the keyboard in transit

The notebook computer that I enter almost all of these fun posts you love to read is an ECS 536 that I have proudly owned since October 2005. I have done so many upgrades to this machine that I’m sure I could have bought another notebook that was faster with much better features for the same price if I waited to purchase six months later.

Here is a quick run-down off the top of my head of what I have upgraded on this notebook:

  1. Added a Kingston 512MB DDR SDRAM SO-DIMM to the existing 256MB for a total of 768MB – A holiday gift from Neil the first winter I had it. Thanks, bro!
  2. Replaced the stock internal WLAN card with an Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG – An irresistible eBay purchase for the price they were asking at the time. This was much-needed because I wouldn’t have survived my night supervisor job without it and the stock card was terrible.
  3. Upgraded the AMD Sempron 2600+ processor to a Turion 64 ML-37 – Another temptation courtesy of an eBay seller.
  4. Replaced the generic 256MB SO-DIMM with a Corsair 1GB DDR SDRAM SO-DIMM for a total of 1.5GB – a Fry’s clearance + rebate.
  5. Multiple accessories have also been purchased for the notebook, but I will not go into detail because my bedtime is nearing.

With that said, I am doing what I hope to be the last replacement to this notebook that I’ve owned for 3+ years: the keyboard. Last week before Wheel of Fortune on Friday, I decided to swap the Ctrl keys. I’m accustomed to using the left Ctrl key and used it so much over time that the lettering has completed faded away. The other Ctrl key is in the bottom 5% of keys used on this keyboard, so it was in much better condition.

Lo and behold, the tiny pieces beneath the keys that gave them the spring action did not want to agree with me. Since the components have been used so much over time and had tiny pieces of plastic keeping them together, they decided to fall apart with the dozens of attempts to put them back together making the switcheroo impossible and the pieces useless. The only solution from here was to replace the keyboard.

Fortunately, I’ve thought about replacing the keyboard in the past since most of the keys have that greasy, worn appearance and the labels have faded for a half dozen of them. I’m probably one of the last owners who use this model on a regular basis, and it’s rare to find now. Fry’s Electronics had a GQ version of this notebook that was a rebrand of this model, and this series of notebooks are essentially a fully-built Uniwill. ECS bought Uniwill in 2006, and Uniwill was known for manufacturing barebone laptop computers for computer hobbyists.

I’ve become a sentimentally attached to this notebook, and it hasn’t given me any problems. The price was enticing when I purchased it, and I loved the fact that it has a shiny black finish on the back cover of the LCD (which is now coated in an array of assorted stickers). It was also one of the few notebooks on the market at the time that used an AMD Socket 754 mobile processor. Until the Q6600 ever drops to where it’s in my price range, I am an AMD loyalist.

I purchased the replacement keyboard from the ECS & Uniwill Parts Store. They didn’t have the exact model listed, but the ECS 532 uses the same keyboard (or at least I can hope). The package is in transit and should be arriving on time this Thursday, and I’m eagerly waiting. The little soft plastic piece that’s supposed to be under the key that closes the circuit for the left Ctrl key has resigned and is amongst the tiny pile of my failed attempt at switching the Ctrl keys.

I’ve become accustomed to flat keyboards, and the “wrist support” that a notebook chassis provides. By harvesting the energy of this machine with the new keyboard installed, I can hack the Gibson in no time.

Look forward to a follow-up post in the near future that will have some sort of before and after images of the keyboard swap. Peace out.

Author: Sig

Modern Soapbox is the blog of Sig.

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