Real Input Hardware For The Mac

Blue iMac

I recently inherited a nice 500MHz Blue (okay, Indigo) iMac from my employer. It had a problem with staying powered on. I found the problem to be bad solder around the power cord connection and fixed it right up. Now the machine functions perfectly and for a change I got the Apple mouse and keyboard with it. And since Apple released a "real" OS with the advent of OS X, I was thinking of at least learning the new system. And learn I did...when I wasn't using iTunes... ;-)

Unfortunately, unlike previous generations of Apple keyboards and mice that I have used, these new USB units from Apple seem a bit on the cheap side as build quality goes. The keyboard is apparently not well sealed against dust and beverage entry (a big no-no on both counts) and the "early" revision black USB Pro Mouse seems to like to develop a bad spot in the USB cable. Mine did just that and oftentimes the mouse would just quit responding for a few seconds.

The keyboard crud didn't really bug me that much, because the keyboard is black in color and hides most of what's been dropped inside. It also hides the fact that people usually don't wash their hands before typing. (The white keyboards are not like this. I am glad I do not have one as they stay new-looking for all of 5 minutes after you open the box.) But, I figured, if I was going to do something about the mouse, I should do something about the keyboard as well since it also seems to be cheaply made.

Apparently you can fix the problems with the keyboard and mouse. At least two kind souls on the WWW have posted very nice instructions for doing so. The only trouble is that I'm cheap, I want it fast, and I'm not the world's most careful or coordinated person. That last fact was a show-stopper. Both repair methods require a fair bit of care and steady hands, which I haven't really got. (No, I'm not a "spaz" but I do have a very minor shaking in my fingers at almost all runs in the family.)

So my answer was a Belkin PS/2 to USB adapter. I already had this adapter handy from another project, and I have plenty of PS/2 mice and genuine IBM Model M keyboards sitting around.

I shut down the Mac and disconnected the stock keyboard. Then I plugged the Belkin adapter in followed closely by an IBM Model M keyboard and a plain old Microsoft PS/2 mouse.

I powered up the Mac. Everything seemed to work, but the mouse was jumpy and often acted as though it were being right clicked. (Some other testing seems to indicate that this adapter doesn't like MS Mice as many different revisions from over the years were tested with identical results...) The keyboard worked just fine, something I considered a minor miracle.

Swapping to a generic IBM "soapbar" mouse solved the right click and "twitch" problem. You can see the final setup by clicking here.

Now of course there are no special Apple keys on this keyboard, but so far I've been getting along OK with it. I usually work with the machine over VNC from a PC anyway, so I don't miss not having the Apple keys too much. If it really bugs me, I may pester the author of DoubleCommand to see if the volume and "Apple" keys can be remapped somewhere else.

(I have also noticed that certain keys on the IBM keyboard either do nothing at all or have strange new functions that I'm not sure Apple really intended for any keyboard to have!)

Now that the new keyboard and mouse were in place and working, there was really nothing left to do other than to make the mouse atone for its sins!


Now you are gonna get it!VROOM! Splat.

Okay, so I didn't really do any of those things...but it made me feel a lot better to take the pictures above and channel off some other angry thoughts. I set the stock keyboard aside as there is nothing wrong with it and someday when I have too much time on my hands I'll work at fixing the stock mouse.

You can also view additional pictures showing details of the project if you'd like to. Click here.

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Copyright 2004 by Walsh Computer Technology. All Rights Reserved.