IBM's Legendary Model F Buckling Spring Keyboard Reinvented, Now Available To Order

IBM Model F Keyboard Replica
Mechanical keyboards are wildly popular among computing enthusiasts and gamers currently. However, hardcore and old school geeks alike will argue that the venerable IBM Model F, circa 1981 and sporting keys that must be forced down on internal buckling springs, was the best mechanical keyboard ever made. It was a key masher's dream and emanated a deliciously clicky sound that modern day mechanical keyboards have all tried and failed to perfectly replicate.

Until very recently the Model F was a nearly extinct, rare beast, only found in retro graveyard revivals with keepers of the faith, or the lucky few with access to dinosaur, left-behind stockpiles from the big hair days of computing. That is until one Joe Strandberg, a Cornell University grad and said keeper of the faith, decided he wanted to resurrect the Model F in all its glory.  
buckling spring patent

Model F Buckling Spring Key Design From IBM's Now Expired Patent

Joe remembered the glorious keyboard well, not just because it was the golden era birth of the PC, but because it quite literally, in his opinion, was the best there ever was. He used to restore old original IBM Model F keyboards and learned the ins and outs of the battleship build quality and internal mechanics of the keys. So one day, he took it upon himself to begin the process of literally re-tooling, redesigning, and building a new Model F, exactly to IBM's specs.

Model F Keyboard Parts

This wouldn't be any 3D printed replica either, but a fully tooled, ready-for-production unit. Strandberg notes that a 3D printed version couldn't hold up to the stresses of the buckling spring and its mechanics. As you can see in the figure above, there's literally a spring inside each key switch and that spring buckles -- hence the "buckling spring" design naming -- which then presses down on a plastic paddle below and actuates a key stroke on the PCB underneath. It's a simple, perhaps primitive design, yet oh-so satisfying in both its audible and tactile feedback. Cherry has made big business of its Cherry MX line of key switches, with different tactile feel and both clicky and non-clicky switch types, but purists argue there's nothing that's quite like the buckling Model F. 
IBM Model F Keyboard Replica2
The good news is, thanks to Joe's hard work and sweat equity, along with a team of engineers and programmers that helped, and a cool $100K in investment, the IBM Model F has been reborn via the Model F Keyboard Project. Back in the day, the Model F cost $600, but the project site now has them up for sale starting at $325. It may sound pricey, but when you realize the cost of reproducing these pieces of history with uncompromising tank-like build quality with an unparalleled typing experience, you begin to realize it's basically a labor of love for the Model F Project team. Fortunately, that decades old design and the materials the team employs are virtually identical to the 80s era design and as a result these radically retro typing decks should last for decades to come.

If the Model F has you intrigued, and you'd like to try a buckling spring keyboard, but the high price and layout don't work for you, don't fret -- the Model F isn't your only option. Unicomp has been reproducing updated IBM Model M and similar style keyboards using buckling spring key switches true to IBM's design for years, and some models are available for under $100.