A not-quite-heir to the Model M

So today I came across the story of a new Cooler Master keyboard, which claims to be very IBM Model M-like, but with modern styling and conveniences.

The verdict is that this keyboard is even stiffer than the Model M, which raises a question that not many are asking. Maybe I’m showing my age and everyone else is too young. But to me, the obvious question is how the Cooler Master CM Storm and its Cherry MX green key switches compare to the Model M’s predecessor, the IBM Model F?

I have limited experience with the Model F, though I did log a fair number of hours on PC/XT keyboards in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The earlier IBM keyboards were  stiffer than the Model M, but their keyboard layouts weren’t quite as nice as the Model M. It dates to the time before IBM copied DEC’s VT-102 keyboard layout. The original pre-1985 XT keyboard was especially clunky. The Model F was better, adding a nice, big, L-shaped Enter key, but even that can be a little awkward for typing anything but straight alphanumeric text due to only having one Ctrl and Alt key, and having some of its secondary keys in awkward places. There’s a reason why the keyboard layout of the Model M has survived as the standard since 1985 with very minor changes.

But I digress. Knowing what I now know about the Cherry MX green key switches, I might actually be willing to take a look at a keyboard that uses them. I learned to type on a manual typewriter–and my school didn’t have air conditioning either!–so it might feel comfortable to me. I would think that people of a certain age might like something that feels like a Model F, but with a modern keyboard layout and conveniences. I definitely wouldn’t buy one sight unseen, though–I would want to be able to spend a few minutes typing on one.

Now, about that age thing. For the record, I didn’t walk to school, the principal did cancel school if we had 12 feet of snow on the ground even though he was from Minnesota, and it wasn’t uphill both ways. Just so that much is clear.

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2 thoughts on “A not-quite-heir to the Model M

  • March 8, 2013 at 11:08 am

    An absolute and exact heir to the Model M:

    With respect, I refer you to the correspondence on
    which further refers to a wikipedia article on Unicomp at

    Oh, yes – and about keyboard feel – I learnt typing, if only just, on a manual Remington, then touched a few other manuals, then used Adler and IBM electrics, then got into computers. THEY were designed by ergonomics professionals as soon as they realised their markets were mega-multi-national-companies, multiplied by many tens of thousands of keyboard operators. The IBM XT keyboard wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t aimed at the professional market. The AT keyboard WAS aimed at professionals, and it felt like it. The AT feel was worlds above the XT, and given a choice I never went back. I’d even back-fit an AT keyboard to super-fast XT clones when I could. The only major improvement over the IBM layout was adding two function keys, and changing and/or duplicating and re-arranging the layout of the function keys. There’ve been fiddles with additional function keys tied into MS OS functions, and they’re a big help in some cases, but nothing else ever made the advances that the AT keyboard (ModelM) did.

    • March 8, 2013 at 11:18 am

      Right, Unicomp is the place to go for a slightly modernized version of the real thing.

      It is good to see someone else trying to make a good quality keyboard, though. For the last 20 years or so, it’s been extremely difficult to buy anything but cheap and chintzy keyboards that feel like typing on oatmeal. If making them look like sports cars is what it takes for them to survive on the market, I’m fine with that.

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