Quick background-- I really love old school springy/mechanical keyboards. I haven't used one in years but it's been on my "to purchase" list for years to get an IBM Model-M for my work.

After doing a bit of research, I might be interested in giving a Northgate Omnikey a try. I've found a few reviews comparing the Model-M vs. the 101 and I'm about ready to buy a "classic" clicky-keyboard.

However, after deciding to try and find a 101, I've found that 102's are easily discoverable on eBay but I can't find a 101. This leads me to ask the question-- is the 102 the same as a 101? My biggest hope is that at least the configurational dip switches are the same. I'd like to try a Dvorak setup, and that was the main reason why I decided to try the Northgate over the IBM keyboard.

If anyone has a definitive answer, I'd appreciate your advice. I couldn't find any specifics on the differences, even on wikipedia. It seems that both devices are treated the same.

  • 1
    You know you can buy brand new mechanical keyboards using the same mechanical switches the Model M keyboard used, but with modern conveniences like Windows logo keys and USB and PS/2 interfaces? I don't know if any have a Dvorak switch, but you don't need that. Just configure your operating system to use a Dvorak keyboard map. (On Windows 7: Control Panel -> Region and Language -> Keyboards and Languages -> Change Keyboards -> General -> Add... -> English (United States) -> United States-Dvorak. Then select the new layout.)
    – user722
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 16:41
  • 1
    Better than just that: on a real Model M, the key caps are just clipped to the keys. They're intended to be easy to remove, clean and replace. But they're also completely interchangeable. Anything with an odd shape is fixed — the modifiers, space bar, etc. But pick any key arrangement you like for the rest. Just make sure you tell your OS. So it's DVORAK if you want. See images.pcworld.com/reviews/graphics/147939-ibmKey2.jpg
    – Tommy
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 17:42
  • Actually, follow-up question: are you based in Europe? The traditional difference between 101-key keyboards and 102-key keyboards is that the former are for the US market, easy to spot because their return key is wide and confined to a single keyboard row, whereas the latter are for European markets, usually with a think return key that spans the middle two rows. Plus other changes, including an extra key. So a guess would be simply that the 102 is the European layout 101, and, if so, you're really only seeing 102s because you live in Europe.
    – Tommy
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 19:00
  • @Tommy I'm in the US. I didn't realize the difference was regional. That probably explains it..
    – RLH
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 20:27
  • @RossRidge, I hear you but I like "vintage" components, when they are reasonably feasible. I also use a Mac, but I'm use to using a Windows keyboard in on Mac.
    – RLH
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 20:28

1 Answer 1


102 Key models of any classic PC keyboards are usually the euro / foreign version with the 101 being the US model, typically with the extra key to the left of the lower half of a shortened enter key.

The Omnikey 102 seems to have a bit of an oddball layout though, retaining a full-sized enter key with the extra key being positioned between the right Ctrl and Alt, along with other strange layout choices. The OmniKey 101 is a bog-standard US PC keyboard layout.



Both 101 and 102 versions do seem to support a Dvorak configuration natively via the DIP switches. From the manual:

101, 102, and Inverted-T ULTRA

To change to a Dvorak layout:

  1. Press the Option Select button.
  2. Press the PAUSE key.
  3. Press the appropriate Function key for the layout you want. (Use the Function keys on the left side of your keyboard for all keyboards except the 101. Use the top row function keys for the 101.)

Key Layout

F1 Normal "QWERTY"

F2 Dvorak Standard

F3 Dvorak Left-hand

F4 Dvorak Right-hand

Something else you might want to watch out for though if you intend to have the keycaps in the actual Dvorak layout:

For all Dvorak layouts, you must also remove all of the typewriter key caps and replace them with the optional set of Dvorak key caps. You cannot remove the original key caps and replace them in the Dvorak positions. The key caps are designed differently for different rows on the keyboard and will not fit properly in other positions.

There is a PDF copy of the manual on Deskthority.

  • 1
    What's going on with those printed images of F1–F12 keys on the 102? A hilarious practical joke? I found lots of references to the 102 having ALPS switches, for the record. Mostly people on Youtube recording the noise, but confirmation nonetheless.
    – Tommy
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 19:35
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    The 102 key layout looks to be based on the original 83/84 key IBM PC layout.
    – user722
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 19:38
  • 2
    Top is the ISO layout (ISO/IEC 9995-2), bottom is the ANSI layout (ANSI-INCITS 154-1988). As the name implies, ANSI is "American" standard whereas ISO is more "International".
    – Grabul
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 19:40
  • 3
    @Tommy I checked the manual and apparently there is an "Ultra" version with F-keys on the left AND at the top where those key labels are. So I guess they just used the same body and put a label over the blank holes in the non-ultra version.
    – mnem
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 19:49
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    Yah, looking at an old advertisement the peculiar layout of the Omnikey/102 was in fact what made it popular. It was sold to people who were used to the original 83/84 IBM PC keyboard layout and expected things like the function keys to be on the left and the CTRL key "where you expect to find it .. next to letter A". books.google.ca/… If it conformed to ISO/IEC 9995-2 it was only a coincidence as it predates the standard by a number of years and was designed by Americans for Americans.
    – user722
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 20:18

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