The Apple Extended II Keyboard
Apple Extended II keyboard

In 1987 Apple started pairing the Extended Keyboard with all their pro level machines, beginning with the Macintosh IIsi. The Extended II keyboard was amazing to type on with it's mechanical key switches and generous spacing between keys. It was in my opinion, the perfect keyboard. It was the workhorse of every Mac I owned until 1998 when the original iMac ushered in the era of USB, making the Extended Keyboard with it's ADB connector, obsolete.

The Extended II always held a sweet spot in my heart, and I was sad to see it fade into history as Apple phased out ADB ports in favor of USB. When my last one wore out in the early 2000s I moved on, always hoping I could find another one and modify it to use USB somehow. At some point few years ago I picked up an Extended II off of eBay for a reasonable price, assuming I would buy a vintage machine of the same era to go with it. That never happened, so it sat on my shelf for quite a long time.

While I was rehabbing my Apple IIe I purchased a virtual disk drive from Big Mess O Wires, a company who makes various products for vintage Apple computers. While browsing their site one day I spotted exactly what I needed...

The Wombat

A custom ADB USB adapter for using old ADB keyboards and mice on USB machines or USB keyboards on old ADB machines. It was exactly the answer I was looking for. Belkin used to produce something along these lines back in the late 90s but the only ones I found on eBay were horribly overpriced, and I would much rather support a small company than some eBay retailer. I immediately ordered the Wombat, the acrylic case for it, and an ADB cable.

Big Mess O' Wires Wombat ADB USB Converter
BMoW Wombat ADB USB Convertor

Everything arrived quickly and was packaged very nicely. I plugged the ADB cable into the keyboard and then into the Wombat, then the mini-USB from the Wombat into my hub...and held my breath. Would it work? The indicator lights on the Wombat were on, so that was a good sign. I opened BBEdit (I wish it was ResEdit, but alas...) and tried typing. Everything worked perfectly, and it felt amazing to type on. They keys were solid and responsive, with the most beautiful clicking sound. Despite the location bumps being on the D and K keys my muscle memory came back almost instantly. There is a sizeable gap between the top row and the Esc/Function keys, so your hand has to move a bit to get up there, but it soon felt natural again.

The Apple Extended II Keyboard, over USB
Apple Extended II keyboard

I've been using the Extended II keyboard full time for about a week now, and it feels just as good as it did back in the 90s. I love the click of the keys, the height adjustment rail on the back side, it's just a breeze to type on. The only downside right now is the Caps Lock key has a mechanical toggle lock on it - which normally isn't an issue however I use VIM, and map my Caps Lock to Control. I haven't felt any wrist cramping or soreness at all, which I was nervous about since I had been using the modern flat Apple corded USB keyboard for at least a decade.

I hope this holds up, as I will be coding on it for hours every day. All the keys are working great with no issues, but I think I may have to grab another one off eBay at some point as a backup before they become absolutely impossible to find.

The Apple Extended II Keyboard and Magic Trackpad
Apple Extended II keyboard and Magic Trackpad