While some kind of WarGames situation playing out in a person’s bedroom is not all that likely, tinkerer and YouTuber Pointless Tinkering does have the aesthetics of a home-based nuclear missile command center down. At least when it comes to the keyboard anyway, as he and a colleague both purchased keyboards from real nuclear missile command centers. Straight off of eBay.
Gizmodo reported on Pointless Tinkering’s nuclear missile command center keyboard, which he outlines in the above video. Tinkering notes that he and his colleagues purchased two of these keyboards off of eBay several years ago; unaware of their historic origins. A week later, however, Tinkering’s colleague spotted an identical keyboard in a picture of a nuclear missile command center.
After doing some research, Tinkering and his colleague found that Minuteman III nuclear missile silos began using the keyboard and trackball combinations in the early 1990s. (A Minuteman is an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, or ICBM.) The keyboards were deployed as a part of an Air Force “enhancement program” that aimed to update the silos’ technology.
The keyboard itself looks exactly like one would imagine. That is to say, an utter relic of the late ’80s/early ’90s. The gray plastic, beige type keys, and jumbo roller ball mouse all lend themselves to an era when “Take on Me” was probably still ringing in people’s ears. The keyboard does differentiate itself, however, with keys that read: INITIATE, TRANSMIT, and ABORT.
Unsatisfied with keeping the keyboard as a relic, Tinkering shows in the video how he’s updated it; allowing it to interface with computers via a USB port. And while the technical ins and outs involved everything from replacing the roller ball’s rolling pads to creating a computer interface with an Arduino circuit board, the final product is flawless. For comparison, Tinkering shows video from the Nuclear Companion website that features the keyboard in action in its “natural” environment. (Which we really hope is at least using touchscreens by now.)
Feature image: Pointless Tinkering