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Buckling Spring Keyboard Review - AT F and SSK

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AKIMbOís Model F on top and my new SSK on the bottom

Recently Iíve hit an amazing good luck streak and managed to get my hands on an SSK and joined AKIMbOís Model F tour. So I finally got my hands on buckling spring switches and Iím extremely excited. Since I tried out The_Beastís and Trentís SSKs in Chicago, Iíve been dying to own one of my own. And now? WISH GRANTED! Thanks GirlShark! (Yes, the GirlShark itself deemed me worthy to own its former keyboard. I bask in its glory :P.)

But seriously though, Iím happy to finally own an SSK and to try out the AT F. Iíve heard so many good things about both boards and I got to try them out side-by-side! And I hope everyone on the AT F tour will forgive me for keeping the board for a little extra time. Iíve been busy at work and havenít had the chance to write. But as the AT F tour rules state, I have to write a review. And so hereís what I owe you all: my thoughts on the IBM SSK and AT F buckling spring keyboards.

First off, for all you IBM fanboys, hereís a picture of the back of the boards.

The little sticker was orange. Iím not sure if that means anything. And the board is a two years older than me hehe.

Back of the F. Doesnít have the cool tag that the SSK has.

Like I said above, both the boards are in really good condition. Thereís not a lot of yellowing and both are very clean. Trust me when I say I know what yellowing looks like. I bought a Focus FK-2001 with yellowed caps. Iím happy to say neither of these are that yellow.
The SSK has no LEDs and has a little circular clear/silver IBM badge that seems to be a sticker or something drawn and then lacquered over with a clear coat. My board also has caps from an IBM Personal Wheelwriter; which explains some of the green text (Special shoutout to Parak for the knowledge bomb on where my caps are from!). I really love the backspace actually. The F has a little silver bage with ďIBM Personal Computer ATĒ printed on it. It also has green rectangular LEDs which are similar to the Dell AT101W. Overall the boards have a lovely retro look with very clean and nice, contrasting legends on the caps.

Unfortunately I donít have the nutdriver needed to take apart the SSK and I donít own the AT F so I will not even consider opening that up. However, Iím positive thereís a million pictures of them online and the GH Wiki has some cool pics.

The AT F has one piece reinforced caps. They look to be dye-sub PBT.

Bottom of the AT F caps

Top of the AT F caps

The SSK has two piece caps: a bottom with the stem and the top key part. Again it looks to be dye-sub PBT.

Bottom of the SSK Cap, separated

Top of the SSK Cap, separated

Bottom of the SSK Cap, assembled

Keyboard Macro Details
These guys are tanks. I think this F AT is three to five pounds while the SSK is maybe three pounds. The two actually feel very similar to me in regards to the weight. The SSK has the normal flip-out feet that most keyboards have. But the AT F has these spring-loaded rotational tabs that keep the feet out.

I love little mechanical things like this. I didnít even realize what they were until tonight when I started to fiddle with everything while I took pictures. They both have curled cables. The AT F has an AT connector obviously. AKIMbO then included an AT to PS/2 and a PS2 to USB connector. My SSK has a PS/2 connector but I think my motherboard doesnít recognize it because I canít get it to work. The bezel on the AT F is enormous, but no worse than the AT101W. Surprisingly though, the SSK bezel isnít bad and itís actually about the same size as my FC700R.

Typing on these keyboards
So first off I found some videos that show what each board sounds like. In the AT F video, which is the first video, my board sounds exactly like the first board he types on. And in the second video, my SSK sounds a little crisper and less springy but itís pretty representative of the sound.

I hestitate to make comparisons to MX Blues, Greens, or Whites since the Buckling Spring is just so unique. Itís just SO clicky. It kinda feels like 65g Blues on steroids or if Greens have bit more vibration. When the spring hits the barrel you can feel it reverberate a little and you know that the switch has clicked. Itís so authoritative. The actuation is a little rough though, definitely not as smooth as an MX Black or White switch. It kind of reminds me of Clicky White Alps, a little crispy. The actuation point feels like itís about where Alps switches are; towards the top of the travel. As you press down, you can feel the slight resistance as the spring bends and then it finally snaps against the barrel. On the rebound, there is a ping and I like it. In terms of actuation force, it feels about the same as 65g Blues. Oh and the layout is Winkeyless ANSI with the small enter so I really like it. There is no need for any adjustment from me.

Itís somehow springier than the SSK switches. They just feel so responsive and the spring constants seem to be higher or something. I think these are my favorite clicky switches. Iíve been saying for the entire time Iíve had the board that Iím extremely sad that I have to give this board up. Typing on it just feels so nice. The sound is so sproingy/pingy and the actuation feels a bit lighter and clickier than the SSK.

However, the layout has been driving me crazy. Thereís no winkey. Escape is where num lock would be on a full size board. The delete is a 1x space key. The function row is on the left and setup vertically, which completely baffles me. The CTRL is where Caps Lock is normally. The enter key feels odd, as if the spring is somehow less springy than the res of the switches so hitting enter can feel dull and flat instead of springy and vibrant. And the spacebar is probably three or four times as heavy, in terms of actuation, versus the rest of the keys.

With all that being said, Iíd buy one of these boards any day and figure out how to Teensy it to get a layout that works for me. And mod the spacebar to be lighter.

Final Thoughts
Someone make a project where they cut down an F to TKL or 60%. I would love you forever and might even consider giving up all my MX switches to go exclusively capacitive buckling spring. I LOVE typing this AT F and Iím sad to see it go. The build quality is amazing considering how old it is. The same thing with the SSK, itís twenty six years old and still looks almost new and works well with only one minor flaw. If you donít have a buckling spring board, youíre doing yourself a serious disfavor. Get one. Now.

Nice review!  The layout of the F can be changed to be quite close to ANSI, if you desire.  The boinginess of the F can get to be a bit much, but it can be quelled with the "floss mod" without losing that wonderful snap.  The F really is the ultimate tactile switch.

Good review, yes the F is lovely after changing the layout a bit.


--- Quote from: rknize on Thu, 23 May 2013, 21:33:36 ---Nice review!  The layout of the F can be changed to be quite close to ANSI, if you desire.  The boinginess of the F can get to be a bit much, but it can be quelled with the "floss mod" without losing that wonderful snap.  The F really is the ultimate tactile switch.

--- End quote ---

No. The boinginess is amazing and I love it so much. And how do you mod it to ANSI? I would want the small space bar and 2x backspace.

--- Quote from: sleepy916 on Thu, 23 May 2013, 21:42:47 ---Good review, yes the F is lovely after changing the layout a bit.

--- End quote ---

Thanks for reading my review! :D

Ohhhh myyyyy G______d!!! The model F sounds soooo nice! I can only imagine the stream of melody made by a pair of 100 wpm handed!


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