Microelectronics | StarView SV421

Synopsis

I needed a simple KVM switch to bind two vintage computers to a single CRT monitor and AT keyboard. I did a fair amount of searching on the Internet for KVM switches but almost all were modern DVI/USB switching units. I needed an old model that switches VGA and PS/2 signals. I found the StarView SV421 switch by hazard while randomly looking around for interesting pieces of old hardware. I bought it for $ 15 and two weeks later I received it.

Maintenance

The switch itself looks good with few scratches and no dents. However being a very old piece of equipment, I decided to open it up and replace the aging electrolytic capacitors. I searched my spare parts box and found out that I have enough capacitors of the right electrical specifications that I can overhaul this KVM switch. I didn't want to spend any money on this restoration, that's why I used all sort of capacitors that I had around: tantalum, solid polymer capacitors, electrolytics of different brands.

This KVM switch will mostly be always on so I wouldn't like to encounter catastrophic failures due to bad capacitors. Especially since this unit appears to have been built somewhere between 1996 and 1997, judging by the dates on the components.

Pictures

Here are some pictures that I took during this operation.

This KVM switch should be good for some good years of service.

Known Issues

However when I installed the switch I found out that the keyboard port on CPU 1 does not work at all. I had some rough time testing different keyboard configurations both on the keyboard side and the PC side. But in the end I concluded that the port itself is broken. Thankfully I will use at most three PCs connected to the switch. And all ports of CPU 2 through CPU 4 are working.

Keyboard Shortcuts

In general, KVM switches can be operated via the attached keyboard through several key combinations. I tried some of the combinations that are known to work with modern KVM switches. But unfortunately none worked.

There is almost no documentation available for the StarView SV421 KVM switch. I spent some time and did a deep web search for any data on this switch. The result was that I found some documentation for another similar model called SV421+ and thankfully some of the commands are working.

Selecting a Connected PC

You can select one of the four PCs connected to the switch by following the next steps.

  1. Enter command mode by pressing the following keys at once: ALT + CTRL + SHIFT.
  2. Select one of the PCs connected to the switch by pressing: 1, 2, 3, or 4.
  3. Validate the selection by pressing the ENTER key.

Scanning for Active Connected PCs

You can scan for the active PCs connected to the switch by following the next steps.

  1. Enter command mode by pressing the following keys at once: ALT + CTRL + SHIFT.
  2. Enter scan mode by pressing the 0 key.
  3. Validate the command by pressing the ENTER key.
  4. To exit scan mode press the SPACE key.

Quick Switching Between Connected PCs

You can use the keyboard to do quick switching between the PCs connected to the switch by following the next steps.

  1. Enter command mode by pressing the following keys at once: ALT + CTRL + SHIFT.
  2. Enter quick switch mode by pressing the 0 key.
  3. Validate the command by pressing the ENTER key.
  4. Switch to the previous connected PC by pressing the LSHIFT key.
  5. Switch to the next connected PC by pressing the RSHIFT key.
  6. To exit quick switching mode press the SPACE key.

Other Mentions

At some point in time I will consider building a simple internal linear power supply for this KVM switch. At the moment I am using it with an external switching mode power supply that I had around in the junk parts box. But since the metal chassis has a lot of space inside to house a toroidal transformer and a small PCB with some rectifying diodes and a couple of filtering capacitors, I will go for this approach instead. I find a linear power supply more elegant (albeit less efficient) and there would be less ugly SMPS units in the mains socket. I like unity and when I look at the mains extender, it looks like crap with a lot of assorted black adapters socketed side by side.

But that is a project for one of those rainy days.


Copyright © 2004- Alexandru Groza
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