I need a keyboard cord. Any leads?
September 24, 2018 2:38 PM   Subscribe

My Kinesis Advantage Pro (KB500) is acting strange. I'd like to find a replacement main USB cord for it, but the model is old (circa 2002 I think) and I can't locate the part.

Basically, my OS (and other computers) won't recognize the keyboard when it's plugged in. After much troubleshooting with Kinesis support, I'm left with the possibility that the problem is a short somewhere in the model.

I'd like to try a new (or replacement) main cord. But the KB500 is old. Kinesis doesn't have any replacements. Local shops say they can't help me. I can't find anything but a full, working keyboard on Ebay and the like. At that point, I'll just buy new.

All I want is the cord. I like this keyboard, and it seems like a waste not to try to fix it. If this experiment doesn't work out, I may be forced to buy a new KB600 model. I just don't want to do that until I've exhausted all other cost-effective possibilities.

Any ideas about where I might find one? Do you happen to have one? Any suggestions are welcome, and Memail me if you need anything more specific.

Thanks in advance.
posted by mr_bovis to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
Do you have a picture of the cable? I'm having trouble finding info about that particular model, a picture of the cable would help.

You could also check some keyboard forums: r/mechmarket, Deskthority, or Geekhack.
posted by mustardayonnaise at 3:08 PM on September 24, 2018

In the photos accompanying this review it looks like it's just a regular USB peripheral cable that disappears into a strain relief attachment where the cable enters the keyboard's case. Have you removed the screws and opened up the case? I'm curious whether the ends of the USB cable are soldered directly onto terminals, or if there's a hidden socket into which you could plug any old USB cable.
posted by fedward at 3:16 PM on September 24, 2018

Oh wait. Here's somebody's post about repairing a bad keyswitch, which shows the other end of the USB cable terminating in a connector. And this post on Stack Exchange identifies the actual connector part number. Looks like you could snip the end off a USB peripheral cable and terminate it into one of those connectors, if you're good with a soldering iron.
posted by fedward at 3:34 PM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

@fedward @mustardayonnaise

I uploaded some images of the cord and the board it plugs into.


I don't feel comfortable soldering. I know *how* a soldering iron works, but I'm sure I'd break something because I'm not experienced at all.

Just as an FYI: Regarding that reberhardt.com article, I saw that in my research. None of the keys appear to be dead on my keyboard, as far as I know. The best testing I've been able to complete with it, after it broke, was to push each key and listen to whether or not it made the "bink" sound the Kinesis offers as auditory feedback. All keys made the sound when I lasted checked.
posted by mr_bovis at 3:43 PM on September 24, 2018

As a proof of concept I don’t think you even need to solder: you could cut your current cord down to a stub and cut a new USB cord and attach each wire to to its mate with alligator clips.

This would not fix any broken connections at the socket where the cord goes into the board, but it would help you diagnose broken connections in the main cord.

If that works, you can use electrical tape, hot glue, a crimping tool, or many other non-soldering method to splice little wires in a way that will hold for another few years.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:58 PM on September 24, 2018

Thanks for the images - considering it is one component, the easiest way might be to try and find a spare one from one of those forums. Splicing a new cable like SaltySalticid suggests is also a good idea - if you do that, I would recommend getting some female-to-male jumper wire which will give you more space to work.

Another way you could test the cable is with a multimeter - if you have an electronics hobbyist friend, they will probably own one and know what to do with it. That might be good just to confirm whether it's even the cable that's broken in the first place.

Also, I doubt that every key would have broken simultaneously, but as far as testing goes, the auditory feedback provided by a keyswitch isn't necessarily indicative of whether the switch's electrical connection is working.

Good luck!
posted by mustardayonnaise at 8:58 AM on September 25, 2018

I'd definitely test each conductor for continuity with a multimeter before cutting anything. Touch one probe to the pin in the USB plug, and touch the other probe to the corresponding pin in the surface mount connector (the color coding should follow the standard). If I'm reading the pictures correctly it looks like the order of pins on the surface mount connector is:

Yellow from phone cord
Black* (see note)
Green from USB pin 3
White from USB pin 2
Red from USB pin 1
Black from phone cord
Green from phone cord

* The black wire in the surface mount connector comes out of heat shrink tubing that seems to conceal a joint between the USB cable's black wire (USB pin 4) and the phone cable's red wire. That's the ground wire common to both peripheral connectors (so if you had the optional foot switch, its ground wire would be connected to the ground wire coming from the computer's USB port). For your purposes, test that pin in the surface mount connector for continuity to USB pin 4.

I would be surprised if the cable is the faulty component here, though, unless you've got cats or rodents chewing on exposed cables, or it's subjected to a lot of bending that could have broken a conductor somewhere along the length of the cable. Without damage from chewing or bending I'd be more suspicious of the board the surface connector is mounted on than a molded cable. If there was somehow a liquid incursion from a spilled drink or something, it's possible one or more components on the board shorted out.
posted by fedward at 11:19 AM on September 25, 2018

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