Author Topic: $400 for Buckling Springs: do you go IBM or Ellipse? Here are my thoughts.  (Read 7855 times)

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Offline funkmon

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I just got a keyboard from XMIT, an F122 in a silent auction more trouble than it was worth to him. But, considering I paid substantially similar prices for my Model F77 and my F122 (the F122 had shipping, plus had to get a Soarer's converter from Orihalcon, so it did cost a bit more), I'm going to talk to those of us here who might not have Ellipse's reproductions, and who don't have an F122, and are in the market to wildly overpay for a keyboard.

If you want a Kishsaver or an F77 for the size saving functionality, your decision is made. Buy a repro, because the F122 dominates a ****ing desk. Here, you can barely even see the F77 in the far too large classic case behind an F122.

If you're worried about the lack of keys on the F77, you probably don't have to be. But, if you're a guy who uses an M122 and all them keys, don't buy an F77. Buy the F122 you maniac. The F77 makes you do weird **** like this. Yeah that's F5 on the split right shift. That's my life now.

Okay so now let's take a look at some things you guys might care about if you're properly on the fence.

Availability: Ellipse's keyboards are available right now. Kinda. Look they exist and that's what matters. It's not hard to get them, but at this time you may be waiting a few weeks. The point is, if you have $400 today and you want to spend it on a keyboard today, you can buy a repro and definitely have a keyboard.

The F122 is surprisingly difficult to find reliably. They sometimes don't even show up on ebay. There's one on eBay right now for $1200 (lol) and there's one people are bidding on that's now at $350. It's at $350 because I bid $350. Haha. But anyway, with some luck, you can get a Model F for $400-$500 right now, but you have to try.

Neither of these keyboards are what I would call particularly available, but I'm going to give the win to Ellipse here for having a guaranteed price and the keyboards existing somewhere.

Winner: F77 Repro

Build quality: This is difficult. The keyboards Ellipse is rebuilding are considered by many to be the best built keyboards of all time. Chyros I think unironically suggested that they could be used in the case of a bank robbery to stop a bullet. They weigh approximately 11 tons and are solid zinc magnesium alloy. Look at this photo. Look how thick that metal is. Itís solid ****ing metal. A slab of goddamn magnesium.

The F122, on the other hand, has a plastic case, but with a solid metal backplate.

The F77 weighs more and feels more solid. But, does it type more solid?

No. It doesnít. It feels worse. It feels rattly like an XT and a 4704. I have an F107, and my secondary keyboard at the moment is an XT. They feel rattly and slightly ****tier than an F122 and an AT, and Iím not sure why that is, but Ellipse has replicated that slightly rattly and looser feel. Also, there are some reports of some slight issues. I have had none, by the way. Before you say  ďhur durr thatís cause youíre using ****ty keys on the F77,Ē Iím using XT keys.

Iím going to say that the F122 is made better, but the F77 is constructed better.

Winner: tie

Repairability: Before I talk about this, Iím bringing it up because these keyboards either are no longer made in the case of the F122 or will soon no longer be made in the case of the F77. Probably. Who knows with Ellipse. Heís the boy who cried deadline. Anyway, these are keyboards worth hundreds of dollars. These should be a lifetime purchase. As a result, we need to know how we can maintain them if necessary, and how simple it is to do so.

The Model F122 is fairly repairable by F standards. Itís similar to the Model M in that regard, as the keys are surprisingly standard. BUT honestly itís fairly difficult to drop in replacement pieces if it breaks. While you can find a guide for repairing every single part of an F online, the problem is that you are essentially fabricating the repair parts or modifying existing pieces to use them. Thatís a problem.

Here, let me show you by way of example. I just picked up an F122 from XMIT on Deskthority. Hereís what I get.

Oh ****, the spacebar fell off. For those who donít know, the Model F spacebars are creations of Satan. The XT and ATs are longer than a ****ing Panamax ship and are impossible to reseat without disassembling the board. The F122 is built like a Model M. Easy. Except it uses a paperclip as a stabilizer wire. Itís incompatible with Model M spacebars and stabilizers. You have to bend your own wire, and then somehow increase the thickness for it to work with a Model M.

I found the spacebar in the package. Judging by the dirt, the keyboardís last owner had tried to fix the keyboard with a Model M spacebar, which is incompatible. XMIT hadnít noticed it was unstabilized, and the rough shipping kind of killed it. He shipped me a Model F spacebar shortly thereafter. Iím using it to type this right now.

But, you know what happens when your spacebar breaks on an F77? You go to Unicomp and request a spacebar for $5. DONE. Remember, Ellipse is one of us. He feels our pain. As a result, he sells repair kits, spare parts, and has made certain features of the keyboard, like the spacebar, easy to fix with readily available parts. He also has exhaustive manuals on fixing every single problem you could ever have with the board.

Winner: F77 and itís not close.

Usability: The F122 has more keys and is therefore more usable. It wins by 55 usabilities. Well thatís not quite it.

Okay the F122 comes with a weird protocol and a weird plug. Thatís a problem. You can program your own teensy or whatever or get Drake over on the Model M subreddit to make one for you for like $10, then you can use Soarerís converter software to use the F122. Most people are just going to be adding on $40 for an Orihalcon converter. Then itís plug and play, with fairly easy key remapping and little to do after. You remap the keys in notepad. EZ PZ

The F77 is plug and play. Works immediately. No problem. Unless you want to remap keys, and you sure as hell are because the damn thing has basically no keys. Hereís the problem. The new ones come with QMK firmware which requires you to go to some website or some **** and message a guy to get into a private trial in order to remap functionality, which require you to go to some different ass website and do **** that way. How about **** off no goddamn way? I had to find instructions on how to flash the xwhatsit firmware on the xwhatsit controller, then initialize that. The IBM capsense software that comes with that is very easy to use, I guarantee if youíre into mechanical keyboards you can use it, I promise, but it does require you to set voltage for your keyboard to start with. If they came with xwhatsit as standard, Iíd be much happier. Also by default they donít come with keys. rofl

The size is going to have to be up to you. I typically prefer more keys, but can do without the nav cluster, as itís basically just the base layer of the num pad. You can make macros and stuff on the extra keys on the 122, but you probably wonít use them. I have an incredibly small desk, so as long as my main key functions can be remapped to the base layer, Iíll typically value the size. I can do that on the F77, and it doesnít even impede my mousepad. On the other hand, sometimes it does get annoying switching on and off that numpad a lot. So itís going to depend on your priorities. Youíve seen the F122 on my desk in the beginning of this post. Hereís the F77.

Winner: F122 and itís not close.

Conclusion: well, I think itís a draw. For me, as a collector, I go with the F122 if the price is equal and I donít already have one. Iím content with having a keyboard sit in my keyboard closet and not get used just to know that I have it. If youíre not mentally ill like I am, and you want to use your keyboard, then I think it really is a toss up. Do you care about ease of repair? Do you want the smaller size or more buttons? Do you want to just buy a keyboard and not think about it too much?

Iíll tell you guys something, though. Iíve paid about $475 for my 2 F122s Iíve bought (after shipping and stuff), and $400 for my F77s. I have purchased 2 F122s, and 2 F77s. I happen to have gotten an F122 for free at one point, but thatís not important. I hope that shows you how much I consider the buy a toss up.

But whatís on my desk right now? Today?

« Last Edit: Wed, 31 March 2021, 01:13:24 by funkmon »

Offline funkmon

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I don't think I can recommend new Models F so unreservedly now. I had a litany of problems, but the software worked perfectly. Ellipse read my notes and put the old firmware on the keyboard. Thank ****. I can use Capsense. That QMK ****, I don't think so.

While my last F77 was in the standard case, the one most similar to the original 4704 terminal keyboards, this is my first one in the compact case. It's still heavy as sin, it's still a solid block of zinc, but it's shipped much less safely, and it came with damaged springs. I had to reseat the springs and bend them back into shape, and even replace one, which I weirdly have lying around (I own 30+ IBM buckling spring keyboards). I then developed some problems with some sticky keys. The barrels were damaged and I had to get some watchmaker screwdrivers out and essentially file down the inside of the barrels, and that's just to get the damn keys on it, which I've been saving for over a year by the way. That was a couple hours, but could have been days and returns and tons of issues if I wasn't that experienced with buckling spring boards. I saw the problems, knew how to diagnose them, and ways to fix. Someone new to buckling springs would have had a keyboard missing like 7 functioning keys.

The case is very roughly finished, and the supplied keys, while fine, don't quite have the shininess, or IMO, the exact feel, of the modern keys. They also, believe it or not, feel looser. The software, thank the lord baby jesus, is IBM capsense, so much easier to use than the last time I got one of these things last year and had to flash it back on after it came with QMK.

The large risers require a disassembly of the case, which is a pain in the ass as it uses some kind of screw known only to Martians or some ****. The metal back plate is heat treated though, and you can see that through the holes. Neat.

Offline timw4mail

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I haven't had any huge issues with my F77, just one foolish use of the wrong stabilizer that I had to remove using the paper and screw method.

I have the old style casing, though, so maybe the issues vary by the case setup?
Buckling Springs IBM Model F AT, New Model F 77, Unicomp New Model M
Clicky iOne Scorpius M10, OCN-branded Ducky DK-9008-C, Blackmore Nocturna, Redragon Kumara K552-1, Qtronix Scorpius Keypad, Chicony KB-5181(Monterey)
Tactile Apple AEKII (Cream damped ALPS), Filco FKBN91M/JB (Japanese Tenkeyless), Cherry G84-5200, Cherry G84-4100LPAUS, Datalux Spacesaver(Cherry ML), Redragon Devarajas K556 RGB, Newmen GM711, Poker II (Cherry MX Clear), Logitech G910 Orion Spark, Logitech K840
Linear Lenovo Y (Gateron Red), Aluminum kiosk keyboard (Cherry MX Black)