IBM Model M keyboard, Unicomp

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Model M keyboard, made famous in early 1990s with IBM's PS/2 personal computer.

model M keyboard
IBM Model M Keyboard, year ~1990
IBM model M2 for Sweden and Finland 71584
IBM Model M2 keyboard, made in the UK on 1992, with a layout for Sweden and Finland. Part number: 1395713.
Typing on an IBM Model M Keyboard
IBM Model M keyboard buckling spring sound

I used it for a few months in 1990. Click-clack click-clack, but a real joy to use.

What people love about this keyboard is its superior tactile feedback. The key switches are based on a mechanism known as buckling spring. When you put pressure on a key, after a certain point, =click!=, it sucks you down. That means, you get a clean, precise, feel whether the key is pressed. A drawback is that it is rather loud. The sound came from the spring hitting the key's inner wall. It's crispy and precise.

keyboard buckling spring
buckling spring key switch mechanism.
keyboard buckling spring switch 66276

Many modern, rubber dome based keyboards are also loud, and makes ugly “squeak”, “clunk”, “thud” sounds, due to bad acoustic housing of the keys and plastics rubbing each other.

Where to Buy

Unicomp owns the rights to the design of “Model M keyboard”, and currently makes modern version of keyboard with this mechanism.

unicomp model m keyboard 25675
Unicomp Keyboard
unicomp model m us apl 60769
Unicomp Keyboard with APL labeling. Unicomp Keyboard
APL keyboard layout
APL keyboard layout. image source

[see How to Create APL or Math Symbols Keyboard Layout]

Here's a interview with Unicomp guy Mr Muyskens

IBM Model F keyboard

Model F comes before Model M.

Model F is even better, because it uses electrostatic capacitance switch. Model M is a cost-saving replacement.

see IBM Model M type 3193 Keyboard


The buckling spring is a old tech. There are few other key switch mechanisms with good tactile feedback. If you want something with very crispy tactile bump feel, look for keyboard with switch called Cherry MX Blue.

[see Guide to Keyboard Key Switch Mechanisms]

[see List of Keyboards with Mechanical Switch]