This is the place to discuss our glorious C64/128 machines and their very active scenes. Other C= 8-bits welcome, too!
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

by intric8 posted Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:07 am

Like most folks in the community, I'm pretty sick that there isn't a viable C64 keycap option in the market.

I’ve done a fair bit of research and it turns out that a very highly respected keycap manufacturer is just a 2-hour drive from my house in Seattle, WA.

I’ve been in talks with them for the past few weeks and have even given them one of my breadbin keyboards for deeper analysis. The idea is for them to create brand new keycaps for the C64.

(Note: There is a poll at the bottom of this post for those of you that wish to have a voice and participate in this decision I will be making soon.)

Keep in mind everything here would be made 100% in the USA. Therefore, the prices of things are naturally higher because of living wages, etc. Basically, 2-3X higher than Chinese-manufacturing prices. But please read on if you are interested in C64 keycaps. There have been whispers of other options but nothing exists today. These are real options to ponder.

Option 1
Brand new tooling would be made from an original set of C64 breadbin keycaps. The tooling alone would cost $110,000.

Let that sink in for a moment.

On top of that, if I was to put in an order for 1,000 keycap sets (again, as close to 100% perfection as we can make it today) it would cost about $130/set + packing/shipping costs.

So, the tooling AND keycaps would be closer to $240/set total. It’s a lot of money.

Worth noting that these would be pad printed, and we’d get color-matched dark chocolate brown keys with bright white glyphs. They’d print the letterforms on the tops of the keys, and the PETSCII glyphs on the front of the keys, just like the original keycaps. In theory they would be perfect.

Option 2
We don’t order new tooling and use an existing keycap that is very close to the original. These are referred to as “SA” keycaps and look nearly the same except the profiles of the keys aren’t quite as high. These would also be dark chocolate brown, with the letterforms printed accordingly as described above.

These would run closer to $130 + packing/shipping worldwide. They would be nearly ½ the cost of the perfect keys as described in Option 1.

Option 3
Do nothing. Just go buy an extra C64 on Ebay for $100 (more or less) and go that route. Sure most of the keys are yellow, but whatever. Sometimes you get lucky.

_________________________

Please take this short 3-question (anonymous) survey when you have a chance. I will be posting this in a few locations throughout the day, so please just ignore it if you see it elsewhere. Thanks, everyone!
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

by intric8 posted Wed Mar 27, 2019 11:23 am

Also, here are some just-received photos of the SA Family keys, which clearly show the differences in key profiles. They would also need some special 3D printed adapters to be made, which was not revealed previously (similar to how the Mechboard needs adapters).
Attachments
IMG_3578.jpg
Note: This is not how the letters would look. We'd match them much more closely to the original.
IMG_3579.jpg
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

by intric8 posted Wed Mar 27, 2019 12:20 pm

Something else worth pointing out.

You'll notice how the new SA Family keys are semi-matte. That's not because a different type of plastic was used. It's due to the actual tooling. So, if we went for buying new tooling... we could get the plastic color to match and be glossy to near-perfection.

We can't get there using "off-the-shelf" tooling. But off-the-shelf doesn't look bad. Just different.
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

by intric8 posted Wed Mar 27, 2019 8:55 pm

Everyone, I have just been informed in confidence that my campaign will not be needed. I can't comment on it beyond that but I need to unplug from this now. I apologize for wasting your (and my!) time.

Just be a little more patient.

(Trust me, this is VERY good news.)
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rpiguy9907

by rpiguy9907 posted Thu Mar 28, 2019 7:30 pm

I eagerly await your secret news! However, I will point out that option 2 will only work if the larger keys, shift, restore, enter, etc. have multiple mounts.

Modern SA caps have the stem mount in the center of the key, while the old commodore keys have two or three mounts for longer keys,
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

by intric8 posted Thu Mar 28, 2019 8:41 pm

The company I was talking to assured me this wasn't a problem, but I'm putting that idea on a shelf for the moment. By the end of April or so I (and we) will know if I should resume those talks or not.
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rpiguy9907

by rpiguy9907 posted Sat Mar 30, 2019 5:13 pm

intric8 wrote:The company I was talking to assured me this wasn't a problem, but I'm putting that idea on a shelf for the moment. By the end of April or so I (and we) will know if I should resume those talks or not.


Signature plastics is pretty awesome. I have some of the Nuclear Data keycaps on one of my keyboards, the quality is amazing.
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

by intric8 posted Sat Mar 30, 2019 5:48 pm

The Survey Monkey has closed.

The results are very interesting.

Question 1: Would you purchase brand new, virtually PERFECT C64 breadbin keycaps if it required the added cost of creating the tooling - thus doubling the price? (approximately $225/set + shipping costs) Dark chocolate brown keys with bright white letterforms on top and petscii glyphs on the front.

To my surprise, 33% of respondents said yes. That seems crazy to me, and eye opening. Granted, everyone else said no, so the market would shrink dramatically.

Truth is even though there is a hunger for high-quality nearly perfect C64 keycaps, the costs to get there (that I'm looking at) are far too high to ever be able to raise enough coin in a campaign. It's just too high. Especially when Chinese firms can do the same exact thing - and deliver the product - at 10% of the cost.


Question 2: Would you purchase brand new, "close enough" keycaps if it meant no new tooling was involved? SA tooling already exists and is very similar in style. The main difference is the profiles of the keys wouldn't be quite as high as the original keycaps. The price would probably be somewhere closer to $125 (don't quote me directly yet, but approximately) + shipping worldwide.

56% said yes. 20% said no because they wanted perfection. The other 20% said no because they said it was still far too expensive.

So, if it was cheaper (let's say half this cost) the 56% would grow at a healthy clip. And it if was nearly perfect? You're looking at a solid market, folks.

Question 3: Would you rather just keep using Ebay for the foreseeable future? You could probably buy an original C64 for these prices and just plunder it. Now, the keycaps won't be sparkly and new, but hey. This is getting ridiculous.

23% said they'd keep going the Ebay route. If you're going to spend $100, they reason, you might as well get an entire machine - even if it is a dead one. You'd still get a better value for your buck (even if that means the plastic looks like a nice shade of Earl Grey).
77% said they'd rather buy new ones.
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obitus1990
USA

by obitus1990 posted Sun Apr 28, 2019 7:54 pm

intric8 wrote:The company I was talking to assured me this wasn't a problem, but I'm putting that idea on a shelf for the moment. By the end of April or so I (and we) will know if I should resume those talks or not.

The end of April is upon us... any reveals?
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

by intric8 posted Sun Apr 28, 2019 8:09 pm

Oh man... that's a long story. And one I'm not entirely sure I should post publicly. Let me chat with someone first before I say anything - just to make sure about one thing.

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