Keyboard Builders' Digest
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Issue 78 / Week 20 / 2022

This is a hand-picked selection of last week's content from a keyboard enthusiast's perspective. Posts that may teach you something, make you think and contribute to the common knowledge of the DIY builder community.

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Behind the Scenes of Issue 78

Newsletter subscriptions and postcards, new donor, trivia of the week, bidding for a HP 9810A.

Hey y'all,

Welcome back for another edition of Keyboard Builders' Digest (this time Issue #78), a weekly roundup of this DIY keyboard focused newsletter and blog from Tamas Dovenyi – that's me. If you are new to this, you can read how this started out and what this is all about nowadays. If you like what you see, you can subscribe to the newsletter (free) and donate some bucks to keep this otherwise free and ad-free project alive.


I was away from computer for most of the week so this issue may seem a bit clumsy.

Newsletter subscriptions & postcards

I continue testing Buttondown and exchanged some mails with Jason. The opening rate issue is resolved now. But I wanted to write about something else this time: How newsletter subscriptions are like postcards to me.

To begin with, the newsletter is free, right?

Because there are no ads on, I'm not financially interested in the increase of subscriber numbers either. (On the contrary.)

Sure, it's a cool indicator to check every now and then but other than that there's no point in giving it too much importance.

Nevertheless, while I don't earn a penny via the newsletter, IT COSTS ME MONEY to send it out – and the fee is proportional to the number of subscribers.

That's why I keep cleaning up my list and getting rid of inactive subscribers. (Just click a link in the newsletter to make sure you stay subscribed.)

So when I'm asking for your name and country in the subscription form, I do it simply because I'm interested (I don't sell your data or do anything shady with it).

Think of it as an old-fashioned postcard to me. I simply love seeing people subscribing from all around the world.

And that's why I remove users who think those fields are there to enter garbage, "funny" things or even war propaganda lately.

God, some people seem to shy away from giving me their names and fill the form with junk while their real name is part of the email address. Which they provide to get the newsletter... Facepalm. :D

The point is, I'll keep cleaning up my subscriber database by removing these funny guys. Thanks for your understanding.

New donor

Cerakey, who is offering you a $5 discount, supported this project this week. Thanks!

As already teased in February, after individual ceramic keycaps they are going to make full sets. Check out their KS campaign which is a huge success already, 15x money pledged in a single day.


I'm very curious how these ceramic caps will feel.

Trivia of the week

This is from the CPT Phoenix Jr post:

The plastic for the gray keys was color-matched to dust collected in an office windowsill by the departments VP so that the keys would not easily show dirt.

Bidding for an HP 9810A

There was a dirty HP 9810A listed on a local site. Without shipping options, local pick-up only. Btw, this a calculator, not really a computer, but I was interested anyway, maybe because the cool caps and because it's pretty rare on this part of the world. Actually, I'd never thought I'd met something like this.

Almost a month passed by without any activity and I focused my attention to the last minutes of the auction too. Well, the photos were low-res and mostly useless (512px photos in the 21st century?!) but I was willing to bid a few hundreds of dollars anyway. Then, in the last seconds of the auction the price skyrocketed from $100 to about $1,500. :D Ouch.

Pic: HP 9810A – original photo from the listing...

HP 9810A – original photo from the listing...

A colleague of mine – not involved in keyboard or retro stuff – was in my office and witnessed the culmination of events. Even without saying a word, his face was very expressive which I could translate as: "These jerks are total crackpots..." :D


That's all for today folks.

Feel free to comment in this issue's r/mk thread, and as always: keep learning and building.

Cheers, Tamás


simplyKeeb S60ph

Geaz84's 3D printed simplyKeeb S60ph is a 60-key, hotswappable, handwired split keyboard.

A completely 3D printed split keyboard. Even the hotswap sockets are printed. The model was created in OpenSCAD with a few dxf files as input – Geaz84.

GitHub repo:

Wooden Alps keyboard

A wooden keyboard by the5andmany with Alps switches and hand-filed switch plate.

As for the layout of the5andmany's handcrafted keyboard, it's mostly ortholinear – at least the alphas. The top switches are used for layer switching, escape and delete, and there is a dedicated arrow cluster too.

Beneath the nice doubleshot keycaps with Norwegian legends (scavenged from an old typewriter) the keyboard sports Matias clicky Alps switches.

Turns out typewriters didn't usually have updownleftright-keys... so for now they are 3d printed – the5andmany.

Raw materials for the hand planed wooden case are recycled too: the teak wood is from an old door, and the ash/maple? is of a pallet. Wooden parts are finished with Danish oil.

But there's still more to the story: the aluminum switch plate, mounted on foam pillows, is in fact handmade as well – using hand files:

I like the grind. It's a lot of work, but it's satisfying and time flies while listening to audiobooks – the5andmany.

More photos: here.


Richard Sutherland's framedeck is his take on the slab style computers like the TRS-80 model 100 – using the Framework motherboard.

Richard aka brickbots made and published framedeck, a cyberdeck built with the framework mainboard.

It's my take on the slab style computers that were somewhat popular before the world settled on clamshell designs for portable computers. I really wanted a TRS-80 model 100 when I was young so this sort of design was a big influence.

The keyboard part of the project uses a custom PCB, probably the author's slabV, with an elite-C microcontroller. This provides the interface from the key matrix and trackball to the mainboard.

The custom PCB also has a power header connected to the raw USB pins of the elite-C which provides power for the LCD panel.

The design is released for public use.


Another similar project with a low profile split involved is Jacqueline's custom keyboard for the MNT Reform laptop.


5-year anniversary for Keebio

Keebio turned 5 this month, and Danny put together a timeline with all their keyboard releases.

Check out Danny's monstre post here:

And here is the video version of the timeline:


0xCB Pluto

0xCB Pluto is a Pro Micro compatible controller designed by 0xCB-dev.

0xCB Pluto, this new development board by 0xCB, is not just Pro Micro compatible but also has all 25 pins of the ATmega32U4 broken out, just like D- and D+.

Teased by Conor in January, the first samples are out for testing, and the files of the Pluto have been published this week too.

  • electrically and physically compatible with the standard Pro Micro
  • exposing all 25 available pins
  • D- and D+ broken out too
  • featuring USB C
  • flatter design for tight builds (mid-mount connector)
  • pre-flashed with the QMK DFU bootloader
  • open-source

D- and D+ broken out makes it possible to easily use it with e.g. the unified USB daughterboard.

We do plan on selling it in the future. Just want to get the hype going a bit. ;) […] We will offer them for EU only. But we are in the talks with a vendor in the US. He ships worldwide... – 0xCB-dev

KiCAD and Gerbers files available in this GitHub repo:

Btw, 25 pins mean 600 switches handled by a single controller board (see the square matrix). :D Just tellin'…

For those who understand German, Jacob and Conor, founders of 0xCB, talk about their startup and mechanical keyboards in general in Trommelspeicher/Das Duumvirat podcast:

#DD #045 – Vom Hobby zum Startup

KiCad Keyboard Layouter

Keyboard Layouter is a KiCad plugin by yskoht to place switch footprints in the location specified by KLE JSON files.

The Keyboard Layouter plugin for KiCad (pcbnew), originally published by Yusuke Ohta, is a fork by darakuneko. This plugin places switch footprints in the location specified by JSON of Keyboard Layout Editor.

My fork also supports Kicad 6 and LEDs - @daraku__neko.

This tool is not new, it was released three years ago, but the author confirmed that it works with pcbnew 6.0.5 (on Windows).

GitHub repo:

(Limitation: Supported switch footprints are Cherry MX in kicad-footprints/Button_Switch_Keyboard.pretty only.)

Tips & Tricks


The BFY-1 (the beefy one) by bad1o8o is a 18x6 ortho with case STLs.

The BFY-1 (pronounced "beefy one") is a 6 rows, 18 columns orthogonal keyboard case for a "non-split" version of the BFO-9000 (from keebio).

The case has a 5° angle built in and the plate is gasket mounted. The internals are a regular BFO-9000, two Pro Micros MCU's, the diodes and reset switches with the only deviation being the handwired TRRS connection without jacks. The cable is routed internally for a cleaner look.

Case STL available here.

"Use however you see fit, fork it, knife it, spoon it – bad1o8o."

Swell68 case

A gummy o-ring mount case for the CIY Tester 68 keyboard by RogerArbogast.

This is a gummy o-ring mount case for the CIY Tester 68 keyboard.

STLs are available for both the whole case, as well as the case in six parts, in OBJ format.

The whole case is approximately 365.06 x 174.74 x 64.33 mm.

The author added the base shape model, sculpted using Nomad, in both OBJ and STL formats so that people can remix it to accommodate different keyboard layouts.

Files & project page this way.

Keyboard Spotting

CPT Phoenix Jr

The elusive CPT Phoenix Jr word processor keyboard spotted by catsontuesday.

This elusive weirdness is a CPT Phoenix Jr. A word processing terminal with a A4-page sized portrait CRT and an almost fully symmetrical keyboard.

Saw this pop up on eBay but it was quickly bought up – catsontuesday.

Indeed, it seems they quickly disappear from ebay but @Foone has a good Twitter thread on this model with photos of previous listings.

The CPT Phoenix Jr was manufactured by CPT Corporation in the early '80s. The company was active from 1971 and discontinued operations in the mid 1990s as demand for their products declined with the proliferation of personal computers.


My favorite part:

The plastic for the gray keys was color-matched to dust collected in an office windowsill by the departments VP so that the keys would not easily show dirt. (source)

Here are some more photos of a specimen donated to Museums Victoria.

And catsontuesday has a typing test here.

IBM 5100

The IBM 5100 is one of the many "first" portable computers (1975). Shared by Crul_.

The IBM 5100 Portable Computer is one of the many "first" portable computers, introduced in September 1975.

(In fact, the truck-based IBM 1401 from 1960 for military use was a "portable computer" too.)

The IBM 5100 was the evolution of the SCAMP prototype (Special Computer APL Machine Portable) that was developed at the IBM Palo Alto Scientific Center in 1973.

The unit included an integrated keyboard, five-inch CRT display, tape drive, processor, several hundred KiB of read-only memory containing system software, and up to 64 KiB of RAM. "It was the size of a small suitcase, weighed about 55 lb (25 kg), and could be transported in an optional carrying case, hence the "portable" designation."

As you can see in the picture above, mass storage was provided by quarter-inch cartridge (QIC) magnetic tape drives.

As vulkman points out:

Fun fact if you're a programmer: This thing has a hardware switch to switch from BASIC to APL! Crazy times...

APL was generally available only on mainframe computers, and most desktop sized computers offered only BASIC.

Machines that supported both languages provided a toggle switch on the front panel to select the language. On the 5100's front panel, it was the third toggle from the right: down for APL, up for BASIC. (At least with the model in the photo. Other specimen may have the button in a different place and also the function may be reversed.)

The 5100 was also available with only APL or BASIC. These configurations had no such hardware switch.


That was Issue #78. Thanks for stopping by.

This issue was made possible by the support of:
PCBWay,, MoErgo Glove80, u/chad3814, Aiksplace, @keebio, @kaleid1990, Cerakey, Clickety Split,, cdc, Sean Grady, kiyejoco, Bob Cotton, FFKeebs, Richard Sutherland, @therick0996, Joel Simpson, KEEBD, Nuno Leitano, Spencer Blackwood, Lev Popov, Christian Mladenov, Yuan Liu, Davidjohn Gerena, Alexey Alekhin, Fabian Suceveanu

Your support is crucial to help this project to survive.

Discussion over at r/mk!