Unsmoothy-ifying a Model M

It’s no secret: my Model M keyboard is one of my favorite objects. The buckling spring keys make typing a highly precise exercise through the outstanding tactile and auditory feedback of this human input device. So when tragedy struck in the form of a smoothie being spilled on my keyboard, I quickly had to figure out the proper way to investigate and fix it after keys failed. While I could have simply chucked the malfunctioning keyboard in the trash, it didn’t feel right, ya know? When an object has been around for twenty years, it feels wrong to give up on it so easily.

The Model M is great at a lot of things, but easy fixin’ is not high on the list.  To get access to the membranes (which had smoothie residue on them), you have to do a process called a “bolt mod,” which is a time-intensive and precise task where all of the plastic rivets are chiseled off the back of the keyboard. Once done so, you need to create a slight dimple with a soldering iron where each one of these rivets used to be, because then you get to drill 1/16″ holes into each one of these former rivet locations! But the fun isn’t over! Then you get to screw in small screws into each one of these holes before fastening everything together back with a nut.

Oh, and you get to do this around 50-60 times, because there are a large number of rivets. And you can’t use too much force, or else the plastic will break.

Once this is all complete, the innards of the Model M are finally able to be accessed and, more importantly, you have the ability to reassemble everything back into working order. I cleaned the membranes and electrical contacts, and verified that everything was back to being smoothie-free.

After many weeks of effort, many times of trial and error, and a whole lot of drilling, the Model M was resurrected and pressed back into service as my primary keyboard at home.

The moral of the story is directed towards fellow Model M owners: a bolt mod isn’t that scary, and I’d absolutely recommend it if your choice is to otherwise throw out one of these magnificent pieces of technology.

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