IBM 5251 USB Converter alternative to xwhatsit

I was desperate to find an xwhatsit converter but it looks like no one is making them anymore. I took a chance on this, and holy hell, it works! It even turns on the solenoid!

The drawback is that it has set the keys to a specific layout already and you can’t remap it the way you could we xwhatsit’s controller. But for people who can’t find a fully built out xwhatsit controller, this is a GREAT alternative, especially since it’s literally plug and play!

He said he also has a converter for basically most beamspring models (including the 6580 Displaywriter, which I’ve been looking for). I plan to follow up with him to see when he’ll post it on ebay


Ah that’s pretty interesting, but the xwhatsit controller is waaaay better. But then again, these are technically in different categories.

This is a simple converter that goes onto the end of the existing cable which is pretty nifty. The cables that 5251s come with are pretty thick!

On the other hand, xwhatsits are controllers, not converters. They actually replace the existing controller inside the case of the 5251.

Plugs into the PCB that the switches sit on

Even though the xwhatsit controller is really cool in the fact that you can set the capacitance level, the solenoid pull length, and other cool and important stuffs, this USB converter is still really nifty in being able to use all of the OEM parts as is.

If you’re handy, you could simply buy the plain PCB for the xwhatsit and solder on all of the components yourself: . This is still an option, although a much more involved one.

A reprogrammable version of this USB converter would be really awesome in the future. Not sure how possible that would be.

Yup, I was thinking about buying the plain PCB, but I honestly wouldn’t know what to do with it. My technical knowledge stops at “reset computer if something is wrong”

This is a neat little plug and play option for me, but I would have loved an xwhatsit controller, but no one is currently making them

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