Please chime in and show us a picture
of your vintage cw keyboard
commercial or homebrew
Here’s a picture of my HAL MKB-1 keyboard. I built it from a kit back in 1975 when it sold for around $175. It was my favorite keyboard for about 25 years until I got a K1EL K20. As you can see there is no spacebar due to no buffering. If you held a key down long enough it would repeat the character. That could be an advantage for sending certain words, but getting off of the E key quickly enough could be a challenge at high speeds. The keyboard still works, but it would take me a few days of practice to be able to send on it at a good speed. Back in the good old days, I could send over 60 wpm on it.
Below here is a picture of my SkipJack - sold by the ECM Corporation
SkipJack 48B keyboard keyer that was sold as a kit in the late 1970
KF7CX, SkipJack internals
The ACCU-MILL project was developed by a young brilliant MIT graduate and I can recall purchasing the PROMs and PC board from him.It used a Standard ASCII style keyboard ( Provided by the user ) to the input to of his circuit board. His circuit was a ROM look table ( TWO Proms ) that provided an output to the famous ACCU-Keyer. It was amazing what some of the hams used as keyboards back then. I recall folks using the old Radio Shack TRS 80 computers for CW. The Commodore VIC-20 was also used to blast out CW. HeathKit made a CW keyboard - Marty (KW1C ) has one of these boards. There was a CW keyboard made by HAL. K0JVX - John, still uses his old SkipJack keyboard. Back in 1999 WA2TDL - Rick, was still using his Woody (K4KN) Keyboard.
My first keyboard was one called a Skipjack. After that I got an Info-Tech M-300 and then an update of that one, the M-300C by Info-Tech. The first board my dad had was an Info-Tech M-300 and the M-300C later.
These were originally designed and built here in St Louis (Westport) just a few miles from my house. Info Tech later moved to Florida just north of where my Dad, W4BI lived. Info Tech supplied Universal Radio in Ohio with not only keyboards but many digital mode decoding boxes for SWLs and some of the first RTTY TUs with CRTs. Info Tech is no longer in business. Dave Kelce was the founder of the company and a ham, K0DGF. The 300 and 300C were popular with the CFO because they sent very good CW, had a space bar and recallable memories. The 300 had individual key switches which were not as reliable as one piece keyboard assembly on the 300C but switches could be easily replaced. Both boards used an 8 bit Fairchild 1802 processor and I think had around 4kbyte of memory. Since it was "all digital," it had no speed knob but controlled using Control M keys followed by the numbers for the speed and finally, the return key. Its default speed/power up speed was very slow maybe around 10-12 wpm which was frustrating for the QRQ operator! When my dad picked up his second 300C, Info Tech used his call sign., W4BI for the serial number. :-)
The K4KN KEYBOARD
When i was trying to improve my cw speed in 1975, i managed to obtain a k4kn keyboard from a w5 fella - sure wish i could remember his call now - and so needless to say i was thrilled. imagine finding out that such great cw ops like k4kht, gene, and w9lrv(k5hib)ken were using the same morse keyboard to pound out the music as i now had. sure has been fun using the "woody", K4KN keyboard !
FROM K1LKP about the k4kn, "woody", keyboard creator:
My first keyboard was the Heathkit Ultra Pro shown in the photo. I usually used it when acting as Net Control for a CW net in Colorado in the early 1980s. I'd preprogram the net preamble so that I could get my paperwork ready to run the net as I was starting up the net. I really can't touch type (I'm a two finger typist) so I didn't use the keyboard much during the actual net. I stumbled across the keyboard sitting in one of my closets and plugged it in today. No smoke and it still works great. I did like the fact that there were keys for most of the normally used prosigns. I'm still trying to get up the nerve to use a keyboard on the air with my Hamgadgets Master Keyer as I've maxed out on my paddles at around 35 to 37 WPM. It seems that as I get older, the connection between my brain and my fingers gets poorer.
This was a fairly common keyboard, but I didn't see that anyone had posted a picture on the forum
I was very interested in your comments about the space bar, I was in qso last night with a friend of mine Sandy G0VQW we have a sked twice a week on 80 Metres.He was saying that now he has learned to touch type he no longer bothers to use the space bar but inserts the spaces by just waiting and hearing the right place to drop in the space. I would like to ask more experienced operators what do they do? insert spaces with the space bar or drop them in as you need them. I think Sandy and I are the only operators in the EU on a keyboard regularly which is sad as it is so much fun and less tiring to send with a keyboard at over 40 wpm,but a different skill set, 73 Rich G4FAD..
Hi Rich, I thought I would say a few words about your comment on: "insert spaces with the space bar or drop them in as you need them"
For me, I find it much easier to copy perfectly timed qrq, from the sending qrq artist who types "ahead" of the buffer, than the somewhat sporadically timed sending by typing "not ahead" of the buffer. For a long qrq qso, this really helps the copy centers of the brain to "relax" and with greater ease be able to convert mathematically precise code into language; nearly effortlessly. Otherwise, the brain has to get up out of the "easy chair" and bear down to concentrate with even the tiniest imperfections in the arriving digital audio data.
Hi Chuck and Rich,
Just got to clarify a few things about my typing skills. Firstly have not learned to properly touch type, I kind of use pidgeon touch type if that makes sense. I have picked up a few bad habits one of which is using my index finger to hit the space bar. When sending at my limit of around 55 to 60 wpm on the keyboard I don't have enough time to hit the space bar and I can hear the code clearly in my phones so just leave a pause. When sending slower saya round 40wpm then ofcourse I am able to buffer the CW and have to insert the spaces via the space bar if I am going to type ahead..
I guess it is just laziness on my part not using the keyboard the way i am supposed to, but the main thing is I am using it and sending quite nice code with it (or so I am told). For me life is a learning curve and I am always trying to improve whether that be typing, sending and Rxing CW or making a bushcraft knife etc.
When I built my first buffered keyboards I continued typing in real time, manually timing word spaces the same as with my prior un-buffered boards.
I later gradually started typing words in "burst mode" but still not using the space bar. I then started trying to poke the space bar after most words but also sort of manually timing the word space before starting into the next word.
Eventually I started moving into the next word slightly early, but now after perhaps 40 years using the kbd I at most type perhaps 3 characters ahead. This means I have to hear my errors and correct them after the fact rather than correcting them with the back space key. This "style" is more suitable for quick back and forth QSK compared to filling the buffer. I definitely want to copy what is going out rather than read it on a display.
Of course it also means my output CW is not as clean as those who use the type ahead style where they can correct errors with the backspace key.
By poking the space bar as part of most words, it prevents me from running words together most of the time. I notice that if I know in the back of my mind that the final word before a pause is coming I don't seem to hit the space bar.
I am enjoying the discussion on keyboard spacing. One approach Chuck, AA0HW, taught me was to do away with punctuation at higher speeds. I don't send periods, commas, or BT, during QSOs or when making Mp3 files for QRQ practice. If I am using a Windows based version of Fldigi, i use the program AutoHotKeys to automatically send 7 spaces for a period, 3 spaces for a comma, and 7 spaces for BT. With my Linux based version of Fldigi, I just hold down the space bar to mimic the spaces of normal speech. The spaces make CW more conversational for me and give the other op time to break in.
Thank you, Chuck, Sandy and Joe for your interesting comments about spacing, it is a very different discipline to send Morse using a keyboard as opposed to a key or paddle but I love the fact that you can send cw for over an hour at speeds above 40 wpm without feeling tired. One thing that I have not seen on this site is any thing about using a wrist rest when using the keyboard. I first noticed on Chuck W5UXH's videos that he was using a rest and when I got one I could soon see why, it puts your hands at the right height without any stress on the arms/wrists I recommend them. See you on ICw one of these days for a good natter Chuck, 73 Rich G4FAD..