Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

April 23rd, 2010:

A Kingly Gift


Last night, my brother-in-law Bill Roper presented me with a truly kingly gift: An unused Northgate Ultra keyboard, which he bought many years ago but never attached to any machine. I’ve been using Northgate Omnikey 102 keyboards almost without interruption since 1991 or so, and whenever we upgraded an early system at Coriolis to something that came with its own keyboard, I snatched the old Northgate and took it home with me. Several have died since then, though they may be repairable and still live in a box in my shop closet.

As I’ve reported here on a couple of occasions, I bought an Avant Stellar (an OmniKey clone) a couple of years ago, only to find that the decal keycap legends have begun wearing off on the most popular keys. “Double shot” key caps (one shot of plastic into the mold for the cap, a second for the legend) are mostly extinct, which is yet another reason I value the keyboards that I still have.

This one will take up its position as King of Duntemann Keyboard Country when I get it back home and attach it to the primary system in my office. It will go home by UPS (in a box surrounded by boxes of Trader Joe’s Joe’s O’s cereal) so to minimize the risk of getting dog piddle or McDonald’s iced coffee on it while we trek back to Colorado Springs.

There is a little exploring to be done. As shown above, the numeric keypad is significantly different from the Omnikey 102s that I’ve been using all these years. There are five keys I’ve never seen before:

  • comma Period Lock
  • Rate Select
  • SF Select
  • Pause
  • OMNI

Bill did not have the booklet that came with the keyboard and I have no idea yet what any of these do, although the SF Select key is intriguing. (And sure, an OmniKey should have an OMNI key, right?) The rest of the keyboard is basically an OmniKey 102 with the second set of function keys across the top, just below the thumb-drive groove.

All in all, a truly kingly gift. I’ve never had an Ultra before. Now I do–and it’s NOS. Bill, you are a prince!