Experiments with the Apple M0110 keyboard

I recently picked up a vintage Apple M0110 keyboard – the one that came with the original Macintosh in 1984. I’ve been using it both on an original Mac Plus and on my modern computers using the Drakware Mac2USB convertor.


But as I mentioned in the “What did you get in the mail today?” thread, the one I got was not in the best shape, and several of the keys were either not working or only working intermittently even after a thorough cleaning (you can see the state of the PCB when I got it below).


So when I saw that someone locally was selling another M0110 for cheap, I jumped at the chance to possibly get some replacement switches. If anything, the second one was in worse shape than the first. I think it was literally sitting outside for at least some period of time, and probably half of the switches didn’t work at all, but I was able to harvest some of the working ones to repair the first board. I didn’t take a proper photo of that board before disassembly, but here is one that the seller took out in a spooky forest at night for some reason:


Since this board seemed to be largely a lost cause, I thought I would use it to do some experiments with retrobrighting. Both of the boards were quite yellowed, with the spacebar being basically a dark brown. On the right-hand side of the case you could even see where the keys had blocked the light over the years, leaving a reverse “shadow.”


So I disassembled it and put the two halves of the case and the spacebar into a solution of 3% hydrogen peroxide and Oxiclean, with some additional water added to cover the parts, and put them out in the sun for part of an afternoon and much of the next day.


I think it came out pretty well. (This is using the internals of the first board and the case of the second.) Under my studio lights the color is a bit mottled looking but in person under normal lights it is not noticeable at all, so I’m pretty happy with it.


I find that I have a strange affection for this keyboard, even though it lacks the navigation keys that I usually insist on when I’m building a modern board. Since I think the PCB of the second donor board is okay and it’s just the switches that were faulty, I was wondering if it would work to put more modern ALPS switches on this board. The original keys won’t fit on those switches, but it might be fun to try and fix up the second board as well. Any ideas about this?

Also, does anyone know how many foreign language versions of this keyboard were made? I know of English, (UK English maybe?), French, Arabic and Japanese (with Katakana sublegends). I’d love to get my hands on the Japanese one in particular, since I’m a Japanese translator by trade.

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Immensely satisfying to see this transformation–especially of keyboard model of which I’m particularly fond/nostalgic.

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this is a beautiful board, and you did a great job restoring it, I love the tiny old Apple logo as a blocker

While we’re talking about the M0110, has anyone seen this before? At first glance I thought it was a prototype of some kind, since of course Apple has a history of making transparent prototypes. But the seller seems to go out of their way not to use the word prototype, and also sold one of these exact same things last year as well, so I’m betting they are making them somehow. Still pretty darn cool looking.

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I picked up this M0110A J keyboard from Yahoo! Auctions Japan. I’ve been wanting one of these for a while, since I am a Japanese translator and it seemed like a good combination of my interests. :slight_smile: I originally wanted a Japanese M0110 (without the numpad), since I prefer that version of the board, but it turns out that they never actually released it in Japan, as far as I can tell. I think the English version of the original Mac was available in Japan, but only as a kind of import, although feel free to correct me on this point.

When I originally did an image search for “Japanese m0110” the first result was for a keyboard that appeared to be a Japanese version of the M0110, but I’m pretty sure someone just took the keys from this board and put them on the M0110. The Mac Plus was the first Mac officially released in Japan, so there wouldn’t have been a localized version of the M0110 produced. [Edit: Turns out this isn’t entirely true – there were apparently some Japanese M0110 keyboards made for machines that were imported and localized before they were officially available from Apple, but these seem to be fairly rare.)

You can see that it has katakana sub-legends, as well as a locking “kana” key instead of a capslock key. All of the keys actually work fine, too, which is nice.

I have entirely too many compact Macs, so I want to try and use one of them with this keyboard to recreate what an original Mac Plus setup would have been like in Japan in 1986 or so. So I’m going to have to figure out how to install the original KanjiTalk and so forth, which should be interesting.

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I have an M0110 that had a lot of non-working switches on it, so I’ve been the ones that did work as donors for other boards. But it occurred to me that I might be able to use the PCB for something else. I had a Gateron green switch nearby, so I tried hand soldering some wires between the prongs on the switch and the pads on the PCB, and it actually seems to function just fine, and the switch fits into the plate surprisingly well.

I’m wondering if I should try replacing all of the switches on this board with modern ones. Obviously I would need to use modern caps in that case. The only stabilizers on the board are on the spacebar, and my main concern is that I am not sure how I would stabilize a modern space bar. Has anyone tried this kind of thing with this board before?

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Hmmmm. Did you measure the switch spacing? 19.05mm.

If it’s too small, switches will hit each other, and if it’s too large, there will look like there are giant tracts of land between the island of switches. This would be really cool to try out though. I noticed that the stock stems are really high. Would new switches mount particularly low in the case if you went with this option?

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I guess I should try a handful of switches and see if there are any issues like that

Well, I went ahead with this project, and for the most part I would say it was a great success. I’m typing on it right now, in fact. There were a few hurdles to overcome.

First, I had to desolder all of the original switches (keeping the good ones to use as spares for other boards). This was a real pain, and I ended up ripping up the pads on the PCB in a couple of places, but luckily it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed.


I then had to add extension wires to all of the pins on the modern switches I would be using. In the end I went with Gateron browns. Not the most exiting choice, I know, but I had them on hand and I wasn’t really sure this would even work so I was reluctant to use something too expensive.


The issue is that the ALPS switches that were originally in the board are a lot taller than modern Cherry MX switches, so the pins won’t reach. Plus the ALPS pins are in different positions. So I decided to solder on short lengths of wire to allow the pins to reach the holes. Maybe there is a better way to do this, but this is my first time doing anything like this.


For the most post, these just worked after soldering them to the PCB, although I did have a couple of scary moments when it seemed like the entire board had stopped working, but apparently I had shorted something, and moving a solder joint away from a particular trace seemed to fix the problem.


Finding caps that fit this layout may actually be the biggest problem. I had to substitute a couple of keys and also a couple are the wrong profile. Amazingly the spacebar was not really an issue at all. I was able to use an Xacto knife to slightly shave down the little inserts that originally came with the board, and that let me use a 7u spacebar. Unfortunately, the original spacebar was 7.5u, so there is a bit of a space to either side, but I don’t really think it looks bad. I could theoretically alter the plate and use bigger keys to the left and right to fill the space, but that seems like a lot of work for a minor issue.

It feels really good to type on in comparison to the original switches, at least in my opinion. The pinging is also not nearly as bad. Right now I’m using it with a USB convertor to allow me to use the original Macintosh cable on a modern computer, but I think I will actually mostly be using this as a way to use a modern-feeling mechanical keyboard with a classic Mac.

I’m considering doing some aggressive retrobrighting to make the case more of a white, instead of this beige/yellow.

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Wow, awesome job! I’m curious about the retrobrighting… Seems like results can be hit or miss.

I have an M0110a (in rough shape) that I’m planning to retrofit with a vortex vibe after seeing this: https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?t=22099

Wow, I have a Vortex Vibe and several M0110A keyboards in my office so I may have to look into this…

By the way, I originally had some trouble with the Capslock key. It is a locking switch on the original keyboard (press it once and it literally locks, press it again to release). The software for the USB convertor I’m using assumes that this key will be a locking switch, so it seemed like it wasn’t working, but I think it was just configured wrong. However, in the course of looking into the problem, it occurred to me that I could use the original locking switch because it is a special short version of the ALPS switch that will actually line up just fine with the height of the other switches on the board – I just had to carve away part of the cross shape at the top of the switch so that it would fit in a modern cap. I really like the locking switch and wish modern boards used them (although I suppose people who like to switch Capslock for something like Control would not be a fan of this).

I think you hit the nail on the head there, it sounds neat, but I wouldn’t want to actually have a caps lock key on my board, especially in such a useful place.

Yes, to be clear I might not use the locking switch if I was going to be using the board exclusively with modern computers, but since classic Macs will be expecting the locking switch, I think it will probably work best to keep it there.

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I decided to try out the approach linked above for using an M0110A case with a Vortex Vibe, and it’s actually pretty impressive how well it works with relatively little effort. I don’t love the fact that you have to cut out the plastic divider between the main keyboard area and the numpad, but these keyboards aren’t nearly as rare as the M0110, and the case is still usable with the original PCB, even without the divider.

I did have to get a right-angle adapter for the USB cable like the original poster did, but other than that and a little foam inside the case to help it sit better, it didn’t cost anything and took only a few minutes. It feels a lot better to type on this way, for me at least.

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Wow it looks awesome!

Instead of retrobrighting the case on my modernized M0110, I decided to switch to a different case and embrace the yellow. I put together a set of rainbow SA keycaps as a tribute to the rainbow apple logo. It’s not perfect, but I think it turned out pretty well.

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Damn, this thread is awesome. That’s all I have to say.

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I’m loving this