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:
THE HAL DKB-2010
They just don't make these anymore. A CW Keyboard was a device which could produce Morse code from a typewriter-like keyboard. Today we have Raspberry Pi and Arduino board kits that can convert the output from a PC or keyer or both. In short, these have long been obsolete... and are rapidly becoming arcane.
The Codetyper above is from the March 1952 issue of CW Amateur Radio Magazine. It was a very early CW keyboard, it actually predates the term. For the record, CW stands for "Continious Wave," a term that hearkens back to the very beginnings of radio. The Codetyper was designed by Nathaniel Dorfman and it was written up in CW, Radio and Television News, QST, Radio-Electronics. Even MARS the Army signal Corps Bulletin wrote it up. The Codetyper went for $500 which when corrected for inflation is over $4,000 in today's dollars.
The device broke down the 43 different sequences of dots and dashes into units of time. The dash for example is three units long, and the dot is one. Units were strung in sequence the longest unit of time is the number "0" which is made of 5 dashes in Morse code. Five dashes, at 3 units each is 15 units plus the 4 spaces between them makes 19 units. Everything by definition has to be a subset of that sequence. To accomplish this, the Codetyper had 40 tubes... yes it was tube driven.
But the Codetyper vanished into obscurity by 1953. Hams, even the industrious bunch, were making their own. Catalogs carried kits that subtracted labor costs from complete units like the Codetyper. By the 1960s solid state electronics were widely available and Hams attached pin switches to manual typewriters to bridge the gap. By the 1970s they had integrated circuits, memory and buffers to play with.
With cheaper components in the 70s complete units began appearing on the market again: the Info-Tech M-300, the Picking Keyboard, the HAL MKB-1 and the MFJ-494 Super Keyboard (pictured above.) The Heathkit HD-8999 came out in the early 1980s, and may have been the last one. MFJ actually still makes a CW Keyboard today: the MFJ-452, but the keyboard is external and connected by a PS/2 port. There are few if any models on the market today with an integrated keyboard.
This is the Drake Tono Theta 7000e communications computer. It was polular in the 80's and still is hard to beat if RTTY is your pleasure. Tono was a Japanese quality manufacurer of digital communication equipment and was way ahead of its time. They made many products but this one was by far the most polular model with hams. The unit is built very well.
"So here’s what I’ve found out so far about the AC-1. The keyboard uses a diode matrix for the keying (the diode board is part of the mount for the keyboard keys. Each key is basically a spring loaded single pole momentary switch. A second PC board is mounted on the bottom, connected to the diode matrix board with several hard-soldered wires. The second board has several TO-92 package transistors on it, and a variety of other discrete components. No integrated circuits.
ADJUSTMENTS GALORE. Now volume and tone adjustments are a given, and thankfully, the tone overall is pleasant and not screechy. Speed? How would you like to adjust the speed? You can independently adjust the speed of the dits, the speed of the dahs, as well as the spacing between characters.
The 3 position rotary switch on the top panel has off, on and hold; the hold position simulates a “key down” or “tune” position.
The connector isn’t a 1/4-inch phone or RCA jack, but a two-pin microphone jack. The unit has a built-in AC supply. I’m guessing mid-1960s perhaps?"
A-TRONIX CW KEYBOARD