back to article New models of IBM Model F keyboard Mark II incoming

What's even harder-core than the IBM Model M? The Model F, the keyboard that launched alongside the IBM PC in 1981. After a 2017 relaunch, new models with the original layout are here. The project, which back in 2017 relaunched a modern keyboard inspired by a compact space-saver version of IBM's classic Model F, is launching …

  1. Empire of the Pussycat

    mmm, want

    obligatory text

    1. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: mmm, want

      A Lenovo (former IBM Think) full sized KB is not a bad alternative, and a ton cheaper. What typing this on right now.

      1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: mmm, want

        [Author here]

        > A Lenovo (former IBM Think) full sized KB is not a bad alternative

        I have one. An Ultranav 8845. It's all right, but it's not a patch on a Model M.

        The full size IBM and Lenovo keyboards from the mid-1990s on are generic plastic things of no noticeable merit. Except on Thinkpads, until about 2010...

  2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    I thought I was safe

    Using a Unicomp Endura Pro hard wired Dvorak layout for years, although it lacks NKRO that's not a problem as I used a separate keyboard for gaming (remapping is an issue with non QWERTY keyboards).

    I've no interest in the original Model F - the arrow and function keys are too annoying for everyday usage. However, some of these new models are awfully tempting. I would need a PS/2 adapter to connect it to my KVM here though.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: I thought I was safe

      [Author here]

      > no interest in the original Model F

      It's not my favourite layout either but I'd take it in a shot over many modern compact layouts.

      I think the cool hard-core kids use Vi or Emacs and bizarre 1970s navigation keystrokes, so they don't need cursor keys... Or function keys or about half the keyboard.

      Things like this:

      I've been looking for an old Model F to give it a try, actually. Some people preferred the layout and I've idly considered seeing if I could get some custom ones made in China or something.

      The original models had a different layout, but the new ones look more conventional. That's very appealing. Even at these prices.

      1. MacroRodent

        Re: I thought I was safe

        That was one of the reasons I started using Emacs back in 1980's. I encountered various keyboard layouts on smart and dumb terminals and PC:s, and Emacs does not depend on any arrow or function keys. So the same muscle memory works, no matter what the layout. Same is of course true of vi.

        1. -tim

          Re: I thought I was safe

          In the war of vi vs emacs, one place were emacs win is the cat test.

          Open a file in each editor, drop a cat on the keyboard.

          Which editor does more damage and how long does it take to fix it and how much is unrecoverable?

          Emacs wins the cat test. It also wins the Eliza test.

      2. PRR Bronze badge

        late again

        > ...the cool hard-core kids use Vi or Emacs and bizarre 1970s navigation keystrokes..

        I did my time on Royal and Underwood manual typewriters. Transitioned through Diablo-based printer/terminals.

        (I did miss the 1-key era, telegraph.)

        A LOT of early e-typing was done on Lear ADM3A video terminals. Look behind your new Linux GUI, the termcap file may have an ADM. (It was cheaper than VT100.)

        Compare/contrast with your pink cursor-less:

        Nearly the same number of keys. 59 on the ADM3 (includes teletype legacy keys: Rub, Break, and Here is), 58? on the pink thing.

        Key layouts like this also influenced the development of Word*Star on CP/M and IBMish PC. While you could remap everything, the default cursoring was ^E, ^S, ^D, and ^X. Positional, as opposed to alphabetic, mnemonics. Reprint of old story in the 2nd best geek-news site:

        When the AT arrived a lot of us wondered WTF we could need 101 keys. Word*Star did it all in less than 64kb and often less than 60 keys.

        Bizarre? Do you know how much keyboards cost in the late 1960s? Pretty much a per-key cost.

  3. cjcox

    My old M13

    I still have an old all black IBM M13. It's in pretty ok shape.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: My old M13

      [Author here]

      > IBM M13


  4. jake Silver badge


    I'll pass a link to the article to a few folks who may be interested Ta.

    Personally, although I have a few Model Fs attached to old kit, I'm sticking to my Model Ms for day to day use.

    Nothing against the F, mind, just personal preference.

    In other news, I've seen supposedly functional 122-key "Battleship" keyboards on flea bay for twenty bucks. Not everybody flogging ancient kit knows what they have ... I bought my four at a garage sale in Palo Alto, for ten bucks apiece. The guy who sold them to me knew what they were, he was just happy they were going to a good home. The same guy GAVE me a VS2000 about two years later ... but that's another story.

  5. FIA Silver badge

    Do not go down the keyboard rabbit hole.

    DO NOT go down the keyboard rabbit hole.


    (When you consider 150 quid keyboards as... okay... you know you've gone too far).

    1. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Come down the rabbit hole, there is nothing to fear. We have cookies[1]!

      [1] best avoid the little cakes.

      1. jake Silver badge

        They cake is a lie. Everybody knows that.

      2. FIA Silver badge

        Come down the rabbit hole, there is nothing to fear.

        Oh, I'm already about half way down...

        I'm at the 99% of people would say 'You spent WHAT on a keyboard??', but there's 1% going 'cheap piece of shit...' stage. :)

        My problem is I found a keyboard I loved, but it arrived damaged, and the company, despite claiming on their website to 'send a replacement part if it's defective', offered me a $10 refund instead. Considering that was less than the postage I declined....[1]

        Problem is I now want another one, as the keyboard is excellent, but they're not getting any more of my business.

        So... anyone recommend a good 75% mechanical keyboard?

        1. There was a bit more back and forth, over months. I ended up saying 'Okay, I'll buy the same keyboard, what discount can you do?', I got 'We don't offer discount on that model'.

        Made me realise how good UK consumer rights laws are, as had that been a UK company I'd've had my keyboard fixed.

    2. Piro Silver badge

      Just do what I do - go so far that you designed your own custom keyboard layout with custom keycaps, and therefore never have any desire to buy new keyboards, because it means you have to do way too much work.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        A project in 1989 involved the manufacture of custom key caps in various pastel colours…

        It also required the integration of a smart card reader, which not only read the card but detected when it had been removed and so signal for the session to be locked.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I went through a keyboard buying phase. Stopped with the £150ish keyboard. Maybe just go straight for the £150 one and save buying all the cheaper ones on the way?

  6. that one in the corner Silver badge

    Strange how unlike the Model F the layouts are

    IMO, The XT version of the Model F has the best key layout, with a decent cursor/home/end cluster overlaid on the numeric keypad and the function keys easily accessible with a slight sideways motion.

    I've got a collection of Northgate Omnikey Ultras (which are showing signs of aging: have to gird my loins and unsolder the S key on the current one), simply because they are the closest to the proper Model F layout I could find: none of that ghastly new-fangled inverted-T for the cursor keys, plus the ability to put CTRL back above shift where it belongs (you don't need a CapsLock after you've gone past two-finger typing on a computer keyboard, it was only there because holding down the shift on a classic workhorse typewriter was tiring!). Under Win'10 I've been trying out having the CapsLock mapped as the Windows key (the Ultras predating that), although that key is so rarely used I keep forgetting it is available now!

    An XT Model F layout would be great to have. I'd even forego F11 and F12. Just not sure about the price (if I was still working full-time it would be a no-brainer to get a couple, but as things stand they'd have to be less expensive). Although I would miss the added lethality of the Northgate keyboards.

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

      Re: Strange how unlike the Model F the layouts are

      First keyboard I ever used was a knock-off XT layout. Really wish I could have F-keys on the left ever since, especially F2 for Excel. But I would prefer them raised one row to add F11 and F12, the latter for Save As in Office. (I really wish all programs would standardize on a keystroke or key-combo for Save As/Export.)

      The icon of shame for references to micros~1 -->

  7. NanoMeter

    Miss the time when

    Keyboards was something Epic with spring like keys. IBM keyboards comes to mind. Modern gaming keyboards don't create the same feeling.


  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My Model M is a relative young'un. It was made in Scotland in 1996. I can't actually remember where I acquired it from. Still going strong. Main issue is UK keymap, as I am now in Oz so could do with a US one. Also lack of USB, as PS2 ports seem to be becoming increasingly scarce on new motherboards.

    Good for home defence too, as I am fairly sure I could beat an intruder senseless with it and it would still work afterwards.

    I was searching through my box of old tat recently and found an AT to PS2 adaptor.

    1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      USB is easily sorted with an adapter. I'd recommend the ATEN UC-10KM. There are unbranded adapters using exactly the same chip, but of course you can't tell on sight what's inside it.

      AT to PS/2 adapters are great as they're a straight through connection and always work. Serial to PS/2 are the ones you should never throw away in case you find a compatible KVM or mouse.

  9. RichardEM

    mac user

    Just like these IBM junkies I would like to see a full keyboard that matches the best apple keyboard with the modern connectors, bells & whistles. I really dislike the current keyboards that are available.

    1. Tom 38

      Re: mac user

      Keychron do some lovely ways to spend a lot of money full sized keyboards with pleasant switches and reassuring heft, with usb-c and bluetooth connectors. I just got the Q1 Pro, with some silent tactile switches (Gazzew Boba U4T) - it's by far the most pleasant thing I've ever typed on.

      1. Orv Silver badge

        Re: mac user

        Keychron's stuff is great, and by the standards of enthusiast keyboards really not that expensive. Redragon also makes some gamer keyboards with socketed switches that could be the low-cost start for a custom kitbash.

        1. FIA Silver badge

          Re: mac user

          ...just be aware, that 'lack of expense' has been saved in the customer services department.

          The keyboards are, frankly, amazing.

          However my Q1 arrived with a surface mount LED mounted upside down, their website implied they'd send me a replacement part (motherboard in this case).

          After months of back and forth, this didn't happen. :(

          It was galling spending £200+ on a keyboard to then have to find someone with surface mount re-work skills to make it right; at my own expense.

          (But as I said above, I might just be too used to UK consumer laws).

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: mac user

      I want to bring my Apple Extended Keyboard II back into use. Something like this should do the trick:

      1. VicMortimer

        Re: mac user

        I've got a few Extended IIs and old ADB - USB adapters. They're stored someplace, because the Extended II was the 4th best keyboard Apple ever built.

        1st is the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and numeric keypad. That's right, the current production keyboard. It absolutely stomps the Extended II's ass.

        2nd is the Magic Keyboard with numeric keypad. Yep, also still available brand new.

        3rd is the Apple Keyboard with numeric keypad. The wired version from 2007, nice and flat with USB ports on each side.

        Why do those 3 others win over the insanely great for its day Extended II? Because they're flat, quiet, and extremely easy to type on.

        Loud keyboards suck.

        And when the first flat keyboards came out, I just knew I'd hate them, they looked like the evil chicklet keyboards of the '80s. And I was wrong, so incredibly wrong. They're amazingly good, better than anything that's come before. They've got just the perfect amount of key travel, they're so low on the desk that I never have to throw some asshat's wrist rest across the room because they're too low for said asshats to use wrist rests, they don't have those stupid little feet to put them at the wrong angle, and they look good.

        So no. I'm not bringing my Extended IIs back into use for anything but my vintage Apples.

        And those horrible IBM keyboards were never any good for anything but improvised LARTs.

    3. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: mac user

      [Author here]

      > a full keyboard that matches the best apple keyboard

      I use an original Apple Extended II on mine. But if you like modern ones, try a Matias?

      They have various models. I have tried on of these and it was a lovely 'board.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Model F -- But Supplied By Packard Bell With The 4900MM (1994)

    My all time favourite keyboard was the Packard Bell 4900MM keyboard. This is a retail Pentium I machine, an IBM PC/AT clone from 1994.....$2400 for the system unit and the keyboard.

    The Packard Bell keyboard worked perfectly from 1994 when I bought the machine new at CompUSA.....till it was abandoned in a sale via Craigslist in 2014. It was a clone of the IBM Type F keyboard with the very nice, huge, L-shaped Enter/Return key. OK...I realise that keyboards like this with thick, mechanical switches and keys can't be built in to modern thin laptops....but even so......

    Loved it! Here's a picture of the original non-cloned IB|M Type F:


  11. NickHolland

    I remember reading a review in Byte magazine when the IBM PC was first announced. I recall something to the effect of, "How could the company that produced the IBM Selectric make *this* horrible keyboard?".

    (the following should be read with a lot of "in my opinion"s. You can disagree with me. We are in the world of personal preferences here).

    If you want a great keyboard, the original IBM Selectric or the IBM 3279 keyboards were great. The original Model F keyboard on the PC was a joke. The clicky-clicky was interesting, but weird. The layout was horrific. A lot of us spent a lot of time saying, "WTF, IBM?". The PC/AT revision of the layout was much better, making it usable, but still a weird feel.

    Now, given a choice, I use either a Model M or a Unicomp. Not because my tastes have changed as much as the alternatives just suck. There are PC keyboards I'd rather use (Zenith ZKB-2), but as in my life I have to use a LOT of different keyboards, often owned by other people, anything other than a Model M layout is annoying now.

    However, when the PC came out and shortly after, there were better options out there. Zenith Z100 was my personal favorite keyboard of all time. Amazing feel. Real caps-lock. I had one as a student, people used to knock on my door and say, "I've been told I need to try your keyboard"...and that was usually followed by an "OH MY GOD, THAT'S AMAZING" and a regret that it wasn't available on a "normal" computer (Z100 was PC class, but not PC compatible). The first generation Macintosh keyboards were great feel, though I wasn't fond of the lack of arrow and special purpose keys ("you WILL use that mouse, and you will love it!").

    But something I've told people for decades: you worry about the stuff in the box, but really, you spend most of your time interacting with the keyboard and the display. Spend some money on those and be happy, they will last through several computers anyway. $400 is fine by me for a good keyboard IF you like it better than the $100 or $10 keyboard (I doubt I'd like a modern Model F as much as a modern Model M, but I'd love to try it to find out and love to be wrong...but I'd still run into my "need a 'normal' layout" problem).

    1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

      I also prefer the Model M to the Model F: I don't just mean the LK201-influenced layout but the general feel of them. My favourites are the sans-number-pad SSKs I managed to grab without realising at the time how lucky I'd just been. Interesting that they're only "space-saving" compared to a PS/2 keyboard, they're about the same size as the original PC keyboard.

      For IBM's big(ger) iron, my favourite was a beam-spring (complete with floor-shaking clunker!) on a 5250 Twinax terminal connected to a System/3x mini. Quite a boring computer (though very good at what it did) but wonderful keyboard, even though it shared a similarly bizarre layout to the original PC. The newer IBM terminals looked fancier and more streamlined than the 5250 and 3278 but tended to have Model F instead of beam-spring keyboards.

      Nowadays, after years of going "meh" at all the MX fanboyism, I mostly use Cherry MX Reds; instigated because overnight gaming on my M kept my other half awake and grumpy, but with nice enough keycaps my current one has a very similar feel to a 1982-vintage BBC Micro.

  12. Steve Channell

    Mechanical Keyboard

    After being years of suffering Bloomberg Keyboards and Compaq dead-flesh keyboards, I've gone back to the mechanical keyboard, but avoided the colorful lights of a gaming keyboard by going with Doesn't have the retro feel of my last IBM AT keyboard, but the processor (for programable keys) is more powerful than teh 286 I used to use

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