BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

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8bitkick
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BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by 8bitkick »

Happy new year! Has anyone investigated creating a run of BBC micro style keycaps for a cherry MX keyboard? (i.e. not for the original beeb, but for a retro-style modern keyboard)

EDIT - I've contacted the original manufacturer of BBC micro keycaps!!! Jump to the end of thread for answers.

Would be quite nice to connect to Raspberry Pi or PC running BeebEm or retro homebrew projects... (as an alternative to gutting an old machine)

The picture below prompted this thought, it's a Pok3r keyboard with DSA Dolch Caps. which is the nearest I could find 'off the shelf'

Image


- color of the keys... found suggestions https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=28630.0
Dark brown keys: RAL 8022
Red keys: RAL 2009 or RAL 2005
Lighter brown keys 'copy key' etc: RAL 8014


Anyhow just a crazy idea. I know gutting a dead beeb and attaching USB controller to the keyboard would likely be cheaper & easier... but it would be nice to recreate / document the original keyboard. I would buy one at least...

:D
Last edited by 8bitkick on Thu Jan 04, 2018 8:13 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by crj »

User lazarusr was clearly up to something last month, but didn't say what. (-8
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by 8bitkick »

lazarusr wrote:Image
crj wrote:User lazarusr was clearly up to something last month, but didn't say what. (-8
Ohh interesting!!! Great minds think alike...

I'd definitely be interested to know who Lazarur used to manufacture... if we can get the exact keycap design in SVG (scanning original keys if necessary) and the right ABS colors... and a few people interested... it could be cost effective for everyone... pimpmykeyboard looks promising
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by JudgeBeeb »

I got them from here: http://www.wasdkeyboards.com. They were ****** expensive and they don't appear to do a discount for quantity.

I am sure that it would be possible with enough time and effort to generate an SVG that properly matches the font. However, they don't offer custom colours - only the limited list on their website. (Having said that, the colours I chose were a fairly good match.)
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by 8bitkick »

lazarusr wrote:I got them from here: http://www.wasdkeyboards.com. They were ****** expensive and they don't appear to do a discount for quantity.

I am sure that it would be possible with enough time and effort to generate an SVG that properly matches the font.
Love the owl keys!!!

Is this for a homebrew computer project?

I was hoping someone might have the SVG / know the font (yours looks very close...)... otherwise it's a case of scanning each original key, and passing into Adobe Illustrator to convert to SVG and clean up, which will be laborious, but not impossible...

Pimpmykeyboard / massdrop might be a way to get some economy of scale if anyone else if interested in some keycaps. But isn't going to be cheap...
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by myelin »

I have a pile of Cherry MX keyswitches here for my custom Master keyboard project, which is still just a dream... very interested in getting my hands on an SVG for Beeb keycard if lazarusr wants to share!
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by JudgeBeeb »

Happy to share. However, there are problems with the SVG some of which are more obvious than others (and it is the less obvious ones that cause the biggest headache). The supplier also required the SVG filed to be flattened before submitting it such that I can't edit it to correct the problems.

Frankly you may be better off starting afresh. The instructions for this supplier are here: https://support.wasdkeyboards.com/hc/en ... om-Layouts

Also bear in mind that I have seen reports that the labelling on the keycaps is not particularly hardwearing.
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by 8bitkick »

lazarusr wrote:Happy to share. However, there are problems with the SVG some of which are more obvious than others (and it is the less obvious ones that cause the biggest headache). The supplier also required the SVG filed to be flattened before submitting it such that I can't edit it to correct the problems.

Frankly you may be better off starting afresh. The instructions for this supplier are here: https://support.wasdkeyboards.com/hc/en ... om-Layouts

Also bear in mind that I have seen reports that the labelling on the keycaps is not particularly hardwearing.
Excellent thanks Lazrus! Would you object to us sticking the SVG on GitHub (or similar) and working on smoothing out the wrinkles, creating a community keyset?
myelin wrote:I have a pile of Cherry MX keyswitches here for my custom Master keyboard project, which is still just a dream... very interested in getting my hands on an SVG for Beeb keycard if lazarusr wants to share!
Myelin... once we have some nice SVGs, maybe we we could get a group order in,

Setting up a single print run for keys is very expensive. With a few backers the price could come down considerably...

EDIT: Best way might be a kickstarter just to cover manufacturing costs, with materials released under Creative Commons... I did this once before with some success
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by myelin »

8bitkick wrote:Excellent thanks Lazrus! Would you object to us sticking the SVG on GitHub (or similar) and working on smoothing out the wrinkles, creating a community keyset?
If this can go up on GitHub under one of the standard open source licenses (Apache, GPL, MIT, BSD), that would be amazing -- my employer's open source policy makes it easy for me to contribute to anything like that and hard to contribute to anything else, and I would very much like to be able to contribute here!
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by 8bitkick »

myelin wrote:
8bitkick wrote:Excellent thanks Lazrus! Would you object to us sticking the SVG on GitHub (or similar) and working on smoothing out the wrinkles, creating a community keyset?
If this can go up on GitHub under one of the standard open source licenses (Apache, GPL, MIT, BSD), that would be amazing -- my employer's open source policy makes it easy for me to contribute to anything like that and hard to contribute to anything else, and I would very much like to be able to contribute here!
Definitely! I've started a (currently empty...) repository for the purpose. If we get somewhere we could request it moved to stardot's own.

Looks like the first job is creating a keyboard layout template. http://keyboard-tool.pimpmykeyboard.com seems good for that purpose. I can have a go at the weekend...

There are a whole load of other design choices to be made (DSA vs SA, switch type) which needs a bit of investigation too.

Using existing keyboards a TKL keyboard might work (layout example from Beeb FPGA, needs a couple of tweaks)

An alternative might be a 75%(?) keyboard like the Vortex Race 3 although this seems non-standard
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by JudgeBeeb »

8bitkick wrote:Excellent thanks Lazrus! Would you object to us sticking the SVG on GitHub (or similar) and working on smoothing out the wrinkles, creating a community keyset?
Absolutely no objection. But as I said, probably quicker and easier to start afresh with a blank template.
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by 8bitkick »

lazarusr wrote:
8bitkick wrote:Excellent thanks Lazrus! Would you object to us sticking the SVG on GitHub (or similar) and working on smoothing out the wrinkles, creating a community keyset?
Absolutely no objection. But as I said, probably quicker and easier to start afresh with a blank template.
Thanks! By the way, does anyone know what font was used on the BBC keycaps?

The closest font I can find is either Booster Next FY Medium (which the keyboard predates), or latin characters in Chinese fonts (probably a more likely scenario) e.g. Yuen-HK-Medium

The search continues...
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by 8bitkick »

8bitkick wrote:
lazarusr wrote:
8bitkick wrote:Excellent thanks Lazrus! Would you object to us sticking the SVG on GitHub (or similar) and working on smoothing out the wrinkles, creating a community keyset?
Absolutely no objection. But as I said, probably quicker and easier to start afresh with a blank template.
Thanks! By the way, does anyone know what font was used on the BBC keycaps?

The closest font I can find is either Booster Next FY Medium (which the keyboard predates), or latin characters in Chinese fonts (probably a more likely scenario) e.g. Yuen-HK-Medium

The search continues...
Quick update on the font search from Twitter
The BBC Micro keyboard was double-shot so the chances are the 'font' is actually one provided by an engraving machine such as the http://gorton-machine.org/forms/form_1309/index.html … - many of these engraving fonts including those by Gorton have not made it to OTF/TTF
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by BeebMaster »

This very same question - ie. what font was used on the BBC micro keytops - occurred to me only a few days ago when I was making up the picture set of my visit to CCH in September. Looking at the collection they have there, multiple 1980s machines used exactly the same font.
Image
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by myelin »

8bitkick wrote:Myelin... once we have some nice SVGs, maybe we we could get a group order in,

Setting up a single print run for keys is very expensive. With a few backers the price could come down considerably...
I'm interested in this (as long as the keycaps are Cherry MX compatible). Looking at my notes from a few months ago, my plan was to use maxkeyboard.com's $40 full custom keycap service. Even though the layout doesn't match the BBC/Master keyboard exactly, I believe I could shoehorn everything in, using spare numpad keys and so on to do BREAK, DEL etc. I think the only key I was going to have to order separately was the 8-unit spacebar.

If we do a full custom order, perhaps we could make a keycap set that would work for either Model B or Master style keyboards. I'll see about measuring up what I have here so I can make up a PCB.
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by 8bitkick »

myelin wrote:
8bitkick wrote:Myelin... once we have some nice SVGs, maybe we we could get a group order in,

Setting up a single print run for keys is very expensive. With a few backers the price could come down considerably...
I'm interested in this (as long as the keycaps are Cherry MX compatible). Looking at my notes from a few months ago, my plan was to use maxkeyboard.com's $40 full custom keycap service. Even though the layout doesn't match the BBC/Master keyboard exactly, I believe I could shoehorn everything in, using spare numpad keys and so on to do BREAK, DEL etc. I think the only key I was going to have to order separately was the 8-unit spacebar.

If we do a full custom order, perhaps we could make a keycap set that would work for either Model B or Master style keyboards. I'll see about measuring up what I have here so I can make up a PCB.
I am still learning on this topic, but think Maxkeyboard and wasd offer UV printed custom keys. These are cheaper for short runs but may not last well (?)

https://deskthority.net/wiki/Keycap_printing

I was hoping to do a higher quality double-shot run... the same process as the original keys...this would be more expensive so only possible with multiple backers... I’ve been investigating the costs and am waiting for some replies...

In any case, we can get the design files together and see who else interested... I’m reunited with my beeb in a couple of weeks and can scan some keys then...
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by 8bitkick »

BeebMaster wrote:This very same question - ie. what font was used on the BBC micro keytops - occurred to me only a few days ago when I was making up the picture set of my visit to CCH in September. Looking at the collection they have there, multiple 1980s machines used exactly the same font.
I found the answer

The BBC micro keycaps were manufactured by Comptec in the early 1980s... who were later acquired by Signature Plastics in Washington. https://deskthority.net/wiki/Comptec

I just called up Signature Plastics

They still have the tooling to recreate the double shot (injection molding in two stages) BBC Micro key caps in the same typeface they have always used, called Gorton Modified. They are pricing it up now. I expect it will be expensive and probably only worth doing with a Kickstarter / group buy...

So the question is would anyone else be interested!?
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by myelin »

8bitkick wrote:They still have the tooling to recreate the double shot (injection molding in two stages) BBC Micro key caps in the same typeface they have always used, called Gorton Modified. They are pricing it up now. I expect it will be expensive and probably only worth doing with a Kickstarter / group buy...

So the question is would anyone else be interested!?
Nice detective work! I'm definitely interested.
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by crj »

8bitkick wrote:They still have the tooling to recreate the double shot (injection molding in two stages) BBC Micro key caps in the same typeface they have always used, called Gorton Modified. They are pricing it up now. I expect it will be expensive and probably only worth doing with a Kickstarter / group buy...
Ooh!

Would those key caps fit modern keyswitches? If so, that becomes rather interesting.
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by 8bitkick »

crj wrote:
8bitkick wrote:They still have the tooling to recreate the double shot (injection molding in two stages) BBC Micro key caps in the same typeface they have always used, called Gorton Modified. They are pricing it up now. I expect it will be expensive and probably only worth doing with a Kickstarter / group buy...
Ooh!

Would those key caps fit modern keyswitches? If so, that becomes rather interesting.
Yes for Cherry MX switches... so mechanical keyboard fans might be interested too :D
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by JudgeBeeb »

A few points:
  • If we are going to have them made to fit Cherry MX key-switches then part of the tooling will have to be changed to deal with that. If they just remake the old Beeb keycaps then that is going to have very limited appeal. Indeed, there were a number of different key-switches used on Beebs, so they would only fit the switches they were tooled for.
  • What are we actually going to have printed on the key caps? If we do an identical run of the key switches that exactly matches what was on the Beeb, then that would imply making some specialised Beeb keyboard - that in turn would mean spinning a PCB for the keyboard - easily do-able, but it will then get very expensive. If we want to have a set of keycaps that can replace those on a conventional IBM keyboard, then we will have to arrange for tooling to cover the keys that weren't on the Beeb and the different arrangements for shifted characters.
  • I'm not sure how many backers we would get. If it were for a C64, Amiga or Spectrum (not sure how that would work) there would be no problem. Might be worth asking Tom Williamson (http://www.ident-online.co.uk/computer/) whether he has any interest.
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by fordp »

Maybe having the extra Atom keys made too would make it more interesting. Atoms are rare and expensive and worth remaking I think. Did I see a perspex atom case somewhere or am I making that up?
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by myelin »

lazarusr wrote:
  • What are we actually going to have printed on the key caps? If we do an identical run of the key switches that exactly matches what was on the Beeb, then that would imply making some specialised Beeb keyboard - that in turn would mean spinning a PCB for the keyboard - easily do-able, but it will then get very expensive. If we want to have a set of keycaps that can replace those on a conventional IBM keyboard, then we will have to arrange for tooling to cover the keys that weren't on the Beeb and the different arrangements for shifted characters.
I have a pile of Cherry MX keyswitches sitting next to me, and a plan in my head to make a PCB for them that resembles the Model B or Master keyboard, minus the numpad, plus a prototype of a way to interface a USB keyboard to a Master, which will also work on the Model B when finished. So the PCB is definitely going to happen, costing somewhere in the US$10-20 range per board at least for the prototype run. Cherry MX keyswitches are ~$0.50 each in qty 100, presumably getting cheaper at higher quantities.

Being able to just replace the keycaps on a conventional keyboard would make this way more accessible, but as you say, we'd have to make a bunch more keys, a narrower spacebar, and perhaps versions of the same key for different rows in some cases.

Very curious to hear the pricing details. If the ideal situation isn't affordable, I guess we can just keep using UV-printed keycaps :)
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by 8bitkick »

lazarusr wrote:A few points:
Good points...

* They have the tools/typeface to recreate the double shot, and said cherry MX is easy. Harder would be the original switch(es), as you say

* Agreed the keycaps would need to be laid out for a full modern keyboard. You could add 'modifier' kits for people who want 2" versus 2@, etc. (e.g. for myelin's pcb)

* I think there'd be enough interest in a rare keycap set with a history to make it feasible for the people that care. Ident is a good idea too.

There is a huge and passionate mechanical keyboard community out there...

$100 is a reasonable ball park - https://pimpmykeyboard.com/dsa-seafoam-keyset/

Yep we can get the price lower, but we will need lots more backers... I will submit the design to Massdrop too to get them, if they will have us ;)

PS I have zero interest in making money on this, I just don't want to lose too much... (see similar previous http://www.8bitkick.cc/home-computers.html)
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by crj »

[Stares at UK, US and Beeb keyboard layouts for a mo.]

Ooh, ick. There's an extra row of keys between the alphabetics and the non-printing keys at the right of the BBC Micro's keyboard, isn't there? I was going to suggest re-capping a PC layout keyboard, leaving the unused keys present, but capped in a contrasting colour to show they weren't part of the Beeb's layout. But that won't work. )-8

On the other hand, a custom PCB with a custom arrangement of keyswitches isn't the end of the world. The important thing is to avoid needing a different aperture in the case or different shapes of key cap. I think that's feasible:
  • F0  F1 F2 F3 F4  F5 F6 F7 F8  F9 ✗ ✗ ✗  ✗ ✗ Break
  • Escape 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 - ^ \ Delete  ✗ ✗ ✗  + - / *  (Delete is single-width like on the Arc)
  • Tab Q W E R T Y U I O P @ [ _ Delete Copy ✗  7 8 9 #
  • Ctrl A S D F G H J K L ; : ] Return  4 5 6 Delete  (Return the same size as a Ctrl/Alt/Shift/Windows key)
  • Shift Z X C V B N M , . / Shift  Up  1 2 3 ,
  • Caps-lock Shift-lock ✗ Space ✗ ✗ Delete Copy  Left Down Right  0 . Return
...where ✗ denotes an unlabeled key, or one labeled with a non-Acorn function and there are several possible locations for Delete and Copy. Potentially, they could be duplicated in all of them.

That means a slightly narrow Return key, which is a pity but not the end of the world. It also means the cursor keys in a different position, but since they moved between the B and Master anyway, I find it hard to be too upset about that.

I have a premonition that coming up with something that pleases everybody will be quite tricky, though!
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by pau1ie »

crj wrote:coming up with something that pleases everybody will be quite tricky
I'm not a touch typist, but I think the bottom row of letters being shifted to the left will be a problem even for me.
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by pau1ie »

Just realised I was looking at my keyboard, not the picture at the top. Never mind.
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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by j6wbs »

This weekends project, was to take a modern USB gaming keyboard and give it a Beeb makeover.

Image

This was made using three existing keyboards from ebay/amazon, and one set of fresh keycaps.

The main underlying keyboard is the 'Cooler Master Storm QuickFire' Ten-Key-Less gaming keyboard, with Cherry MX Blue switches.
The main keycaps I used were the retro looking 'Massdrop x MiTo SA Pulse TKL keycap' set.

The red function key keycaps are 'Tai Hao Red' keycaps from a 'Red Dragon Kumara K552 keyboard'
The dark grey arrow keys are from a 'Durgod Taurus K320 TKL', which also provided the grey keys I put on the top row.

Here are all the original keyboards before they were transformed into this Beeb style USB keyboard.
Image

I'm pleased with how it turned out, and no Beebs were harmed in the making of this keyboard.

Cheers

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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by jgharston »

j6wbs wrote:
Sun Oct 25, 2020 5:13 pm
This weekends project, was to take a modern USB gaming keyboard and give it a Beeb makeover.

This was made using three existing keyboards from ebay/amazon, and one set of fresh keycaps.
Ooo, cool.

Do you know any source of "proper" bitpaired keycaps? I use my Japanese keyboard plugged into my Master to get the right layout, but the spacebar is really tiny because of the Kana Keys. It would be nice to just pop off the keycaps of a standard Dell-alike keyboard and put proper keycaps on.

Some of them are standard for some territories, so manufacturers should already be manufacturing them.
2" -> standard UK, LAM, IT, ES, NL, SE, PT, DA, FI, NO key
3# -> standard US, LAM, BR, NL, SE, PT, DA, FI, NO key
6& -> standard LAM, IT, ES, NL, SE, PT, DA, FI, NO key
7' -> standard IT key
8( -> standard LAM, IT, ES,NL, SE, PT, DA, FI, NO key
9) -> standard LAM, IT, ES,NL, SE, PT, DA, FI, NO key
^~ -> standard BR, NL, SE, PT, FI, NO key
-= -> standard NL key

Which just leaves
@ (though '@ could be used with the ' carefully rubbed off)
;+
:*
_£ or £_ or 0_

Code: Select all

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Re: BBC micro style keycaps for modern keyboard

Post by tricky »

That reminds me of my avatar alt 386, which unfortunately went to the tip 9 years ago. It came with about 30 spare key caps so that you could make the keyboard whatever nationality you liked.
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