assembled keyboards. I'm adapting by adding more advance inventory on those parts.

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On 7/6/2023 at 7:55 AM, ndary said:

Hi, ScreamingAtTheRadio

 

i am interested in the mechanical base and to use my colored XE keycaps. is it still available?

 

Ndery

 

 

130xe.jpg

That is kind of nuts looking, what was the inspiration behind that?

 

I'll be messaging about getting a vintage build... or two.  It is the one reason I don't like using my pimped out 130XE, it needs a better keyboard (I am way too spoiled by mechanical ones at this point).

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 6/26/2023 at 12:47 PM, woj said:

Anyone on here (apart from the author) done the vintage version build? That's the one I'd be interested in (having a practically new factory keyboard and thus keycaps), second opinions would be helpful ;)

I am in the process of doing the vintage build. there's a couple of things I'm running into and will post more once it's complete. for the most part, the kit is really slick. more soon!

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Just finished the build of the "vintage" Decent XE keyboard kit for a 130XE. Overall, this is a nice kit that provides a radically improved typing experience on the XE. Some random thoughts:

  • The kit is well-made and shipped very nicely in a durable package so it arrives safely. Really pro.
  • The maker of the kit (ScreamingAtTheRadio) is super nice, friendly, and helpful.
  • Once assembled and installed, it looks like the OG XE keyboard. You simply cannot tell it's been upgraded. That is, until you start typing! The included switches are just slightly "clicky" and have nice travel and tactile feel. Every key press is registered with a click. I really like the feel of them. No more mush!!!
  • The assembly is pretty easy, though can be a little bit tricky. For the "vintage" kit, the steps must be in this order: (1) assemble spacebar stabilizer, (2) install spacebar stabilizer on bottom plate, (3) place top plate on top of bottom plate/stabilizer, (4) pop key switches onto top plate, (5) double-check everything, (6) triple-check everything, (7) solder. Read the instructions on GitHub thoroughly before doing anything.
    • The key switch legs do not come all the way through the bottom plate. Use a fine tip on your solder iron to reach the legs in the through holes. If you have experience soldering, this is a breeze.
    • The top plate needs spacing between it and the bottom plate. I ended up making some 3D-printed "clips" to put around the edge to keep it spaced evenly.
    • Re-use the spacebar spring from the XE keyboard. Mine was a little "long" and would pop the spacebar. I had to modify the spacebar adapter to lessen this. YMMV.
    • NOTE: The keyboard cable/adapter that plugs into the XE mainboard needs the top shielding removed. 
    • This is a fun build project (if you like that kind of thing).
  • Once installed, the keyboard slides around a little bit inside the case. I need to experiment with either some tape or maybe a 3D-printed "stop" that keeps it in position.

If you have a 130XE and want a nice, mechanical keyboard for it that looks original, this will do the trick quite nicely.

Edited by mattsoft
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Thanks @mattsoft for the nice review. I'll probably add some spacers in kits based on your feedback, and a hole in the space bar adapters.

 

@bf2k+ the XL version is considerably more complex to design, mostly because of the split PCB and the way the keyboard is attached to the top of the case. But it's coming...

Edited by ScreamingAtTheRadio
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So far the issues I have had with my install is stability (am I supposed to put the original plate under?) And my shift key has the bar holders on the side so I had to dremel the board wver so slightly so they wouldn't rub on the side (left shift key, the right was fine).  I still need to plug mine in and give it a spin, and to figure out how to solidigy it so it isn't moving around.

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