User avatar
rpiguy9907

Posted Mon Jul 13, 2020 6:13 pm

While I regret never getting "the Rolls Royce" version of the Mechboard64, I can say that confidently that a fully functional, cheap and cheerful version should be easily buildable. I have started the process and it is looking good, and cheap!

Here is my cost breakdown so far:

Code: Select all

$   2.96     PCB from China
$   3.73     All surface mount components except switches and the cable headers (I already have tons of headers)
$  17.24     Laser cut steel plate (unfinished, no paint or anodization)
   ------
 $ 23.94 Total
To be fair the price of the PCB does not include shipping. I ordered the PCB with 25 other PCBs I was having made and the DHL shipping from China was $30 for all of them, which is a little over a dollar per PCB if you want to adjust the cost to be more accurate :-)

The lowest cost key switches can be had for between 18 and 25 cents each, so I expect a maximum cost for the switches to be around 18-20 dollars.

Also note that the plate will be flat, not bent, so I have to figure out a mounting solution.

I noticed that the C64 keyboard uses a flat, 20 pin cable, meaning I should be able to use a standard 40-in IDE ribbon cable!

Still going to be several weeks until I have time to solder it and work out the kinks.

I have a couple extra PCBs and sets of surface mount components if folks would like to try and build their own.

Cheap and cheerful Mechboard here I come. Here is a shot of the freshly minted PCB in green to match my C64:
IMG_0035.jpg

User avatar
intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
Website

Posted Tue Jul 14, 2020 8:42 am

This is very exciting news, rpiguy9907!

So you aren't going to go for Cherry MX switches? They would indeed not be on the cheap side. I think each switch is a tad below $1 each - does that sound right? So hand-wavy + $60 or so.

What switches are you going to use instead?

User avatar
rpiguy9907

Posted Tue Jul 14, 2020 2:18 pm

intric8 wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 8:42 am
This is very exciting news, rpiguy9907!

So you aren't going to go for Cherry MX switches? They would indeed not be on the cheap side. I think each switch is a tad below $1 each - does that sound right? So hand-wavy + $60 or so.

What switches are you going to use instead?
There are several Cherry MX clones from Chinese companies that meet or exceed the performance of Cherry switches.

Right now top contenders are Kailh Pro Purple or Burgundy MX compatible switches, ordered from Novelkeys.xyz or Gateron MX Black switches from Flashquark.com

I think that the most important thing will be to go for at least 50g on the spring weight, because the Commodore keycaps are thick/heavy and you have to factor in a few grams for each adapter.

***

I don't know if you saw but Jim Drew has a mechboard he designed that he just announced in his Keycap campaign update, so there will soon be choices in the market!

Totally unrelated, but I also saw that Jim Brain of Retro Innovations has just about reverse engineered the Schnedler Systems TurboMaster accelerator for the C64 as well so we may have another, real (not FPGA) accelerator solution soon!

User avatar
rpiguy9907

Posted Fri Jul 17, 2020 9:48 am

It works!

I soldered on all the components and tested it out by bridging a few keys with a piece of wire, very happy to see it in action.

Also verified that a bog standard, super cheap 40 pin IDE cable works beautifully to connect the keyboard to the C64.

Waiting on the my plate to arrive to solder in the switches.
IMG_1080.jpg

User avatar
intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
Website

Posted Fri Jul 17, 2020 11:47 am

Amazing news! Really, really cool!!!

Now, can you build these at scale? I know a few peeps who might bite. ;)

User avatar
rpiguy9907

Posted Fri Jul 17, 2020 3:47 pm

intric8 wrote:
Fri Jul 17, 2020 11:47 am
Amazing news! Really, really cool!!!

Now, can you build these at scale? I know a few peeps who might bite. ;)
Hehe I had to order five boards that’s the minimum from the factory. I’ll probably keep 2 of them, so there will be extras.

The big caveat is that I don’t have a solution for mounting since I don’t have a source that can bend the plate.

Someone with 3D printing skills will have to design something. I haven’t gotten that far.

If people want them with a flat plate then I’ll probably sell them at cost.

I have a cool project in mind for mine - since you can get fairly long IDE cables I may try and design an external keyboard.

User avatar
obitus1990
New Orleans, LA, USA

Posted Fri Jul 17, 2020 8:34 pm

I'd like to buy a kit from you. I just finished a SixtyClone board that I want to put into a clear PixelWizard case and this would finish it off since I don't have any spare keyboards.

PM sent.

User avatar
rpiguy9907

Posted Wed Jul 22, 2020 3:28 pm

obitus1990 wrote:
Fri Jul 17, 2020 8:34 pm
I'd like to buy a kit from you. I just finished a SixtyClone board that I want to put into a clear PixelWizard case and this would finish it off since I don't have any spare keyboards.

PM sent.
Ok since you are willing to solder it yourself here is the total cost:

Code: Select all

$   2.96     PCB from China
$   3.73     All surface mount components except switches and the cable headers (I already have tons of headers)
$  17.50    Key switches
   ------
$ 24.19

Plus
$ 16.72 for a 1.2MM steel plate
$ 27.72 for a 1.5MM steel plate
$ 26.44 for a 1.6MM aluminum plate
$ 56.81 for a 1.6MM brass plate
$ 85.44 for a 1.5MM Titanium plate

Plus shipping (figure $5-10 USD for CONUS)
In order to finish this build you would need some way to mount the plate (I haven't gotten that far yet I am just about to order an unbent plate and see if I can make it work).

You will also need a 40 pin IDE cable or 20pin custom cable, the 3D printed keycap adaptors, and costar stabilizers (can be ordered from Aliexpress, eBay, or directly from Matias in Canada).

Still interested? It is a lot of work to put one of these together :-)

User avatar
rpiguy9907

Posted Wed Jul 29, 2020 6:52 pm

Quick progress update - or lack thereof.

I have tried two different plate solutions and spent more than I care to admit.

I will have to try an alternative solution.

User avatar
intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
Website

Posted Tue Aug 04, 2020 7:56 am

Side note.

Lau auctioned off his two last remaining Mechboards on his site. The auction concluded this week. A local friend of mine had been bidding on it, and was in the top spot the day before it was over. His bid was at 350 Euros for one, and he was on top for nearly a week.

There was a flurry of activity at the end and one person ended up getting both boards for 950 EUR total.

Let that sink in for a moment.





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