Fixing a Microsoft Sculpt

For the last twenty years or more I have used Microsoft’s ergonomic keyboards, wearing out more than a few. During the last 5-6 years I have used the wireless Sculpt with one keyboard at home and one in my office at work. The one at home is not in such great condition any more; the one at work gets much heavier use and has been in need of replacement for a while.

Around six weeks ago, I discovered an abandoned and apparently brand new sculpt in a store cupboard at work. Carried it back to my office, tried to connect it and promptly remembered: Sculpts are paired in the factory to a single wireless dongle. Microsoft do not make replacement dongles, and, to all intents and purposes, a Sculpt keyboard without its original dongle is useless. Frustrating. But, while Microsoft may not have designed the keyboard to be repaired, it will have been designed for manufacture. Would it make sense if the wireless interface circuit board in the keyboard that is coupled to the dongle was tightly coupled to the keyboard?

So a little Googling eventually arrives at a very helpful blog page which describes how to recover the wireless interface card from a Sculpt. Given a brand new useless keyboard and a dying keyboard with a working interface card, the worst case scenario was that I would spend 20 minutes or so breaking both keyboards and need to go into town to buy a replacement. The best case: for a bit of time I get a brand new keyboard.

Time was difficult to find, especially when at work, so the job was only ever going to be completed when it became a necessity. At the end of last week, the top rows of the worn keyboard started to fail. Today, I spent just under 40 minutes taking two keyboards apart so that I could move the radio interface card from one to the other, then reassembling the newer keyboard. The task was relatively easy and required a screwdriver and a spudger. Luxury tools used were a mechanic’s pick, which helps remove the rubber feet, and a magnet to extract a couple of recessed screws. Problems? The Sculpt is designed for manufacture, not reassembly, so refitting the screws requires a little care as they are self-tapping screws that can easily remove the plastic from the holes.

Underlying this story is the unsustainable design of the Sculpt. Why? Why manufacture keyboards that are bound to a single dongle that the manufacturer will not replace? A lost or broken dongle means that the keyboard is useless and needs to be replaced. Maybe Microsoft sell more keyboards? But not to me – I’m already looking for other keyboards for when my Sculpt at home fails.