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The mystery of FRU 08K4986

T40/T41/T42/T43 Series
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micrex22
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The mystery of FRU 08K4986

#1 Post by micrex22 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 1:11 am

After using my 14.1" T41 a lot more (and really digging its keyboard and ultra-clicky trackpoint button assembly--which is even better than what I had experienced on the T43), I decided to look up the FRUs in the HMM.

Sadly, "08K4986" was nowhere to be seen. Even more strangely the 14.1" models for some reason never had ALPS as a manufacturer since they or IBM decided two manufacturers was enough. I couldn't check the original HMM as nobody preserved it, just the later 2006 homogenous release.

I began to dig through some old thinkpad forums threads to figure out where it belongs and got these two:
viewtopic.php?p=38580 "Which T42 keyboard is this? - Made in Thailand or China?"
viewtopic.php?p=337626 "keyboard FRU 08K4986 / Part 08K4957"

Roll the clock back to 2004 through 2007, and users were hoping they'd get a 08K5044 Thailand-made board, and not a 08K4986 Chinese-made board. But it gets better, they start saying that 08K4986 is indeed Thai (it isn't), adding to the whole confusion even more.

Now if 08K4986 is actually CHICONY, that's amazingly impressive as it's definitely the best keyboard to ever roll out of the Chicony factories. It's miles better than 39T0581. At this point I'm still not sure if it actually is Chicony as the HMMs don't list it so it could be ALPS for all I know. It uses the NMB/ALPS 'platform' mechanism that I've never seen Chicony utilize. As users in the past said '08K5044' was better, I'm kind of curious and going to see if I can hunt one of those down.

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Re: The mystery of FRU 08K4986

#2 Post by dr_st » Tue Feb 20, 2018 4:37 am

Just take one keycap off, and examine the underlying switch. All 3 manufacturers have pretty distinct switches, AFAIR.
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Re: The mystery of FRU 08K4986

#3 Post by micrex22 » Wed Feb 21, 2018 3:55 pm

dr_st wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 4:37 am
Just take one keycap off, and examine the underlying switch. All 3 manufacturers have pretty distinct switches, AFAIR.
Well on the T6x keyboards, all manufacturers had very discreet switches, and sometimes for the T43 series. But when it came to the T40, T41, and T42 there were a lot of variances on how each manufacturer designed everything.

For instance, the T43 ALPS keyboards used 'platform' switches just like NMB did, so it wouldn't be out of this world for Chicony to also use platform switches on prior keyboards:
ALPS T43: http://i.imgur.com/PHmCiTd.jpg
NMB: http://i.imgur.com/I8phaew.jpg

However... ALPS' platform switches do differ from NMB's, and 08K4986 uses platform switches that are very 'NMBish', so we could perhaps deduct that NMB created both variants, it's just that the Thailand 08K5044s are 'better' somehow. I think the only way to solve the mystery is if I hunt down a 08K5044 later.

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Re: The mystery of FRU 08K4986

#4 Post by Thinkpad4by3 » Wed Feb 21, 2018 4:17 pm

micrex22 wrote:
Wed Feb 21, 2018 3:55 pm
dr_st wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 4:37 am
Just take one keycap off, and examine the underlying switch. All 3 manufacturers have pretty distinct switches, AFAIR.
Well on the T6x keyboards, all manufacturers had very discreet switches, and sometimes for the T43 series. But when it came to the T40, T41, and T42 there were a lot of variances on how each manufacturer designed everything.

For instance, the T43 ALPS keyboards used 'platform' switches just like NMB did, so it wouldn't be out of this world for Chicony to also use platform switches on prior keyboards:
ALPS T43: http://i.imgur.com/PHmCiTd.jpg
NMB: http://i.imgur.com/I8phaew.jpg

However... ALPS' platform switches do differ from NMB's, and 08K4986 uses platform switches that are very 'NMBish', so we could perhaps deduct that NMB created both variants, it's just that the Thailand 08K5044s are 'better' somehow. I think the only way to solve the mystery is if I hunt down a 08K5044 later.
Is that a 240 in the second picture?
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Re: The mystery of FRU 08K4986

#5 Post by micrex22 » Wed Feb 21, 2018 7:11 pm

Thinkpad4by3 wrote:
Wed Feb 21, 2018 4:17 pm
Is that a 240 in the second picture?
Negatory, that's a TransNote (one way to tell is due to the capslock being integrated on the left shift). I've always wanted a 240, though. But then I have way too many thinkpads as it is, and DOS and 9x gaming are best with a CRT and OPL3.

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Re: The mystery of FRU 08K4986

#6 Post by Thinkpad4by3 » Wed Feb 21, 2018 7:18 pm

micrex22 wrote:
Wed Feb 21, 2018 7:11 pm
Thinkpad4by3 wrote:
Wed Feb 21, 2018 4:17 pm
Is that a 240 in the second picture?
Negatory, that's a TransNote (one way to tell is due to the capslock being integrated on the left shift). I've always wanted a 240, though. But then I have way too many thinkpads as it is, and DOS and 9x gaming are best with a CRT and OPL3.
Id like a TransNote but being left handed makes them useless to me unless I find one of the 5 left handed models in existence.
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The efficiency of two screens equally sized with equal numbers if pixels are equal. The time spent by a 4:3 user complaining about 16:9 is proportional to the inefficiency working with a 16:9 display, therefore the amount of useful work extracted is equal.

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Re: The mystery of FRU 08K4986

#7 Post by ThinkPad365 » Wed Jun 14, 2023 11:44 am

Did you ever figure out who makes this keyboard? I've got two T41s myself and I'm really curious as to who made these 08K4986 keyboards. I've got a T43 and T60 with the NMB keyboards and imo these two 08K4986 feel way better than those. Best I can tell they are made by ALPS, but I'm not entirely sure, and its hard to believe since the T60 and CS09 ALPS keyboard is so mushy by comparison.
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Re: The mystery of FRU 08K4986

#8 Post by RealBlackStuff » Thu Jun 15, 2023 12:32 am

Right now there is a 08K4986 for sale on eBay: https://www.ebay.com/itm/255792617990
They claim it has 3 mounting posts and is for a 15" model.
In reality it has 4 posts and is only for a 14" model.
By the looks of the back panel, it is most likely made by Alps and assembled in China.
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Re: The mystery of FRU 08K4986

#9 Post by micrex22 » Sun Jun 25, 2023 5:02 am

RealBlackStuff wrote:
Thu Jun 15, 2023 12:32 am
Right now there is a 08K4986 for sale on eBay: https://www.ebay.com/itm/255792617990
They claim it has 3 mounting posts and is for a 15" model.
In reality it has 4 posts and is only for a 14" model.
By the looks of the back panel, it is most likely made by Alps and assembled in China.
Interesting. What's weird though is that the one listed doesn't have a piano black top bar section, it's matte like most of them. So it's not quite the same "08K4986" as mine.

The mystery continues.

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Re: The mystery of FRU 08K4986

#10 Post by ThinkPad365 » Mon Jun 26, 2023 9:49 am

Both of mine have the shiny top bezel.

I'm pretty sure these are ALPS keyboards like RealBlackStuff said, I compared the sticker layout on the back of my two 08K4986 keyboards to my Chicony, ALPS, and NMB T60 keyboards, and the layout is almost identical to that of the ALPS keyboard, and also both my ALPS CS09 keyboards. Not only that, but the dots on the back of the 08K4986 keyboard backplate sorta stick out, while they are concave on the Chicony and NMB keyboards, but stick out on the ALPS T60 keyboard.

Regardless, my two 08K4986 keyboards are my favorite ThinkPad keyboards I've ever used, I like them even more than my T23 NMB, T43 NMB, T60 NMB, and my 3 CS09 NMBs. Its weird how ALPS could produce a keyboard this good, considering how mediocre their other ThinkPad keyboards are.
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Re: The mystery of FRU 08K4986

#11 Post by micrex22 » Sat Aug 12, 2023 4:08 pm

ThinkPad365 wrote:
Mon Jun 26, 2023 9:49 am
Both of mine have the shiny top bezel.
There could be sub-variances so the matte ones may not feel the same as the shiny ones (but it's hard to know unless someone buys the one listed there).
ThinkPad365 wrote:
Mon Jun 26, 2023 9:49 am
I'm pretty sure these are ALPS keyboards like RealBlackStuff said, I compared the sticker layout on the back of my two 08K4986 keyboards to my Chicony, ALPS, and NMB T60 keyboards, and the layout is almost identical to that of the ALPS keyboard, and also both my ALPS CS09 keyboards. Not only that, but the dots on the back of the 08K4986 keyboard backplate sorta stick out, while they are concave on the Chicony and NMB keyboards, but stick out on the ALPS T60 keyboard.

Regardless, my two 08K4986 keyboards are my favorite ThinkPad keyboards I've ever used, I like them even more than my T23 NMB, T43 NMB, T60 NMB, and my 3 CS09 NMBs. Its weird how ALPS could produce a keyboard this good, considering how mediocre their other ThinkPad keyboards are.
Good to know that they're most likely ALPS then!

And yeah, their key feel is better than any of the NMB lineup and pretty much anything else -- it became immediately apparent when I just started typing a few keystrokes on that thing. ALPS has made some good stuff in the past (the other T4x FRUs with the platform switches are great too, just not as great as this one), it's really just a roulette.

It's possible that during a full moon one fateful night, a shooting star passed over the ALPS factory in Ota City when the CAD designers were sketching the tolerances and design; the final result being unintentionally better than they were anticipating or cared for (the ALPS employees probably never even tried typing on them extensively, just another day in the job at the ALPS factory). Finally, the keyboard files were sent off to manufacturing and assembly and ultimately shipped to IBM; nobody involved creating one of the best laptop keyboards has ever thought about it since and everyone involved has since forgotten, and only 0.01% of ThinkPad enthusiasts ever ended up finding this magical FRU. Our story now ends. :lol:

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Re: The mystery of FRU 08K4986

#12 Post by astral » Sat Oct 28, 2023 10:47 pm

I believe I have some helpful info here.

I'm sitting in front of four T4x 14" keyboards right now.

Two 08K4986 mystery keyboard
One 08K5044 NMB
and one 13N9957 Alps T43 14" keyboard.

According to HMM for T40-T42, those didn't ship with ALPS, only Chicony or NMB.
According to HMM for T43, it shipped with all three vendors.

The platform switches on my T43 ALPS and the 08K4986 mystery keyboard are identical. This all but confirms for me that the 08K4986 is an undocumented ALPS keyboard. The keys can be swapped between the two. They feel identical to type on.

Also, the NMB one is surprisingly bad lol. It's usable, but it just feels like any other laptop keyboard.

Does anyone know why the T43 KBs had separate FRUs and if they can be used interchangeably with KBs from the earlier T4x laptops?

In any case, I would rate the 08K4986 and 13N9957 as on-par with my NMB T420 keyboard in terms of how nice it is - they're both the best ThinkPad keyboards on any post-1990s model I've used.

I hope this can put to rest 100% who made these 08K4986 keyboards.
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Re: The mystery of FRU 08K4986

#13 Post by ajkula66 » Fri Nov 03, 2023 5:12 am

astral wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2023 10:47 pm

Does anyone know why the T43 KBs had separate FRUs and if they can be used interchangeably with KBs from the earlier T4x laptops?
Why ? Just one of a zillion IBM's little head scratchers... :D

All T4x series keyboards can be used interchangeably, as long as the machine size - 14" vs. 15" - matches.
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Re: The mystery of FRU 08K4986

#14 Post by nkr » Sun Nov 26, 2023 1:28 am

I just bought a used T43 and the trackpoint nipple is missing. Does anybody know what size they are? There are multiple sizes available and I am not sure what to buy.

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Re: The mystery of FRU 08K4986

#15 Post by BillMorrow » Sun Nov 26, 2023 1:42 am

i think old style, but try amazon..
https://www.amazon.com/s?k=thinkpad+t41 ... nb_sb_noss
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Re: The mystery of FRU 08K4986

#16 Post by olex126 » Sun Nov 26, 2023 8:55 pm

NKR...

I still have about a hundred of the IBM OEM "old-style" Trackpoint caps in all three versions.

If Amazon doesn't pan out for you, drop me a PM and I can slip three in an envelope and mail them.. five bucks plus postage sound OK?

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