Wyse ASCII Terminal Keyboard (Project N+)
I snagged a relatively inexpensive Wyse board the other day. It was so dirty that I didn't even think to snap a photo of it before dumping the caps into my ultrasonic cleaner.
The case is yellow, and it looks like it's full of plant matter as well.
Did somebody drag this through their lawn?
Vintage MX Blacks. I try to like linears, I really do, but they just don't do it for me. I've got new switches on order already, so I'll need to get these out of here, cleaned up, and probably sold off.
Pretty yellow. I'm kicking myself that this image is so blurry. The rear label didn't survive the restoration and I don't have a clear photo of it. I want to kiss whomever designed this board. They used brass inserts for the case screws, which is such a luxury. The metal leafsprings are a bit rusty, as are all the screws. They'll get rust removal, and I need to source a couple more screws. (Maybe replace the set)
And here I thought the front of the board was dirty. The back of the PCB was covered in at least two kinds of grime. I've since gone over it with a silicone scrubber and some isopropanol. It's worlds better but not really done yet. The plate is OK condition, but I think I need to do something about that rust.
I like seeing TI chips in stuff. Am I reading this correctly as the last week of 1984?
The case looks a lot better after a thorough scrub and some retrobrite. I really tried to lift that label off in one peice, but it disintegrated in my hands. I also got some chalky streaking after the H2O2 treatment, and thought I was effed. But a single coat of satin clear coat seems to erase whatever causes the white splotches. I suspect overtreating with H2O2 causes microscropic surface pitting, which results in the chalky white blotches. Clear coat fills those in.
Tracing the PCB is medatative. And I reiterate the nice things I have to say about the board designer. They silkscreened a bunch of useful information onto this thing.
That gets me to the following:
A full map of the switch matrix for the PCB, with pinouts for the rows and columns.
We're going to skip ahead a bit. I had thought that I might make a video of the conversion process, but for reasons of my own incompetence, that's not happening. As a summary, I desoldered every last one of the vintage MX Black switches that came with the Wyse, and all the chips and components that were attached. Once the board was free, I cleaned up some of the rust from the plate, and rebuilt it with new Novelkeys Box Navies and a Teensy for a brain.
Since this was a mod and not just a restoration, I was aiming for functionality over looks. There is also not a ton of space in the bezels of the Wyse case. Still, the bulk of my crimes will be hidden once this thing is buttoned up.
The plate was a lot cleaner than when I got it, but there was still a bit of rust around the edges. The spot pictured above was the worse. I scrapped the gunk off, cleaned it with a light acid and some steel wool. I don't mind a bit of wear showing, so I sprayed the plate down with clear coat instead of an opaque paint. I'm not trying to pass this baby off as new, just keep the red stuff from coming back.
The process of installing the Teensy was simultaneously satisfying and frustrating. I used some rainbow ribbon cables I had lying around, and laid them down in as logical order as I though come up with. Still, there was a lot of them to get into a small space and everything started to pile up a bit. Next time I'm going to go out of my way to use a thinner wire or revisit a one off PCB.
The end result leaves a lot to be desired, but the only people who will see it will be ones who open the case up. Well, and you people. The male dupont connectors connect to reset and ground, which were under all the other wires. There's a soft reset on the keymap, but permanently covering the hard wired one seemed like a bad idea. The PCBs are held together with an insulating foam double sided tape, and the wires stay in place with a bit of CA glue.
Like most terminals, the Wyse ASCII doesn't have lock lights. I can do without them, but I thought of how to make it work here, and I had extra pins on the Teensy, so I couldn't resist. TO start, the corners of the grills were carefully drilled out with a tiny little drill bit. This lets the light shine through.
Then I modeled a part in Fusion 360 to hold some 1.8mm x 2mm white LEDS into the backside of the bezel, where they'd shine their light through the little holes. The anodes for the LEDs were tied together and the cathodes run to the Teensy. From top to bottom we have Power, Num Lock, Caps Lock, and Scroll Lock.
I've flashed a QMK firmware to it, but I'm still tweaking my layout. I haven't had a lot of time to use this keyboard because it's LOUD. My other Box Navy board is similarly noisy, so I was expecting that. It feels like an act of aggression just using this in the same building as anybody else. Still, I love the feel of the navies a lot, slightly more than the Royals that I'm using in my main board here in my home office. They're crisp and sharp like no other MX switch is. For everyday use, I'll still take switch that doesn't declare war on everyone else's ears, but for a special occasion, these are a real treat.