Northgate Omnikey Ultra Keyboard – First Look

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Yesterday, I acquired a 1992 Northgate OmniKey Ultra keyboard, for free. The only caveat I had to drive 1 hour and 10 minutes to get it. It was totally worth the trip.

Back then in the 1980s, and 1990s, many keyboards were mechanical or buckling springs. As a result, they were great to type on and offered nice tactile feedback. Keyboards back then were mostly beige or white, and many were built to last. Eventually, keyboards started getting rubber dome switches. While these are fine to type on, in my opinion, they are not nearly as great as mechanical or buckling spring switches.

The OmniKey Ultra keyboard was produced by Northgate. Northgate was a mail-order based company that produced quality computer systems and computer accessories.

Here is a brief overview of the Northgate Omnikey Ultra Keyboard.

Build Quality & Design

The OmniKey Ultra is extremely well built and solid. The body is a hard-ish metal, and feels very tough. The OmniKey Ultra is painted a white color and features grey and white keys, like most keyboards from the era. It has big rubber feet on the bottom to hold the keyboard up. The function keys are on the left side of the keyboard. There are Special Function (SF) keys on the top, I believe you can program.

Keys

The OmniKey Ultra features “White Alps” switches, and are really a joy to type on. They feel and sound similar to the Outemu Blue switches I have in my modern, mechanical keyboard. The “White Alps” switches in the OmniKey Ultra are however superior.

Connections

The Omnikey Ultra keyboard uses a PS/2 to DIN connector type cord. You can retro fit the OmniKey Ultra keyboard to work on a modern computer with a DIN to PS/2 and then a PS/2 to USB adapter.

Overall

The Northgate OmniKey is an exceptional, and well built keyboard. The OmniKey Ultra, and the Northgate OmniKey series, were one of the best keyboards made back then, along with the IBM Model M series. If you ever come across a Northgate OmniKey keyboard that’s reasonably priced or even free, I highly recommend getting it!

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