Hardware

Mod your computer keyboard, steampunk style

Mild-mannered IT manager by day, mad modding genius by night, Jake von Slatt demonstrates how to build a computer keyboard -- steampunk style.

View this image gallery for a full demonstration, complete with how-to instructions in Jake's own words.

Read about Jake's Steampunk Workshop and his craftsmanlike approach to technology in this blog post.

Photo courtesy of Jake von Slatt. For more jaw-dropping steampunk mods, visit Jake's Steampunk Workshop.

118 comments
Brenton Keegan
Brenton Keegan

Seriously. Calculate your materials cost and labor and sell these. I would buy one.

geneonlbk
geneonlbk

No keyboard came with my mid 70s Digital Group Z80 kit. I found a keyboard off a mini being sold in a Byte shop in Mountainview CA. While I was there Steve Wozniak came into the store with a dozen motherboads for the SLAC people. I thought my Burroughs reject keyboard, sans any sort of case, was beautiful.

jcrisp
jcrisp

I love it.Great job.Are you going to market the keyboard? gccjr

tim554
tim554

Keyboard looks like it's going to slow me down on production. As long as he's having fun doing it... more power to him. I make x amount of money for not waisting time like that.

sdgreen42
sdgreen42

Thanks so much for sharing with us! Truly an inspirational feat, and one that demonstrates a great deal of articulate patience and design. Albeit, not my "cup of tea," (by aesthetics -- I like the modern feel) it is nonetheless an awesome piece of work. Bravo, and well done!!

steeldocparker
steeldocparker

BRAVO !!!! BRAVO !!!! LOVELY !!! ABSOLUTELY WONDERFULL !!!! KEEP IT UP FREE THINKERS !!!!! BRAVO !!!

UncleYitz
UncleYitz

My desk is my home. This keyboard would add classic style to any desktop. Well done!

mca122
mca122

Beautiful workmanship.

kycpow
kycpow

Don't you know men with large hands are going to be so comfortable with this. And it is beautiful.

RaDerX
RaDerX

How sad is this what a waste of time i wish I had the last 30 seconds of my life back

waynepd
waynepd

What a mind there is behind this art! Fan-bloody-tastic work Jake, Congratulations for breathing old life into a mundane piece of hardware. I had an idea for incorporating a system into an old upright piano but i don't have the requisite skills if you wanna take that on LOL.

inbox
inbox

Fer Christ's sakes! What is this lunacy? Is there no hope for the human race?

sbergens
sbergens

Absolutely lovely! I'll looking for it in the next post cyber movie. ;?) And I want one!

Jerome.Wright
Jerome.Wright

Wow. Wow. Wow. Geekend, from heaven. Legend.

Engine Air
Engine Air

Jake, but where is a steam-boiler?! I cannot find it in under-deck :-)

jetpowercom
jetpowercom

While it's technically cool for its small circle of interested folks (me among them), it would be humanly cool if the author were to package this as a project for the re-schooling of at-risk youth, who are in desperate need of creative methods to bring them into the stream of productive citizenship.

willemdax
willemdax

I love my IBM "Clicky" keyboard But mine also has the two button trackpoint mouse incorporated in it. It is the only keyboard that I like. Unfortunately this can only be found on ebay for lots of money. But I might be willing to pay lots of money if you can do this to one of my clicky trackpoint keyboards

jstafford81
jstafford81

What made you decide to go with that kind of keyboard? But it is cool anyway.

drdosus
drdosus

Why bother to modify in this manner? It does not enhance the operation of the unit to change its appearance. Has the technical community succumbed to the MCSE toilet paper "engineers" and perhaps _this_ is all that they can do???

iCherylb
iCherylb

Love the brass sides and keys. Plastic keyboards are so boring.

larodectus
larodectus

This should be in a museum...Great work

clipvst
clipvst

I have to admit, when I first saw this story I thought I'd find one of the 'break open something' epsisodes. You know... mildly interesting. But as I looked through pics I couldn't help but move onto the next, & the next... anxiously looking for the final product (without cheating!). You have to admit craft & originality in a time when everything is turning into a copy of something else. I think I may be the latest disciple of the movement! :-)

JCitizen
JCitizen

The brass furniture gave a antique metal appeal without the drab krinkel finish of the origial machines! Excellent choice. Fantastic project! Now if you could get someone to purpose manufacture them and earn royalties of the copyrights! ;) Take that last jab as a joke of course! I've read your culture comments on the site. Maybe the eggheads here at TR can help you guys with your spambot problems!

gcjeffries
gcjeffries

Oh, this is so AWESOME!! I wish I had the patience and the skill to do something like that - not to talk about the imagination to think it up in the first place!

jeanpierre.liebaert
jeanpierre.liebaert

Tout simplement remarquable? Qu'est-ce que j'envie les gens capables de faire cela! I: vivra s?rement plus vieux que les obs?d?s du "Time is money!"

kmcniff
kmcniff

This is an example of thinking 'Out of the Box' and also has a nostalgic look and feel.

tungstendiadem
tungstendiadem

I really like the aesthetics. I hate to be critical, but it really could use a brass box to cover the electronics on the back, and the erm... key plungers could use some brass colored paint. All in all I am rather jealous and wish I had one. Do you think I could make one with a dremel? I have never cut brass before. I was thinking of doing an all wood tower, monitor, and keyboard set up with some furniture quality accents like maybe cherry varnished maple, or walnut, with deco cue stick style ebony, or mahogany inlays.

bookkeeper
bookkeeper

Have to admit that is quite a piece of work. That is a cool looking keyboard

gwcarter
gwcarter

How about letting the grownups in on the joke?

thought
thought

Forgive me if this was mentioned before; I was unwilling to read all responses. Visit the URL(s) below. Isn't this guy great?!

2rs
2rs

You're correct about the similarity! As a lifelong crafter, I think Jake did a splendid job of re-purposing to creat a work of art! I worked for PT&T & was one of the first female Switchmen in NoCal. I helped maintain a #5XB, which was replaced in the early 90's with a 2ESS. I loved working on that machine & still miss it. Only another Switchman {CommTech} could relate.

Fixer77
Fixer77

Well done! Two small upgrade suggestions: paint or otherwise disguise the beige key posts, and replace the cord with a straight fabric jacketed one. Also, I wonder if an old adding machine or cash register would provide some oversized keys for Shift, Enter, etc?

shadow3865
shadow3865

THAT IS COOL I Want ONE were can I Get one for the office. LOL :)

Pascal_Bellerose
Pascal_Bellerose

I really enjoyed watching the steps of this crafting. Nice work Jake!

itzumang
itzumang

@least then PpL will stop whining about you wasting the time :D

Jairo-IT
Jairo-IT

He is doing this for relaxation... As mentioned in previous posts: "it is a hobby". He must be doing something right to afford an expensive hobby like this! On the other hand, you would not want to use a $1200 Keyboard everyday... It is like a "collector's piece".

dan.haffar
dan.haffar

Far too much time bla bla bla.. i see those comments as envy.. just like a guy driving up in a pristine condition Ferrari.. and comments are HEY! you have far too much money! instead you should just say hey that guy lucky he got skill and the TIME tom use it so you and i can be inspired. Think about NASA they seen to have far too much time on their hands (lets go to the moon and collect some rocks,..) :-)

wizodd
wizodd

Gee, lighten up. Does everything you do make you more efficient or relate to your work? How do you recreate? This is the kind of thing one does for the joy of doing it! (And the letters don't wear off the keys either! Which DOES enhance it's operation!) This project probably cost at least 40 hours--and I'll bet that every single minute was more fun than any normal work week! So you drive a subcompact, live in a 400 square foot house, grow your own food, walk or bicycle instead of driving everywhere, use solar hot water etc, etc. All of which "enhance efficiency" but I'll be you don't do ANY of them. Human beings aren't efficient. If we were, we'd still be living as hunter gatherers and enjoying 20 hours per day of free time! Lighten up a little! Smile and mean it. Take a good look around at the beauty around you. Life is not about efficiency (unless your a Vulcan....)

thought
thought

..or here... ...or here... and its related pages.

wizodd
wizodd

Ever since the govt let the corps in the US declare the IT people weren't entitled to overtime, being salaried (which _includes_ govt, means only that you're hourly rate declines with every extra hour they through at you. You're out of work. _You_ should have less time to spare than any of us--assuming you're looking. Good luck though, the market will go away completely next winter when the govt admits that there is a recession, even more next spring when they admit it's not just a recession.

tdarmond
tdarmond

I have a co-worker who says things like, "You have too much time on your hands." primarily becasue she is not interested in my outside hobbies which involve the performing arts. I think what few negative comments we see here come from shackled minds that can't appreciate the ability of others to step out in a dimension of creativity and art beyond their world. It's kind of sad. I applaud art in any form. It's what puts human-kind ahead of the primates. I really liked your comment. Thanks for the positive response like the majority here have given. It gives us technically driven people a glimpse of humanity in it's finest form. Appreciation for beauty and creativity. What we do with our own time says alot. Cheap criticism takes no effort.

drdosus
drdosus

But I _do_ drive a subcompact, mow with a manual non-power mower, bicycle when I can. I wouldn't FIT in a 400 ft house and I would prefer the hunter-gatherer life but I'm stuck with 21st century. O well. I guess I'll install some multicolor LEDs on the systemboard and a plexiglas hood on the ole tower...