Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why should I buy an inspected and carefully-restored IBM model M keyboard from ClickyKeyboards?  You have beenperating the model M keyboard blog/website/online store for the past 12 years since 2004.  Can you describe “lessons learned” about collecting model M keyboards and give details about your restoration process and quality assurance methodology.
A. First, we start by doing careful research and collecting vintage model M keyboards (made from 1985 – 1999) and selecting particular IBM part numbers that related to the IBM personal system/2 computers from the late 20th century.  We typically only select those IBM ps/2 keyboards that are in excellent, very good and good condition (needs cleaning).  We leave those keyboards that are malfunctioning, broken, mislabeled, missing too many parts, have hidden internal damage detected by shaking the keyboard, have obvious spill damage, and IMB keyboard-shaped objects that are beyond repair for others to sell on eBay.

Testing of the electrical and mechanical function of all 101-keys then occurs using keyboard testing software.  Any missing minor parts or keycaps are identified and carefully matched to our large stockpile of model M keyboard spare parts for the correct font color and legend placement and replaced with original parts from IBM keyboards from the same vintage year (1985-1999).  The cleaning process begins with the removal of all the individual key caps by hand.  The keys are cleaned using an industrial-grade ultrasonic cleaner with an added detergent solution heated to 45’C (~110’F) to completely remove oils and dirt on the keys.  While the keys are being deep cleaned, we then disassemble the front case of the keyboard and then use a shop vacuum to dislodge, capture and remove any loose dust and debris.  (Some prefer to use a compressed air blower, but we find that this just blows out all the dust and junk and makes more of a mess in the workshop and is not effective cleaning).  We continue the restoration process with cleaning of the internal surfaces using a variety of small brushes, cotton-tipped cleaning swabs, and dental picks to archeologically remove years of accumulated dust/hair/paper clips/Doritos.  The front and rear plastic case assemblies are inspected for any cracks, deep scratches, or indelible permanent ink marks.  The plastic case assembly is scrubbed in a sink with a heated detergent solution, with special attention paid not to remove or damage the original textured surface of the plastic.  Special attention is paid to ensure that all the parts are IBM original and that previous owners did not mismatch or swap parts.  The internal assembly of each and every keyboard is carefully examined to check all the rivets which bind the keyboard layers to the curved steel plate.  Any missing or loose plastic rivets are drilled out using a high speed (35,000 rpm) Dremel rotary tool.

6mm and 8mm bolts or M2 screws are then used to reinforce and reattach at the rivet points.  The keyboard controller electronics, electrical connections, flexible cables/wires, and LEDs are tested and confirmed good before reassembly of the keyboard mechanism.  Any specific details that are out-of-spec are noted and disclosed.  When the 101 key caps are fully cleaned with the automated sonicator and are completely dried, the keys are individually reinstalled on the keyboard in a one-by-one process.  The keyboard is re-tested after re-assembly using keyboard testing software.  Individual photos are taken of each keyboard’s certificate of authenticity/date of production/birthdate and the keyboard is then added to the current inventory.  The entire process typically takes 60-90 minutes per keyboard and we dedicate our Saturdays and Sundays to this work.  (We know that it would be far faster and easier to just sell the keyboard “as is/no warranty/unable to test/keyboard last worked when removed from service in the late 20th century” on a variety of online marketplaces, but since 1984, we have valued the qualities of IBM design and engineering and we want others to appreciate our passion and advocacy of the Made in the USA technological masterpieces that are the original IBM model M keyboards).


Q. What is your email address? How can I contact you for additional information?
A. For model M keyboard related inquiries, contact us at clickykeyboards@gmail.com. We try to answer all emails within 24 hours, Monday-Friday during normal business hours (UTC – 5). (No weekends, no holidays) If sending us email, be sure to

  1. use a valid return email address (you would be surprised how many people write long emails expecting a response, but then do not leave a return address)
  2. add (clickykeyboards@gmail.com) to your safe sender list so that our response to you is not filtered as spam.

If you want to read more about ClickyKeyboards.

Meet the Master of the Old-School Clicky-Clacky Keyboard

(English version) http://www.wired.com/2015/07/meet-master-old-school-clicky-clacky-keyboard/
(Japanese version) http://www.wired.jp/2015/08/23/clicky-clacky-keyboard/
魅惑のレトロ・キーボード「IBM Model M」をビジネスにした男

wired-meet-master-old-school-clicky-clacky-keyboard

King of click: the story of the greatest keyboard ever made http://www.theverge.com/2014/10/7/6882427/king-of-keys

verge-king-of-click

Q. I already own an IBM model M keyboard that I love or (I found a cheap model M keyboard on an online marketplace and it doesn’t work as the seller promised and he disappeared), but it has a small problem and I would like to send it to be cleaned and restored. Do you accept individual keyboards on a one-by-one basis for cleaning and service.
A. At this time, ClickyKeyboards cannot accept individual keyboards for restoration work due to current restoration workload. We can recommend our colleague Maxx @ Phosphorglow.net who offers this model M repair service.

Q. You have already sold thousands of keyboards. Do you have a one-click means to only view the items that you currently have in stock?
A. Yes.. you can use the following link to browse products in stock.  Many model M keyboards sell within a few days-weeks of being listed. Inventory updated biweekly.

Q. Why do you keep details of previously sold keyboards? Would it not be far cheaper and easier to forget the details, sell just what is wildly popular at the cheapest lowest common price, and to just list what items are now available?
A. We have enjoyed the archival nature of generating detailed information and providing first-hand “fanatical” knowledge about vintage IBM keyboards.  To review the rich archive of ClickyKeyboards historical listings of previously sold keyboards from 2004-2016, see https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.clickykeyboards.com.

We are unlike the average online auction / surplus junkyard “expert” who is trying to cleanout the warehouse before the next garbage truck comes, or the anonymous neckbeard “expert” from 127.0.0.1 who may have vaguely remembered last using this IBM hardware in 1986, or the big box blue shirt “expert” who may be basing their opinion on a sample size of 1 unit; or even worse, write inflated and exaggerated opinions but only refer to what they read on the Internet and not actually own and lack the “hands-on experience” of the specific hardware being reviewed.

We have successfully sold thousands of model M keyboards to those who can appreciate their tactile and clicky qualities and we have satisfied 99.9% of our customers around the world. For example, see (http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=p648qGSv2K7D-LBY4i7eNYg) for a detailed, open spreadsheet of all the 1391401 keyboards (over 2,000 individual keyboards) that we have collected and sold. With the spreadsheet, we have archived information which includes links to photographs and an index of the part number, serial number, production date and Plt No. of individual 1391401 keyboards.

Some may call us fanatical geeks, but we believe that we can provide an expert, informed opinion about this specialized item. We carefully describe and clearly photograph the items that we have currently for sale. We clearly post the shipping rates before we ask for payment information. We package and ship the next business day using generally accepted USPS shipping practices. We have carefully made our site so that it is easily searchable and indexed by Google. We do this, so that we can put good products in the hands of interested buyers who have carefully researched their purchase.

We do not require for users to pre-register to determine item pricing, or to “call for availability” and then try to bait and switch with “equivalent products”, or send me a private email and play the “make-me-an-offer” game, or give us all your personal credit card info today then we will calculate the total with shipping and contact you tomorrow. We do not ship international parcels via UPS or FedEx, as we have found that international customers are sometimes subjected to hidden extra UPS/FedEx “brokerage” fees.

We know that there are those who seek tools that are better than “average” or “acceptable”. We believe in the viability of providing the remaining quantity of true IBM keyboards to those who seriously care about the tools they use on a daily basis.

Q. What are the physical dimensions of the IBM model M keyboard (101-key US layout).
A. According to IBM’s technical specifications
1.73″ H x 19.37″ W x 8.27″ D
44mm x 492mm x 210mm
The weight of the individual model M keyboard varies, with older model M keyboards from 1985-1988 weighing more due to heavier materials, electrical components, and keyboard cables (5.5 lbs to 6 lbs.), as compared against later keyboards made from 1989-1999 (5.0 lbs – 5.5 lbs).  See also http://www.clickeykeyboards.com/model-m-gallery/model-m-keyboard-weights-1986-2003/

IBM model M dimensions
IBM model M dimensions (source: IBM model M retail box packaging (1996)

Q. What forms of payment do you accept?
A. We accept Visa/MasterCard and PayPal. For orders less than $10 you can physically mail payment to us in a self-addressed, self-stamped (SASE) padded envelope. Contact us for mailing address.

Q. What is your warranty and return policy?
A. We know that it is difficult to judge and subjectively describe the sound and feel of a “clicky” tactile keyboard. We guarantee that keyboards will not be DOA (dead on arrival) and offer all our customers the same 30-day no risk, no hassle warranty and relatively simple return policy. If you are not satisfied with your item within 30 days, you can return the item to us and we will refund 100% of the price of the item. The initial and return shipping charges are not refundable (too many people use online merchants as a lending library).  See terms and conditions.

We carefully select, test, clean and re-test all refurbished keyboards before we make them available for sale. But after thousands of sales every year selling vintage keyboards, we have seen things happen: (The keyboard is nice.. but it was not 100% exactly what I remembered from when I was a teenager in high school in 1987; Mom getting mad because spent too much on her credit card again; I thought that ps/2 connection meant Sony Playstation 2 compatibility; I read that the model M keyboard is like an IBM selectric typewriter and I do not see where to insert the paper and typewriter ribbon; the buckling spring action is nice for a tactile feel, but I need complete solitary silence; item was shipped around the world from New York to Seoul, Korea and arrived in 7 days.. but it was delayed by customs inspection and I needed it in 2 days, items were shipped via APO military mail from New York to Iraq and damaged by carrier during shipment to active war zone, or I am extremely disappointed that the keyboard adapter did not allow me to hook up my Casio 88-key MIDI keyboard to my computer).

Q. I am a customer from outside the US and I find the international shipping rate to be expensive. Can you just squish and flatten and ship the keyboard inside a paper envelope and ship via the cheapest airmail rate and falsify the customs paperwork and declare item as a gift with $0, but add extra insurance for $500 per keyboard?
The cost of shipping 3-dimensional parcels is different than the standard cost of airmail flat letters. We complete all necessary import/export documentation. We ship items internationally via USPS priority international, as this is insured and traceable. The items we sell were originally produced in the 1980s and 1990s and we can’t just create new spare parts and label them as vintage.  We want satisfied customers to receive the items they paid for and we are not interested in going to the beach at the ocean and putting keyboards and messages in a bottle or putting vintage items on ocean-going container ships and then wondering where the package is and whether it will arrive 3-6 months later. The cost of international postage includes foreign currency conversion fees and is determined by the total weight of the package with protective packaging materials (not by the specific item price) (approximate international shipping weight of a model M keyboard is 7-8lbs or about 3-4 kg).

Q. What is a mechanical switch keyboard and how is it different than a standard keyboard?
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100076874
https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/wiki/index
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyboard_technology
http://www.ergocanada.com/ergo/keyboards/mechanical_vs_membrane_keyswitches.html

Q. Where were model M keyboards made?
The vast majority of model M keyboards were Made in the USA. In fact, model M keyboards were originally produced at the IBM (and later Lexmark) production facilities at 740 West New Circle Road, Lexington Kentucky 40511. Some model M keyboards were also made in Greenock, Scotland, UK and by IBM and Maxi-switch production facilities in Mexico.  Modern keyboards with buckling-springs and updated colors and 104-key layouts are still produced by Unicomp by ex-IBM/Lexmark makers in a converted Kentucky furniture factory 510 Henry Clay Blvd, Lexington, KY 40505.

Q. Why are these IBM model M keyboards still popular after 25 years?
A. While CPUs, RAM, hard drives, optical drives, operating systems, display monitors, and computer mice have all gotten faster. New computer keyboards are treated as an afterthought and have dropped in quality as the price of a PC has gone down and keyboards have become a short-term commodity item. Computer makers are interested in shipping the smallest, thinnest, lowest weight item that they can get away with. Certain computer pros prefer professional-grade tools, as compared to “free with purchase” keyboards.
Wall Street Journal: Online (Jeremy Wagstaff) A Passion for the Keys.  Particular About What You Type On? Relax ‐‐You’re Not Alone.
MSNBC (Gary Krakow) Classic Keyboards Redux: PC keyboard specialists perform miracles.
dansdata.com (Dan Rutter) IBM Keyboards – The Odyssey Continues
wikipedia.org Model M keyboard

Q. Which IBM model M keyboard do you recommend?
If you are looking for one, true keyboard, we recommend. . .
(most popular category of keyboards that we sell)
. . .our white label (1391401 or 1394540) keyboards 1391401

If you are looking for a first-generation model M vintage item from 1986 or 1987, we recommend. . .
silver-model-m . .our silver label (1390120 or 1390131) keyboards 1390120/1390131

If you are looking for lower-cost cheap solution, we recommend. . .
blue-model-m. . .our blue label models (52G9658, 92G74533, 42H1292) models. blue

Q. How many keyboards do you have in stock?

Part of our interest in maintaining this collection of vintage keyboards is to determine
1) when was the first model M keyboard produced? (earliest documented evidence appears to be late 1985, not 1984 as the (c) states)
2) how many model M keyboards were produced? (we have been photographing and recording individual keyboards to create a database of known serial numbers and production dates)
3) what are the differences between Made by IBM vs. Manufactured for IBM by Lexmark vs. Made by Unicomp?

for example:
earliest known (verified) industrial model M keyboard 1388032 (December 1985, old style barcode rear label)
oldest known 1390120 silver label model M keyboards (January – June 1986, old style barcode rear label)
oldest known 1390131 silver label model M keyboards (February – May 1986, old style barcode rear label)
oldest known 1391401 white label model M keyboards (March 1987 – )

Q. ..but I am a) the senior most-excellent executive assistant to a powerful CIO executive of a three letter government agency and my boss will fire me if I don’t get this keyboard, b) an over-medicated ADHD kid on Paxil or Ritalin and I demand that you give me what I want or both my moms will get mad. or c) an 3733t HX0R, level 80 paladin from 127.0.0.1 and I must have this keyb0ard for my next WoW quest…and I really, really, really want an all black IBM model M -13 keyboard or an ergonomic split design M-15 keyboard

A. The most popular “contact us” inquires that we receive are for these two keyboard types. When they were made from 1994 – 1998, they were produced in much smaller numbers as compared to other model M keyboards and thus they are very difficult to still find in good condition and are thus rare collectibles.

However, on occasion, we are able to locate one or two of these limited keyboards. If you would like to be put on a notification list, email us at clickykeyboards@gmail.com

Q. What exactly does an IBM model M keyboard sound like?
www.clickykeyboard.com/model_m_sound.mp3

Q. Why can’t my new 2016 computer work with the vintage 1987 IBM keyboard via the ps/2 port ? My computer does not have a ps/2 port, can I use just any cheaper USB dongle adapter?
http://web.archive.org/web/20080228180642/http://www.geocities.com/jszybowski/keyboard/index.htm
ps/2 to USB adapter converter for keyboards

Q. Why does my keyboard cable only have 4-pins or 6-pins?
Across the 20+ year lifespan of the product, IBM and Lexmark made model M keyboards that used 6-pin and 4-pin ps/2 configurations. The normal ps/2 keyboard only uses 4 pins. http://www.ibmmuseum.com/ohlandl/keyboard/Keyboard.html
There are four conductors used (+5v, Ground, Clock and Data) Only the pins 1, 3, 4, and 5 are used to communicate with the computer. Pins 2 and 6 are not used for signaling and are not connected. There are no functional differences between the keyboard ps/2 connector with 4-pins vs. 6-pins.

Q. What exactly is a “buckling spring”

http://sandy55.fc2web.com/keyboard/model_m_trivia.html

A. IBM Model M keyboards use a spring mechanism to translate the physical movements of typing into electrical signals. for more info

(image from Qwerters Clinic, Japan)

Q. What is so special about the IBM model M keyboard?

  1. It is the rare computer part from the 1980s that still works in the 21st century.
  2. Keys are standard size and standard locations (e.g., not having to search for the tiny keys that some keyboard designer decided to move and translocate because it looked better in a marketing promo ad)
  3. Keys have full-length travel and actuate at a precise point before hitting the bottom, not like the laptop style short-length travel that requires a full press to register.
  4. The lettering on each key is imprinted and dyed into the plastic (not a removable sticker or rub-off paint)
  5. All letter keys are the same full size/shape and can be easily swapped from QWERTY to DVORAK.  Key covers can removed for perodic cleaning
  6. Within each model M keyboard, there is a 1.2 pound curved steel plate which places the keys at the optimal typing angle and forms a solid base for typing madly away upon.
  7. Each keyboard has an individualized serial number and the exact date of manufacture printed on the bottom keyboard plate.
  8. No extraneous function keys for “Windows”, or “sleep”, “check mail”, “hibernate”, “more lotion”.
  9. No shiny shiny plastic that needs constant cleaning and polishing to remove fingerprints. No clear plastic to trap and collect lunchtime crumbs and hair and to grow science experiments. No cheap plastic which is susceptible to yellowing over time.
  10. The vast majority of Model M keyboards were proudly stamped “Made in the USA”.

Q. Do you buy surplus IBM keyboards?
A. Yes, if you have a large quantity (pallets or gaylord boxes) of IBM keyboards (25-250 units) in fair, working condition with or without missing keys or cables, we do buy and pay cash for IBM keyboards in large quantites. We deal with many busy e-waste, metal recyclers and freight companies, and I would rather not see them ripped apart for pennies of scrap metal or added to the landfill. Clickykeyboards has the resources, expertise and ability to dedicate to restoring and collecting model M keyboards.

Q. Does typing on a model M sounds like an M2 .50 caliber machine-gun? (most typical exaggeration that we read in forum posts)
A. The experienced typist can type at 80 words per minute. The average word including a space is 6 characters long. So at a rate of 480-500 keystrokes per minute, we can imagine the analogy. We do not think anyone would seriously confuse the typing on a model M mechanical keyboard with a gunshot. In reality, the model M keyboard sounds similar, but not exactly, as if you were typing on a typewriter with the instantaneous impact of the letters onto paper. If you do not like the productive “noise” that a typewriter makes as each letter is formed, then you would not like the model M keyboard.

Q. I have read that the use of a rubber-dome keyboard is “better” to type with than a buckling spring model M keyboard.
A. I do not think that it requires more “work” to type with a model M keyboard as compared to a standard keyboard. In fact, I think it requires less work..

If you are a weenie have weak fingers, you probably are not an expert touch-typist with developed skills. I find it much easier to type with a keyboard that has some built-in resistance, because it allows me to quickly move my fingers across the range of keys without having to look at each key to confirm that a key has really been pressed. This is in contrast to trying to use the touch-screen key pad at the ATM which has extra big buttons and no tactile response.