Image: Dmitry Nosachev

Mechanical keyboards – with their dizzying variety of switches and light-up effects – are all the rage these days, but for many old-school enthusiasts, nothing beats the Model M. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney revealed his love for IBM’s 1985 buckling-spring keyboard yesterday, describing it as the “peak” typing experience.

“So I busted out my IBM PC keyboard model M. I wrote ZZT and Unreal Engine 1 on this thing,” Sweeney tweeted. “With apologies to Moore’s Law, I gotta say – 1984 was peak keyboard. The code just types out better with these keys.”

The original, IBM-branded Model M keyboard was discontinued over two decades ago, but certain outfits – such as Unicomp Inc. – have continued producing faithful representations for typing connoisseurs to purchase. (Unicomp says that it’s been producing “the buckling spring ‘click’ keyboard for IBM and thousands of discriminating users worldwide for 23 years.”)

As noted above, it’s the buckling-spring design that separates IBM’s Model M keyboard from the rest. This is a keyswitch mechanism that comprises a coil spring and buckles, which results in a very satisfying noise and tactile feel while typing. The Model M is also built like a tank compared to the modern keyboards – it’s got a backplate made of steel.

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5 Comments

  1. I will have to buy one of the modern version of these, loved these keyboards back in the day. Noisy but perfect for typing.

  2. Well well..

    I guess I actually agree with that twerp about something…

    Though Model F’s may actually be better.

  3. [QUOTE=”noko, post: 11438, member: 69″]
    I will have to buy one of the modern version of these, loved these keyboards back in the day. Noisy but perfect for typing.
    [/QUOTE]

    I have a few Unicomps.

    They are not bad. Still same buckling spring feel, but I get the impression they have been struggling for cash for decades. Ghetto mold modifications, worn molds, and other issues have resulted in pretty poor fit and finish. They are not as good quality as the old school Model M’s.

    But on the flip side, they ave things that the old school Model M’s didn’t, like USB support and windows keys.

    The USB us not the best implementation though. It works, but it is slow to initialize on boot, often resulting in missing the “hit Del to enter BIOS” prompt.

    I really wish someone would buy them out or license the technology and dump some money into the company.

    I would LOVE a new modern industrial design with buckling spring switches, a new board design with NKRO, a better USB controller and some mild backlighting. Maybe even key stems that support adding Cherry MX compatible keycaps.

    If I won the lottery, I’d take this on as a passion project.

  4. [QUOTE=”Grimlakin, post: 11465, member: 215″]
    He isn’t wrong. I like my cherry mx blues but he isn’t wrong.
    [/QUOTE]

    I switched from my buckling springs to Cherry MX Green’s about a year ago. My Ducky One is a great keyboard. Modern, sleek, backlighting, excellent fit and finish, NKRO, great USB support, everything my Unicomps are not, but the switches just arent the same. Nothing can compare.

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