Vintage Computer Keyboard Assembly

Joel gave me this keyboard a few years ago on the condition that I intend to do something interesting with it. That was an easy deal to accept.

Vintage computer keyboard assembly

Yellowed keycaps and lots of meta keys I’ve never seen before. Programmable function keys with a strip of LEDs next to them — and “lock” indicator LEDs carved right into the main keyboard keycaps. Onboard decoder logic and a 40-character 5×12-pixel vacuum fluorescent display. Does it get any better than this???

With the “PAR IND” key on the keypad, I have to admit that this was most likely from a word processing or typesetting machine. But I’d much rather believe it was removed from a Firefly-class transport ship.

Circuit board from vintage computer keyboard assembly

I can’t figure out how this circuit board ties to the keyboard, but it’s purported to go along with it. The model number is in a similar style, the sticker includes the same “Baugr.” label, and the ICs were also (mostly) manufactured in 1981-1982, so it’s plausible.

So per our agreement, I do intend to do something interesting with this. In my book, reverse-engineering it and hooking it up as an operating keyboard (with onboard display) would be pretty interesting.

All I need is time . . .

8 Responses to “Vintage Computer Keyboard Assembly”

  1. John Laur says:

    The first thing interesting you could do is to de-yellow the keys.

    Have you heard of Retr0brite?

    I have been looking for something suitable to try it with after learning about it. It seems with the stuff you run across you might like to know about it if you haven’t already seen it.

  2. Keith Neufeld says:

    John, thought about that already. I do have vintage computer equipment that I want to retr0brite and make it look new, like my Amigas.

    But for me, part of the charm of this particular keyboard is that it looks old and bunged up, like it’s already as old as Serenity when Mal bought it. I want to keep the dust off of this and clean the VFD a little bit, but not clean it up much more than that.

  3. faustian.spirit says:

    “Baugr.” is likely abbreviated german “Baugruppe” (subassembly, lit “assembly/construction group”).

  4. faustian.spirit says:

    Something about the construction style has “Triumph Adler” written all over it… or maybe Siemens…

    Cash register? Industrial controller?

  5. Dave says:

    You could make a clock out of it. ;-)

    With the amount of EPROM that is has, I’m wondering if might be a complete “word processing” system as it is. Or, as they were known in that era, an electronic typewriter. Wasn’t Triumph Adler in the typewriter business in that era?

    One question, though, is whether the EPROMs still contain any data. I seem to remember that the data retention life for EPROMs was about 20 years (and, significantly less if kept under fluorescent lights or sunlight [1]).

    [1] Trust me on this; I’m the Voice of Experience!


  6. Kevin says:

    I got to transfer a bunch of boilerplate documents from Xerox typewriters to a PC once. The only way to do it was to hook up a serial cable and print each doc…

    I vote for some kind of typesetting machine. Most high end typewriters had good typewriter style keys. I dont think a professional typist of the day would have liked the funny dimpled keys.

  7. Gizmo says:

    w00t! A Firefly/Serenity reference!

    That DOES look like it would fit in a Firefly transport. All it needs is a compression coil…

    I hope you post a followup if you get the display to glow.

    Keep flying!

  8. Ffejery says:

    Agreed on the Firefly look…

    “In my book, reverse-engineering it and hooking it up as an operating keyboard (with onboard display) would be pretty interesting.”
    Depending on how the VFD is controlled, maybe you could hack it into a “Steampunk G15″, as a retro take on Logitech’s shiny modern keyboards. Although, granted, Nixie Orange is more in keeping with the style than VFD Green. -shrug- Go for it anyway!

Leave a Reply