Why it's the best
Many people love the IBM Model M, but what makes it so great? There are many reason, and admittedly some of the features that make some people love the keyboard drive other people crazy.
First, it's heavy. The earliest ones weigh in at around 5 pounds due to the curved steel backplate, and even the latest ones manufactured by Unicomp only weigh a little less. The curved plate also provides a slight ergonomic design. This thing is built to last, and it won't slide around on your desk (it is not, however, very portable.)
The buckling spring is what makes the IBM Model M unique. When the spring is pressed down, it compresses for a bit, then buckles, or snaps to the site, actuating the flipper at the bottom, which causes it to press against the membrane.
The spring not only provides resistance, but when the spring buckles, it provides both a noticeable feel under your finders, and an audible click. Not only that, but there's no doubt about whether the key has registered or not, as it only activates at the moment the spring buckles (when the spring snaps against the side of the barrel. You can see it in the picture to the right.)
The nostalgia factor is pretty high too. Many people have memories of typing on these when they were in school. What other computer component from the 80's can you still use today? The saying, "They don't build 'em like they used to" is true, at least, it is when it comes to the IBM Model M.
Mechanical keyboards are almost a requirement if you have a job (or hobby) that requires you to type all day. Mechanicals feel better to type on, and individual switches under each key last longer too. The buckling spring switches in the IBM Model M are rated to last at least 25 million key-presses, though many keyboards are still in service with well over that number.
The Model M was designed to be a more cost-efficient replacement for the Model F. It was produced by IBM, and often came with a new computer. The new keyboard layout became an industry standard, and is still used in most keyboards today.
The earlier Model M's had removable keycaps, a detachable cable, and no drainage holes.
IBM spins off some of it's hardware production to form Lexmark, who made the Model M for several years. At various points, Lexmark switched to a single-piece keycap, added drainage holes, and changed to a permanently attached cable.
|2 piece key-cap|
Lexmark's contract to manufacture the Model M for IBM expires, and IBM sells off several patents and old equipment, among them the patents, molds, and tooling for the Model M. Several former Lexmark employees buy them and form Unicomp, who continues to sell the Model M under the Unicomp name.
Unicomp keyboards all have attached cables. Most have two-piece keycaps.
Switch type: Bucking Spring
Interface: PS/2 (Early models come in an AT or terminal connector variant. Unicomp sells their re-branding of the Model M with either PS/2 or USB connectors.)
Dimensions: 19" x 8 1/4" x 2"
Weight: 5 lbs (depending on the exact model)