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kelvinhall05

How to convert a terminal IBM Model M

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Posted · Original PosterOP

 This post will be split into multiple sections:

 

Section 1: Overview and explanation

Section 2: Tools and materials

Section 3: Soldering, modding, and flashing

Section 4: Remapping

Section 5: Conclusion

 

All necessary files and programs will be linked in section 2.

 

DISCLAIMER

Spoiler

I am not responsible for any damage that occurs to your keyboard from this mod. If you solder stuff wrong, you will probably kill your keyboard and potentially damage the port it's plugged into. If you break your stuff, not my problem. Got it? Ok. Let's go.

Section 1: Overview and explanation

Spoiler

So, you want a kick-ass IBM Model M but you don't have tons of money to dump on a normal one, you don't *want* to dump a bunch of money on a normal one, or you're like me and you not only don't have money for a regular one, but you realized you can get a perfect buckling spring board for under $50 including all the parts needed to convert it, and you get cool keycaps on it. Win-win.

 

This guide is for boards with the RJ45 terminal plug on a non-detachable cable. I am not sure if it will work on other Model Ms, but there are plenty of guides for "regular" models. The two boards I have are both model 1394204 the converter works on both, so if you have a 1394204 board this will work.

 

Thankfully, these models can be found fairly cheaply on websites like eBay; I got a pair for 20 USD before shipping, which is a fairly good price for these, but you can easily find them for between $20 and $40. A Pro Micro or a cheap clone of it can be found for between $3 and $15, depending on if you're willing to wait for it to ship from China. In total, you're probably looking to spend under $50 to get a bad-ass keyboard that not only feels and sounds absolutely amazing, but is built like a tank and has, imo, fucking legendary keycaps (I mean seriously, would you rather have a boring ANSI keycap set or "ErEOF and side-printed Erlnp" where End would go? Even the left bracket keycap has a funky legend on it).

 

As for why I am making this guide, it's fairly simple. Although there are lots of guides on how to build a Soarer's converter for a keyboard, I have yet to find a single, definitive one for converting this specific keyboard - a terminal Model M. Maybe the prices of these boards are so low because this hasn't been documented before...who knows? But between the odd layout that isn't completely recognized by a PC just with default Soarer's converter firmware, to a very strange plug (on a keyboard, anyway), these boards seem to have just flown under the radar; again, I think that the prices of them on eBay are indicative of this.

 

This guide serves to guide you step-by-step to go from a board you just bought off eBay or Craigslist or wherever, to something you can plug into your PC and use like a completely normal off-the-shelf keyboard (or a regular Model M). Also, this is not a restoration guide; I recommend you clean your keyboard *before* converting it, as well as performing a bolt mod if necessary.

Section 2: Tools and materials

Spoiler

Obviously, this mod will require...well, some modding. You will need as follows:

1. A soldering iron, solder, and know how to use it

2. Wire strippers and cutters

3. 7/32in or 5.5mm screwdriver (you will need one with a fairly long and skinny head; the one in the iFixit 64-bit driver kit works perfectly for this

4. Arduino Pro Micro or a clone (MUST BE A 5V ONE - 3.3V WILL NOT WORK)

5. Micro USB cable

6. Thin file or, preferably, a Dremel or other rotary tool with a thin carving bit (not a cutting wheel or sanding wheel)

7. Hot glue gun (high temp could melt the plastic, so a cheapo dollar store one is preferred)

8. A computer with a USB port running Windows or some Linux distro

9. The cable from your board

10. Obviously, your Model M

 

Nice to haves:

1. "helping hands" for soldering

2. Pliers

3. Wet sponge or wire sponge to clean your soldering iron

4. Small bowl to hold screws

 

Files and programs you will need:

1. Latest Soarer's Converter firmware/.hex files (this guide is written using v1.12, cannot guarantee it will work on future versions). These posts also have a wealth of information in them, highly recommended you read them thoroughly:

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2510&start= 

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=17458.0

Download links: https://deskthority.net/download/file.php?id=6142 for docs/tools and https://deskthority.net/download/file.php?id=8295 for 1.12 firmware

2. Soarer's v1.10 firmware only for tools and docs (don't use the firmware in them, use v1.12 firmware). Can be found at the above links ^

3. My remap file (All this does is remap all the keys to what they would be on a regular keyboard. The only quirk is the split numpad plus, but both keys above numpad enter have been bound to numpad plus):

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1HoCuElFxzLH6T_gzJumvHkYXrtFy3Jva

4. Pro Micro flashing guide (also recommended you read this thoroughly):

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?t=8448

5. A GH thread with *some* info about converting a terminal Model M:

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=10737.0

6. Free, online key tester:

https://www.keyboardtester.com/

Section 3: Soldering, modding, and flashing

Spoiler

Now, for some people, this will be the hardest part, but trust me when I say that it's super basic soldering and very hard to mess up. It's just simple through-hole and there are only five wires. As for "case" modding, you will need to start by opening the keyboard. Undo the four screws at the back, flip the keyboard over making sure it doesn't fly open as you're doing so, then pull the top bezel off by hinging it towards you away from the screws. You will feel it give and then you can simply pull it off and set it to the side.

 

Next, remove the old cable. This is a very simple process, just unclip it from the six-pin header on the internal PCB and undo the screw holding on the ground/shield wire that's attached to the keyboard assembly. You will then need to pull up on the little plastic cable retaining thingy next to where the cable exits the case; it just pulls away from its mount in pins. Pull straight up until it clears the pins, then wiggle it off the cable. Once that's done, just feed the cable through the hole.

 

This step may hurt some people, but the old cable is useless so we might as well use part of it to make our lives easier, take your wire cutters and cut the cable on the internal end about 10cm. away from the internal six-pin connector. While you could get away with a shorter cable, this makes installation and opening the keyboard in the future much easier. Once you have cut the cable, peel away grey/beige insulation from the outside and, if needed, the thin metal layer covering the cables. You should be left with four exposed wires; in my case, there was a white, yellow, green, and red wire, as well as a thicker black one. Now, strip about half a centimetre of insulation from the end of each of these wires so that you have a nice surface to solder to. The wire inside may start to fray, so try not to maneuver it too much; it won't matter once it's soldered.

 

This is a great time to flash your Pro Micro. Here's an excellent guide which shows how to do so:

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?t=8448

You will need your Pro Micro, obviously, as well as a micro USB cable and your v1.12 HEX files from earlier. Make sure you are using the ATMega32U4 file! Once that is done, we can move onto soldering your Pro Micro onto your keyboard.

 

Before we solder, we have to figure out which cable is which. Thankfully, since IBM colour-coded them, it should be easy, right? Well, no, not exactly. Not all cables are created equal, and there is no "one colour means one pin". To figure out which cable goes where we need to use a couple of pinouts to help us:

Spoiler

Image

kbd_connector_ibmterm.png.7641a612be932b9ed9c6eebfe850f15d.png

Note, this ^ connector is what you would see on the *plug* side, not the cable side. Mirror it to get the pinout for the cable.

Finally, although I don't have a picture of it, here's a good description of the pinout of the 6-pin header on the internal PCB:

Quote

looking at the side of the board, the pins look like so:

o o o
o o o

we can number them like this:
1 2 3
4 5 6

then 1 and two are unconnected, 3 will be 5v, 4 clock, 5 ground, and 6 data.

You can then double-check which cable is which by confirming that your pinout matches what is shown on both the quote above and the terminal plug pinout (again, remember that the pinout is for the plug on the PC, and that your cable will be the mirror opposite of it).

My Pro Micro has the same pinout as the one in the picture in the spoiler above, so I have it easy. Yours will probably have a similar pinout to mine, but it goes as follows:

VCC on your cable segment goes to VCC

GND on your cable segment goes to GND

PE (the black cable that screws into the keyboard assembly) on your cable segment goes to the second GND

Clock on your cable segment goes to 2

Data on your cable segment goes to 3

 

To test, you can plug your cable into the PCB on the keyboard and use a multimeter in continuity mode to ensure that you have the right labels on your cables. Once you are 100% certain they're correct, go ahead and put some masking tape with labels on them, just so they don't get mixed up when soldering.

 

Now you can solder your wires to your Pro Micro. I put my wires through the back so I'm soldering to the side with all the hardware on it, not the blank PCB side. It doesn't matter that much, all it really affects is the orientation of your micro USB port when your keyboard is all assembled. It will still mount in the same way.

 

Once everything is soldered, you're done with the hard part! Now it's time to do some case modification. Take the little cable clampy bit you had earlier that mounts on the two pins on the bottom half of the case and holds the cable in, you *must have this* to mount the Pro Micro. At this point, you will also need to grab your Dremel and/or file (I recommend both; the Dremel for the cutting and the file to smooth the cuts a bit, as well as squaring them off).

 

You're cutting about two milimeters of plastic and should end up with a very thin wall of plastic for your Pro Micro to be seated and glued into.

This is what the finished product should look like

Spoiler

IMG_20191120_185732.thumb.jpg.c1a7227dcff2d36d0609da60d9c89dd6.jpgIMG_20191120_185735.thumb.jpg.c481e9543155d23300595af3a6a21319.jpgIMG_20191120_185739.thumb.jpg.b04f5c1d4483c49f8444f48a2d17268a.jpgIMG_20191120_185818.thumb.jpg.0e74b57912b3e92d1621015b8d45fbba.jpg

Now that you're done with the physical modification, you can test it out! Plug the connector on the Pro Micro into the keyboard PCB and screw the ground wire to the key assembly. Now plug your Pro Micro into your computer and, if you've done everything right, it should work just like a normal keyboard. There should be a green light on the Pro Micro when it's plugged into your computer.

 

If this doesn't work, go back through and make sure you've done everything correctly. If you can't find any mistakes be it in your wiring or the way you flashed your Pro Micro, reply to this thread with your issue and I can try and help you with it.

Section 4: Remapping

Spoiler

You may have noticed from testing the keyboard in section three that some keys will not work. Escape will not work, a lot of the numpad will not work, and the nav cluster as well as the keys above it will not work. This is because, although these keys are working, their functions are irrelevant in modern operating systems and are therefore not used...at all. In order to use these keys as they are on a normal keyboard, we need to remap them.

 

Thankfully, Soarer has done some wonderful work and made it super easy to remap keys. I have also made a remap file specifically for this keyboard to remap all the keys to what they would be on a regular layout. Once this is flashed, your layout will be completely standard with the minor exception of a split numpad plus key (though both keys where numpad plus would be have been bound to numpad plus, so it's really not a big deal).

 

Since this is completely customizable, you can obviously remap the keyboard to whatever you want and even have multiple layers, but for now, this works fine. It is very easy to make your own remap and layer files, so for this guide I will just show you how to do the basics and flash a remap that just make the keyboard work as one with a normal layout.

 

To do this, you will obviously need your keyboard. You'll also need a micro USB cable, the v1.10 tools linked in section two, as well as the remap.scb file linked in section two (it's the Google Drive link). I am using Manjaro Linux so this is how you would do it if you were running a Linux distro (doesn't really matter which one, just something modern and up-to-date). Windows is fairly similar but, again, there are guides linked in section two for how to do it if you were running Windows.

 

Anyway, start by downloading the v1.10 files, extracting them, and opening the tools folder. You will then need to extract the sctools_linux folder somewhere easy to find, preferably your downloads or documents folder. You will see a bunch of programs all starting with "sc", but the one we are interesting it in "scwr". This is the program that will allow us to flash the remap.scb file you downloaded earlier to the Pro Micro inside your keyboard. I would also move your remap.scb file to the same folder as your scwr program, as it will make things easier for the last step.

 

Once they are in the same folder, open up a terminal window and cd to wherever your scwr and remap.scb files are. Once you are in this folder, run this command (you may need to run it as root)


scwr remap.scb

It should automatically flash itself to your Pro Micro. Now, don't panic, but your keyboard might not work immediatly after it's finished. Just unplug and replug it and it should start to work just fine. You can now test and see if your layout works as intended; I recommend the online key tester linked in section two.

Section 5: Conclusion:

Spoiler

That wasn't too hard, now was it? And now you have a kick-ass Model M for under $50. Cool, eh? And you also learned some stuff along the way.

 

Now that you're done with the basics, you can experiment with other layers and custom key mapping. Again, there is documentation and keycodes in the v1.10 folder we keep coming back to, as well as a guide on how to properly format and make a remap or layer file.

 

Enjoy your keyboard and happy typing! Just try not to use it in a shared office space...

 


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SPECS:

CPU: Xeon X5650 OC'd to 4.4GHz @ 1.36V (courtesy of @XR6) Motherboard: Asus Sabertooth X58 RAM: 4x4GB G.Skill DDR3 1866MHz GPU: Asus RX 570 Strix Storage: WD Blue 1TB and a 128GB Kingston UV400 PSU: EVGA 600B Case: Fractal Design Define C Monitor: 3x Dell P2210 on a Steelcase Eyesite triple monitor stand Mouse: Logitech G403 Prodigy Wireless Keyboard: It changes, but usually Focus FK-9000 Mousepad: Steelseries QcK XL Headphones:  Sennheiser HD598SE

 

 

 

 

i use arch btw

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Great guide! I'm in the process of converting my own terminal Model M, but I've run into some issues with keys triggering more than one character to be sent to the computer, any way to fix this? I believe it could be the membranes inside being sandwiched too close or me having the incorrect order of membranes.

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Posted · Original PosterOP
7 hours ago, Pandonaut said:

Great guide! I'm in the process of converting my own terminal Model M, but I've run into some issues with keys triggering more than one character to be sent to the computer, any way to fix this? I believe it could be the membranes inside being sandwiched too close or me having the incorrect order of membranes.a

Have you done a bolt mod? If so, maybe loosen the screws a bit. If not, your board may require one. Some pictures of the back of the keyboard assembly (not the case) would help.


Quote me to see my reply!

SPECS:

CPU: Xeon X5650 OC'd to 4.4GHz @ 1.36V (courtesy of @XR6) Motherboard: Asus Sabertooth X58 RAM: 4x4GB G.Skill DDR3 1866MHz GPU: Asus RX 570 Strix Storage: WD Blue 1TB and a 128GB Kingston UV400 PSU: EVGA 600B Case: Fractal Design Define C Monitor: 3x Dell P2210 on a Steelcase Eyesite triple monitor stand Mouse: Logitech G403 Prodigy Wireless Keyboard: It changes, but usually Focus FK-9000 Mousepad: Steelseries QcK XL Headphones:  Sennheiser HD598SE

 

 

 

 

i use arch btw

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Posted · Original PosterOP

@Pandonaut

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?t=14772

This DT thread suggests there might be a stuck membrane. There are some suggestions on cleaning it. You may want to perform a bolt mod while you're at it.


Quote me to see my reply!

SPECS:

CPU: Xeon X5650 OC'd to 4.4GHz @ 1.36V (courtesy of @XR6) Motherboard: Asus Sabertooth X58 RAM: 4x4GB G.Skill DDR3 1866MHz GPU: Asus RX 570 Strix Storage: WD Blue 1TB and a 128GB Kingston UV400 PSU: EVGA 600B Case: Fractal Design Define C Monitor: 3x Dell P2210 on a Steelcase Eyesite triple monitor stand Mouse: Logitech G403 Prodigy Wireless Keyboard: It changes, but usually Focus FK-9000 Mousepad: Steelseries QcK XL Headphones:  Sennheiser HD598SE

 

 

 

 

i use arch btw

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