I’m lucky enough to own an Apple Extended Keyboard II, which belongs to my Macintosh SE. Unfortunately, it wasn’t doing much good connected to my rarely-used SE. So, I figured it would find a better home on my desk at work, where I spend the day pounding away on a crummy keyboard anyway.
The Apple Extended Keyboard II is a dream to type on because it uses mechanical switches. And I lucked out: Apple made a lot of revisions of this keyboard with cheap switches, but it turns out that I got one of the good ones. Mine is a USA model with authentic Alps Cream key switches.
The biggest stumbling block to the project was the computer’s interface. The Apple Extended Keyboard II is from the days of ADB, or Apple Desktop Bus. The internet revealed two possible solutions: An expensive and sometimes-hard-to-find adapter by Griffin, or a $16 microcontroller and some DIY elbow grease. Naturally, I chose the latter.
Ladyada and pt had an old NeXT keyboard with a strong desire to get it running on a modern computer. These keyboards are durable, super clicky, and very satisfying to use! However, they are very old designs, specifically made for NeXT hardware:, pre PS/2 and definately pre-USB. That means you can’t just plug the keyboard into a PS/2 port (even though it looks similar). In fact, I have no idea what the protocol or pinout is named, so we’ll just call it “non-ADB NeXT Keyboard”
There is no existing adapter for sale, and no code out there for getting these working, so we spent a few days and with a little research we got it working perfectly using an Arduino Micro as the go between. Now this lovely black deck works like any other USB keyboard. Sure it weighs more than our Macbook, but its worth it!
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