Unicomp Model M: Blast from the Past!

Many of you might know that I am a huge fan of the IBM Model M keyboard, that old “clicky” keyboard that used to come with the IBM PS/2. I searched eBay looking for those, and I found several, but I never decided myself to buy one. Some time ago, however, I saw linked in Slashdot an article that caught my attention: C|Net’s Top 10 tech we miss. There, writer Rafe Needleman put at #7:

7. Good keyboards. Once upon a time, using a computer was a loud, tactile affair. The keyboards on early IBM PCs were heavy, had a great feel, and made a satisfying clacking noise when you typed, thanks to the expensive “buckling spring” design for the switches. They could also take a beating, which was important for people who were making the transition from pounding on manual typewriters. Nobody ships a PC with a good keyboard anymore, although you can still get IBM-style keyboards from Unicomp.

I checked out Unicomp, and yes, these were the keyboard people who came from IBM and Lexmark. They offer a wide range of models, and they even include not one, but two Linux models! (These keyboards have the Ctrl, Alt and Caps Lock swapped so they could be a better fit for use under GNU/Linux. There are two layouts). As a birthday gift from my wife, I got the basic layout; I decided against one of the Linux models because this keyboard would be used by my wife, and the changed layout could upset her ;).

It looks like the online store they have works. I ordered on August 19, and I finally got the keyboard last Friday; but the delays were more due to my Latin American logistics provider, and not to the company. People at the company generally are helpful, but they seem to be somewhat understaffed at this time: I made inquiries, and while most of these were answered, some didn’t. Especially, no one was able to tell me how much the fully packed keyboard weighted, and this despite asking the question in the very first email I sent the company.

But the burning question is yet to be answered: Is this keyboard the RealThing(TM)? The answer is YES! The Unicomp Model M Keyboard is the same IBM Model M of old. The feel is incredible, and the form factor and weight are the same. Speaking of weight, this thing is heavy: the fully packed weight turned out to be 3 kg (a little more than 6 pounds); and most of it is not, believe me, packing stuff.

My verdict? Recommended. If you like the old IBM keyboards, this is a nice addition to your workstation equipment.

Special thanks to Tim, who helped me in my talk with the company.

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