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USB Wombat

USB Wombat is an input converter for USB and ADB keyboards and mice. It works in two directions, connecting modern USB peripherals to a classic ADB-based Macintosh, Apple IIgs, or NeXT computer, or connecting ADB peripherals to a USB-based computer running Windows, OSX, or Linux. The keyboards and mice behave exactly like native peripherals, requiring no special software or drivers – just plug it in and go.

  

Now you can finally use an optical mouse with your vintage Macintosh, or amaze your coworkers with an antique Apple Extended Keyboard on your work machine. USB Wombat is an indispensable tool for Apple collectors and enthusiasts.
 

USB Wombat comes fully assembled and tested.

USB Wombat  USB Wombat Input Converter, $49
Intelligent USB -> ADB and ADB -> USB conversion for keyboards and mice. Requires an ADB cable for connections to classic Apple computers.
  More Info  


Optional accessories for your Wombat:

ADB Cable, 3 ft  ADB cable 3 ft, $5
When using USB peripherals on a classic Apple computer, an ADB cable is needed. Standard male-to-male S-video cables from eBay work too.
  More Info  


  Find more items in the BMOW store

 
USB Wombat is great for breathing new life into your vintage Apple hardware collection. If you love old Macs, you know ADB keyboards are expensive and hard to find, and ADB mice are sticky and trouble-prone. With the Wombat, you can substitute modern USB input peripherals instead. Or if you swear by your old Apple Extended Keyboard, you can use it with your modern computer. Visitors are sure to smile when they see you running 1980s Apple input peripherals on your 2017 machine.

  • No external power source needed
  • On-board power key for remote turn-on
  • Upgradable firmware
  • Works with your favorite mice and keyboards

The Wombat was developed by Steve Chamberlin, here at Big Mess o’ Wires. See the blog archive for technical details on its software and hardware.

 
Compatibility

The Wombat hardware is compatible with all Apple computers, keyboards, and mice using a mini DIN 4-pin ADB connector, including most early Macintosh computers, the Apple IIgs, and some NeXT computer models. It is also compatible with standard USB keyboards and mice with a USB-A connector. When in ADB-to-USB conversion mode, it works under Windows, OSX, Linux, or any other operating system that supports USB HID input peripherals.

 
USB to ADB

Connect USB keyboards and mice to a classic ADB-based Macintosh, Apple IIgs, or NeXT computer. Set the Wombat board’s jumpers to USB input mode, as shown on the diagram. Power will be supplied from the computer. Use an ADB cable to connect the board’s ADB port to the computer’s ADB port.

A single USB peripheral can be connected directly to the Wombat board’s USB-A port at CON1, or a standard USB hub can be used to connect multiple peripherals at once. When in this mode, the Wombat supports one USB keyboard and one USB mouse, as well as any number of ADB keyboards and mice, all used simultaneously.

Standard bus-powered USB hubs are recommended. Some externally powered USB hubs (with their own independent power supply) can backfeed power into the Wombat even when it’s off, causing problems.

Most ADB mice had only one button, so the USB mouse’s right button is handled one of two ways. Macintosh mode sends a control + click event to the host, which opens context menus in Mac OS 8 and later. NeXT mode sends a true right click event to the host. Toggle between the modes by clicking the USB mouse wheel button (button 3).


ADB Power Key

Power Key – Original ADB keyboards had a power key – a square or rectangular key with a triangle logo that could be used to turn on some later models of Macintosh computers. There’s an equivalent button on the Wombat board that will function as a substitute power key, even when the computer is off.


Connections for Standby Power

Standby Power – When the Wombat is powered from an auxiliary source, it can continue working even when the computer is off. In this case, the PRINT SCREEN key or F13 key on a USB keyboard will also function as the power key to turn on the computer. To provide standby power, set the board’s jumpers to USB+PWR mode, as shown on the diagram (board version 1.1 or later only). Connect a standard USB charger to the board’s USB-B port at CON2.

 
ADB to USB

Connect ADB keyboards and mice to a modern USB-based computer. Set the Wombat board’s jumpers to ADB input mode, as shown on the diagram. Power will be supplied from the computer. Use a USB-A to USB-Mini-B cable to connect the board’s USB-B port at CON2 to the computer’s USB port. This is the same cable commonly used to connect mobile phones and other devices to a computer. In this mode, nothing should be connected to the Wombat board’s USB-A port at CON1.

A single ADB peripheral can be connected directly to the Wombat board’s ADB port, or multiple peripherals can be daisy-chained, using the ADB pass-through connector found on all Apple ADB keyboards. When in this mode, the Wombat supports one ADB keyboard and one ADB mouse, as well as any number of USB keyboards and mice, all used simultaneously.

The ADB peripherals will appear as standard HID input devices to modern Windows, OSX, and Linux computers. No special drivers or other software are needed.

 
Firmware Updates

The Wombat firmware can be updated to fix bugs and add new features. Disconnect all power from the board, and set the board’s jumpers to select USB-to-ADB mode. Download the firmware.hex file from the USB Wombat web page, and copy the file to a USB flash drive. Plug the flash drive directly into the board’s USB-A port – do not use a hub. Hold the board’s power key button while you connect the power and turn on the board. Continue to hold the button for a few seconds, until the A and B status LEDs begin blinking rapidly. The update process takes about 10 seconds. When finished, the LEDs will blink slowly together, once per second. You can now press the power button a second time to exit the firmware update and return to normal input conversion mode.

 
LED Status Codes

The A and B LEDs on the Wombat board display status and error information. (The A LED is labeled RUN on some boards). During normal use, the A LED will turn on when the Wombat has a working data connection (ADB or USB) to the host computer. The B LED will blink whenever there’s keyboard or mouse activity.

During a firmware update, both LEDs are used to indicate update status:

slow alternating blinks of A, then B (1 blink/sec) – bootloader is searching for a firmware file
fast alternating blinks of A, then B (8 blinks/sec) – bootloader is updating the firmware
slow synchronized blinks of A and B together (1 blink/sec) – bootloader finished successfully

If B blinks several times while A remains off, it indicates a bootloader error:

2 blinks – no valid firmware exists on chip, can’t start main Wombat program
3 blinks – no firmware files found on USB drive
4 blinks – error in firmware file (checksum mismatch or illegal data)
5 blinks – error while updating firmware in chip memory

 
Help Commands

You can interact directly with the Wombat by typing help commands on an attached ADB or USB keyboard. Open an empty text document or command prompt on your computer. The Wombat will “type” its responses to your commands, so they appear on the screen.

Control-Shift-Capslock-T – Cycles between key mapping types US-GENERIC (ANSI QWERTY), ISO-GENERIC (UK and other non-US QWERTY), ISO-FR (AZERTY), and ISO-DE (QWERTZ)

Control-Shift-Capslock-G – Shows the currently active key mapping type

Control-Shift-Capslock-V – Displays the firmware version number

Control-Shift-Capslock-I – Displays the USB vendor and product ID or ADB handler ID of the keyboard and mouse

Control-Shift-Capslock-C – Enters keydump mode. While in this mode, the USB key code is displayed for each key that you press, along with the corresponding ADB key code it’s mapped to (or vice-versa). This can be helpful for troubleshooting key mapping problems.

Control-D – Exits keydump mode.

 
International Keyboards

Non-US international keyboards are supported by the Wombat. These include country-specific keyboard layouts like British, Canadian French, Danish, Greek, AZERTY variants, QWERTZ, and others. You’ll need to select the appropriate keyboard type in your operating system’s keyboard control panel, in order for the key mappings to work correctly.


System 7 Keyboard Control Panel

Two specific keys on ISO keyboards may require extra attention. If the key above TAB incorrectly behaves like the key to the right of LEFT SHIFT, you can switch ISO mode on/off to correct it. See details in the Help Commands section.


ISO Keyboard Key Swap

USB-to-ADB – Best results are obtained with Apple-brand country-specific USB keyboards, or any brand US-layout USB keyboards. In many countries, the country-specific PC-type USB keyboards have a different symbol layout than Apple ADB keyboards. These PC-type USB keyboards may be used, but key mappings for some symbols will be incorrect where differences exist between the Apple and PC-type layouts.

ADB-to-USB with Mac OSX – The first time you connect the Wombat to a modern Mac, a wizard will appear and attempt to detect the keyboard type. For non-US keyboards, you should select an ISO keyboard type from the wizard. If the key above TAB incorrectly behaves like the key to the right of LEFT SHIFT, even when the Wombat is in ISO mode, you may need to delete the OSX keyboard preferences to force the wizard to run again. Set the Wombat to ISO mode, delete the file /Library/Preferences/com.apple.keyboardtype.plist, restart the computer, and follow the wizard steps when it reappears.


Windows 7 Text Services and Input Languages Control Panel

ADB-to-USB with Microsoft Windows – Under Windows, when using country-specific ADB keyboards, you’ll need to select an Apple keyboard sub-type when choosing the keyboard type in the Windows preferences. The keyboard type is selected in the Text Services and Input Languages control panel. E.g. select a keyboard type of United Kingdom (Apple), French (Apple), or German (Apple) rather than the default United Kingdom, French, or German. If you don’t see the Apple sub-types listed, you’ll need to install the Apple keyboard driver applekeyboardinstaller64.exe.

 
What are ADB and USB?

ADB connector

From 1986 through 1998, ADB (Apple Desktop Bus) was the standard system for connecting peripherals like keyboards and mice to Apple computers. It was used by the Apple IIgs, as well as all early Macintosh models except the Mac Plus, 512K, and 128K. The ADB connector is a round mini DIN 4-pin, and is physically identical to the S-Video connector.

USB-A connector

USB (Universal Serial Bus) is the dominant standard today for connecting keyboards, mice, and other peripherals to a computer. Nearly everyone will recognize the familiar rectangular USB-A connector that’s used to plug a device into a host machine. USB replaced a variety of earlier standards like Firewire, ADB, and PS/2. Every Apple computer since 1998 has used USB for its input peripherals.

Converting between the two systems involves more than just a physical plug adapter. ADB and USB high-level protocols are fundamentally very different, and also have different signal speeds, signal formats, and voltages. ADB and USB input peripherals have different communication behaviors too. ADB keyboards and mice use event-based reporting, and only communicate when something has changed, whereas USB keyboards and mice communicate their full current state whenever asked.

 

Downloads

firmware-icon
USB Wombat latest firmware version: usb-wombat-0.2.0

Older firmware versions: (try these if the latest version gives you problems)
usb-wombat-0.1.16
retro-usb-0.1.15
retro-usb-0.1.14
retro-usb-0.1.12
retro-usb-0.1.11
retro-usb-0.1.10
retro-usb-0.1.9
retro-usb-0.1.8
retro-usb-0.1.7
retro-usb-0.1.5
retro-usb-0.1.2

 

 
Get One Now

Check out USB Wombat at the BMOW Store.

16 comments 

16 Comments so far

  1. Steve May 23rd, 2017 1:41 pm

    If Retro USB is out of stock, please check back again in a few days. I’m assembling more as needed.

  2. Will May 31st, 2017 1:13 am

    Hi
    There was a bug with the @ and < keys on an AZERTY keyboard. Have you fixed it?
    Thanks

  3. Will May 31st, 2017 1:31 am

    Hi
    Do you know if any bluetooth adapter could work so I’d have a adb machine with a Bluetooth keyboard?

  4. Steve May 31st, 2017 6:14 am

    Firmware 0.1.8 adds ISO keyboard support, see https://www.bigmessowires.com/2017/05/31/retro-usb-firmware-update-0-1-8/ I haven’t been able to test it on a real ISO keyboard yet, can you let me know how it works for you? Please read the change notes for instructions for deleting your OSX keyboard preferences file, otherwise it may not work correctly.

    Wireless keyboards/mice from Dell and Logitech have been tested and work with Retro USB. I haven’t tried any bluetooth keyboards, but if you have one please let me know what you find.

  5. Steve May 31st, 2017 1:46 pm

    More Retro USB boards are now available for purchase.

  6. Anonymous June 1st, 2017 12:22 pm

    Bluetooth adapters generally will not work, unless the adapter just uses Bluetooth as the wireless mechanism but still present itself as a USB HID device (I don’t know of any such wireless keyboard or mouse that does that).

    I don’t think the Retro USB is a full USB host that can recognize Bluetooth adapters. Steve?

  7. Steve June 1st, 2017 12:44 pm

    There’s certainly nothing Bluetooth-specific in the Retro USB host code. It knows how to talk to USB HID input devices, and (in the bootloader) mass storage devices.

  8. Will June 1st, 2017 2:14 pm

    Hi
    Well I’d like to order one then and I’ll do some testing and report back here. Both azerty kb and bt adapters.
    How can I get one? It’s still not available in store.
    Thanks

  9. Ruben June 1st, 2017 3:00 pm

    Would a PS2 over USB adapter work ?

  10. Chris M. June 1st, 2017 3:05 pm

    Some of the WIDComm bluetooth dongles will appear as a generic composite USB HID device on boot to allow use of the last paired keyboard/mouse before the OS boots. After the Bluetooth stack loads, it will send a magic keystroke to the HID device and the dongle will switch to being a complete Bluetooth receiver. Apple’s built in bluetooth interfaces did exactly this in Powerbooks.

  11. Steve June 1st, 2017 3:43 pm

    The store shows the current stock status, so if it’s sold out there, you’ll have to try again later. I don’t have a pre-order system, sorry. Eventually supply will catch up to demand. The hardware is designed for standard USB input devices, like the ubiquitous PC keyboard and mouse. For other devices like Bluetooth or PS2 with adapters, you’re in uncharted territory. If the device hides away those details internally, and presents a standard USB HID device interface to the host, then it might work. Try it and let me know what you find!

  12. Steve June 4th, 2017 5:52 pm

    More Retro USB boards are now available in the store. These are version 1.1: same functionality, but fewer jumpers needed for setting the input mode.

  13. Steve H June 4th, 2017 10:53 pm

    Thanks so much for putting the time and effort into this adapter. Finally got my hands on one. Your work is so unique, and incredibly useful/fun.

  14. Steve June 8th, 2017 1:19 pm

    Another batch of Retro USB boards are now available for purchase. I think I’m almost caught up!

  15. David Ludwig June 23rd, 2017 11:41 am

    Has the existing stock of boards been updated to 1.2? I was hoping to get one, and to hook it up to my Apple A1243 keyboard, if possible.

  16. Steve June 23rd, 2017 11:46 am

    Yes, v1.2 is shipping now for new orders.

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