IBM Model M keyboards all the rage on Ebay

Curiously, 30 years after their initial debut, IBM model keyboards are hotter than ever thanks to Ebay and other weird online auction sites. Hipsters and retro computer enthusiasts alike are vying for the much sought-after clicky keyboards, which contain ancient (but super cool, right?) buckling spring key switches. The little metal springs provide a very satisfying springy “thung” sound when pressed. Admittedly, however, for the unprepared, the springy keys actually require quite a lot of actuation force; you’ve got to mash those little suckers pretty hard. They will give your fingers a workout, unlike your wimpy rubber domes or Cherry MX blues (though we like Cherry blues, they’re snappy).

Unicomp Model M with custom white keycaps
A beautiful new Unicomp Model M with custom white keycaps. Drool, my friends!

Using the AT protocol, it’s worth noting that these keyboards are not directly compatible with modern computers with PS/2 or USB keyboard ports. You’ll have to fork up $10 or so for a decent adapter. Given the trouble, why are these digital dinosaurs such hot commodities, sometimes fetching upwards up $100 for one in good condition?

Honestly, I venture to guess it’s a bit of nostalgia wrapped up in elitism and novelty. If you had one of these two or three decades ago as a kid, having one now might connect you with happier times. Or, maybe you just want an old, heavy, noisy, clicky keyboard to annoy your office mates with. Both are perfectly acceptable reasons. And, honestly, they really are cool boards; not a bad option if you’re going mechanical and want something with a bit of class. The IBM model M’s are the originals, whose smart layout of keys set the mold for nearly every keyboard that’s been made since the mid-1980s.

By the way, you can still buy a new Model M from Unicomp. They’re not quite as heavy or rugged as the original IBMs, but you can’t find or afford a new vintage model these are a good option. Plus, you know they’re clean.

Here’s a little video of some dude typing on a Model M… so deliciously clicky!


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