Reclaiming the numpad for laptop users everywhere

We have to agree with NYCResistor, the exclusion of numeric pads from laptops is a real loss for productivity. Ever try to working with a huge spreadsheet ledger without a 10-key? Sure, there are usually function key alternatives hiding somewhere on those reduced keyboards. But that’s hardly the same thing. We think it’s time to take back the numpad. This project shows you how easy it is by using some old time lab equipment to replace the missing keys.

They’re using a Teensy microcontroller board to translate the key matrix into USB inputs. Most of the work is already done for you because of the USB HID Keyboard library available for the development board. Scanning your own key matrix, or decoding the buttons from some rad hardware like this Walters 600E is up to you. A demo of the rig in action can be found after the jump.

Is there anyone else who wishes the 10-key had an ‘X’ on it for coding hex values? Perhaps that will be a future project for us.

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Lower productivity by using a rotary num pad

[Maximilian Ernestus] sent us a quick little demo that shows him using a rotary phone dial as a num pad. We’re often frustrated when notebooks and netbooks prohibit us from using our mad 10-key skills (alternate key mapping doesn’t count). This makes coding and using GnuCash undesirable on small form factor portables.

Instead of fixing the problem, [Maximilian] made it worse by interfacing a rotary phone as a num pad. An Arduino counts the pulses and feeds them to the computer via a serial connection.  From there it’s just a bit of software handling to issue a keypress.  He mentions that a future version should register as a USB keyboard. This is a great opportunity to ditch the Arduino and use the V-USB library.

Want to dig a bit deeper into this old technology? Don’t miss out on the information available from the Magic Phone hack.