Linuxious

Returning to my buckling spring roots with the Unicomp Ultra Classic

Overview

I should preface this to say that I am a huge proponent of mechanical keyboards.

For those of you who are not familiar with them; there are two types of keyboards which are mechanical and membrane.

The most common type are keyboards which use membranes and rubber domes which when used together complete a circuit as you press down on a key as they are very cheap for manufacturers to make and for consumers to buy.

Mechanical keyboards on the other hand use actual physical switches and springs underneath their keys. Depending on the switch used they also generally give you nice tactile and audible feedback when you press them.

The “five-year” itch

My preferred keyboard for the longest time was the IBM Model M, but I switched to a FILCO Majestouch Tenkeyless keyboard with Cherry MX Blue key switches nearly five years ago since I wanted to try something new and for the obvious space benefits it would give.

I still love my FILCO and its great Cherry MX Blues, but I guess the “five-year itch” must have hit me hard because when I pulled out one of my IBM Model M keyboards from my closet recently on a whim and started playing around with it a bit I began to seriously consider switching back to them again.

However, after using a tenkeyless for so long the Model M looked absolutely massive on my small desk so even though my Model Ms were in excellent shape for their age (the oldest being twenty-nine years old) I decided that I should buy a brand new keyboard from Unicomp, a small company which still manufactures buckling spring keyboards (including the Model M), instead.

Why not just use a IBM Model M

Purchasing Unicomp’s Ultra Classic keyboard would allow me to have a brand new normal-sized buckling spring USB keyboard with various customization options available right out of the gate should I want them.

Unicomp is a very well known company in the mechanical keyboard market and their products come with an eighteen month warranty effective from the date the keyboard is manufactured (or twelve months from the date the keyboard is purchased whichever is longer) which is always nice to have.

It also meant that I wouldn’t need to deal with using a bulky PS/2 to USB adapter or purchasing a SDL to USB adapter (also known as a Soarer converter after its creator) which costs almost as much as the keyboard itself.

The Ultra Classic also uses the same internals (steel baseplate , keys, buckling spring mechanisms, etc.) as their Classic model, which is essentially the Model M, and everything sits in a twenty percent smaller clamshell case. They also sell spare parts and various accessories if you ever need or want them.

Making it official

I went with a customized black Unicomp Ultra Classic with blank gray keys and the 103 key layout as it allowed me to have a larger spacebar that is exactly the same size as the one on the Model M. I also ordered an LED overlay that I’ll eventually put on to replace the default overlay which has their logo on it as I feel that it looks a bit cleaner.

Unicomp was very fast in both answering my questions and shipping my order. They even issued me a discount when they were able to get me a cheaper two-day shipping rate than what their website originally listed which I have to say I didn’t expect and it increased my respect for them.

I’ve it all day today and I have to say that the Unicomp Ultra Classic keyboard has a very nice solid feel to it and the brand new buckling springs feel wonderful as well. It is also kind of cool to note that the sticker underneath the keyboard lists the build date as the day after I ordered it.

Conclusion

I should note that Unicomp’s keyboards are far from perfect. Although their hardware is excellent the keyboard cases are known to have some minor visual imperfections due to the use of old moldings.

My Ultra Classic is of course no exception as I found a few blemishes which I knew would be there from researching the keyboard I wanted before purchasing as well as some small discolorations near the arrow keys.

However, despite the minor flaws in the casing the Unicomp Ultra Classic is absolutely solid and the hardware is well made so I highly recommend looking into Unicomp if you want to buy a brand new Model M (known as the Unicomp Classic) or any another buckling spring keyboard.

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