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: OSH Park ~ Shared Projects by xwhatsit . 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.

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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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Hi all-

I have a model F XT and I’m in the process of acquiring a 5251. Is this converter still the only option that does not require soldering? If so… it’s like the priciest converter I have ever seen including shipping to the US.


If you can find an intact xwhatsit controller, you don’t need to solder anything. The installation is pretty easy (minus the programming)

Unfortunately, it seems pretty impossible to find. I messaged orahlicon (spell?) sometime last year and he said he was going to produce more, but I haven’t heard from him since

I got desperate to use my 5251 so I splurged and got the converter. Not perfect and definitely expensive…but I’m having a blast with it =)

Thanks! I guess I may have to just bit the bullet. Thank god the control key is already in the right place…

Yea, I spent like $1200 on it…what’s another $85?lol

Yeah that’s about what people are selling on ebay these days. I accidentally found a “refurbished” one at a used electronic wholesaler for $499. Let’s see if I got lucky…

Yo! orihalcon has a new batch of xwhatsit controllers! Get them fast man…he put them up for sale on the 17th, and there’s only 4 more left


Thanks! The wholesaler told me they were actually out of stock so I’m still looking for one…LOL

Oh damn what? it says there are still 7 left (I said 4 up there)

Sorry. I mean I have successfully obtained a beamspring… I am really hesitated to pay the prices on eBay to get one as this is a super niche market.