In brief: Mechanical keyboard manufacturers have spent years trying to recapture the feel and sound of classic keyboards like IBM's iconic Model M. In 2017, a revival project reproduced the Model M's predecessor - the 1981 Model F. The project recently introduced several new models with extensive customization options.

For a few hundred dollars, keyboard enthusiasts can now order a wide range of faithful reproductions of IBM's 1981 Model F keyboard. The new selection lets connoisseurs enjoy the advantages of top-tier classic keyboards without 1980s design constraints.

Refurbished and reproduced Model M or Model F keyboards have been available for a while for around a couple hundred dollars. However, the refurbished models weren't designed for modern devices. The revival initiative from Model F Labs maintains IBM's original high industrial standards in a wide array of form factors for modern use cases.

The keyboards are based on IBM's expired bucking spring switch patents, which project founder Joe Strandberg considers superior to modern cherry mechanical switches for typing (the jury is out on how they compare for gaming). They also use case designs of zinc, aluminum, and steel to maintain that original IBM heft, ranging between 3.2 and 8.3 lbs.

Old designs and standards combined with modern USB-C interfaces allow for maximum compatibility. Additionally, the keyboards work with Android and iOS. Open-source firmware lets users customize the keys for different languages, layouts, and other needs.

Customers can order from over a dozen form factors. Some hew close to the original Model F design, while others combine the Model M design with Model F-based internals. Compact and split keyboard designs are also available. Users can choose between keyboards with 77, 62, 50, 104, or 122 keys. All models let customers choose between various colors and keycap styles.

Expectedly, the major drawback here is cost. After IBM stopped making the legendary keyboards in the 1990s, manufacturers transitioned to membrane and cherry keys to offer consumers cheaper options. Model F Labs instead looks to offer uncompromising build quality.

Although the new Model Fs run between $350 and $580, Strandberg claims they cost just half the inflation-adjusted price of IBM's originals. In exchange for paying $200 more than most modern mechanical keyboards, you get durability. Model F Labs claims it designs its products to last decades like many of the 80s models people still use today.