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Offline Input Nirvana

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Everything Kinesis Advantage
« on: Sat, 07 April 2012, 02:46:20 »
This wiki is an unformatted copy of a wiki formerly known as "IBM Trackpoint questions". It is formatted correctly and can be accessed in the "Kinesis Advantage - Everything you want to know but are afraid to ask!" wiki, which is the original wiki, just with a new name. I'm keeping this info here until such time that a copy is needed, or as an expansion of the original wiki.

Don't post anything in this discussion area, go to the other wiki.
Sorry for the mess. So head on over to the

"Kinesis Advantage - Everything you want to know but are afraid to ask!"


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NOTE: I do not monitor Geekhack anymore, to get ahold of me, PM at INPUT NIRVANA.
As I do more/come across relevant content for this project, I'll post as time allows. If someone wants access, contact me. At some point I was going to rename/move article to a new title "Everything Kinesis Advantage" so it shows up in global web search results. I hope the information contained is helpful. Good luck everyone!
NOTE: If any links are dead, please PM me (Input Nirvana) or post in the discussion pages. Thank you!

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The primary goal is to use a Kinesis Contoured keyboard and separate into 2 halves, full adjustability, non-staggered keys, integrated pointing devices, all to make the most comfortable and RSI-proof product possible. It must be high quality, aesthetically pleasing, and an item that is functional and nice enough that people would purchase if it were sold in stores. A well thought out and elegant finish product. In principle, it would be similar to a Datahand (2 fully adjustable halves, integrated pointing device). Too many people hurt just from using keyboards, and that's just crazy.

1-Datahand 2-Datahand being used 3-Datahand mounted on chair arms.
1 2 3

A-Split Kinesis Contoured B-non-split Kinesis Contoured being used C-Datahand chair mount kit to be used with Split Kinesis.
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It should be able to be used on a desk and/or attached to chair arms with 360 degree adjustments. I want to see if different pointing devices can be used, to match personal preferences. There will be some improvements to the keyboard, such as the elastmeric F-keys converted to key switches/key caps. Finally, possibly some upgrades like wireless and added functionality via electronic mods.

One option is to remove the 2 key "bowls" from the case and mounting them to adjustable arms onto each chair armrest. Or I may just cut the keyboard case in half and leave the guts enclosed. I need to integrate a pointing device that is small and allows the hands to stay in/near the home row keys. I'm now thinking a trackpoint is the best option.

I've opted to use a Mac 360 degree scrollball from a Mighty Mouse for page scrolling with the left index finger, a Trackpoint for cursor control with the right index finger, and the 2 mouse buttons with the left thumb. This way the movements alternate between hands.

A Griffin Powermate, touchpad, or modified (shortened) Rollermouse bar are options for alternate input devices to integrate with the keyboard. Pros and cons will be listed and considered.

Dampening the keyboard sounds by possibly coating the interior of the case with a rubber coating (like Dupli-Color or Hercules truck bed liner/noise dampening products), because there is so much case, and using O-rings the key caps to dampen the bottoming out downstroke, and also the topping out upstroke.

May use wood or metal keycaps for the home row, F-keys, or other special keys so you would more easily know by touch where your fingers are. Custom molding key caps is another option.

May connect a flash drive internally via USB to the non-split mobile version of this keyboard and store copies of any software that can be used on other machines at remote locations so internet access is not required to download. There are many 3rd party software programs, as well as self-implemented tailoring that allow for increased functionality/productivity for any keyboard/pointing device, I'll see what may be more applicable to this mod. Because the Kinesis Contoured has programability and ergo design, several of these programs have little or no value add.

An inline hardware keyboard layout using Colemak may be a good choice for the mobile version of this keyboard.

This keyboard is a Retrobrite project, and may also be a Rit-Dye project/vinyl-dye project, and possibly a sandblast-keycap project. (See links below)

Although I will try my best to build a keyboard that has little compromise, there is a learning curve, and will default this particular project to a proof-of-concept status if for no other reason than to keep it moving along and not drive myself crazy. There is also the chance this particular keyboard (although functional) may never be really complete, as it may evolve into a test-bed for different ideas. I have a second Kinesis Contoured that will be modified in a similar fashion, but not spilt into to halves. The idea being that it could be a "take along/portable" unit, or maybe sold at cost to "get it out there". These keyboards have a long life span, and Kinesis will service/repair them, so I don't want to destroy or permanently damage the overall structure of the keyboard. I want to use this modifying experience so that the next one will be able to be done in a day or two.

I'll document with pics so anyone else can see what there is to do/not to do. I couldn't find much info online when I looked, so I hope this helps someone as a guide or a reference source for these awesome keyboards. I want to provide information so others can have minimum problems. I'm also very open to ideas, questions, assistance, etc.

When the project is complete, I'll grade the 1) effectiveness and 2) quality of how each individual modification works and is implemented:

1)-Keyboard separated into 2 physical halves
2)-integrated trackpoint/mouse buttons
3)-integrated scrollball
4)-F key row conversion to switches/keys
5)-moving of some F key row keys to other locations
6)-adding keys in the thumb cluster area
7)-PS2-USB conversion
8)-adding of extra USB port(s)
9)-case cutting/modification
10)-chair attachment
11)-any added functionality (electronic, custom controller)
12)-sound dampening the key switches
13)-sound dampening the hollow case sound
14)-upgrade keys to PBT

Parts used with these projects with approximate budget values +/-):
-Kinesis Contoured Essential MPC keyboard (ebay $100) Advantage model (Kinesis $300/ebay used $200+)
-Trackpoint IV (PS/2) from IBM KPD8923 keyboard (ebay $20-40) Open to finding another trackpoint source? USB?
-"active" PS/2-USB converter for keyboard/trackpoint (PI Engineering "Y-mouse") ($25-50)
--EDIT--USB Trackpoint from Lenovo Thinkpad USB keyboard (must be modded) (ebay $50?)
-4 port USB micro hub ($5)
-360 degree scrollball from Apple Mighty Mouse (ebay $20)
-Hyperscroll wheel from Logitech RX1500 Hyperscroll mouse (ebay $25) Or a different model of HyperScroll?
-Touchpad or gestures pad ($25-100) Apple Magic Trackpad, Wacom, Ergo Touchpad, or a Mac gestures touchpad?
-Colemak keyboard layout (free)
-added switches, key caps, Blue Cube, electronic material misc. ($60)
-chair/armrest mounting ($100-200)
-Kinesis Contoured Triple Foot Switch ($100)
-wireless is unknown at this time
-inline hardware keyboard layout is unknown at this time
-alternative controller/firmware is unknown at this time

Cherry MX browns are what the keyboard uses, and Cherry reds (linear) are available from Kinesis for about $100 to change out the 2 keywells. There is a thought to use Cherry "ergo clears" a custom combination of brown springs and clear stems that are like browns with a more pronounced tactile feel.

Links for items that are used or notable to these projects (I'll update as project progress occurs):
This is the actual Kinesis Contoured keyboard that is getting cut in half. It has been previously modded:
Replacing mainboard/programming with hardware/firmware from this source:
Modernizing AT-PS/2 to USB:
Adding keys ("real" Function keys, etc.):
Chair/armrest will be important from an adjustability standpoint:
Possible inline hardware keyboard layout: EDIT-This link is no longer active, but if you "search" that actual link, it will locate most needed info.
Alternative pointing devices to possibly build into modification:
USB trackpoint (mod)-
Apple Magic Trackpad:
Ergo Touchpad-
Alphagrip (multi-directional buttons/integrated trackball):
Products to mount keyboards/input devices to chairs:
Other misc. tweaks:
Embedded layout concepts:
Some interesting keyboard/layout idea/notes:
Sandblasting key caps:
Making key caps from molds:
Others that have done some extremely cool work on a Kinesis Contoured:
One of several links I have of someone removing the main controller and using an Aikon/Limkb:
Concept keyboards:
And interesting combination of dual trackballs and dual footpedals:

As you can see from the listings above, GEEKHACK.ORG is a primo site as a source for mods, tweaks, and ideas.

Kinesis Contoured Models and HistoryCURRENT: (USB)
Advantage Pro MPC/USB-2 memory modules
Advantage MPC/USB-1 memory module
Professional-2 memory modules
Classic-1 memory module
Essential-0 memory modules (programability is greatly reduced)
Model #130, #120, #110, #100, Natural, Ergo Elan (non-U.S. model), Ergo Elite

The discontinued models (Essential, Classic, Professional) also were available as MPC (Mac/PC switchable) models that had a Mac ADB plug and switch and dual legend Win/Mac function keys. Model #130 came with no sticky keys. All models can have the memory upgraded/downgraded with either 0, 1 or 2 memory modules. Models #100, #110, #120 came with expensive 2 shot (doubleshot) key caps and had the indicator lights at various places on the keyboard rather than the more recent keyboards with 4 lights in a row in the center. #100 had a slightly different case design, and the white keyboard and keys had black legends/logos instead of blue. Dual legended keycaps are available with Qwerty/Dvorak as an add later. The only difference between the Advantage and the Advantage Pro is the silver top case of the Advantage Pro is a black case that is spray painted silver, the Pro has a tiny hidden switch in the thumb cluster to prevent accidental programming, and comes with 2 memory modules instead of 1.

The main controller PCB is the same since 2003.
Firmware is v3.2 from about 2003
On the mainboard the 2 keywell connectors were turned around starting at serial #60,000.
The USB versions of the keyboard started at serial #50,000. Technically, the current keyboard mainboard is still PS/2, with a daughterboard active PS/2>USB converter. Only the firmware changed, the actual mainboard is the same.

Current goal is a combination of these 3 photos (caseless, separated, extra "real" keys, also note that every mod has a pointing device):

Keyboards that are conceptually inspirational for these projects
Several keyboard options that are very ergonomic by either being split, contoured, layout, programmable...

(LEFT) The Kinesis Freestyle is split, with rubber domes, USB, and is currently manufactured. ($90-$150 new, $40-$90 used)
(RIGHT) The Kinesis Evolution is split, with mechanical switches, came with 0, 1, or 2 touchpads, PS/2, and is no longer manufactured. (was $400-$500 new, $50-$300 used)
The issue with both of these is that the keys are staggered (not ergonomic enough).

The Utron, split, very interesting key layout, symmetrical staggering, slightly smaller than normal key caps, and Topre-like key switches. ($550 +/- Asia only)

Typematrix, sleek and portable, shares some similar key layout ideas as the Utron, and embedded extended numeric keypad, rubber dome. ($90)

The Maltron, which uses Cherry black switches, non-programable/no macros. comes in several models (one handed, etc), hand wired in the U.K. complete with astronomical price tags ($500-$800)...

A proposed layout that has been circulating the web for a couple years.
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The Humble Hacker, (non-production keyboard) a real programmers programmer keyboard which has taken many features into consideration, with programmability, multiple layers, remapping...

The Key64, (a non-production keyboard) that is minimalist in design, uber-ergo, and is programmable to the hilt...
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The ErgoDox, a Geekhacker project...obviously inspired by the Key64, while also being split, (non-production board at this time)
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And then you have this truly unique keyboard solution in a class all its own, the Alphagrip, a quality built keyboard with integrated optical trackball which allows you to not be tied to sitting in a rigid position at your desk, and is easily portable (about $100 new)...I have one of these, and it is SUPER-ergonomic. The same old keyboard/posture rules don't apply. Can't believe the whole world isn't using these yet, the Alphagrip makes perfect sense, perhaps just ahead of it's time. It's excellent for gaming, the thumb-trackball is a joy, and your hands don't move anywhere when typing.



(LEFT) The Essential controller PCB with AT connector (white case circa 1998-2002??, KB132PC S/N#32066E)
Notice there is no memory in the slots labeled U2 and U3 in the upper right corner of the board, the 2 key board halves are unplugged from black connectors labeled J7 (left-you can still see the edge of the PCB an inch away) and J2 (right), the 6 wire power cable is already disconnected from the white vacant plug on the left side. It seems to have a 7 wire capability.
(RIGHT) The Model 130 Essential (130EM S/N#30317EM) controller PCB. Note the lack of the 4 resistors for the LEDs on the bottom center. Power is brick-orange connector at the top middle. No memory in slots.

Compared to the Advantage with USB connector (black case circa 2008, KB500USB-G S/N#80548UB). Nothing disconnected, there is one memory chip in the U2 slot.

(LEFT) The USB pcb board on the bottom of the case (the Essential does not have this). Is this just a PS/2>USB converter???
(RIGHT) The Mac-PC ADB pcb board on the bottom of the case on the Model 130 Essential. (ADB plug-in, Mac/PC switch, reset button) Per Kinesis: If you remove this pcb, the keyboard will operate in "PC" mode only. BUT, I have not confirmed this.

Essential left side keyboard half. The trackpoint will go in the 4 key intersection (between the 2nd-3rd switches down/1st-2nd switches to the left, from the right side-EXCEPT OPPOSITE on the right keyboard half). Sorry for that, this was the picture that was taken :) The space between the switches is 1/4" x 1/4" at the tightest point. I felt better AFTER I wiped the dusty mess with alcohol. Yuk:

The right keyboard half rear view:

The trackpoint will be mounted 2-3 down/1-2 from the right side, pretty much the center of the picture. The PCB "fingers" are not flat, nor on the same plane. I need to make certain there are no traces located on the other (unseen) side or in any possible PCB "layers" in the way of the trackpoint hole that will need to be made. Otherwise..a lot of jumper soldering. The IBM KPD8923 keyboard has a Trackpoint IV.

Things on my mind:
This unit needs to work with USB on a Mac. It's a PS/2 keyboard and trackpoint will be PS/2. A Pi Engineering Y-mouse will be used for computer connection.
I remember reading about Trackpoint drivers for Mac.
Cut 1 corner off 4 keys (Y-U-H-J).
Where to put the 2 or 3 trackpoint mouse buttons? (Under right thumb key cluster?)
Will scrolling work? If not, should a scroll wheel be installed on the left keyboard half? Logitech Hyper Scroll wheel looks interesting and is Mac friendly.
Wireless connection to computer would be nice.
Pitch, yaw, roll, height, extension armrest attachment after electronic functionality tests are passing.

1) Install Trackpoint, then mouse buttons
2) Desolder board connections for separation
3) Add real key F-keys row to each keyboard half (F1-F12, and the 6 other keys)
4) Connect new wire loom (50 leads) from controller to each keyboard half
5) Decide on scrollball, Hyperscroll wheel, touchpad...
6) May add some non-Kinesis keys?
7) Build holders for each half (main keyboard, thumb keys, mouse buttons)
8) Chair-arm attachments

If this goes well on this proof-of-concept board, I'll do the same thing to my Contoured Advantage and have a few less problems (USB conversions, blah blah).

I - N - T - E - R - M - I - S - S - I - O - N...I


If you've sifted through this far, you deserve a break. Enjoy, and keep both hands on your keyboard. :)


A few issues with the keys alignment, spacing, and height to determine the Trackpoint height:

Keyboard is apart, trackpoint just needs to be disconnected from power cable. This is definitely the finest rubber dome keyboard I own. If you've never seen a trackpoint out of it's it is. You'll see there is a PS/2 female plug on the trackpoint logic board (silver square lower left) so you can hook up another PS/2 mouse in addition to the trackpoint. The trackpoint dimension is 7/8" from the top or the red nubbin down to the top of the stress unit (black surface with blue line). The 2 mouse buttons are nice micro switches, not contacts on traces. One button is up so you can see the switch underneath:

The following are a few pics so you can see the placement and the sizing for the hole relative to the switches. Gotta get another rubber cap, this one is crusty:

Attach a flat PCB onto a curved PCB base?:

Plan the trackpoint mounting, and the 4 keys that need the corners nipped off, then to the mouse button placement. The adding of the pointing device, and separating the two halves are definitely the most important aspect of this project. Adding keys, removing the case, etc, is just bonus. The fingers not leaving the home row is the closest this Kinesis will get to a Datahand form in principle.

Trackpoint/Button layout:
I'm thinking the original spot for the TP (YUHJ) is too high (far away) from the only place I can put the 2 buttons (see white piece of paper in photo) which is under the right thumbpad. I have a mens large size hand (when buying gloves). The stretch from under the thumbpad to the YUHJ location requires my hand to adjust, and stretch uncomfortably:

Now, I'm considering putting the TP at the HJNM location (1 row lower). It might be more difficult, as it looks like there might be some traces on the PCB in the way. There is also slightly less space between the keys. I may mount the TP to a piece of 18 gauge metal (like it was in the donor board, and attach to either side of "the bowl".

The 2 mouse buttons are about 1 mm larger in width than the existing hole in the case at the thumbpad. I'll cut the existing hole lower, then file the width till the mouse buttons fit. I've seen on the Korean sites the quality they put into their case mods, I'll really try to do the same. One of the two screws will attach to the thumpad PCB, the other will need an epoxy extension. One of the four thumbpad standoffs will be lost, I'll need to do something to attach that corner, maybe use a block that pushes from the back of the case.

I've removed the power cord from the donor board (single to split ended double PS2-PS2 keyboard & trackpoint). I'll replace the Kinesis AT power cord with a USB cord. I'll use a Blue Cube (and deconstruct it so it can be integrated with the keyboard controller) to convert the keyboard from PS2 to USB, and an active PS/2-USB for the trackpoint USB conversion. The Kinesis keyboard has 6 leads, a couple are for the RJ-11 connector for optional foot switches.

The 13/64" trackpoint hole is made. The trackpoint fits height, angle, and overall location (HJNM). Unfortunately, there is a trace or two that are in the way, so 2 jumpers will need to be soldered to reconnect the matrix. Obviously, the trackpoint location is fairly non-negotiable. The trackpoint physically fitting is the crucial milestone. If it didn't fit elegantly, the project probably would have been scrapped. Note in the pic with large hole on the key cap side, the hole is actually higher than the intersection point. I did this because the keys tops are not on center (up and down-wise, not side to side-wise) Also, the hole is pushed towards the J key. You will see the J key is of a different profile that the "standard" keys:

Soldered the 2 jumpers (needed when the trackpoint hole was made) and tested. Everything in the keywell works great.


I'm adding an Apple 360 degree scroll wheel from my mouse in the thumb key area in the vacant corner notch above and to the left of the key switches on the left hand (see pics below). It seems to fit almost perfect (and looks like another key). Plenty of room in the half Contoured case for the mouse logic board. Scrolling with the left index finger or left thumb, mouse cursor control with right index finger on TP without leaving the home row. Thinking about using more of the Mighty Mouse, and having a 3 or 4 button "mouse" functionality built into the Contoured, instead of just a 2 button that comes with the TP. Plus, when that mouse is connected, you get all the Apple functions (in Mac OSX) to customize easily in the system preferences on the TP buttons and Rollermouse buttons. Of course there are a variety of 3rd party sources for added functionality with pointing devices available. I would also love to use the buttonless aspect of the Mighty Mouse (see green conductive traces on inside of mouse shell). I used my Mighty Mouse for the parts since I much prefer using my awesome Contour Designs Rollermouse anyhow, and I see Mighty Mice on Ebay for $15-$20 shipped. Also, I'm just not a big mouse fan:


Cutting 6 square holes into the metal backplate that was used for the elastomaric Fkeys, and mount Cherry switches and real Fkeycaps. The plate will fit right in again, and very little flex.
F key metal plate, filed the holes square and put the switches in place, which will also be hot glued.
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F1 bright down
F2 bright up
F4 track back
F5 play/pause
F6 track forward
F7 mute
F8 volume down
F9 volume up

I - N - T - E - R - M - I - S - S - I - O - N...II

That really is one hot squirrel and keyboard. I didn't know coaster squirrels took showers. I guess that explains their very soft and luxurious pelts.
I often wish I was a squirrel. He looks SO darn happy! Just look at his expression!



6 of the keys located in the top row in addition to the 12 F keys (ESC, KEYPAD, PROGRAM, PRNT, SCROLL, PAUSE) are being relocated to more ergo friendly and convenient locations around the thumb clusters. I'm adding mouse buttons that should be in the most convenient location. These are some possible positions for the keys:

LEFT KEYBOARD-ESC key upper blue, Program key lower blue (recessed), 2/3 mouse buttons lower blue/white/blue (recessed), note scroll ball
RIGHT KEYBOARD-Keypad key upper blue, Scrl lk+Prnt sck+Pau lower 3 blues (recessed), note red trackpoint
Here is what the added key layout should look like:

On the right keyboard half, you can see a light, curved line top to bottom, just to the left of the keys, estimating where I want to final cut each half of the boards.
This what I may do for the 3 keys mounted under the thumb cluster:
Pretty much a flush-mount for the 3 keys that are rarely used. May get some of these low-profile, non-marked key caps.

Having keys moved out of the keywell bowls or thumb clusters is counter-productive. Note the penciled in square in the next pic and the case next to the keywell showing the part to be cut out, then the keyswitch test fit without keycap and with keycap, and finally the actual mock-up with a blue key to show the new location. I decided these would best be "keypad shift" (Fn) keys, that act the same way as pressing the footswitch to activate the 2nd layer or keypad, but not toggle it on like the KEYPAD button in the top row does.

Rear view of added switch. Now that I added the 2 keys, need to cut the case to allow for the moved keys. Since the 2 added key switches aren't soldered to the pcb, they will be additionally secured with hot glue (same as the new 12 F-keys). Note the 1X1 light key and the 1X1.25 royal blue key.
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Note the blue key, it is in the right key well. I have 2 key caps that have the top angled to follow the tops of the other keys.
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2 keys added under the SHIFT keys. They are also the KEYPAD from the footswitch, so they are momentary, not toggle. So they function as the Fn key would accessing the second layer, all Kinesis native. Photos show the switch wiring going to the FS2/GND positions on the main controller board Molex plug. There are 3 foot switches possible and three foot switch wires to the main controller, FS1, FS2, FS3. By tapping off the connection on the Molex, you can retain using a foot switch, AND have keyboard access to those functions once additional keys/switches are installed. Since they are 'piggy-back' on the existing controller, all same features are available as would be with the foot switches, nothing is lost.

The Kinesis keyboard matrix has "hidden" or "unused" spots that can be put into service. There are 4 as part of the two keywells, and 4 as part of the thumb clusters. A caveat on the 4 in the thumb clusters: 2 are completely remappable, but the other 2 are duplicate 'RETURN" and "FORWARD DELETE" keys, and the existing "RETURN" and "FORWARD DELETE" keys will also be remapped. So you can add 6 key locations, and if you choose to, can also add the 3 foot switch connections as keys, for a grand total of 9 fully remappable keys.

There is a chance that there are 2 more available 'hidden keys' in the matrix that holds the F-key row. More information will be posted once this has been verified/disproved.

Here are 6 added keys (circled in red):
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See this article for more pics and info:
Adding extra keys to your Kinesis Advantage


Trial fit all the components to insure they will fit into the keyboard after it is cut in two.
(L) It has the 4 green LEDs on the thumbkey PCBs, not the main controller PCB. This makes the split easier since I don't need to move the LEDs now.
(R) It also has a small PCB that has an ADB plug (blue tape), Mac/PC selector, and another button on the underside with the power cord:

Desoldered main controller and discovered the option to have the keyboard controller in one case half is not a problem! The case assembles with room to spare. First, the case will be cut in half equally, with the option to do some additional case modding later:

I have all Contoured parts, trackpoint, 4 port microhub, and Apple Mighty Mouse pcb inside the keyboard case. TONS OF SPACE inside the case for the new logic boards, even after it is cut in half:

Everything attaches to the top case, the bottom case is not needed for the keyboard itself, except for placing the keyboard on a desk or whateva. The plastic is cut with a slow speed, small tooth, thin blade for cutting "Laminates" to prevent melting and chipping/cracking. I want a perfectly straight and finish line, that's more difficult to achieve. Later, the case will have more cut out of the middle section, but for now, I'm just bisecting it. The case work will involve some fine finish filing of the two enlarged openings for the F-keys, and the new holes below the thumb keys for the mouse buttons, etc.

For cutting the various plastics, a "Laminate" cutting blade produces the best results. This is if you are using a powered cutting tool. The edges of the plastic are perfectly smooth and are of finished quality. I'm starting to file the holes in keyboard case. IT LOOKS GREAT! It's very easy, and has bolstered my thoughts on how the finished keyboard will look. Filing is easy, fast, and you can do anything except "un-file" so go slow. I also realized I can just hand file the key caps that the Trackpoint will be touching. Easier, safer, better results.


I'm at the beginning of the wiring stage and I want to see if I am able to eliminate the Mac-PC ADB board before I start the assembly. I am starting to test as much as I can to see what the small pcb affects. There are no ICs on it, just a couple switches. After consulting with Kinesis, they stated it is possible to wire directly into the main pcb and bypass the little Mac-PC port/switch board. But doing so will allow the keyboard to only operate in PC mode.

I installed the original components and placed all the added components in their actual places with the bottom keyboard case attached to insure it all fits. It does! Now I can see what needs to be done for the final sculpting of the keyboard case. Then I will secure the added components, pop in the last couple key switches and hot glue, modify the 4 port hub, and start wiring. I am currently making a wiring diagram. The left hand module will be a tight fit with the wiring and the main controller. I still need a Blue Cube, PS2-USB adapter for the trackpoint, and the 18 additional key caps.

WIRING: I want to change out the 4 black female connectors on the main controller, or find the matching male connectors. Also the thumb clusters are soldered directly with ribbon cable, which I would like to change to connectors. I want to be able to have the components be swappable.

Latest physical configuration:
6'-9' USB cable to a 4 port micro hub removed from it's plastic case and installed into the controller housing. Each port used with: 1)-keyboard via disassembled Blue Cube (thanx ripster), 2)-Mac mouse scroll ball, 3)-track point via PS/2-USB converter, 4)-gesture/touchpad or leave as an open USB port. I'll cut off the male USB plug and hardwire the port into the keyboard. I thought about removing the USB plugs and hard wiring, but at this stage that would prevent easy changes, or if something fails...etc. Still thinking about using a Logitech Hyperscroll wheel. So far, using the 4 port hub, I have had a Kinesis Contoured Advantage, Mac Mighty Mouse, Rollermouse with trackpoint connected all working properly for months. Hopefully subtracting the Rollermouse and adding a Hyperscroll wheel or gestures pad will still work electrically. Maybe later a mod can occur where the laser from the mouse is disconnected, etc...

This is a 1.1 USB hub. I dunno if there is a need for a 2.0.

I think a Logitech RX1500 mouse with Hyperscroll might be an experiment on this keyboard, but probably most likely on the non-split version of this keyboard. Too bad there isn't room for a scroll wheel between 2 keys (between "F" and "G" on QWERTY) which would be ideal. This particular Hyperscroll version allows you to depress the scrollwheel to spin freely or have notched scrolling. Logitech also makes another version Hyperscroll that uses a button next to the scroll wheel to change the scrolling properties.
If you haven't tried a Logitech Hyperscroll wheel, you're missing out. They're a slick option. I wanna stick one in my uber-awesome Rollermouse.

Contoured programability:
The Contoured is no slouch with the programming options. It has 86 physical keys, 43 on each side, the board is symmetrical. All but 2 keys can be re-mapped and there is a second layer of keys making a total of 168 key actions. The two keys are "keypad" and "program" that can't be changed for obvious reasons. The board also allows for macros, sticky keys, and foot switches. Even with all that, there seems to always be something more that's wanted. For instance, the Contoured has an on board Dvorak layout. Great, but I want an on board Colemak layout and I may want the board to go with me to remote locations, and I may not be able to have Colemak at a software level at the remote location. For this, and other reasons, there needs to be even more programability. There is a possibility that additional physical keys may need to be added to the existing matrix.

It's been a long time to get to this point:



There are 11 different sizes, shapes, and pitch of keycaps of a total of 68 keys, not counting the very top row of rubber F keys of course. Keys are white or black just like the case, with the 8 home row keys being blue.

Older Kinesis Contoureds had expensive ABS doubleshot keycaps (RIGHT keycap in pics) the side walls (skirt) of the keycaps are shorter than the current ABS non-doubleshot keycaps (LEFT keycaps in pics). You can tell from the side that the wall height is different. When typing, I think there is less of an "open area" for sound to reflect in (like a bell), and therefore slightly quieter when you bottom out/spring noise being amplified/reflected. Also, the doubleshot keycaps are thicker in some areas. These were only available in white (models #100, #110, #120 during the mid-90's). They are very nice feeling without the raised legends and much cleaner in appearance. The surface is textured and feels 'grippy'. Note the close-ups for detail (also the second dvorak legends). Possibly consider Rit dye.
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Here keycap details are shown:
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Note rows P5 and P6 are different. On an Advantage model, these two rows use the same key caps. Kinesis originally use doubleshot keycaps, then switched to singleshot to cut costs. The single shots appear to have 2 different key sets, with slight differences in finish size of the caps. Kinesis did not change the specifications. The differences are from different companies making the key caps. So there should be 3 slightly different key cap sets.

Key caps are generally available as ABS, doubleshot ABS, and PBT. Regular ABS being the most inexpensive. PBT is a much longer wearing key cap, and ABS doubleshot allows for the legends to be a second plastic that is injected, so the lettering is not a decal or applied on. There is the option of getting replacement keycaps that are different colors, blank, engraved, and from different material. As of January 2012 this is on going: Kinesis Advantage key cap replacement

- When I list the symbols, I used both the unshifted and shifted symbols for that key, just to make it easier to see.
- The "International Key" produces §± in the U.S. but has \| symbol repeated on the key like the actual \| key.
- The legends are based on U.S. and QWERTY. The important information is the actual key caps that are needed, not the legends...they are just for reference.

ORDERING INFORMATION (Signature Plastics option):
A Kinesis set (with cylindrical instead of spherical home keys):

[*=left]10 DCS row 1 1x1..........1 2 4 5 6 7 9 0 Home PageUp
[*=left]12 DCS row 2 1x1..........Q W E R T Y I O U P 3 8
[*=left]*12 DCS row 3 1x1........A S D F G H J K L ;: End PageDown
[*=left]18 DCS row 4 1x1..........Z X C V B N M ,< .> /? `~ \| Larrow Rarrow Uarrow Darrow [[ ]]
[*=left]4 DCS row 5 1x1............CTRL ALT/OPT Command/Win (the 4 keys at the top of the thumb clusters vary in function depending on OS used)
[*=left]2 DCS row 1 1x1.25.......=+ -_
[*=left]6 DCS row 3 1x1.25.......Tab \| CapLock '" Shift Shift
[*=left]2 DCS row 4 1x2 (turned vertical) (NumPadZero).....Enter Delete
[*=left]2 DCS row 4/4 1x2 vertical (NumPadEnter).....Space Backspace

To have the 8 home row keys as the original 'spherical' keycaps:
- Only 4 DCS Row 3 1x1..........G H End PageDown
- Add 8 DSA Row 3 1x1...........A S D F J K L ;: (these may be a "Deep Dish" key cap)
I disregard the "homing bump" option for the index fingers when using the spherical keys options (see DSA sheet)

A tactile homing "bump" or "bar" can be used on the index fingers of the home row if the spherical keys are not used. Hardly required since the keywells mostly guide your fingers to the correct locations:
- *Only 10 DCS row 3 1x1.....................................A S D G H K L ;: End PageDown
- Add 2 DCS row 3 1x1 with "bump" or "bar".......F J

These key caps are available as ABS or PBT (PBT is a nicer plastic). Doubleshot key caps are also available.
The last choice is color.

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The same exact key caps with the taller skirt (Filco/Costar). Items in red still have the SP designations because I don't know what Filco or equal part number is.
ORDERING INFORMATION (Costar/Filco/equal option):
A Kinesis set (with cylindrical instead of spherical home keys):

[*=left]10 row 4 1x1..........1 2 4 5 6 7 9 0 Home PageUp
[*=left]12 row 3 1x1..........Q W E R T Y I O U P 3 8
[*=left]*12 row 2 1x1........A S D F G H J K L ;: End PageDown
[*=left]18 row 1 1x1..........Z X C V B N M ,< .> /? `~ \| Larrow Rarrow Uarrow Darrow [[ ]]
[*=left]4 row 5 1x1............CTRL ALT/OPT Command/Win (the 4 keys at the top of the thumb clusters vary in function depending on OS used)
[*=left]2 row 4 1x1.25.......=+ -_
[*=left]6 row 2 1x1.25.......Tab \| CapLock '" Shift Shift
[*=left]2 row 1 1x2 (turned vertical) (NumPadZero).....Enter Delete
[*=left]2 row 1x2 vertical (NumPadEnter).....Space Backspace
To have the 8 home row keys as the original 'spherical' keycaps:
- Only 4 Row 2 1x1..........G H End PageDown
- Add 8 DSA Row 3 1x1...........A S D F J K L ;: (these may be a "Deep Dish" key cap)
I disregard the "homing bump" option for the index fingers when using the spherical keys options (see DSA sheet)

A tactile homing "bump" or "bar" can be used on the index fingers of the home row if the spherical keys are not used. Hardly required since the keywells mostly guide your fingers to the correct locations:
- *Only 10 row 3 1x1.....................................A S D G H K L ;: End PageDown
- Add 2 DCS row 3 1x1 with "bump" or "bar".......F J

Purchasing sets from Signature Plastics needs to be done in bulk since they are a manufacturer, otherwise the cost is prohibitive. Key caps can be purchased from a retailer AND also be customized with laser etching with legends or images/designs by a company specializing in keyboards like this: WASD KEYBOARDS.COM

As an interesting option, key caps can be made/replicated via a mold process, which is helpful for situations where you have custom profile key caps. Different colors, tranlucent, designs can be incorporated. Limited by your creativity. One of the nice benefits as noted in the following link, is that the key cap tops are made thicker, so there is a degree of sound deadening. Make your own caps


The mounting of the keyboard halves to each armrest is done with fully adjustable joints, rods and steel platforms. The same company made these kits for Datahand and Kinesis (for their Evolution keyboard). They used 4 u-joints that mount on 5/8" diameter round bars, made by Manfrotto of Italy, a maker of camera equipment (tripods, clamps, lighting stands, etc.).

The smaller rectangle is about 5" long with 2 armrest mounting holes 4" apart. There is a short 5/8" post pressed and spot welded to the plate. This mounts to the chair arm and the armrest on top. Looking at the 3rd photo of the unit assembled: The armrest is mounted onto the small attaching plate, which has a short mounting stud. On the stud there is the first u-joint which pivots 360 degrees on a vertical axis (yaw) on the post, and 360 degrees on a lateral axis (pitch). A 5/8" bar with a second u-joint is slid into the first u-joint, there is about 6" of shortening/lengthening extension that can be made. At the second u-joint, the u-joint can rotate 360 degrees on a longitudinal axis (roll) and the u-joint provides the other 360 degree pitch control. At that u-joint there is another 5/8" post that is attached to the keyboard mounting plate that rotates 360 degrees on the other vertical axis (yaw). All the adjustments are done with 2 knobs. Loosening the first knob controls the arm yaw, arm pitch, arm length. Loosening the second knob controls the keyboard mounting plate roll, pitch, yaw.

-Datahand Chair Mounting Kit (pictured)
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If you buy a Manfrotto camera platform on Ebay for $50 you will get the 4 u-joints and the 2 bars and (maybe) the 2 studs. The 2 steel plates (or can use 1/8" aluminum and thread the studs) are available at any home center for $10. Then you just need to make the armrest (hard backer, foam, 2 threaded inserts for the attachment screws, and a fabric/leather/faux leather cover maximum cost $40. $100 total, probably less.


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Inserting O-rings onto the stems of the Cherry MX switch key caps reduces the downstroke sound, upstroke sound, cushions the bottoming out (no more clicking sound), can reduce the key travel a little or a lot, and greatly improves the feel overall. On doubleshots or singleshots, the difference is profound. Depending on the quantity, and exactly what you buy, the cost will be roughly $5-$15 per keyboard. I've used 50A durometer nitrile and are very nice and may have an estimated 10 year lifespan as they slowly start to harden with age. There is also 40A durometer EPDM o-rings, slightly softer and a much longer lifespan. More recently, there have been some additional sources located for 30-60a durometer, and some various thicknesses so you can limit your key travel much more should you choose. I've only used one type O-ring, and though I'm sure there is a difference, I would think 90%+ is accomplished regardless of which O-ring you use.

Look at these threads for more detailed information as well as ordering information:
O-ring technical and ordering info.

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White cases and keys can be easily whitened to back to original by submerging in Ocy Clean and putting in the sun. The side view picture of a case that had the top half case whitened, and the bottom half still yellow. The keywell picture shows the doubleshot keys that had been whitened but before the case was de-yellowed (for comparison), the keys were the same exact yellow before whitening. The following link shows the Retrobrite process and has a couple links near the bottom of the article showing a similar process (easier and less involved) using just Oxy-Clean. De-yellow plastics info.

Currently the case is white and the keys are white with 8 blue keys, this is the standard color from Kinesis. There may be a color scheme change that will make the 20 added keys royal blue which keeps with the Kinesis colors. There may be a more dramatic change with the use of Rit or vinyl dye. Vinyl/Fabric coating info.

You can 'blank out' the existing black or white key caps with (approximately) 400 wet/dry automotive sandpaper, then some 600 wet/dry if you wish. The keys are made of ABS plastic. Different companies use different methods to put legends onto the key caps, and you need to know what method is used before you choose to start sanding. Kinesis has used 2 types of key caps. The earlier models 100, 110, 120 used doubleshot key caps, don't try sanding these! You can tell if the keys are doubleshot by looking at the underside...if you see two colors of plastic (white with blue or black) then the keys are doubleshot and you should not try to sand. Doubleshots came in white with blue or black lettering. If your keycaps are black with white lettering, they can be sanded. Or if they are white, but you don't see blue or black on the underside of the keycap, they can be sanded. The later models have the legends applied to the key cap, and can be sanded off. Sanding Kinesis key caps info.

The Kinesis has a unique layout primarily because of the implementation of two thumb clusters, as well as the matrix/grid layout. Further personal improvements can be made using alternate layouts (Colemak, Dvorak, etc), and the remapping feature that is built in. One interesting idea is to move a common letter to the thumb cluster (ie: "E" on the Maltron layout). Using keyboard layout analyzers and noting what is comfortable for you can yield very positive results.
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Various small form-factor keyboards use embedding to be more space/ergo conscience (see HHKB, Poker, Pure, Race, etc.)

Very powerful stuff for programmers:

This Geekhacker is using Paracord, Teckflex, and/or shielded composite rope to dress up cables. Sometimes modifying a cable with the plastic connector ends/heat shrink and others with cleaner heat shrink only on new plastic-less connectors. Could use it on the keyboard power cord as well for a unique look!
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On newer Advantage boards, would like to 'clean up' the 2 cables coming out the back by relocating the toroid inside the case and making the USB cable detachable with a 6 conductor wire. Then have the RJ-11 connection near the computer-end, just like the 'old style' PS/2 cables.

The Kinesis has 2 palmrests that self-stick onto the case. They are a thin foam with a fabric cover. A variety of sources other materials (memory foam, neoprene, imitation leather, etc.) can be used.



Feel free to copy and use this Kinesis Contoured pixel art some people from Geekhack have made:
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You can find these and more: http://

Here are some of the keyboards I've noticed on the web, some of these are heavily modified, some just dressed up...but they all inspire.

This guy keeps evolving his board. He built in a touchpad, changed to Cherry MX red (linear, lighter than black) switches, converted F keys to switches, added a dozen additional keys, AIKON controller, indicator lights and hand wired the entire keyboard. The Kinesis "Stealth Battleship", "Black Beauty", "Mogambo Mama", "The Mothership".
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Interesting keycap replacement (note the grey, shorter non-Kinesis keycaps)...

He got some additional wiring components from Kinesis and the base from a Comfort Keyboard...

Nice, I call it the Kinesis Pyramid...
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Kinesis color key swap!!! Note Ergo Touchpad on black keyboard.
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Custom laser keycaps from WASD Keyboards...
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A LOTTA color (paint, not dye)...
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Dye, (not paint) proposed Contoured color scheme from this HHKB. I've always really liked this keyboards look....

Integrating touchpads and other pointing devices seems to be a big add.
The first pic with the Apple Magic Trackpad at an angle is a near-perfect combo. It looks like it's in the way of the keys, but it's not.

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Here you can compare the 2 different sizes of the Ergo Touchpad on the Kinesis...

Even a Datahand gets an Ergo Touchpad...or a trackpoint (see white trackpoint stick under middle finger on left-hand unit)
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Another with a switch change, this time from standard Cherry MX browns to MX blues (clicky)...

This one put the F keys in the middle, with a built in touchpad/mouse buttons, very unique...

This is wireless, to be split into 2 halves with a pointing stick and touchpad EACH SIDE (note the RF module)...

Guess who? (scroll over to find out)

I believe I read this is a MIDI controller with a shoulder strap now...

OMG! Oh my god! OH MY GOD!
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A Kinesis clear/smoke case one-off:
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Neat! Too bad they won't do custom keyboards, but they will take suggestions :)

Best vacation surprise EVER (I've never been bashful about posting her) :
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This is just an extra easter egg for you that have made it this far (this one is a professional model, I didn't take this pic, and I don't know her)...
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Scratch pad for various miscellaneous ideas and thoughts

CONCEPT': Kinesis Contoured with a RollerMouse Free2. The rollerbar above the key clusters and the buttons/scroll wheel in the center. Pic is almost to scale.
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Pic of The Mothership, with some of my proposed uses for the extra keys to increase the functionality of the keyboard. Add a Griffin Powermate or possibly a smaller turning knob/buttons for a volume cluster installed just above the right thumb cluster next to the key well. Mostly the idea shown below is to have the modifiers available to both thumbs, add momentary KEYPAD (Fn) to both hands, convert the 18 rubber keys to 12 switches and move the 6 remaining keys elsewhere on the keyboard. PRT/SCRL/PAUSE are F13/F14/F15 on MAC. An idea for slightly larger keys (1.5? vertical) just outside the keywells by the T+G and Y+H for low use keys like the KEYPAD toggle and PROGRAM from the function row rubber keys, either one on each side or possibly double-stacked. This is just to offer a graphic example of possible ideas.

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Color schemes:
Black with red accents (red home row keys and 2 thumb cluster keys, or red F row keys)
Black with royal blue accents
Cover usb cable with a red Paracord
Black braided cable with red ends

(red keys computer simulation)
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I am really getting into the idea of a volume knob/multimedia controls being separate, like on this board (Dell RT7D30), and thinking if it can be added to a Kinesis (or maybe just a volume control knob only):
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A Kinesis Advantage with the serial number of #51,xxx still has the keywells without the cable ribbons...the keywells are attached with the pcb extending like a finger from the keywell.
A Kinesis Advantage with the serial number of #4x,xxx has the white ribbon cables.....

Flash drive to be hard wired into keyboard to show up as a drive. If keyboard is mobile, particular information will travel with board:
1-Kinesis User Manual & Quick Start Guide
*2-Document (text, photos, links) on that particular keyboards specific modifications
*3-Document (text, image) for default programming of extra keys
*4-Document (text) user defined for listing of current programming, macros, layout, sequential list of key presses for reprogramming after a memory clearing, etc. (read and write)
5-Folder with drivers and software for hardware/useful add ins for another computer
6-Document with links in .pdf format so links are clickable
7-Folder with pics of pretty girls for wallpaper, etc.

Kinesis Advantage cut into 2 halves | RollerMouse Free 2 | Apple Magic Trackpad | Alphagrip | Colemak
Evil Screaming Flying Door Monkeys From Hell                     Proudly GeekWhacking since 2009
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