Category: Keyboards

Tandy Keyboards

Tandy keyboards are a bit of an anomaly. One of my retro computers, a Tandy 1000 SX, is still in transit, but, in the meantime, I’ve been doing research on keyboard options, as Tandy decided to use start bits in their keyboard protocol rather than stop bits, and, thus far, I’ve been unable to find anyone who has built a converter between the two. The Northgate Omnikey is one option, and there’s another non-Tandy option, but the name escapes my. I’ve also read comments about the Tandy 1000 keyboard being a hold over from the Tandy 2000, but I know the Tandy 2000 keyboard uses the same 5-pin DIN as IBM keyboards, but the Tandy 1000 keyboard uses an 8-pin DIN. It was unclear whether it was literally the same keyboard with a different cable, or it was just physically the same but with a different protocol. I finally tracked down the technical reference to both the Tandy 2000 and the Tandy 1000 and reviewed the keyboard sections, and discovered that they are, indeed, identical aside from the connector.

According to the technical reference manuals, both keyboards share the same scancodes and the same timings, and everything in the Tandy 1000 manual is also in the Tandy 2000 manual. The only difference I could find in that section of the manuals is that the Tandy 2000 manual includes the keyboard’s schematic, while the 1000 manual does not.

Finally, another Tandy anomaly is the naming of these two computers. The Tandy 2000 is the older of the two, and the 1000 is an entire line of computers that came after. I expect that Tandy updated the keyboard to the 8-pin DIN solely to cut confusion, as an IBM keyboards of the era had the same connector but was completely incompatible.

Fn Keys

I’ve owned a Lenovo notebook for awhile now, and have been using it for work since I got it, but one thing that’s driven me nuts about it is the the Fn hotkeys are active by default, and you have to press Fn to use the actual function keys. This isn’t so bad itself, but one of the keys is “Airplane mode,” and I’m constantly bumping the thing and disconnecting from my WiFi while I’m working, which boots me off my VPN and I have to log back in every time. This usually happens when it’s most inconvenient, so I finally got fed up with it and discovered a bios setting to disable hotkeys by default, so I have to hold Fn to activate them, and the function keys actually work as function keys. Yay! No more accidental airplane mode! 🙂

IBM M Keyboard

A couple weeks ago, I managed to snag the holy grail of computer keyboards off of eBay, an IBM M keyboard, for a really good price. What I didn’t realize is that there are so many different versions of it 😉 The one I wound up with is the 122 key terminal keyboard with a 5 pin DIN connector. Except the DIN connector isn’t the same as the PC/XT/AT connector. The pins are spaced further apart and have a different layout. The good news is the these keyboards have a header connector inside them for the cable, so it’s easily replaced. The bad news is that when connected to a PC with a replacement cable (or adapter) they act as an 84 key keyboard, wasting all those extra keys. But there’s an adapter that I can build to use it with USB, allowing me to map all those extra keys. I can build this adapter externally, or mount it inside the keyboard itself. Alternatively, I can build something similar using a Pi Zero, putting an entire PC inside the keyboard. I think I like the idea of the external adapter better, though, as is allows me to add Num, Caps, and Scroll Lock LEDs, which this version of the keyboard lacks, and also allows up to five external buttons as well.