Mega ST Keyboard Switches

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Gaiyan
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Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby Gaiyan » Tue Jul 03, 2018 8:42 am

From my blog: http://www.atariancomputing.com/blog/me ... rdswitches

They are mechanical and they are Cherry MX Blacks. I know because I finally took one out. No membranes anywhere. This is not a new discovery but something I had to verify myself because of lack of evidence.

Some people complain that Mega ST keyboards aren't as good as TT/MSTE membrane keyboards that have tactile feedback. And they would not be wrong if that's what they are after.

Mega ST's Cherry MX blacks are linear switches, meaning they have no click or tactile feedback by design. They are also one of the earliest Cherry switches from 1984.

The beauty of the Cherry MX switches, and therefore the Mega ST keyboards, is that they are replaceable. If I want click and tactile feedback, I can just replace the switches with Cherry MX Blues from 2007. Not the easiest task because each switch is soldered on the PCB with two pins and attached on a thick metal plate. This is why Mega ST keyboards are so heavy.

So I might just do that, replace all switches with MX Blues. Here are some pictures of the switch I removed. Phone had a hard time focusing.
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby dhedberg » Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:28 am

Yeah, the Mega ST keyboards are high quality keyboards! They'll last forever!
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby Gaiyan » Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:19 pm

dhedberg wrote:Yeah, the Mega ST keyboards are high quality keyboards! They'll last forever!


Indeed. I have several of them that came with broken or water damaged Megas but they function perfectly...in German. While I mean no offence to my Germanic brethren, the layout is so fundamentally different when using UK/US TOS that it's almost unusable.

Unlike with the ST keyboards from other ST models, you cannot switch keycaps from an STFM to a Mega keyboard. However, being MX switches, this opens a whole new world of possibilities with custom keycaps potentially being able to fit in the Mega keyboard. Provided, of course, that Atari used standard sized keys.

Obviously the function keys are unique, as are several others but I'm now looking into perhaps just switching the base keys with suitable new ones. The color should be perfect though. Then again, going all out with something like this: https://www.massdrop.com/buy/carbon and custom painting the keyboard case to suit. Function keys would be a problem though.
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby dhedberg » Tue Jul 03, 2018 1:47 pm

Why not just repaint the keys. Should be possible to have stickers produced that could be used as masks for the key labels.
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby Gaiyan » Tue Jul 03, 2018 2:10 pm

dhedberg wrote:Why not just repaint the keys. Should be possible to have stickers produced that could be used as masks for the key labels.


Although I'm not even close to being a kbd nerd, that for me would not be acceptable because OCD. True mechheads wouldn't even consider ABS plastic (most common keycap material) as an option, because it's not sufficiently textured. They only swear by double-shot PBT. Any stickers on keys would be a nono.

I have now ordered 100 Cherry MX Blues. Was tempted to go for Gateron Blues that are cheaper and considered to be smoother that Cherry. Price difference was 10€ so I went with Cherry.

Now to decide which kbd to mod. In light of this, I would happily trade my UK TT kbd for a UK/US Mega kbd in very good cosmetic condition. Mine is a bit yellowed and keys are slightly dirty/yellowed. I've been meaning to restore it but other projects have been in the way. Any takers?

One note about Atari ST keycaps is that Atari certainly could have gone a much cheaper route. All caps I've come across (turns out there are many shades) are double-shot. That's a much more expensive process than dye-sublimation or printing. It means that the legend (letter,number) is actually a separate plastic that's pushed through the top plastic. In other words, you can never wear out the legends on the keys.
Last edited by Gaiyan on Wed Jul 04, 2018 10:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby Gaiyan » Tue Jul 03, 2018 2:35 pm

I went to my "warehouse" to see how many Mega kbds I had. I found 4 German ones.

I also too a closer look at my MSTE keyboard. Those caps are in stark contrast to its little brothers'. Not double-shot and wimpy feeling af. Atari sure did skimp on the TT/MSTE. I never liked the build quality either. Always creaking and flexing.

I have another offer. If someone wanted to trade a UK/US Mega kbd for a DE one, I could offer a clean DE one with new switches of your choosing at just material cost, around 40-50€. (This offer is one-time only in conjunction with the trade.)
Last edited by Gaiyan on Wed Jul 04, 2018 10:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby Gaiyan » Tue Jul 03, 2018 5:28 pm

Here's a layout I made of the keyboard to help me down the road: http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/# ... bb53c4405f
Obviously F-keys are wrong and colors are not accurate. It's a work in progress.Hopefully someone else will find it useful.
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby Gaiyan » Wed Jul 04, 2018 10:24 am

Spent all night trying to come up with the best solution for keycaps. Barring originals, there is no complete keyset available for this keyboard. Here is why:

    - Function keys are bespoke and unique. Not a problem because they are the same in every region.
    - Enter key is very hard to come by. It's a reverse-L slim-ass. You won't find one let alone a set with one. So that breaks the set already.
    - Spacebar is loooong. 9U. Not in any set. Very limited selection of colors available. You won't be able to match it in a set.
    - Help + Undo keys. They are unique to Atari. You could substitute with two blank 1.5 keys from the same set.
    - Keypad ()+- are not typical. Hardest to replace would be the () keys.

The other option is to keep most modifiers and change alphas to different shade. With originals being light grey, the options aren't that great. You also have to consider the case color if you care about stuff like that. A much darker warm grey alphas would probably work. I went with this keyset: https://www.cclonline.com/product/24097 ... t/KBD1566/

I figured white alphas with some accented orange modifiers could work. Worth a try. So I'll report back when it's done. It'll be the end of the month probably. Should roughly look like this.
keyboard-layout (1).jpg
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby Gaiyan » Wed Jul 04, 2018 11:22 am

Some terms you'll run into when looking at keysets are DSA,DCS,SA,G20,OEM. They are used to indicate the profile of the keys. Unless you have a modern flat keyboard, every row of keys has a different shape and angle. That's why I can never swap the Y and Z keys in DE keyboards because they are very different in shape. This will also be a factor to consider when customizing the Mega keyboard.

Here is a couple of picture guides:
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Now here is the Mega keyboard profile:
IMG_0120.JPG


Clearly it's a higher profile version of DCS so in other words OEM or Tai Hao (whose keyset I purchased).
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby Gaiyan » Thu Jul 05, 2018 6:56 am

Toying with color options. Here are a few renders. The rare enter key doesn't render properly. First one is the best approximation of original colors I could come up with. Perhaps keys are a little on the light side.

8189ae90936c332c226d5f73e6823dc5 (1)_result.jpg

8189ae90936c332c226d5f73e6823dc5 (2)_result.jpg

8189ae90936c332c226d5f73e6823dc5 (3)_result.jpg

8189ae90936c332c226d5f73e6823dc5_result.jpg

45e14f8699c98c1432ac25bb53c4405f (2)_result.jpg
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby Gaiyan » Thu Jul 05, 2018 9:33 am

I decided to remove all the switches in one go. I timed myself and took exactly 1 hour to desolder switches and remove from plate. Keyboard was already apart. Some observations:

    - Solder wick was the first method I tried. It was so good that I didn't even bother with my de-soldering gun or pump. It just flowed so beautifully I couldn't believe it.
    - I went through one 1.5m roll of 3.5mm wick. There's a lot of solder. Make you have enough wick.
    - Best results were with a 400C temp on my TS100. Don't use a needle tip (they should be banned).
    - No additional flux was needed, neither was fresh solder unnecessary. Your mileage may vary.
    - Holes are huge and pins tiny which makes wicking the best choice.
    - I used chip pullers (not plcc) to remove switches from plate. They were perfect for it. Not one switch was stuck. Easy pickings.
    - PCB is single sided which explains the ease of using wick.

Definitely a nice experience. I expect the reverse will be equally easy.

Picture time:

IMG_0123_result.jpg

IMG_0124_result.jpg

IMG_0125_result.jpg

IMG_0126_result.jpg

IMG_0127_result.jpg

IMG_0129_result.jpg
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby Gaiyan » Thu Jul 05, 2018 9:46 am

Another render. This time only alphas with Falcon colors.

8189ae90936c332c226d5f73e6823dc5 (4)_result.jpg
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby Gaiyan » Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:34 am

I think I finally got the colors just right:

Atari-kbd-colors2.jpg


Link to the layout: http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/# ... 73e6823dc5
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby Gaiyan » Thu Jul 05, 2018 6:22 pm

Here's a very crude mockup (perspective is a bitch) on an STE on what I'll probably end up going with but I'll look at a lighter option with enough contrast to the originals:

mock.jpg
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby Gaiyan » Wed Jul 11, 2018 2:28 pm

A little update. New keycaps arrived today. Here is a sneak peak:

IMG_0143.jpg


That's not the recipient though, because it's hanging and drying after a fresh spray:

IMG_0151.jpg

IMG_0152.jpg


Here's what it would look like with accents:

IMG_0149.jpg


Here are cleaned caps along with new caps. Notice how these original caps are a different shade than the previous ones.

IMG_0154.jpg


The new caps are a perfect fit and the profile is absolutely spot on. Tai-Hao caps are a good fit, they cheap and good enough quality and huge range to choose from.

IMG_0155.jpg

IMG_0157.jpg
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby dhedberg » Wed Jul 11, 2018 3:12 pm

Not bad!
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby Gaiyan » Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:26 pm

I cleaned the other set of keys. In addition to being a different shade, they have a slight yellowing that I think might actually work better with the new keys. At least in this case. That pun was absolutely intended. Once the the paint has cured I'll see how it looks with it. What do you guys think?

IMG_0159.jpg

IMG_0160.jpg
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby tjlazer » Sat Jul 14, 2018 8:03 am

Love that retro yellow look! ;) Makes me wanna Retrobrite it for ya!
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Re: Mega ST Keyboard Switches

Postby Atarieterno » Sat Jul 14, 2018 9:54 am

Great job!
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