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TV Typewriter Keyboard like Don Lancaster prototype from SWTPC


Jan 31, 2022
I am posting this mostly because I think it is very interesting and worth a discussion. The only question I have is, have any other people heard of these being available? The mailing date is Sep 18, 73, which would coincide with the article by Don Lancaster in Radio Electronics magazine. I'm assuming SWTPC had more of the surplus keyboards than the one Don used on his TVT prototype. Interestingly, this one is hand marked TVT-5 and it is also typed on the address label as TVT-5b. The keys are in an odd order and one of the keys are blue instead of red, but it does come with a sticker pack from SWTPC (part #2510). I bought this from an engineer that was very much into computers for many years prior to 1973. Just for full disclosure, I will likely sell this in the future as I am not collecting early computer pieces.



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I'm guessing the keys were chosen and placed based on their color. There are also 2 B and P keys. I believe these were made from surplused keyboards.
I'm going to guess that L and 6 being on the same key was not intended for the SWTPC customer, but probably from whatever surplus equipment they came from. Note the DUP key and others like cents and logical not, probably a keypunch layout, so the decal sheet makes sense. It looks like the keys mount on those rails, which is quite interesting. Maybe a bigger keyboard could have been built by combining parts from two of them.

I'm interested in what the bottom of the keyboard looks like.
Here are a couple of shots from the back.

I did find this on Brad's Blog where he talked to Don Lancaster, "When I asked him about it, his response was that the keyboard was an ‘IBM EBCDIC’ surplus unit. They had taken apart dozens of them and reconfigured into just over 40 complete units that were then offered to TVT builders." I think Brad posts and reads here, so I apologize if you would prefer not to have this posted here. Great blog on the TVT prototype by the way. I think the IBM EBCDIC part was mis-remembered, but the other part may explain this keyboard.

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I really like this keyboard, and if you are willing to sell it in the future, I would like to purchase it.
I don't know how I missed this post but glad I caught it. That's really cool seeing one of the surplus keyboards they reconfigured. The empty space on the right was to where Don's encoder was supposed to go. I guess for Don's prototype TVT he opted to center it for aesthetics. And the dry transfer letters! Man I wish I'd had those when I customized the keyboard I used for my TVT. I didn't know they shipped them in SWTPC boxes.

And yes only 40 were made up from surplus units they cobbled together. I wish I could afford to buy that if you sell, but those 60s Microswitch keyboards can go for upwards of $1500 thanks to keyboard collectors. Too much. Super cool to see in photos though!
Thanks for the response. Glad you found the post. I learned a great deal from your blog. I'd imagine very few of the 40 still exist or were never used like this one. It is an interesting artifact. The original owner made a Ham SSTV (Slow Scan TV) display that seems very similar to the TVT. Maybe that is why he never built the original.


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