The Keyboard Hack Page

This page is devoted to ways to customize your Newton External Keyboard. It represents some things Enfour employees have been playing around the office. It is meant to be taken AS IS and NOT as any product announcement. Anything you do after reading this page entirely at YOUR OWN RISK.

Firstly, lets look at the keyboard cable. After doing a great job of the original Newton Modem, with its lock-away serial cable, what was Apple thinking of when it designed the Newton External Keyboard. Admittedly it has the best key touch and format of any mobile keyboard available in any market, but there are a couple of places it falls down.


One is the size of the base. There is a lot of wasted space there. Legs may not be a prefect answer, but I think there is too much air in there filling up by briefcase when I carry it around. A slimmer version would be nice. You can pull the keyboard apart move the controller board arrangement and make a flat bottom, but this is a lot of work and I will save it for another day. (Speaking of the controller board... where did they get those huge chips?! The parts and design look like early '80 engineering. I am sure it might have been cheaper this way, but I have to carry this thing around.)


The other is the cable. It sticks out of the top. Just the right place for it to stop you resting flush your MP2x00 -especially in the horisontal position. It also must be bent to stow away and makes zipping up the keyboard carrying case a real hassle.

See the cable coming out the top

Original cable hole

So what to do? A simple hack, my friends. You are very unlikely to break anything, so give it a go.

1. Unscrew the 6 screws in the base of the keyboard.

2. Take a handyman's knife or a round file and make an indentation in the right side of the base the same size as the one the cable is coming out on the top.

3. Move the cable to your new hole.

4. Close it up.

There! That didn't hurt. A couple of seconds scraping a smooth indentation and the cable no longer gets in the way!


For those who are more technically inclined here is a variant on the theme and my favorite.

This requires you to drill a hole in the base. See below.

The hard part is you need to cut the cable to feed it through the hole. You need to attach it back up, so this will no be a hack for everyone. (Cut it at the controller end, not the serial plug end.)

The advantage of this layout is that the bend in the cable doesn't stick out on the right either. This is the slimmest way to set up for carrying in the case.

tucked away underneath


For people who use a MessagePad in the horisontal orientation, you might like to make your hole on the left side. (Either by the file or drill method.) This is position the cable up nicely for a snug format.


For the really mobile, you might like to make your new hole a little bigger than needed. This will allow you to adjust the length of the cable and let you slide the cable inside for carrying.

pushed inside
 Well that's it. Very simple ways to make your external keyboard life much happier. I am sure you will be satisfied with the results.

Deep hacking 1

Now we get into the really deep stuff. These are things you should not try.

You can see what this is just by looking at the pictures. Here we have none away with the cable all together and added a serial port. This requires that you solder the connector wires on to a serial plug. In this case we have carved out the base and used plastic putty to shape the connector.

It is nothing to look at. But it means you only need one cable around. Great for people carrying PowerBooks at the same time as their Newton.

Deep hacking 2

This hack requires an unsightly hole to be cut out of the top of the keyboard. This is for the lid of a MP2K series to fit in. You will need an Interconnect plug, so you will have to pull one of the Apple ones apart. It takes a bit of construction work to fix the plug in place.

The result looks really bad, but you now no longer require a cable of any type.

Here is how it fits in.

You get an "all-in-one look" like this.


Secret things:

For the really astute people amonst you, you may have noticed something strange about the MP2000 and keyboard configuration in Cable4. "What, no Interconnect adapter? Why is the cable on that side?", you ask. Well this is a little something else we are playing with. The picture below will give you the idea, but that is another story.....


by Richard Northcott Dec. 1997

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