Author Topic: Building a modern PCB for the AEK/AEKII  (Read 182 times)

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Offline nerd05

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Building a modern PCB for the AEK/AEKII
« on: Sun, 18 February 2018, 19:53:39 »
A couple of years ago I embarked on a super messy project to modernize my Apple Extended Keyboard by taking an M0115 that was junked and restoring it, giving it more modern affordances, like USB and NKRO support. I basically desoldered all the components off the board, sanded all the traces off and rewired brand new switches by hand  with diodes in series.

This approach works, but it's quite messy, and not that reliable. I usually have to crack it open every few months to re-solder some wire or diode that came undone.

I've got a couple more AEK keyboards (one of which is a new old stock AEKII) and I've really been wanting to modernize them as well but I want to do it right this time.

To that end, I'd like to build a new PCB that is a drop-in replacement for the existing PCB on the AEK and AEKII. (note: this is for US layout; sorry ISO fans!)

A few improvements I can envision this PCB would have:
  • using a USB connector instead of ADB
  • diodes for the keys to allow NKRO
  • programmable firmware

I a single PCB will support both the AEK and the AEKII (the AEK has a bulkier case but the PCB appears to be the same dimensions and the keys are in the same positions)

I'm open to other options/improvements that we could include in this PCB if it widens the appeal.

Ideally I'm hoping there's someone out there with experience designing and building a PCB who is interested in this project. I've never designed a PCB before and it's very intimidating; in particular because it seems a bit difficult to find companies that will print a PCB as big as this one. I think there are some good KiCad projects to start from like hasu's 60% ALPS keyboard but I would feel a lot more comfortable if I was designing it with someone who knew what they were doing.

I think all we need to design for this project is the PCB itself; everything else would be transplanted from the original keyboard (plate, key caps, stabilizer clips, and bottom and top case. If we wanted to get fancy we could design USB connectors that go where the ADB connectors go, but I think for now we should focus on the PCB.

Is anyone interested in this?

Offline jdcarpe

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Re: Building a modern PCB for the AEK/AEKII
« Reply #1 on: Sun, 18 February 2018, 21:26:58 »
I know that Talking Tree has done some PCBs for people, especially if youíre looking to open source it.

Maybe add MX support, for a broader range of switches and keycaps that can be used? At that point youíre really just reusing the case, though. Iíd be willing to help with a plate design, if there is interest in adding MX support.

You would get programmability, and a USB connection. Iíd go with USB-C, being that itís 2018 now.

I think it would be cool to build a modern AEK, with maybe Kailh Box Whites and those new XDA Oblique caps there is currently an IC for...

Offline nerd05

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Re: Building a modern PCB for the AEK/AEKII
« Reply #2 on: Mon, 19 February 2018, 00:45:27 »
Interesting; I hadn't thought about MX support. The challenge of using MX switches I think might be finding key caps that are compatible; the AEK uses a slightly nonstandard layout; the bottom row keys have different widths, and the numeric keypad is laid out a wee bit differently.

As a long suffering ALPS enthusiast I do love the idea of people being able to deck out their AEKs with custom layouts...

And thanks for the tip on Talking Tree; I'll reach out.

Online TalkingTree

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Re: Building a modern PCB for the AEK/AEKII
« Reply #3 on: Mon, 19 February 2018, 05:37:53 »
For what I recall, the AEKII has wider left mods, so MX support won't just do unless someone provides a keyset for that.
That said, universal support is rather easy to achieve and I, personally, see no reason not to include ISO support which, by the way, only requires two extra pads.
I believe the GH80-3000 can be edited to achieve that.

Offline jdcarpe

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Re: Building a modern PCB for the AEK/AEKII
« Reply #4 on: Mon, 19 February 2018, 08:45:29 »
For what I recall, the AEKII has wider left mods, so MX support won't just do unless someone provides a keyset for that.
That said, universal support is rather easy to achieve and I, personally, see no reason not to include ISO support which, by the way, only requires two extra pads.
I believe the GH80-3000 can be edited to achieve that.

The only difference from a standard ANSI that I recall is the bottom row is 1.5-1.25-1.5-6.5-1.5-1.25-1.5, and the numpad doesnít use the 2u vertical plus. But you could always just include standard ANSI locations for the MX switch pads, like on the GH80-3000.

Offline Findecanor

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Re: Building a modern PCB for the AEK/AEKII
« Reply #5 on: Mon, 19 February 2018, 09:37:20 »
(note: this is for US layout; sorry ISO fans!)
ISO users are not using it because they are fans of the layout. **** off!
"Normal is the greatest enemy in regard to creating the new. To get around this you have to understand normal not as reality but as just a construct." -- Alan Kay
Daily driver: Phantom (Lubed Cherry MX Clear, Lasered Cherry PBT keycaps with Row A. Plastic "Frankencase". Custom firmware, Swedish layout)

Offline sleepybrett

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Re: Building a modern PCB for the AEK/AEKII
« Reply #6 on: Mon, 19 February 2018, 09:56:14 »
I'd be interested in discussing this project, I've been working on a pcb replacement for the ADB keyboard (alps, buy several of the switches are sideways. Was working on two layouts both to straight replace the pcb in the keyboard and also a 60% board for the caps.

Offline jdcarpe

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Re: Building a modern PCB for the AEK/AEKII
« Reply #7 on: Mon, 19 February 2018, 11:40:16 »
ISO support would be easy to include in a new PCB. It would only require a different switch mounting plate than the ANSI version.