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.
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.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 .
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.
I also now had a 2nd pair of instructions, which I placed into the box as well.
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.