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Awesome vintage keyboard replica?

  1. Sep 29, 2009 #1
    Hey, does anyone think this is a good idea?

    There's a really legendary old Lisp Machine keyboard with lots of buttons colloquially called the "space cadet" keyboard. http://world.std.com/~jdostale/kbd/SpaceCadet.html" [Broken].

    These things are totally impossible to find (believe me, I've tried!) and it isn't even clear if any still exist. However, I desperately [strike]want[/strike] need one of these so that I can assign all the keys and modifiers and stuff to do crazy things in emacs or whatever and therefore be awesome. So, I've decided maybe the thing to do is build a replica.

    I was thinking about making my keyboard with the exact same keys as the original keyboard, plus the standard F1-F12, Print Screen, Scroll Lock, Home, Insert, Page Up, and Page Down keys we've all come to expect on PC keyboards. While I'm at it, I might move the direction keys into a more comfortable arrangement. The keyswitches would be the widely loved "clickey" type like those on the old IBM Model M, or something similar. I'd probably go with USB for the interface.

    Being an engineering ninja, I can do this project easily enough, but the startup costs needed to have the plastic keycaps and housing manufactured are somewhat expensive, so I can only do it if I can find some people to go in on it with me. My goal is to get the cost per keyboard down to around $175, but that's only going to happen if I can find maybe 10 to 20 people who are interested in buying one off me at that price. Maybe I'm being hopelessly optimistic, but I've got nothing to lose by trying, and this isn't the only forum where I thought I might find someone interested.

    So, any takers?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 29, 2009 #2
    Don't get me wrong but you really should try Slashdot for this. I am almost 100% sure that the audience for this is bigger there.

    For the conspiracy theorists among us, this is not an advertisement in disguise.
  4. Sep 29, 2009 #3
    Wow, like, submit a story? I never even considered that, but it's hard to imagine that my little project would be seen as newsworthy.
  5. Sep 30, 2009 #4
    Again no offense, but for me most of the stories are little projects and some mambo jambo over there. It is just not my thing probably.
  6. Nov 11, 2009 #5
    Hi there: I've just created an account on this forum for the sole purpose of saying yes, I REALLY want one of these. Searched the web last year for replicas and didn't find any, this year I turned up this post.

    The more accurate the replica the better. Old keyboards have a more -satisfying- kind of plastic for the keys. But honestly it doesn't matter as long as I can whip up drivers that will make the FRONT key work, etc. (I miss that about my VIC-20!)

    I do think that once you have enough people that you're starting your first production run, Slashdot will be seriously interested, and suddenly you'll have enough people for your second, third, fourth production runs...
  7. Nov 11, 2009 #6
    Hi Sowelu, and welcome to PF. I know you just signed up for this thread, but this is a great site, if you're even a little interested in physics or math.

    Thanks for the support. I was nearly giving up. I'm afraid it's going to take a lot more people, though. I've been told $600-700 just to make 1 or 2 full sets of keys (I'm sure the price drops from there, because most of that is probably setup cost). Then there's the circuit board (not even nearly as expensive, but still a factor) and the enclosure. The most expensive parts are the keyswitches themselves -- decent ones are around a dollar each! The alternative is to use a membrane like a normal keyboard, but I would probably have to have the whole thing custom-made as a unit if I wanted to do that. Maybe I should try and find a company that does that.

    You may be right about getting more people interested later, but I'm not sure I want to invest thousands of dollars in the concept based on that hope. I guess the other question is, how does a person find a distributor, I mean if I wanted to try and sell them elsewhere? How would I get them on thinkgeek?
  8. Nov 11, 2009 #7


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    Why not just rescue some old 70's keyboard/hardware and build a USB interface/adapter for it?
  9. Nov 11, 2009 #8
    As I said in the OP, they are totally impossible to find. I don't believe any still exist in the present day.
  10. Nov 11, 2009 #9
    I bet some school systems have loads sitting in a closet somewhere. They don't throw away anything.
  11. Nov 12, 2009 #10
    Well, I've asked around at MIT, which is where they originated, and they couldn't help me. I've also emailed a lot of other random people on the internet who mentioned seeing one on usenet threads like 20 years ago. No help there either. Do you have any other suggestions?
  12. Nov 12, 2009 #11
    MIT is so big and expensive I bet they get new keyboards every six months :wink: Try some poorly run suburban high schools.
  13. Nov 12, 2009 #12
    A suburban high school definitely would not have had a Symbolics Lisp Machine!
  14. Nov 12, 2009 #13
    yeah I suppose you are being very specific. go ahead and build one, it will be very satisfying for you :smile:
  15. Dec 3, 2009 #14
    have you tried getting ahold of Tom Knight or his family if hes not alive since he invented them im sure he has a few around for posterity or will know where some are?
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