Drakware ADB2USB

Written by John Miller

Not long ago a friend of mine (hey defor!) gave me a few APple ADB keyboards - specifically including an Apple Extended Keyboard (the I, not the II that is far more popular). It sat in a box for a bit until I was able to clean off enough desk space to actually use it on my old mac desk, but once I did I immediately remembered why I liked it so much. I'm not a mechanical keyboard enthusiast as some are, but I do really like the general feel of mechanical keyboards, and this one is no different. Years ago, with my first collection of mac stuff, I had one or two, but ended up getting rid of them like I got rid of most everything else when I had to move. Back then few people were interested in hanging on to such things, and as it was the market was flooded with them and there was little interesting, and the keyboards I had weren't particularly pretty specimens, but they were nice to type on.

Around the same time, mid to late 2000s, I started regularly visiting a the local university's surplus store. In addition to providing items for sale to the state's centralized action system, this university had its own small store that was operated out of one of the warehouses on the far edge of town. Twice a month, every other Thursday if I recall correctly, from 9am till noon, they ran a store where you could purchase anything from dorm furniture, to heavy equipment and tools, to computers and all sorts of miscellany. Cash only, and it was priced to move. Over the year or two I frequented that place I came home with all sorts of little goodies. Including, in one trip, about 30 Griffin iMate adapters. These were devices that would allow one to use ADB devices (keyboards, mice, dongles, various input devices, etc) on modern machines with USB ports. Someone had obviously recently found a stockpile of them in a closet and dumped them into surplus' hands, which then threw them in a giant bin of other cables and dongles priced at a mere twenty five cents each.

I don't know how many I came home with, but I think it was at least 30, and I wish I had continued to search for more - looking back. I also wish I had kept one or two for myself, as it was I either gave away or sold every single one I had. These days it is not uncommon for them to sell as high as $50 on ebay, and they usually get snapped up very quickly.

Thankfully there are other alternatives, one of the most popular being the Wombat, which, at $50 (plus $10) is a bit pricey for me even though it is a rather powerful device. By chance I happened across the Drakware ADB2USB, which is an incredibly tiny device, barely larger than the ADB connector itself. For $20 it comes with a very tidy 3D printed case. One side has an ADB socket, the other a Micro-USB socket, and then you plug it in and go.

I was thrilled when I found this thing, because 1) $20 shipped for such a device is exceedingly reasonable, and 2) we're currently in the process of preparing our house for sale, then moving, so all non-necessary computer hardware has been packed away, so there is no longer an opportunity for me to use the AEKI on old macs, even though I had grown quite fond of using it. This little adapter would allow me to continue to use this keyboard on my modern systems - really anything with a USB port. The creator has very generously provided a fantastic web tool for remapping the keys, something I find necessary in order to swap the command and option keys (or win and alt for windows) in order to use my alt and winkey shortcuts without going crazy. If I only used one keyboard I could probably get used to it, but as it is I'd rather just have things be as they should. Similarly I can (but have not yet) map some of the F-keys to media or volume keys, which would be rather handy. The new keymap can then be flashed to the adapter with a simple command line utility and is then instantly available - no need to even disconnect it or the keyboard.

I don't know that I will continue to use the AEKI forever, but simply knowing that I have the option is rather heartwarming. It feels nice to type on, it looks cool, and it was cost effective (while still supporting a member of the electronics entrepreneurial community). I have not tested it with anything other than the AEKI, but I understand it should work with all ADB keyboards. I believe mice are supported as well, but I don't know about tablets or other devices. I have emailed the creator and he is very responsive and friendly, so should you have any questions I would highly recommend reaching out - his contact info is in the webpage linked above, or you can simply search "Drakware ADB2USB".