The IBM Model F series of keyboards is widely considered the cream of buckling springs keyboards in terms of feel. I have owned a total of five IBM Model F PC/AT keyboards in the past, and, due to their superlative durability, I sold three of them. One concern that potential buyers may have about the IBM Model F is whether it would work easily with a modern computer.
The simple answer is that if you are considering a purchase of a Model F PC/AT (as opposed to a Model F XT or a Model F keyboard designed for a computer terminal), then you should have no problem whatsoever.
There are several options to connect a Model F PC/AT to the USB port of a modern computer:
- Teensy 2.0
- Teensy++ 2.0
- Belkin F5U119-E (Note: This is different to the Belkin F5U119vE1. The Belkin F5U119-E is said to work with the Model F PC/AT; the Belkin F5U119vE1, on the other hand, is an inferior product.)
- “Blue Cube” PS/2-to-USB adapter
I know very little about Teensy devices. I don’t own one and have never used a Teensy. However, I have no doubt that either a Teensy 2.0 or Teensy++ 2.0 will make a Model F keyboard work on a contemporary computer. Soldering is required unless you get a Teensy with pins.
The Belkin F5U119vE1 PS/2-to-USB adapter will probably allow you to use a Model F PC/AT keyboard on a modern-day computer but it is not easily found in many parts of the world. Don’t confuse this device with other similar Belkin products—the others may not work with a Model F PC/AT.
Having experimented with several adapters, I have no doubt that the “Blue Cube” PS/2-to-USB adapter works best for my setup and needs.
On my Lenovo T61 laptop computer, I connect the AT plug of the keyboard’s cable to a passive AT-to-PS/2 converter/adapter (the grey device in the picture above), which in turn fits into the “Blue Cube”.
The relative bulkiness of the Blue Cube creates two problems when plugged directly into the computer’s USB port:
- The Blue Cube tends to sag down a little (it doesn’t fit perfectly into the USB port due to its weight—not a major issue but I’m a perfectionist and it bothers me); and
- The Blue Cube will obstruct access to any adjacent USB port.
Therefore, I purchased a cheap ($1) short USB extension cable (blue). The part of the cable which I wrapped in yellow cloth tape looked fragile and I suspect it would have broken if I had not reinforced it with the tape.
Neither soldering nor a special software driver is required when using a “Blue Cube”.
Although not the most elegant of solutions, this setup has worked extremely well for me while alternatives (of which some were more expensive) have led to disappointment.