IBM Model F AT

YEAR: 1981-198x
INITIAL PRICE: $600 in 1981 \ $1,697 in 2020

Model F:  Built to Last for Decades, Not Years

The IBM Model F keyboards not only used the best switches, the materials used in their production (well over 5lbs of steel and other metals) means they will be working as good as new when it’s time to pass it on to your grandchildren.  The problem…they just aren’t made that way any more.  The IBM Model F was discontinued in the 1980’s.  If you do find a Model F, it will be some combination of dirty, broken and/or expensive, requiring hours of work to get it working again!  

While the Model F was replaced with the cheaper and now easier to obtain Model M, the Model M made some sacrifices on build quality and tactile response, replacing almost all metal with plastic.  Out was the incredibly sharp and firm click of the Model F’s flippers making direct contact with its large printed circuit board.  In was the Model M’s tiny pivot plates hitting a rubber mat and underlying plastic membrane sheets with a relatively dull thud.  And again, if you want a vintage Model M that is considered to be of higher quality than today’s keyboards, then you are stuck in the second-hand market dealing with dirty, more likely broken and often expensive options.

But through the tireless effort, expertise, and support from countless Deskthority, Geekhack, and reddit community members, the IBM Model F design is being resurrected for the first time in three decades.  This effort will culminate in the release of reproductions of the IBM Model F keyboards.  Originally, these keyboards were part of a family of industrial strength keyboards designed for use in the banking and other commercial applications – so well made and reliable that some systems and their keyboards are still in use today.  The F62’s layout is a 30 year old design that the layout of nearly all current-generation compact 60% keyboards match.  The F77 most closely matches modern tenkeyless designs with 15 additional keys to the right side of the layout that can be used as either navigation or numeric keys.

Finally, a keyboard made in this century with more metal than plastic – a sturdy, heavy keyboard with buckling springs, which were later used in the legendary Model M keyboard that set the standard layout for every keyboard from that era to today.

How I restored my model F (video)