Datadesk Switchboard modular keyboard review (Alps SKCM white)

Skip to 8:47 for a typing demonstration.
Today we look at one of the first reconfigurable, modular mechanical keyboards; the somewhat revolutionary Datadesk Switchboard. Hope you enjoy the video! 🙂

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I’m Thomas and I do videos and reviews on mechanical keyboards ranging from the most sickening modern RGB gaming keyboards to vintage hardware relics, or sometimes keycaps or keyswitches ranging from Cherry MX to Alps SKCM to IBM buckling springs and anything in between.

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The practice sentence was: “Hello my name is Thomas and I’m typing on a Datadesk Switchboard right now. This is a very interesting keyboard to be typing on, I think htat this idea might have been unique at the time and they may have been the first to try it.”


Hackmi HaKMI says:

Love your videos

Nathan Kim says:

Are these caps PBT?

Ben Smith-Mannschott says:

I had the Turbo 101 for years on my Mac SE. It was great, but boy did I want the Switchboard bad.

SN NF says:

that thumbnail really got me asking “what the fuck”, not gonna lie

Renzeth Bulawan says:

I found this deal near my area of NEC Oval keyboard i dunno what model but he is selling is for 10 bucks im wondering if its a good deal or not. Everything is working except 4-5 keycaps are missing.

geoffrey yu says:


Purple Pothos says:

I could instantly tell it was from the 90s by the cover design of the manual.

Raul Saavedra says:

Numpad on the left with its enter key still on the right of the pad makes little sense. A numpad on the left ought to have its internal layout redesigned for that specific use case, imho

TheHamahakki says:

I wonder why there is no more keyboards with that layout, that is better in gaming. With that mouse aspect in video, you can also turn numpad to macro keyboard, or use it directly instead of WASD-keys.

But it is better if you use lot of Excel or similar. In normal layout you have to take your hand off from mouse if you want to use numpad, this of course slows down your working. If numpad is left, you can use mouse and numpad. Of course you have to learn new coordination, but that only makes good for your brains 🙂

TheEASpeedyJay says:

I’d put blue alps in that keyboard if I had a bunch of loose switches and if I actually had that keyboard, or if I found one somewhere (which I probably won’t), and I had no loose switches, I’d linearize them, or keep them clicks. Nice video!

Desmaad says:

I’d put the numpad on the right and the nav keys on the left.

Natalie 2k1 says:

This is like a set of Tangrams and a Keyboard had a romantic candlelit dinner one night and…… 🙂
More seriously, this is a VERY interesting board. Maybe they really misjudged the limits of the materials or their manufacturing tolerances (or something ?), because the ill fitting clip-in module design seems like a curious oversight for an otherwise fantastically built board. Thanks for the review !.

Leo Comerford says:

2:30 The thing is that those “left-handed keyboards” are actually more like right-handed keyboards, and have been since at least the mid-’90s. Back in 1985 the Model M was still a right-handed keyboard. When the keyboard is the only input device on most IBM PC users’ desks, why not have the nav cluster and numpad in reach of most people’s strong hand rather than their weak one? But nowadays, when the mouse is fighting the numpad and nav cluster for the prime space just next to the alphanumeric cluster on the strong-hand side, it’s pretty clear that the mouse should not be coming dead last. One obvious likely exception is if you’re using a touchpad in front of the spacebar as your main pointer-input method. Still, the fact that the “right-handed” AT layout is still ubiquitous is basically pure cargo-cultism: it’s not even like QWERTY vs. Dvorak, Colemak or whatever, where the switching costs are steep and the benefits are debatable.

3:38 In a new keyboard with a similar num-pad arrangement it might be worthwhile to bigassify the Enter key a bit, adding maybe a half-unit of width to make it a bit easier to hit with the left-hand thumb.

Are there any boards which stack, say, a nav cluster, function cluster and numpad vertically above the alphanumeric cluster? That’s another configuration which the Switchboard’s baseboard design excludes 4:04 . I see there’s at least one eight-row ortholinear monster out there and any number of eight-row ortholinear POS boards, but ten rows would be more like it … I suppose one could put a five-row all-1U ortholinear keyboard behind a normal 60% keyboard (stagger and all).

Robert Long says:

Just so you know, those caps are actually produced by Tai Hao! It is pretty easy to tell based off the mold marking on the injection molding.

Canon Wright says:

I wonder why they didn’t make the modules wireless? They had the technology, we could have rebuilt him. (But then they might have called it the six million dollar keyboard). Which is slightly out of my price range.

Cebrilung says:

Excellent review and a very cool keeb :] The Oxford dictionary should define ASMR as “Tom talking and typing on Alps”.

CaptainStarkiller says:

Mmmmm an ALPS board that actually uses a standard ANSI layout, that means you’d actually be able to fully utilize something like the sets that Tai-Hao makes; unlike the totally non-standard 75% layout board I have.

MarcoZ says:

I’ve got a AT102 I’ve got to clean and restore (it’s full of rat piss right now, so I have to desolder everything)
This just makes me wanna do 3 loose modules like this keyboards, but with indipendent USBs and Salmon switches…

Nicholas Fiorentini says:

I’m right handed and prefer to use the numpad with my left, so this board is intriguing. And it’s a really nice-looking keyboard! Thank you for the review!

Hill says:

sound so crisp

Metta•Phonia says:

My mouth is watering…an ALPs board and configurable! Shut up and take my money!

In all in seriousness, great review as always!

y11971alex says:


Fheed Pexx says:

My preferred layout is having the numpad on the right side of the mouse. Macropad – Keyboard – Mouse – Numpad. Or the 1800 layout.

However, I really don’t get the tkl thing. A numpad is way more useful than the nav cluster, and can be used both ways. Like the Vortex Vibe, Cooler Master M and whatever.
That’s kind of what’s keeping me from buying the Leopold fc980m. The fact that they have Ins, Del, PgUp and PgDown on the numpad but still have their own dedicated buttons on the top right. Those would have been better off being PrtScr and some others. Maybe programmable even.

I really wish there were more modular keyboards, with different modules aimed at different uses.

Numpad on the left makes no sense for me. There’s so much muscle memory involved, plus in games… you want to use WASD with your left hand and your right hand on the numpad controlling your helicopter or whatever.

OlympusHeavyCavalry says:

Interesting, I wonder if there are any more keyboards that are similar?

Matthew Hall says:

I thought I was the only one who cared about using the numpad Enter with the mouse-hand thumb.

beskydyk says:

Oooh, the sound!

Raul Saavedra says:

@ 6:24 “Systems of measurement invented after the bronze age…” HAHAHA! 😀

Juan Pablo Lauriente says:

It sounds well too, but I still prefer the Alps Creme…

Cuda FX says:

reminds me a bit of the old sidewinder x6. there the num pad could snap on to either side using strong magnets. i still use mine often when working with CAD.

Ron says:

have you ever heard of the “Vortex ViBE”? its a very interesting keyboard because it is basically a 60% layout with a numpad, but its also a tenkeyless. when numlock is off the numpad acts as a nav cluster, and with it on its just a regular numpad. im using one right now, they are quite nice. oh and it also comes with pretty nice SA dye sub PBT keycaps. only thing you might not like is it only comes with cherry switches, i got mine with reds and love it. anywho, nice review 🙂

darkholyPL says:

Nice idea, but it doesn’t really help, since you are forced to use the ‘base’ which is whatever size it is, and doesn’t change.
A stand alone numpad is still best, if you need one. I don’t need one at home, so most of my boards that aren’t vintage, are TKL or smaller.

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