I have an old dead Zenith SupersPort 286e and it an a really high quality mechanical keyboard.

The keyboard is connected to the motherboard with a 24 pin ribbon cable of approximately 3.15 cm of width.

I'd like to use this keyboard for another project that uses modern computer components.

I'd like to know if there is a way to use this keyboard on a modern system (via USB maybe) and if there is an available pinout for this ribbon connector.

  • One of these? deskthority.net/wiki/Category:Zenith_keyboards – Janka Jan 27 '17 at 1:15
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    @Janka Mine looks close to the Zenith SupersPort SX, but the Enter key is different, check out this picture: obsolete-tears.com/photos/zenith_supersport_286e.jpg – user2109 Jan 27 '17 at 1:23
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    A number of folks have used the Teensy 2.0 microcontroller to interface oddball and retro keyboards via USB. It is not plug and play but it's doable: instructables.com/id/… – Joe Jan 27 '17 at 1:37
  • You have the AZERTY keyboard variant, which has one additional key. No, it's not the key left of Enter, that's the one which is below enter on the U.S. version. Your problem is the key right of the left shift button. It should be connected at G2 or E8. – Janka Jan 27 '17 at 1:42

In general, a wide ribbon connector attached to a keyboard implies that the physical row/column matrix is exposed there. Additional wires in the ribbon may be used to control LEDs and so on.

In this particular case, an approximate pinout is readily available. In other cases, you should be able to identify which pins are shorted together by which keys using a multimeter - tedious but not very difficult. For keyboards with N-key rollover support (like this one), diodes mean that the polarity of the multimeter leads matters too.

Once you have the pinout and matrix layout, you should be able to adapt any of the many existing "old keyboard to USB" projects out there to your needs. There are, for example, quite a few for the IBM Model M.

I don't know if you managed to get this one working, but I can confirm that it's possible. I have a SupersPORT and I managed to map out the matrix and connect the keyboard to a Teensy 2.0 running the hasu TMK firmware, which let me use it as any other USB keyboard (disclosure: I am the one who posted the pinout and keyboard matrix on the Deskthority wiki posted before).

I have a working firmware build for the Teensy, so if you haven't already built this, you can message me your email and I'll send you what you need.

  • This site doesn't have a messaging capability, because we tend to prefer information being shared openly with everyone. Do you think you could put the firmware somewhere and link to the binary? – wizzwizz4 Aug 19 at 9:39
  • Of course, I will do that. – Jens Roland Aug 20 at 6:06

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