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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
Website

Posted Sat Jun 27, 2020 11:23 am

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In my opinion, the Mechboard64 is one of the single greatest C64 upgrades ever brought to market. Original Mechboards are now officially Holy Grail items.


As of June, 2020, the creator of one of the greatest, most luxurious C64 upgrades one can ever give their machines - the Mechboard64 - is officially over. Lau, aka MtnBuffalo, will not produce another single batch of these incredible boards for sale. He's decided he is done.

The Mechboard64, a dream child of Lau's that began in 2015, is a gorgeously crafted, high-quality mechanical keyboard made for the Commodore 64. It can fit into any breadbin case, or any cost-reduced 64C with the help of some simple brackets. (I highly recommend the metal brackets provided by iComp.)

Lau worked on his project for three years before ultimately producing and selling a few batches to eager fans worldwide. Incredibly, when it was launched some folks complained mainly about price. When you build something at this quality, in such small batches, it is never inexpensive to produce. That's just a fact.

Lau explains:
When the MechBoard64 was finally realized and presented on my blog, it soon came clear that a new mechanical keyboard was the missing piece in the creation of a brand new Commodore 64 (…well that and some new keycaps…). As I have no intentions to become a Commodore 64 mechanical keyboard manufacturer, I’ve therefore decided to release all information regarding the creation of the MechBoard64 .
I've stayed in contact with Lau - a very kind soul and a proper gentleman in the truest sense of the word - ever since I first heard about and financially supported his Mechboard64. I can say without a doubt that it is easily in my top-3 of all-time 3rd-party upgrades for my C64s. No question about it.

Last summer Lau had decided to put the project on-hold for 1-2 years and focus on restoring his home. During that time, however, he came to realize that he ultimately didn't want to be a keyboard manufacturer for a profession.

As of this month he released all of his artwork: Gerber, Excellon, BOM for the circuit board, Illustrator/PDF for the metal bracket, STLs for the keycap adapters, dimensions for the keyboard stabilizers and all miscellaneous parts (cables, screws, nuts, super lube, etc.). Twenty-four megabytes of files, folks - zipped.

He simply set everything down on the table, bowed and walked away. Amazing.

Before I go any further I for one would like to stand and applaud Lau for his incredible, almost unbearable, gift to the community. I know deep down I won't follow in his footsteps any time soon to try and recreate one of these keyboards. But I know some industrious folks out there may very well go for it some day. And it'll always be Lau's project regardless of where things land. The effort he put into it is just stunning.

The quality of his Mechboard64 is simply impossible to convey with words; it has to be felt to be truly understood. It turns a plastic children's keyboard into a brilliant high-end tool. I've said it before and it bears repeating: The Mechboard64 is one of my favorite keyboards I own - both classic/original and new/modern. It is an absolute pleasure to use.

Realizing this project was being put to bed until someone else with a Herculean will decides to pick things up, I went on a search for a 2nd one. Ever since installing the Mechboard I've only used that C64 since. There's really no turning back. And while I've no doubt this keyboard will likely outlast me, I wanted a second one to install into a different build. I'm either going to try and source a Reloaded MK1 (so I can use a WiFi modem again, which my MK2 can't), or I'm going to use a very special Breadbin I've been saving for a while now 100% guilt free.

I did in fact source a Mechboard - never used - on Ebay.

Here's the thing. When the Mechboard64 was available for sale (you had to express interest and be put into batches) here in the USA you were looking at 189 euros plus shipping. After currency exchange this was oftentimes more expensive than buying a C64 complete on Ebay. That was what a lot of folks complained about, anyway. But that didn't matter - because even if you bought a brand new C64 off Ebay, it would never feel like a Mechboard64! Folks completely lost the point on that in my opinion. Was it expensive? I suppose. But was it worth it? It was to me! Everyone is different, but the C64 is one of the most important computers in my life. So to go down this road - as I am fortunate enough to do - was a no-brainer for me. I have some early Amiga mechanical keyboards, and I can say the feeling is very similar and absolutely worth it in my book.

And guess what? The Ebay Mechboard cost me more than 2X the original price! That was pretty painful and made me kick myself for not picking up two when I had the chance. Ah well, that's water under the bridge. At the end of the day I'm thrilled to have another one.

When I got my 2nd Mechboard64 in the mail this week I quickly transferred it from its shipping box to my empty original box I'd saved.
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The original Mechboard64 box was slim and sexy.

I also now had a 2nd pair of instructions, which I placed into the box as well.
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I have this irrational sense of relief having now acquired a 2nd Mechboard64.

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It's almost a shame the Mechboard gets hidden inside most cases, as it is truly a work of art in its own right.

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I don't recall the number on my original Mechboard. But my new one, incredibly, claims to be #2! I'd have thought Lau would have #1 and #2 for the 2 boards he made for himself.

So, if I find a Reloaded MK1 someone wants to sell, I'll go down that route. But I've also got this immaculate, never used museum quality Breadbin that's just been sitting in a box. I grew up on the Breadbin and that design will always be my first choice. Those molds were never recovered and reproduced, of course, and have been lost to the sands of time. But my specimen is perfect and literally hasn't a single spec of dust.

Some might say taking it apart would be sacrilegious. I find that kind of talk ridiculous. I'll decide in the next 2 weeks or so, but I'm very tempted to carefully remove the original keyboard and put it away for safe keeping then put my new Mechboard inside it. And at least then I know I'll use this computer, and it won't spend the rest of my existence in its original box.

User avatar
csixty4

Posted Sat Jun 27, 2020 1:03 pm

Yayyyyy! I'm glad to see it arrived in one piece. Please be sure to leave me some positive feedback 😛

That is indeed Mechboard #2! I didn't want to make a big deal out of it in the eBay auction, but I pre-ordered the first couple keyboards from MtnBuffalo to help fund their production. #1 is in my 64C but I never had a chance to do anything with the one you bought and there was no sense having it collect dust when someone could be using it.

I agree typing on mechanical switches is a WAY better experience than the mushy keyboards Commodore used!

User avatar
intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
Website

Posted Sat Jun 27, 2020 1:12 pm

Hey csixty4 - thanks for joining the site, and thanks for selling your Mechboard! I won it by the skin of my teeth.

Honestly, I'm really GLAD you didn't mention the #2 on the board, as it might have made some folks even crazier in their bidding than it got. I couldn't believe how high it went. I had put in what I thought to be a ludicrous limit I thought I could live with if I won, and I won by only $2!

But yeah - glad you decided to sell it at the end of the day. I bet someone else will make these some day, but probably only a tiny handful. I'll take Lau's. They are perfect.

User avatar
csixty4

Posted Sat Jun 27, 2020 5:25 pm

I'm sure I could have easily made another $100 with a low serial number like that, but I'm not in this hobby to make lots of money. I'm here to see what people can do with all the cool hardware out there.

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Zippy Zapp
CA, USA

Posted Sat Jun 27, 2020 5:35 pm

That's cool. Is there anyone in the USA that has the ability to manufacture new ones? While I would have no problem getting PCBs, switches and all that jazz the metal backing board for me is something I could not do. It would have to be manufactured by someone with the proper equipment.

It would be super cool if someone carried on the torch locally here.

User avatar
intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
Website

Posted Sun Jun 28, 2020 9:43 am

Lau left links for the places in China that made the things he designed. My guess is he needed "batches of 100" or something like that to make any of the economics work, or to convince the shops to do the work. But that's just a guess.

I would think doing some of these tasks as a 1-off would cost a lot more than the original price of 189 euros, which is what a lot of folks complained about and still do. But I bet there are some talented folks that can take the designs and manufacture 1 for themselves in their own shops providing their own labor and materials and make it a fun project.

I think the cost was always a mental hurdle too high for a lot of folks to jump over. Even this post, when I shared it on Twitter, got a few folks saying the same thing and saying "I get why they were expensive, but..." Some wanted it to cost less, but using the products he used (and all of that soldering!) I just don't think it was feasible.

Now, Jim Drew and a couple others have talked about making a much cheaper version with much cheaper materials. But if you want a Mercedes at a Honda price, I think you're probably going to get a Honda. (Maybe a really really nice Honda.)

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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
Website

Posted Wed Jul 01, 2020 9:16 am

More on the future Jim Drew version:
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obitus1990
New Orleans, LA, USA

Posted Wed Jul 01, 2020 7:18 pm

I have one as well...best keyboard by far. I used it with my ultimate64 build with one of the blue Dallas 64C molds.
Where do you get the files to manufacture them? On his site?

User avatar
intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
Website

Posted Wed Jul 01, 2020 8:41 pm

@obitus1990 yes, go here and search for Files Download on the page.

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McTrinsic

Posted Thu Jul 02, 2020 2:34 am

The whole story sounds a bit like ‚sign of the times‘ to me.

Publish something, do something in open environment such as social media and get flamed.

These platforms allow anyone to voice a statement regarding anything.

The price is incredibly low considering the supply chain and design chain behind it.

It’s sad. The ‚open‘ in ‚open source‘ probably is misunderstood by some.

The only thing seems to be to go the route Steven took for the TF accelerators. ‚Here I did something take it or leave I don’t care.‘ Unfortunately, this will prevent some insipiring exchange with other developers - as an example.

It’s a great sign he published everything for free.





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