Vintage IBM “Clicky” keyboards have a major following both among vintage computer enthusiasts and office professionals. What is the secret for this proclivity with these older keyboard models ?
The secret to the click of a keyboard is the key switch technology it uses. The four key switch technologies commonly found inside PC keyboards are mechanical, capacitive, conductive, conductive rubber dome and membrane switches. All but the last are hidden under key caps, but you cannot tell much about a keyboard’s switch technology just by popping off the cap. Note: If you try to dissemble a keyboard to inspect it you may damage or destroy the keyboard and of course any warranty you may have on the product will be voided.
Although you might expect a keyboard’s touch to be directly related to its switch technology, this is not always the case. Keyboards with mechanical switches tend to have the positive “clicky” feel and touch that you would expect, but keyboards that use the newer capacitive and capacitive rubber dome or membrane technology are not always mushy as you might expect.
Mechanical switches were the most popular technologies in the older higher quality vintage keyboards such as the IBM M class ” Clicky” keyboards . Keyboards that use mechanical switches tended to have a positive tactile touch , which is produced by the spring tension used to return the key . These keyboards thus generated an audible click as opposed to now more common silent electronic capacitive keyboards that we take for granted today in our ” silent effective offices”. Hence the IBM M Class keyboard has the nickname “Clicky Keyboard.”
The feel and sound of the mechanical keyboard result from the contact that occurs between the conductive materials on the actual plunger : the conductors are often made of gold , gold alloy or Mylar with silver- carbon alloy.
One drawback of these mechanical switches is the greater number of parts they require , which of course was increased the cost and complexity of manufacture . Believe it or not a mechanical switch keyboard may used as many as three times the parts of a similar function membrane switch model , It is now wonder that only older vintage computer models who in their time were very used these keyboards. Today with our throw away computers that are only meant to get us into the doors of big box stores in order to buy those extended warranties computer manufactures cannot justify the costs of these types of keyboards for in addition to the cost the time span of a keyboard needed is not great since the life span of a computer is relatively very short .
This mechanical switch is what gives these older keyboards such as the venerable IBM “Clicky Keyboard” both its distinctive sound and its ultra reliability and long life expectancy .. Many are these vintage keyboards are still in service today even though the IBM Clicky keyboards have not been manufactured by IBM since the mid 1990’s .
Even though the Clicks are much more expensive to ship due to their wight and heavy metal content , the Clicks command a premium price on eBay sales. Professionals who depend on their keyboards such as executive secretaries and court reporters still use these models as a preference.