Apple Lisa (and Macintosh XL) owners know all too well the deficiencies of the included keyboard — that is, if you’re lucky to have one. Unlike today’s keyboards, or even those of the early Macintosh, the Lisa keyboard uses capacitive foam pads to create a connection from key to computer. Over time, the foam pads disintegrate into a foam powder and render the keyboard all but useless. OEM replacements are long out of production, but what remains can be found at VintageMicros. Handy hobbyists have taken a crack at creating their own using a combination of original parts, mylar, and foam with varying success, but have yet to duplicate that OEM feel.
ArcaneByte took a different approach to the problem, and introduced the adb2lisa keyboard adapter that adapts Apple Desktop Bus (ADB) keyboards to the Apple Lisa and Macintosh XL series of machines. Users can now use their favorite vintage Apple keyboards, such as the Apple Extended Keyboard and the AppleDesign Keyboard, with their favorite vintage machine! The hope is that by making Lisa’s easier to use, enthusiasts will begin to introduce new software and hardware-based solutions to extend the usefulness and enjoyment of the platform.
The adb2lisa keyboard adapter consists of a custom-designed PCB that houses an ADB connector for connecting ADB-based keyboards and a TRS connector that facilitates a connection to the Apple Lisa’s keyboard jack. An Arduino-based micro controller handles the conversion of the Apple Desktop Bus protocol to the Lisa’s proprietary keyboard protocol.