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1970s Cortron keyboard

A gorgeous Cortron keyboard with ITW magnetic valve switches made for Sperry Univac systems. Posted by u/catsontuesday.
Published April 27, 2022

So this gorgeous 1970s Cortron keyboard (assembled by Nifco Inc.) with ITW magnetic valve switches made for Sperry Univac systems was posted by catsontuesday.

Beautiful compact 55% layout with two "ISO Enter"-shaped caps. More photos of the interior on Deskthority.

This keyboard was used with the Sperry UNIVAC Universal Distributed System 2000 (UDS-2000) which was a data entry system introduced in 1978.

Here is a Univac brochure from those days with some cool photos, e.g. this one:


The basic UDS 2000 consisted of a master workstation with 32K bytes of memory, a 9-inch dot matrix display CRT with a 512-character display, a keyboard and a floppy disk drive. Optional attachments included the Univac 0786 character printer and the Univac 0781 line printer.

Two optional I/O devices announced with the system were the Model 0875 9-track tape drive (available in 800 bit./in NRZI or 1,600 bit/in. phase-encoded versions), and the Model 8421 "free-standing diskette drive".

ITW switches

This keyboard uses ITW magnetic valve switches, a type of electromagnetic switch patented by ITW (Illinois Tool Works Inc.) in 1974 and manufactured by ITW and Devlin.

The switches are contactless and rely on magnets to enable/disable electromagnetic induction across two contacts. The patent in question is probably this one if you want to delve into the details.


Let me shamelessly include a full passage from the Deskthority wiki:

ITW filed a patent for their magnetic valve switch in 1974. The tooling was later sold to Devlin; these Devlin-made switches are reported to have been very popular in the newspaper editing industry, with most European and North American newspapers specifying them across their operations. Devlin ended production of them in 2005, choosing to use only Cherry MX switches. Devlin referred to these switches as "Cortron" switches. No further details are known, as all documentation was disposed of (along with the tooling) at the termination of production.


From the UDS-2000 brochure:

The SPERRY UNIVAC Universal Distributed System 2000 provides the cost-effective advantages and benefits of a computer-assisted, distributed data-capture in a system of up to four workstations.

Wanna see how cool that four-workstation setup looked like in 1978? Here you go:


(Are those slots in the desk 8" floppy disk drives?)

By the way, the purchase price for an entry-level UDS 2000 system, with 32Kb memory and a single "keystation", was $9,798. A version with three stations and a 200 char/sec printer cost $25,262 from the company (source).


Just imagine the magnificent cacophony with all the tape/floppy drives, huge printers, and of course the magnetic switches. Like this one:

Published on Wed 27th Apr 2022. Featured in KBD #76 (source).

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