Alternative USB 1.1 keyboards for G4, or repairing?

Discussion in 'PowerPC Macs' started by Riku7, May 15, 2017.

  1. Riku7 macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2014
    The point, briefly:
    I got a 17" 1GHz iMac G4.
    I got that computer for writing, so having a usable keyboard is a necessity. I'm weighing my options – buying a used keyboard for a replacement isn't just gross as you'll have to do the cleaning work, but also, it's a hit and miss if some keys technically work but not as efficiently as they once did, and the seller doesn't find it worth mentioning. The G4 probably doesn't work with the modern keyboards which are USB 2.0, but has anyone any experience or hearsay about alternative brand keyboards that would work with G4? If only for writing. But it would have to be USB 1.1 I guess.

    What's happening, in full:
    I got the iMac otherwise in an excellent condition, but the keyboard looked like it had never been cleaned; Gross, lots of dusty fluff between the keys. I removed all key caps and washed them in the dishwasher. Used cotton buds etc. to painstakingly clean the main body from all dust and lint. Came out sparkly clean, but I'm still having doubts: It looks clean but I'm having a lot of trouble typing efficiently. It seems to occasionally drop letters by not registering keystrokes and sometimes I may have to retype a word up to four times until I get it right. Back when I had that same keyboard model on my iMac G5, I didn't think that it produced a lot of typos or was otherwise hard to use. I'm starting to suspect that the previous user might've spilled something sticky onto the keyboard and now there's some old sugary goo on the touch pads, occasionally causing some keys to function erratically. I'm not sure if that's something that I could fix, really. Does anyone have experience of similar symptoms, and was there anything to be done? Do you think that these are symptoms of mistreated hardware, or an actual feature of the device?
  2. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    Yeah sounds like muck underneath or something similar causing it not to work correctly.

    If you're desperate for the keyboard to work and you're out of ideas, throw the whole thing into the dishwasher by itself on a normal cycle. Providing it's dried appropriately for a few days afterwards, it should work fine once you plug it in and hopefully it would have cleaned any stickyness that you couldn't get to.

    But again, this is if you're out of ideas. I don't normally suggest dishwasher cycles for electronic devices unless you've got nothing to lose. ;)

    Also: USB 3/2/1 are backwards compatible, so any USB keyboard should work fine.
  3. ApolloBoy macrumors 6502a


    Apr 16, 2015
    San Jose, CA
    Actually most (if not all) modern keyboards still use USB 1.1, you don't need anything more than that for input. And even then, USB 3.0 and 2.0 are still backwards compatible with 1.1.
  4. CooperBox macrumors 65816


    Nov 28, 2010
    France - between Ricard & Absinthe
    I agree that any USB keyboard should work fine with an iMac.
    With my own G4 iMacs I use a variety of different Mac keyboards. Models M7803 and A1048 are particularly useful as they give you 2 additional USB slots. I also use 2 wireless keyboards, A1016, and the more recent A1314. These function together with the use of a D-Link DBT-120 Bluetooth adapter. (They're no longer in production but easily found on theBay etc).
    There is also what looks like an identical D-Link adapter Pt/No. DBT-122 which I've never used. Perhaps someone here can confirm if they have used one successfully with a Mac. There are 2 available locally on an ad site here for the equivalent of US$3 each.
  5. d-oost macrumors 6502a

    Jan 10, 2016
    It's as easy as plugging in any USB keyboard and using it. They all use the same protocol to communicate with the computer, so even the earliest computers with USB ports can use USB keyboards as long as the host operating system can support it, which is pretty much every Mac operating system after Mac OS 8.
  6. Dicere macrumors newbie


    Feb 25, 2017
    Western Australia
    D-link adapter definitively works. I used that model for years with a Bluetooth apple keyboard and mouse on two eMacs - a 1ghz and a 1.42ghz - with no problems.
    --- Post Merged, May 15, 2017 ---
    Having said that, though, I think I ended up going with a wired keyboard because there was a slight lag with the 1ghz using Bluetooth keyboard. I used a modern apple silver keyboard, everything worked. Don't know that I ever used the keyboard ports though.
  7. CooperBox macrumors 65816


    Nov 28, 2010
    France - between Ricard & Absinthe
    Do you recall if your D-Link adapter was Pt/No. DBT-122 and worked well? I can confirm with the D-Link DBT-120 but not for the -122 model.
  8. Cox Orange macrumors 68000

    Jan 1, 2010
    This is often recommended for keyboards. I heard though with very old keyboards sometimes you have to redraw the lines under the keys with a pencil. But I have never done anything of both.
  9. Riku7 thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2014
    Well not everything is quite that seamless: I did have a mechanical Apple keyboard back in the day when I had an iMac G5. From that, I went on to an aluminium iMac (not the slim one), and then, a Lion server Mac Mini, both now history. I sold that keyboard at some point because it didn’t communicate with the newer computer at all. I can’t be 100% certain, but I recall that it worked with the aluminium iMac but not with Mac Mini. Just no response at all.

    Ahh Bluetooth! Just because the iMac G4 doesn’t have it built in, I completely dismissed the idea. But yes, ADAPTERS! Why didn’t I think of that. Will have to look them up. While I don’t really enjoy the pairing and standby mode stuff, that is an option that wouldn’t tie me to old keyboard hardware. I actually have a classic Mac keyboard somewhere as well and would love to use it, but the Griffin iMate adapter is ridiculously expensive.

    I’ve heard of using the dishwasher for a keyboard; Can you use chemicals normally or should it be a water only wash? Might have to remove all of the keys again because they cavities in the underside of them can be small enough to defeat the surface tension of water; When I was drying the keys, I had left them to dry both top up and bottom up. Especially from the stem that holds the key in place, water just doesn’t follow gravity, you’ll have to break the surface tension manually in order to cause the water to start to flow, or just shake very aggressively. If I end up going with the dishwasher, detaching and attaching the keys are less work than how much care it takes to dry the keys thoroughly! Even worse if they were connected to the keyboard body.

    I heard of those too; I think it’s a special type of electrical pen, the ink is conductive.
  10. for this macrumors 6502

    Nov 18, 2014
    Well, like others have said, any USB keyboard should work. Even a silicone one for Windows works with my MDD and iBook G3.

    If you have time, you can DIY a USB to ADB adapter for it for cheaper. There are projects out there, for example: There is a link to geekhack for more detailed info how to do it.
  11. Riku7, May 19, 2017
    Last edited: May 19, 2017

    Riku7 thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2014
    Ohh that's an excellent tip, thanks! I have checked out Teensy before but am not yet developing anything because it's a new concept to me. But since everything that is needed for that is in that tutorial, this is definitely doable and cheaper than iMate! I'll have to check though, if it's possible to find them from Europe... Ordering from the US appears to about double the cost of the whole thing.
    Edit:// They have resellers elsewhere in the world, and eBay is still the cheapest. I will have to investigate the reliability of the eBay vendors though, there's a slim chance that the item isn't what it should be and you unknowingly plug in something malicious.
  12. for this macrumors 6502

    Nov 18, 2014
    Teensy units on eBay are clones. They have less memory capacity but can do similar things to the genuine one. If the firmware is not too big, they should work. I've one from PJRC Store and a clone from eBay.
  13. Riku7 thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2014
    Ah clones, of course. How do they perform, for you?

    Actually I just tested my wired, full width aluminium keyboard which is in use on the main computer and you're all correct, it works with the G4! Now I feel so stupid for the fact that I didn't even test it but went on to ask about it. But you see, I was eluded by the earlier experience, when the keyboard that functioned completely well either worked on those different computers fully, or not at all. So I mistakenly concluded that the USB port versions must've limited something. Ahhh. Also, felt great to test-type a little bit and see no strange lags either; With the mechanical one, the text would also appear strangely slowly, which felt like a software problem, but then it probably wasn't a software problem in the Mac, but in the keyboard. Very relieving.
    So I might make the ADB keyboard work, and temporarily swap the slim aluminium keyboard between the two computers. I always felt that the number pad was in a completely idiotic place because most of the time you're using a mouse, and the letter area of the keyboard. The number pad being in the right edge of the keyboard instead of left one forces you to take on a very unnatural position, reaching sideways. On my main computer, the num pad is crucial because it's mapped full of shortcuts, but on the G4, that won't be the case, and I might actually want to look for a wired, quiet, Mac layout, numberpadless keyboard.
    Actually a while back I bought a used identical alu keyboard with a few malfunctioning keys, in case that I'd want to steal the number pad internals only, and create a standalone version of it. I have never seen a standalone USB numpad with F-keys that go all the way up to F19, and by now I genuinely need them all.
  14. for this macrumors 6502

    Nov 18, 2014
    I tried using it to make a USB to Serial adapter for an old Wacom tablet with WaxBee ( The Chinese clone didn't work with the "full" versions of WaxBee. But then the project creator released a smaller sized version, it appeared to work, i.e, the Wacom driver recognized it but I didn't really connect it to the Wacom tablet to fully test it because it needed to be soldered and I already had the genuine Teensy doing the job.

    Yeah, agreed.
  15. Cox Orange macrumors 68000

    Jan 1, 2010
    No just normal pencils. It is the graphite in the pencil that is conductive it seems.
  16. Riku7 thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2014
    Technically it does conduct, but I'm more concerned of this particular context of use, is it really a durable solution; Graphite is very soft, paper is very rough, thus the little pieces of graphite will break nicely into the microstructure of the paper. But if you try to draw onto some smooth surface such as most plastics, the plastic surface just isn't able to break tiny bits off of the graphite nor accommodate them, i.e. it gets blown away like dust if anything. The way that the carbon atoms are linked to one another also plays a role in how well it conducts, and there's very little control that you can have over that, most graphite pen traces end up somewhat powdery, the area would have to be very saturated. While it's technically correct, it's a more durable and safe bet to go with something that leaves a thicker, more continuous and sticky trace. Materials will also have different resistances. Circuit pens are apparently based on things such as nickel or silver, containing the stuff in the form of ink / paint. It's a small price to pay if it fixes a device.
  17. Cox Orange macrumors 68000

    Jan 1, 2010
    That makes a lot of sense, but I really read/heard them talking of an ordinary pencil. Maybe the place where the old conductive paths had been is a bit raw, so the graphite powderyly sinks into it. :)
  18. Riku7, May 21, 2017
    Last edited: May 23, 2017

    Riku7 thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2014
    Yeah, I have heard of it too, it is indeed an actual thing but just not very professional, let’s say that. One should seriously consider the material of the surface before determining the best method. Ever tried to use a graphite pencil onto an overhead projector transparency?

    Ahhh I must take back what I said previously about effortless typing; even with the slim keyboard that I use with my main computer all the time, iMac fails to produce text faithfully. I’m starting to suspect if it is a keyboard hardware problem at all.

    My intended main purpose for the iMac would be to type in FocusWriter. It’s crucial for me to have a completely stripped, distraction-free environment where I can also set my custom background image for the writing session so I can associate it with the theme of what I’m doing; it just gets me into the correct familiar mental place quickly, like having a private office. I had been using this on my main Mac and earlier, had a thread here asking on tips for similar software for an older Mac. I was very delighted to learn that FocusWriter has been around for so long that there’s a version of it that works on Tiger. Excellent, I wouldn’t need to change a single thing in my already standard workflow. But...

    The other day when I reported that typing was effortless, I had actually test-typed in TextEditor because I assumed the problem to be the keyboard hardware itself. I wrote a paragraph of stuff and made the verdict that this keyboard was fine. But later when I tried my real workflow in FocusWriter, the writing experience still makes it nearly impossible; It’s a bit hard to write down a free flow of thoughts if most of your focus goes into correcting constant typos and having to concentrate on typing at third of the speed that you’d normally do. Those of you who have used early 2000s Macs a lot, which area might the problem most likely lie in? If you perhaps ever faced similar behavior.

    A holistic description of the circumstances is as follows:
    • The iMac is connected to the router with an ethernet cable. Airport is off.
    • OS9 is installed, some odd little old games too. Quite minimal software, no obvious daemons or software that would occupy space in the menu bar.
    • I have used ssh in iMac’s terminal to log into my main computer which is in the other room, and I am using the iMac’s spherical speakers to listen to a playlist that I have shared from the main computer in iTunes. Not the entire library is shared, only a few playlists.
    • I am writing in FocusWriter, with a self made theme that includes a custom background image and a non-default font.
    The overall experience is that the text starts out fairly effortless to produce but you get dropped letters occasionally. But it starts to feel like the frequency of non-registering keystrokes gets bigger as the document gets filled with more text. After about half an hour or so, the text feels so sticky that I have to deliberately try to type very carefully and slowly.​
  19. for this macrumors 6502

    Nov 18, 2014
    I had similar problem with TextEdit 1.5 on 10.5.8 (867 Dual MDD). The longer the text (.txt), the longer the letters took to appear after typing. Looking at the Activity Monitor, the CPU's were not busy. Reinstalling OS didn't solve it. So I copied the version 1.4 from Tiger to use instead.
  20. Riku7 thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2014
    Somewhat relieved to know that this phenomenon isn’t only happening to me, but apparently I have 1.4 (220) of TextEdit too. And Tiger because it’s the last OS that this machine can be upgraded to.

    Ughhh. We’re in the 20th message of this thread but is it wrong to edit the title at this point? I find the focus of this issue changing into something that I didn’t expect it to be, yet we’re still in the process of battling the same one.
  21. Cox Orange macrumors 68000

    Jan 1, 2010
    at post #18
    I understand, it's like habits - not exactly the right word, but I know what you mean. You want to keep as many parts of the equation stable when you are writing, so you feel comfortable etc. I sometimes have that, too.

    about the delay. I had this somewhere, too, but I don't remember the exact case and circumstances anymore. I wish you good luck, that you find a solution. Did you test to let your Mac sit a while after start-up? Not too long, but not to be too hasty, too.
  22. Zellio macrumors 65816


    Feb 7, 2012
    Most of the pricier ones are usb 2.0 and above, but that's only due to usb hubs and whatnot. In the end, every modern keyboard uses usb 1.1

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21 May 15, 2017