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Old 18 May 2017, 23:05   #1
Akira
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A plea for someone to fix the A600's biggest problem...

Unlike many, I love my Amiga 600. Always did, always will do. I even have three of them now. It's a nifty machine, very easily expanded and it has an excellent form factor especially if you wanna move it around.

Nowadays perception of this machine has shifted and it has become kind of a sought after model, which makes me both happy (justice for the underdog!) and sad (if any of my machines dies, I will have a hard time trying to replace it).

You can put a Vampire in it and turn it into the ultimate be-all-end-all Amiga, more power than any other machine ever had, but there's one thing preventing it from being a powerhouse machine, the ultimate Amiga:

THE
FUCKING
KEYBOARD
CONNECTOR

I cannot explain how fed up I am with these fucking keyboards. Whatever reason there is that makes A600 membrane flat ribbons fail a lot is beyond me, but that shit has to go. The blue membranes seem to be slightly more durable, but they could end up failing anyway. Like A1200 ones.


You can have the most kickass Amiga there is with your shiny new Vampire, clockport expansions, USB, Indivision, you name it. But that shitty fucking keyboard is gonna die on you and leave you looking like a moron when you are trying to demo your Vampire with Quake but a row of your fucking keys decided to die out of nowhere. Time to open that machine up, yeah! Now wiggle the fucking thing till the row works, awesome! Now another row doesn't work! Wiggle some more, now the spacebar is dead! Repeat until the gods smile on you and the planets have aligned, and it all works again! Oh joy, this is the happiest computer experience I ever had!!!


The only solutions we have, so far, are the VIA piggyback adapters but they are only for connecting USB or PS/2 keyboards externally. NO solution to replace the terribly bad internal keyboard and keep your A600 in its original form. Not optimal, but if you are towering that thing (why do you do this to yourself and the Amiga?), you are in luck.

So I implore, beg, ask pretty please with sugar on top of the Amiga hardware gods, any of you beautiful wizards, stop for a second your accelerator development, and think how this problem could be fixed. A new membrane with a proper cable connector? A new membrane with a cable that piggybacks on the VIA? Anything. ANYTHING will be better, I can bet, than the shitjob Commodore put in A600s.

Thanks for reading this ramble/petition, and I hope someone decides to do the right thing, because I sure as hell cannot
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Old 19 May 2017, 00:30   #2
idrougge
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I fixed the membrane of my Spectrum by desoldering the connector from the motherboard and extending it with a ribbon cable.
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Old 19 May 2017, 01:04   #3
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Those connectors are only really meant to be connected once and left alone. The fact that 25 years later we're pulling them apart again and again for various things was probably never considered as a possibility at the time... Not that that improves the current situation.

There is a sort of solution I used almost 20 years ago when I first put my A1200 in a tower. I removed the connector from the motheboard, soldered it onto the end of a cable, and fitted a totally different connector to the motherboard that could withstand regular connecting and disconnecting. Not ideal, but it means never needing to disconnect the ribbon again, so it should last for many years. It was vaguely similar to the situation in the A500 in the end.

Also, passive adaptors on the CIA or keyboard MPU will accept Amiga keyboards. Not that that helps for the A600, but at least you can use a native layout instead of a PC one if you do go down the external keyboard route.

Edit: Sorry, I misread idrougge's reply, sounds like his Spectrum solution was similar to my A1200 one...
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Old 19 May 2017, 01:26   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daedalus View Post
I removed the connector from the motheboard, soldered it onto the end of a cable, and fitted a totally different connector to the motherboard that could withstand regular connecting and disconnecting.
Usually I am all in for replacing connectors, but in this case, you have to work with a fucking shitty membrane. How do you even solder to it? Its a terrible thing to manipulate.

Even with my temporary fix of cutting a bit of the end and scraping contacts, it shows how feeble this thing is. You can scratch "too much' really easily.

With that said i am gonna try scraping with really fine grit sandpaper to see what happens, but there's an end to how much one can cut this damn cable. A new membrane that connects to a pCB with a normal cable would be a godsend. We all open up A600s all the time moreso now with all the addons available for it. The keyboard situation is stupid and before anyone keeps plonking R&D time and money into the A600, this issue should be solved first I feel. It really turns the computer useless.
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Old 19 May 2017, 06:13   #5
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In my experience they can take lots of attaching/disconnecting, but you just need to have good discipline with the latch on the motherboard connector.

I know you don't want to hear it, but RWAP software sells replacement membranes. I received an A600 which had the membrane worn from someone not undoing the latch so I bought one of those to replace the failing one.
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Old 19 May 2017, 09:46   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Akira View Post
Usually I am all in for replacing connectors, but in this case, you have to work with a fucking shitty membrane. How do you even solder to it? Its a terrible thing to manipulate.
Sorry, maybe I didn't explain it well enough - I didn't solder to the membrane. I soldered the cable to the original white socket, which was now separate from the motherboard. The other end of this cable then got a female pin strip header, and the motherboard got the male equivalent via a short flying lead. This meant that, once I attached the membrane to its original socket, it never had to be removed again. This is very similar to the Amiga 500, which uses a membrane for its keyboard too, but you don't need to disconnect it to remove the keyboard. Instead, you disconnect the pin header.

Quote:
A new membrane that connects to a pCB with a normal cable would be a godsend.
A membrane always needs a contact connection, but my suggestion means that this connection doesn't need to be disturbed, meaning it shouldn't wear out.
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Old 19 May 2017, 10:10   #7
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Exactly. Like the A500.
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Old 19 May 2017, 10:20   #8
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I have to say it works fine on my 1200 and its been together and apart plenty of times. For a while there actually the clip on the motherboard was broken so it was working with just a bit of cardboard jammed in place too.

I suppose you could desoldered the membrane connector from the motherboard and made up a daughter board within the membrane connector straight through onto 20 wires then soldered those to the motherboard. Just seems like a lot of work for very little gain. Plus you'll need to find space in the case for the longer cable and new board. Personally I'd just buy a second hand keyboard to have just in case the exsiting one and its membrane break.
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Old 19 May 2017, 10:31   #9
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I suppose you ran into some sort keyboard problem during your live performance yesterday?
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Old 19 May 2017, 16:10   #10
Akira
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Originally Posted by hooverphonique View Post
I suppose you ran into some sort keyboard problem during your live performance yesterday?
You bet! Not the first time, you can look at it at the video, I even give the Amiga the bird
At least that was a relaxed live stream at home, but this has happened while I am performing somewhere.

I had not opened the machine for years. Everything was working fine. THEN SUDDENTLY the spacebar decided to stop working. So it ISN'T just from fiddling wit the connector or opening and closing the machine much. These things just die.

But as I said, this happens almost every time I want to use a 600, even if i had not opened it, some key or other would have died and then I have to mess with it.

I understand now what you guys did regarding the connector and membrane. That makes sense. But this happens even if you don't open the machines much. I am not one of those guys who pulled the connector without unlatching it or something like that, and nowadays, most of the times I have to open a machine, is because this connector isn't freaking working! I'm not constantly messing about with what's inside my 600s, I even try not to open them at all to update or backup the internal CFs unless completely necessary. So it's not like I wear them too much, this membrane is just terrible.

My A1200 has been opened and closed a million times more than any of my A600s yet the connector has NEVER given any problems. So there is some quality problem with these membranes.

I just find it very stupid to have made the A600 the host for something as important as the Vampire yet people who own them have to deal with shitty keyboards, and nobody thinking "hey, let's try to fix this". Accelerators, mouse adapters, even cosmetics like case and keys have been made true, but not this!
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Old 19 May 2017, 16:16   #11
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One difference between the A600 and A1200 could be the length of the ribbon. When closing up the computer, the ribbon is folded in an abrupt angle and may be worn over time.

BTW, I recently discovered that you don't need to open the A600 to backup the internal CF. Just insert a spare, Amiga partitioned, CF card in the PCMCIA slot and use GiggleDisk to create a mountlist for the card. Then you can do all backups you need, and even prepare a new card by pointing HDToolbox at compactflash.device.
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Old 19 May 2017, 16:45   #12
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If we had a set of keycaps that would fit on some modern switches (e.g. Cherry), it wouldn't be too hard to design a PCB to replace the A600 keyboard. It would be pretty expensive but certainly robust.

It might be within the realm of possibility to make a second set of bottom mold halves (with Cherry fittings) for the 1200.net keycaps.
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Old 19 May 2017, 17:13   #13
Akira
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Quote:
Originally Posted by idrougge View Post
BTW, I recently discovered that you don't need to open the A600 to backup the internal CF. Just insert a spare, Amiga partitioned, CF card in the PCMCIA slot and use GiggleDisk to create a mountlist for the card.
Good tip!
I take them out because I like to make images of the cards, but I'll keep this method in mind for the next backup!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ajk
it wouldn't be too hard to design a PCB to replace the A600 keyboard. It would be pretty expensive but certainly robust.

It might be within the realm of possibility to make a second set of bottom mold halves (with Cherry fittings) for the 1200.net keycaps.
The thing is, the keyboard is fine, I like the mitsumi mechanism and all. But it's the membrane that is absolute shit. I am sure producing the membrane is cheaper than producing a whole keyboard.

Sure, a keyboard with Cherry switches would be fancy and swank, but I don't want to spend so much money on a keyboard.
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Old 19 May 2017, 17:27   #14
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Well, the simple solution available right now is a new membrane for 20. One of those is certainly better than trying to breathe life into the failing one

The A500 keyboard has exactly the same type of membrane and connector so I don't think that in itself is the problem. It just doesn't get moved around in that configuration. Maybe an adapter PCB of some kind could be made so that the membrane on the A600 is immobilized, something similar to what Daedalus was talking about earlier.
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Old 19 May 2017, 19:45   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Akira View Post

My A1200 has been opened and closed a million times more than any of my A600s yet the connector has NEVER given any problems. So there is some quality problem with these membranes.

I agree with this. I have replaced the membrane twice in my A600 and even had to replace the keyboard connector on the motherboard once.

A1200? Zero issues.
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Old 19 May 2017, 23:47   #16
Akira
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I forgot to reply to this:

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Originally Posted by Jope View Post
I know you don't want to hear it, but RWAP software sells replacement membranes.
UGH, ok, but are these new old stock or are they newly made, better ones? Seems to me like they are the same old shit, and we don't want that. Sure, maybe they last 5 more years, but then what?

My A1200 membrane has been good for 15 years. Still no signs of problems.
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Old 20 May 2017, 00:05   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Akira View Post
I forgot to reply to this:



UGH, ok, but are these new old stock or are they newly made, better ones? Seems to me like they are the same old shit, and we don't want that. Sure, maybe they last 5 more years, but then what?

My A1200 membrane has been good for 15 years. Still no signs of problems.
Newly made, they are all reproductions.
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Old 22 May 2017, 08:56   #18
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My A600 keyboard also died due to the failing cable.
Bought myself a SUM USB keyboard adapter and a logitech wireless keyboard, works great.
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Old 22 May 2017, 18:06   #19
Akira
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Newly made, they are all reproductions.
Interesting. Do you think they are better than what was originally shipped with Commodore?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr-Z View Post
My A600 keyboard also died due to the failing cable.
Bought myself a SUM USB keyboard adapter and a logitech wireless keyboard, works great.
That's great if you don't care about having to have a keyboard for your computer that already has a keyboard :/
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Old 22 May 2017, 18:09   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Akira View Post
Interesting. Do you think they are better than what was originally shipped with Commodore?
At least the same quality as in the a1200.. It doesn't seem to me like they are reinforced anywhere.
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