IBM's Legendary Model F Buckling Spring Keyboard Reinvented, Now Available To Order
Until very recently the Model F was a nearly extinct, rare beast, only found in retro graveyard revivals with keepers of the faith, or the lucky few with access to dinosaur, left-behind stockpiles from the big hair days of computing. That is until one Joe Strandberg, a Cornell University grad and said keeper of the faith, decided he wanted to resurrect the Model F in all its glory.
Model F Buckling Spring Key Design From IBM's Now Expired Patent
This wouldn't be any 3D printed replica either, but a fully tooled, ready-for-production unit. Strandberg notes that a 3D printed version couldn't hold up to the stresses of the buckling spring and its mechanics. As you can see in the figure above, there's literally a spring inside each key switch and that spring buckles -- hence the "buckling spring" design naming -- which then presses down on a plastic paddle below and actuates a key stroke on the PCB underneath. It's a simple, perhaps primitive design, yet oh-so satisfying in both its audible and tactile feedback. Cherry has made big business of its Cherry MX line of key switches, with different tactile feel and both clicky and non-clicky switch types, but purists argue there's nothing that's quite like the buckling Model F.
If the Model F has you intrigued, and you'd like to try a buckling spring keyboard, but the high price and layout don't work for you, don't fret -- the Model F isn't your only option. Unicomp has been reproducing updated IBM Model M and similar style keyboards using buckling spring key switches true to IBM's design for years, and some models are available for under $100.