User avatar

Posted Thu May 02, 2019 7:46 pm

He already sort of announced it on the Lemon64 forums didn’t he? Albeit in a very nonchalant way.

User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Fri May 03, 2019 11:12 am

Yeah, so I've been talking to Jim Drew off and on for several weeks about this whole thing. I can't really talk about all of the specifics, but let's just say his connections in Asia make my original idea of building keycaps in the USA look like a cruel joke. Yes, I could nearly guarantee extremely high-quality results, but the costs would have been insane (prohibitively so). And my up-front tooling costs probably would have made the project never leave the ground. I reached out to some shops in Taiwan but never heard back.

Jim, however, does have excellent contacts overseas which he's worked with for decades. Right now it has boiled down to which keycaps to make. The profiles of the breadbin keycaps are different than the 64C ones, as are the print methods.
The standard breadbin keyboard was a double-shot part with the top letters actually embossed into the plastic. The front face characters were printed. Doing this double-shot process is about 4x the price for tooling because you need multiple molds and steps.
So, I think he is heavily leaning towards 64C keycap reproduction. As my good friend Dan so eloquently said to me today:
If we’re waving magic wands I’d want a more expensive process than we’re seeing in these Kickstarter revivals. I’m grateful for them but ultimately this is just a hard problem at small scale and low cost. Completely accurate restoration may be a pipe dream. Makes sense for the less expensive ones to favor customization.
I can't disagree. My heart says breadbin keys all the way. But my brain says 64C keys are really the only choice at this point - especially if we want more than 1 color to play with. (Each added color means more added risks/costs.)

I also know I’d very likely never put these new keycaps on a breadbin, either. It's going to be really hard to not make someone feel left out no matter what Jim decides to do. But whichever route he goes, I'll support it. (multiple times)

User avatar

Posted Mon May 13, 2019 5:33 pm

Would be awesome to get done. With the crap that has been going on for the last four years of absolute BS from a campaign which i have spent a lot of $$$$$ that i will never see, broken promises but just absolute BS coming from a wanker who has taken everyone for a ride.

The team had done such a wonderful job with their key caps. The C64 needs to get done too. More colours i guess would be great, would make sales spike if you might sell them from a website or e-bay, or even better, from FB.

I would certainly buy a lot, as i would love to pimp out my C64s as i have been a backer from the C64C cases when they had been made in the colours red, blue, white, beige and trans.

Hope this does take off, as it could turn out extremely good for the retro scene and it's collectors all over the world who love this great comp.

User avatar

Posted Wed May 15, 2019 2:44 pm

Hey there Intric8,

I wanted to add my 2 Cent to this great thread, because some months ago I also thought about setting up a campaign to get some C64 keycaps produced. I'm from Germany and I've been talking to a varety of German mould manufacturers, printing companies and synthetic granules producers during my research phase and I had learned a LOT. In fact, the lessons I've learned led to the decision of cancelling my campaign idea.

At first, there would have been extremely high costs here in Germany. After having analyzed the original breadbin keycaps, I had learned that those had been produced using double-layer injection moulding. So the top characters of the brown keycaps are actually made of an inner bright-beige material layer protruding out of the outer dark-brown layer, resulting in nearly 100% abrasion resitant characters. Thinking about that, Commodore had used the highest possible quality available when producing their keycaps back then, and reproducing this type of injection mould today would have cost way beyond 700,000 Euros. The answer to this, I can simply quote a famous Shadowrun quote: "Concealability of belted cannon ammunition? YEAH... RIGHT!"

On my quest for finding alternatives to classic printing I had stumbled over laser marking. Laser marking would have resulted in a much better abrasion resitance than the classic printing, but it had its very own obstacles when it comes to the materials to apply the laser. I had learned that laser marking is capable of imprinting dark colours to light surfaces, as well as a light colours to dark surfaces. The crux here is that the injection mould material requires to have specific additional compound mixed into it, which reduces the availability of those materials drasically. In addition, I had learend that most of those special materials can only be used in a specific type of injection moulding machine and usually is available in industry sized packaging only.

So, in the end, classic printing had been the only reasonable way and I had not been happy with that.

Another point I was thinking about had been the number of available colours. As you've pointed out already, every additional colour raises the risk of the project. IF I'd have started the campaign, I would have limited the number of available colours to 6 or max. 8 colours, to fit to the the original case colors, plus maybe some extra stylish color sets (see image below), like a SX64 keyboard colour variant or a C16 keyboard colour variant.
Some stylish C64C case colours...

Anyway, I am very corious to read your further thougts about this topic.

User avatar

Posted Wed May 15, 2019 6:12 pm

I have been looking at various options. I suppose that the level of interest could dictate which way to go.

At this point, I have the original bread bin keycaps scanned in and 3D models made for the different shapes. My plan was to use this shape and do the double pass printing process (top and front). I have quotes for those, and they are very reasonable compared to U.S. (and apparently EU sources). I could scan and make 3D models of the 64C caps and do the same double pass printing process. I have never considered the C64C a real C64, but that is me being old-school. :)

The other option would be to do the double-shot process. Most people don't realize that the original bread bin C64 keycaps are two pieces of plastic injected together to be one. There is a white inner layer that is shot inside of a colored outer layer. This is what makes the white "letter" part in the keycap. The front face is then printed. The cost of a double-shot is about 4x the cost of the completely printed option because you need some rather precision molds created to make the pieces.

So... I suppose that depending on the level of interest, I could make a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for keycaps with the standard double pass process, and if the number of sets of keycaps exceeded a certain (break even) threshold, the production could be done with the double shot process instead. I will have to figure out the exact cost breakdown for the double shot sets.

I am getting ready to release a Kickstarter project for a thermal tracking system that I developed. I spent 8 months getting approval from the U.S. Dept. of State to make it available to the public. I want to use Kickstarter for my thermal tracking system strictly because of the level of advertising you get. Where else can you have over 7 million people looking at your widget? The product will definitely be produced even without a campaign - I just can't buy that kind of advertising!

I am asking Kickstarter to find out if I can actually run two projects at the same time or back to back (different companies, both owned by me). I don't think another Indiegogo project for keycaps is going to fly with people!

The reality is that people (including myself) were burned on the Phase 5 keycap deal. I truly don't know the level of interest in keycaps *today* due to the Phase5 fiasco, so I would hate to go spend a big chunk of money to find out I sold 200 sets of keycaps. I would like to see full sets of keycaps sold for $29.95. I think that is a fair price, but that would require at least 1000 sets of keycaps (66,000 pieces of plastic) sold to reach that price. I also think that those that got screwed should get some type of a discount on backing the same damn thing. So, perhaps some percentage off if you can prove you backed the original project. I have reached out to Phase5 asking to buy their list of backers and also take the whole thing off of their hands and resolve the issue, making them look at bit better. Of course I got no response.

I am sure that some people would be turned off about another campaign, and I don't blame you. I would be reluctant myself unless I knew the company/individual personally. I am hoping that my 40 years of history in the Commodore community might give some amount of confidence. I technically don't need money to do this, but without some hard numbers it's difficult for me to justify spending a lot of money on some unknown. As soon as campaign met the funding goal, I would feel very comfortable starting the production before the campaign ended.

I have been looking at this for a couple of years now. Just about every time I decided to really pursue something, Phase 5 sends out a "report". The last time they did was the day after I contacted them asking to buy them out. Coincidence? I think not.

That's where the issue stands (at least with me) at the moment. I will wait to see what Kickstarter says about multiple projects and kind of go from there.

User avatar
New Orleans, LA, USA

Posted Wed May 15, 2019 6:51 pm

Why not start a poll for interest on someplace like the C64/128 Facebook group (if you use FB)?

User avatar
Zippy Zapp

Posted Wed May 15, 2019 9:50 pm

I think if you did a keycap kickstarter it would absolutely be successful and here are my reasonings for that:

1. The Phase5 campaign was successful in numbers, despite being run by a completely unknown person with zero track record to most. He just couldn't deliver.

2. People are still clamoring for new keysets and I think the general consensus is that people will back the right person or company, regardless if they already got screwed by Phase5. They want them some keysets!

3. The 2 Amiga keycap campaigns have clearly shown that there is massive interest in keysets. There are far more C64s out there versus Amiga, with the 64 having a much larger user base. The Amiga only sold a fraction compared to the 64.

4. $30 is chump change these days and is not much of a risk. I would instantly buy 3 or 4 sets and I know many other people that would do the same.

5. You are known in the community and known for delivering. I have been buying your products since the 80's, when I was living at home as a teen ordering products from order forms in Compute!'s Gazzette. And back then I didn't know you were the creator of the product since there was usually a company name and I didn't always read the credits in the software. Needless to say, with the exception of some very bad photocopied SuperCard instructions back then (LOL, believe it or not that was pretty common with mail order products and it was always amusing.) I have never been disappointed and always been extremely satisfied with the products. That is just my experience and I am sure 10,000+ other people can say the same thing.

Anyway, those are my reasons it will be a success and after the kickstarter people will still be buying keysets if you stock them in your store.

User avatar

Posted Mon Sep 02, 2019 4:52 pm

Just an update... I am talking with Indiegogo about the possibility of getting the original Phase5 backer list. I am planning on pursuing this through a backer campaign (yeah, I know - I don't like it either). My only concern in this is if I were to pay for the entire thing up front myself (which is required for tooling and print setup costs) and then Phase 5 magically comes through because I am doing this, I would be out a bunch of money if nobody wanted keycaps. A campaign is the only real safe way for me to proceed with this. There is also an unknown (for me) in that a minimum of 1000 sets of keycaps have to be produced to meet the pricing of $29.95 per set. Anything less and the price nearly doubles. The next break is at 10,000 sets. I would be surprised to meet 1000 sets, but Eric and others seem to think reaching 1000 sets will be easy.

I sent Eric some pics of a few key caps that I made on one of my 3D resin printers. I also showed the samples at CRX last week. I am dealing with a factory in China that makes keyboards, so keycaps are not something magical for them to produce. The only thing I have to do is provide them with the proper CAD files for tooling and printing.

The decision right now is which type of keycap (original breadbin or C64C) should be used. They are slightly different shape. I have scanned and modeled the original breadbin version, but I can do the same for the C64C version. I will be producing only of these though. So, some feedback on this would be great. The tooling and per piece cost for a double-shot mold (which is what the original breadbin used) is really cost prohibitive. Printing the text on the top and face of the keycaps is the way to go to keep the price reasonable.

User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Mon Sep 02, 2019 10:39 pm

Printing the text on the top and face of the keycaps is the way to go to keep the price reasonable.
Sounds like the C64C style is the way to go IMO. There are no new breadbin cases out there, so for many the C is really the only option we have to build a 100% new machine (minus the chips of course unless you go the fpga route). It'd be weird if you made breadbin keycaps and they didn't look like they really matched the machine. I'd try to finalize the C style and get them as close as you can and run with it.

Good luck with the Indiegogo discussions.

User avatar
New Orleans, LA, USA

Posted Tue Sep 03, 2019 4:21 am

64C for sure...since the yellowing on these “white” keys is far more noticeable than yellowing of the White section of the brown keys of the breadbin.

Return to “8 Bits”