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TGE ELECTRONICS
LED BACKLIGHTED KEYBOARD



TGE Electronics LED Backlighted Keyboard, retail $(see below), (http://www.tg3electronics.com)
Manufactured by TGE Electronics (http://www.tg3electronics.com)
Last updated 06-05-13


LED Keyboard


Are you one of those guys who has everything? You know, the web-enabled cell phone, messaging beeper, palm pilot, green violet laser pointer, and a zillion other things hanging off your belt or stuffed in your pockets? Your computer case is lit up like a Christmas tree and looks like it was ripped off a Borg cube, and you spend more time fussing with your CPU cooler than you do playing with the dog. Your computer room came off the set of Star Trek DS9. You haven't seen the cat in several months and you're wondering what that funny smell is coming from the microwave oven.

If this describes you, then I have just the thing: A compact, 82-key computer keyboard with every key backit by its own LED! Forget about those electroluminescent mods that just don't work, and that burn out after a couple of thousand hours. For less than you pay for a good sheet of EL material & a driver, you can have a complete, ready-to-use keyboard that plugs right in to your computer's USB port or PS/2 keyboard connector, and that you may even end up passing on to your children when you're about to kick the bucket.

The keyboard features 87 LEDs and 7 brightness levels plus off, and you can adjust the brightness of the LEDs right from the keyboard without interfering with whatever app you have running. The compact size was originally intended to fit in the cramped cabin of a police cruiser (there's even a map light on the bottom under the left SHIFT key), but it is equally at home on a cluttered desktop, lab bench, or even in your lap. Never again will you need to hold a flashlight in your mouth or fuss with one of those funky USB lights to play games or do serious work on your computer after dark.


size comparison with regular kb
Compared in size to a regular 101 key keyboard and a Bic brand disposable cigerette lighter.




These keyboards come in a variety of wiring configurations, three different LED colors, and two keycap styles. The model I'm testing has a black case and black keys with the legends backlit by red LEDs, and is equipped with a 3' cord terminated in a standard USB plug. The CAPS-LOCK key has a pure green Nichia LED for the circle indicator, in addtion to the red LED for its written legend.

If you're using Windows '98, start by turning your computer off. Unplug your regular keyboard, and plug the LED keyboard into any free USB port. Then boot up as you normally do. The Windows hardware detection wizard will automatically see the new device and load the appropriate driver for it - and then you're good to go.

To adjust the brightness of the LEDs, hold down the "FN" key and use the up and down arrow keys to increase or decrease the brightness. You can also go directly to your desired brightness setting by holding down "FN" and typing 0 through 7, with 0 being off and 7 being maximum intensity. With this model, the brightness has 8 steps from completely off to full intensity. You can also get this keyboard with a more "analogue" feel brightness controller that has 256 levels of brightness; though I belive that option costs slightly more.

The keys do almost all the things a regular keyboard is supposed to do. It includes a full set of function keys (F1 through F12), print screen, pause/break, page manipulation, and cursor manipulation keys, just like your regular keyboard. The only keys that don't appear are the numeric keypad and the "scroll lock" key. (have you ever even used your scroll lock key? Do you even know what it does? I don't.) However, I have not yet figured out how to type ALT-codes using this keyboard. On a regular keyboard, you would use the numeric keypad in concert with the ALT key to obtain these codes (such as the "degrees" sign in 75), but this keyboard has no numeric keypad.



The first thing I did when I opened the box is drop the damn thing on the floor. Smack!! It made a loud plasticky sound (as one would expect for something made of plastic :) but there was no damage. The next thing I did after installing it on my lab computer is pry off a couple of the keytops to see how the LEDs were mounted. All but two of them are actually built into each individual switch housing, so they can't come loose or become misaligned and point off in some useless direction if the keyboard is abused. The two under the space bar are mounted directly to the PCB, and the emerald green CAPS-LOCK indicator (identified as a Nichia NSPG300BS) is mounted in a small riser and aimed at the indicator circle on the CAPS-LOCK key. All the others are integrated into the switch housings.

A small rectangular opening is present on the bottom of the case just under the left shift key and there is a row of 3 red LEDs inside. This is designed to be a map light for when the keyboard is installed in a police cruiser. To be truly useful as a map light though, they should change one of the reds to a low intensity green or white LED because red lines and other red features on a map indicating roads or borders will *not* be visible when viewed in red light.

The keys themselves are standard sized (0.75" x 0.75"), full-travel computer keys, just like the ones you're probably typing on right now. The housing is as small as it can possibly be to fit in a crowded police car. The enclosed Cherry switches have gold plated contacts, and are rated for 50,000,000 cycles. The sublimated legend keytops will never wear out (though you may need to clean them on occasion to restore brightness), and are replaceable in case one of them becomes lost or broken. If it's a really important or often-used key and you're out in the middle of nowhere (or in an all-night, caffeine-laced hacking orgy), you can temporarily replace the broken key with a lesser-used key like the tilde/back apostrophe until you can obtain a replacement keytop. End up having to do this and need to type a tilde? You can still press the button without the keytop on it and get your tilde.

The keyboard is UL and CE compliant, UV resistant, repairable, and has a 1 year warranty that covers everything except accidental or intentional breakage or alterations. They have a 3 year track record, mostly in police cars where they are subject to high temperatures and vibration; and they have been proven to be reliable thus far.

This is a very nice keyboard for the computer nerd who has everything. It would look *very* sweet alongside a fully tricked out and lighted case. It is also good for laboratory technicians and other people like me who do a lot of important work in the dark or in very dim light; such as photometric testing, using certain kinds of medical instruments, and operating industrial controls & laboratory equipment. This keyboard is even good for game players who play a lot of PC-based games.
My testing will involve running beam profile analyses using the ProMetric system; this must be done in the dark and I can't even use a regular keyboard with this instrument without a flashlight because it is not in an ideal position for touch-typing on. So I have to hold a flashlight in my mouth and risk queering the ProMetric test in progress. With this keyboard as part of the instrument, that problem is a thing of the past. The red light is not only eye friendly, its overall intensity is low enough that photometric tests are not disrupted or altered, and I can enter data accurately since I can see exactly which keys I'm hitting.

LED Backlighted Keyboard hard at work

Keyboard working hard again
ProMetric system: $10,000.00.
Digital photometer: $1,400.00.
Super VGA monitor: $400.00.
6 foot USB extension cord: $20.00.
Thrift store PS/2 H.P. mouse: $0.49.
LED keyboard that lets me work in the dark: Priceless.

The LED backlighted keyboard appears to be durable, despite its light weight. If you get all pissed off at your computer and start slamming things around (and who doesn't?), this keyboard can take it as long as you don't just beat the living tweedle out of it each and every day. No computer hardware can withstand that. :)

If you don't mind VOIDING your warranty (and this is highly discouraged, don't blame it on me!), it is possible for you to change the two LEDs under the space bar to yellow or yellow-green (possibly at a slight loss of intensity) and to change the CAPS-LOCK to a 3mm blue-green, blue, violet, or white LED. Then again, the people most likely to buy this keyboard are probably also the least likely to follow somebody's recommendations. :)

Keyboards are available with yellow or yellow-green LEDs; however these consume more current and may exceed the current carrying capacity of some USB and PS/2 keyboard ports. Yellow-green will consume 400mA instead of 225mA for red.



Keyboard shown in subdued lighting.


Closeup of some of the illuminated keys.
The green dot is on the CAPS-LOCK key.


Bottom side
Bottom of keyboard. Note the rubber feet and the map light.
Note also you can choose which side you want the cord to emerge from.

The recessed square holes fit similarly positioned pegs on police
car computer keyboard trays to keep the keyboard from sliding off.


Spectrographic analysis
Spectrographic analysis of the red LEDs in this keyboard.


Spectrographic analysis
Spectrographic analysis of the red LEDs in this keyboard; newer spectrometer software & settings used.


Spectrographic analysis
Spectrographic analysis of the red LEDs in this keyboard; yet newer spectrometer software & settings used.


Spectrographic analysis
Spectrographic analysis of the red LEDs in this keyboard; spectrometer's response narrowed to a range between 625nm and 675nm to pinpoint peak wavelength, which is ~650.60nm.


Spectrographic analysis
Spectrographic analysis of the green "CAPS LOCK" LED in this keyboard.


Spectrographic analysis
Spectrographic analysis of the green "CAPS LOCK" LED in this keyboard; newer spectrometer software & settings used.


Spectrographic analysis
Spectrographic analysis of the green "CAPS LOCK" LED in this keyboard; spectrometer's response narrowed to a range between 500nm and 550nm to pinpoint peak wavelength, which is ~526.15nm.

USB2000 Spectrometer graciously donated by P.L.






TEST NOTES:
Sample arrived approximately April 21, 2002.

Availability of LED keyboards at this time is only to OEMs of squad car computers. This may change sooner or later, depending on my test results & opinions.

For PC use, I would suggest providing the option of a longer cord; the 3' cord supplied is fine for a police car computer, but a bit on the short side for other uses. A much more minor, nitpicky suggestion would be to place small chimmneys around the two LEDs under the space bar, as they are visible to the user at some angles that would not be considered out of the ordinary.


UPDATE: 05-05-02
I've been using the keyboard both on the ProMetric beam profile analyzer and on a computer used for playing Wolfenstein 3-D -- the only computer game I have ever and will likely ever play, and so far it has worked fine. It does *NOT* work if you boot the system to DOS mode directly; but does work if Windows is loaded first and then you shell out to DOS. It also works - interestingly enough - in the BIOS setup screen, even though no drivers have been loaded. So you don't need a seperate keyboard attached to the system if you wish to modify BIOS settings.

I've also heard back from the manufacturer, and a longer cord *is* available for it upon request, though there will be a delay while the keyboard is custom-made for you, rather than just dropping a stock unit in a box and sending it along. For my testing, I went out and bought a $18 male USB-A to female USB-A extension for it, which works very well.

The tested unit is not equipped with the optional splash guard, so I will not be dumping Pepsi in it.


UPDATE: 06-05-13
I've begun using this keyboard with ny new Dell Latitude E6400 Laptop Computer, as evidenced by the photograph shown directly below:



The LED on the keyboard that you see is because the keytop for the CTRL key apparently fell off unnoticed until just a couple of days ago and was subsequently replaced with the keytop for the back apostrophe (`) and tilde (~) because I regularly use the CTRL key.

Note that the laptop's lid is closed -- the laptop is on & being used; my Asus VW246 24" Wide-Screen LCD Monitor is plugged into it and the computer is being used like a desktop pee-cee.
Note also if you will that in this configuration, this computer system looks vaguely like an Apple IIc computer from 1984.


PROS:
It has a really small footprint. See 2nd photograph on page for comparison to a regular keyboard.
Every keytop has its own LED, so you aren't stuck with some keys unlit as you can be with other lighted keyboards or homebrew illuminator kits.
Variety of connection methods and drive voltages available to suit almost any application.
Brightness is adjustable directly from keyboard; this is transparent to any application that may be running.
USB version is hot-swappable.
No squealing noise that some EL backlighted keyboards emit.


CONS:
It's that small footprint. You'll have to retrain yourself to touch-type on this keyboard.
No ALT-key combinations can be typed directly because it has no numeric keypad.
Cord on test sample was too short, however a longer cord can be ordered if needed.
No tilt bail or flip-out legs. Keyboard was originally intended to be tray-mounted, so again this isn't really bad, and most users can easily come up with their own solution using compressed foam, rubber wedges, or other methods if they wish.



    MANUFACTURER: TG3 Electronics
    PRODUCT TYPE: Computer keyboard with illuminated keys
    LAMP TYPE: LED
    No. OF LAMPS: 87
    BEAM TYPE: N/A
    SWITCH TYPE: 82 momentary Cherry switches
    BEZEL: N/A
    BATTERY: N/A
    CURRENT CONSUMPTION: 225mA at +5VDC
    WATER- AND PEE-RESISTANT: No (Some models splash resistant)
    SUBMERSIBLE: NO WAY HOZAY!!!
    ACCESSORIES: None
    SIZE: 12" x 6" x 2"
    WEIGHT: 32oz (2 lbs)
    WARRANTY: 1 year

    PRODUCT RATING:

    Star RatingStar Rating









TGE Electronics LED Backlighted Keyboard * WWW.TG3ELECTRONICS.COM







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