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Keyboard Builders' Digest / Keyboard Spotting

Cromemco C-10 keyboard

This awesome-looking 1982 Cromemco C-10 was posted by u/WonderSausage.
Published June 1, 2022

Made by Oak for Cromemco, this beauty sports Oak Full-Travel Membrane switches (also written FTM on the label on the keyboard) – a progressive rate spring-over-membrane switch (source).


In 1974 Stanford University doctoral graduates Harry Garland and Roger Melen established a partnership named for their former dormitory Crothers Memorial Hall. Cromemco was formally incorporated in 1976. For the life of the company Garland and Melen remained the sole shareholders and avoided outside investment. At the insistence of their accountant, the company held a bank credit line but never had to tap the full amount. Their business philosophy was to grow only within the parameters of available cash (source).

Cromemco was known for making serious business computers like the System 1 and System 3. I got a tip that their System I appeared in the original 1984 Ghostbusters movie (source), tried to confirm it, and found this:


Well, the one behind Sigourney Weaver (1) is a System One (on the bottom with the characteristic HD cover). I'm not sure about the right one (2) though. The relatively cheap C-10 ($1700) was compatible with the more powerful Cromemco computers ($5,000+), thus, it could be used as a terminal. So this might be a C-10.

Anyways, Cromemco systems were the first commercially marketed microcomputers certified by the U.S. Navy for use aboard ships and Ohio class submarines. The US Air Force became a major customer purchasing systems for F-16, F-15 and other aircraft.

What's more, by 1986 more than 80 percent of the major-market television stations in the U.S. used Cromemco systems to produce news and weather graphics.

Revenues in 1975 were $50,000 and grew to an estimated $55 million by 1987 when the owners sold the company to Dynatech.

Cromemco C-10


The keyboard was part of the Cromemco C-10 and was attached to the monitor, housing the system unit.

Based on the photo above (source), the keyboard had different versions (control color, sticker).

The C-10 was a departure for Cromemco, and was their first and only venture into the home/small business arena (source).


David Hilton wrote a review for CREATIVE COMPUTING in 1984, covering the keyboard:

The keyboard that is supplied with the C-10 is also lightweight and compact. The two rubber-tipped bolts which are provided as height adjusters are inadequate, however. As the keyboard is used, the bolts revolve and the unit creeps away from the user. And since they do not revolve in unison, they soon get to be different lengths, which causes the keyboard to rock.

The author solved the problem by threading a nut onto each bolt and using it as a locknut to hold the bolts in place. He also glued a piece of rubber to the bottom of the keyboard case to help hold it in place on the desktop.

The key configuration is the normal QWERTY with some added features. There are four cursor control keys in the lower righthand corner. The TAB key is immediately above them. DELETE is in an unusual, but not awkward, position to the right of the spacebar. ESC is next to the Q. Below it is CONTROL (in red), and below that in the normal position is the SHIFT key. ALPHA LOCK is below SHIFT.

The equivalent of function keys was achieved by striking combinations of the number keys, CONTROL, and SHIFT.

According to Hilton, other customizable features included "toggling of the audible click" (solenoid?) and changing the rate of auto-repetition.

The M, J, K, L, U, I, O, 7, 8, and 9 keys could be made to function as a numeric keypad by pressing CONTROL-SHIFT-N, and the SHIFT key produces lowercase letters when the ALPHA LOCK is engaged.

Finally, he reports an undocumented status line which appears at the bottom of the screen when CONTROL-SHIFT-S is pressed.

Published on Wed 1st Jun 2022. Featured in KBD #81 (source).

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