Only a well-trained ear might be able to hear the difference between a generic keyboard and the IBM Model F keyboard that was popular in the 1980s.
The Model F is considered by many people to be the best keyboard ever. IBM stopped making it in the ’90s and the patent expired. But the keyboard is having another moment.
Joe Strandberg of Garden City, N.Y. loves this keyboard so much that he has independently worked to re-manufacture it. With his project, he outlines all of the mechanics that go into creating “the best keyboard ever,” and how he’s striving to make “a perfect, working reproduction.” In today’s market, the original keyboards would have cost around $1,700, but Strandberg’s models will cost about $300.
In an interview with NPR’s Kelly McEvers, Strandberg explains why people think the Model F is a big deal and how it differs from the keyboards of today.
On what makes the Model F special and why people love it
Well, I think that it’s the best keyboard ever because it has a delicate, yet incredibly tactile response that makes typing a pure pleasure. It’s got this sound — it’s kind of a musical interaction when you’re typing.
On how it’s different from many of the keyboards people use today
Well the first thing is, it’s a lot heavier. The cases are actually made of metal and the metal is painted on top, so it’s kind of like an 8- or 9-pound block. It’s also got a different layout from the modern keyboards. It’s basically if you take off that top row of function keys and you take off the keys on the side of the number pad, you get the old Model F Keyboard.
On what Strandberg does besides re-manufacturing the Model F
This is kind of like a night and weekend hobby. I got into keyboards several years ago. I just started collecting and restoring these old Model F keyboards and I just fell in love with the sound and the feel and just the comfort and it’s kind of turned into something beyond what I would have ever dreamed.
On the typing sound of the Model F
Some people love it and some people hate it because it’s definitely the sound of the 1980s office. Like if your boss was near and they could hear you typing away, they would know you were being productive. I guess today the trend has been more for quieter or silent keyboards and that’s just because back in the day you had the ability to have a keyboard that could cost $600 to make when you were buying a computer that was $5,000. Now, with all the cost cutting, computers are so much cheaper — a keyboard nowadays is about $5 to make.