Author Topic: "Mechanizing" an Apple 1st. gen. wireless keyboard (A1016)  (Read 461 times)

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Offline ramon0xff

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"Mechanizing" an Apple 1st. gen. wireless keyboard (A1016)
« on: Sat, 17 February 2018, 13:57:35 »
Hello there,

I have an Apple 1st generation bluetooth keyboard (Model A1016) with a broken flat-flex cable. I tried to repair the flat flex, but it was a real sovereign PITA. And I started to wonder... could I replace the rubber dome base with a pcb and mechanical switches?

The keyboard is mounted inside an acrylic case. At the bottom there is a metal plate over which the different flat-flex contacts are laid out. Rubber contacts on every contact, and the keys have a tubular stem to press the rubber contacts.

The "plan" would involve replacing the bottom metal plate with a PCB and some Cherry switches, given I can find out a way to adapt the keys.

Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: "Mechanizing" an Apple 1st. gen. wireless keyboard (A1016)
« Reply #1 on: Sat, 17 February 2018, 17:06:30 »
Yes it would be possible to replace the membranes with a PCB and switches but the bad news is you'll have to work out and duplicate the original matrix to get it to work with the original controller, and it's probably rather random.  One off boards are pricy too so you might be better off getting a plate and handwriting it?
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Offline Findecanor

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Re: "Mechanizing" an Apple 1st. gen. wireless keyboard (A1016)
« Reply #2 on: Sun, 18 February 2018, 03:11:05 »
I don't think it is worth doing just to salvage the keyboard. I would instead look for a cheap working one on the second-hand market. Maybe the key assembly in the wired counterpart would be compatible with the wireless controller.

It would be difficult to fit a mechanical keyboard inside that case and make it look as aesthetically pleasing as the original.Mechanical keyboards with Cherry or Alps switches (and clones) are mounted on a flat plane but the backplane of the M1016 is curved. Notice also the corners of the keyboard where one corner of the key is rounder than all others.
Adapting keycaps not made for it to fit on mechanical key switches requires 3D-printed adapters that also lift them a bit. Doing some "plastic surgery" inside keycaps to change the stem is very time-consuming and difficult to get even -- which is why nobody does that for more than one or two special keys on a whole keyboard.
At best, you would get unsightly gaps.
« Last Edit: Sun, 18 February 2018, 03:12:49 by Findecanor »
"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
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Offline ramon0xff

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Re: "Mechanizing" an Apple 1st. gen. wireless keyboard (A1016)
« Reply #3 on: Sun, 18 February 2018, 12:47:51 »
Mmmm... just today I did find a wired one. Unfortunately the flat-flex matrix is not compatible. 
At least I got it very cheap, so after a cleanup I will have a working apple keyboard for the office (no noisy mechanicals there...  :D).

PS: About the matrix, I thought about replacing everything with an Adafruit BLE feather and tmk, so I would also redo the matrix. The A1016 is very first-gen bluetooth. But Findecanor is right, it would be hard to make it look right.