Building A True Unix Keyboard

keyboard

compact keyboards that do away with a third of the keys you would usually find on a normal-sized keyboard are all the rage now, but for [jonhiggs], they weren’t good enough. There is a long tradition of Unix shortcuts these compact keyboards don’t pay attention to – CTRL-A being the Home key, and CTRL-D being the Page Down key. To fix this horrible oversight of Unix history, [jon] tore apart one of these compact keyboards, rewired the switch matrix, and made his own perfect keyboard.

The keyboard [jon] is using is a Filco Minila, a very nice and high quality keyboard in its own right.  After mapping out the switch matrix, [jon] wired all the switches up to a Teensy 2.0 loaded up with the TMK firmware. This is a pretty standard way of building a custom keyboard, and [jon] could have just cut a switch plate and installed panel-mount switches and wired up the matrix and diodes point to point. The case for the keyboard is constructed out of Lego.

Because this is a true, modern Unix keyboard, [jon] needed to connect this keyboard to a box running his *nix of choice. He’s doing this in the most future-retro way possible, with an Amazon EC2 instance. This project isn’t done yet, and [jon] is hoping to add an ARM dev board, an iPad Retina display, battery, and SSD, turning this into a completely homebrew laptop designed around [jon]‘s needs.

Make that C64 Keyboard Work as a USB Keyboard

keyboard-to-usb-mapping

Let’s face it, we all have keyboard peculiarities. Don’t try to deny it, everyone who types a lot has an opinion of the keyboard they stroke so frequently. We know [Brian Benchoff] swears by his model M, and we’re guessing he was the one that bumped into [Evan] and convinced him to write about his conversion of a Commodore 64 keyboard for use as a USB device.

This is not [Evan's] first rodeo. We recently saw him fixing up the worn off letters of his own model M. But this time around there’s some clever microcontroller work at play. Apparently mapping 122 keys using an Atmel AVR 32u4 chip (built in USB connectivity) is quite a task. Luckily someone’s already worked out all kinds of good things and is sharing the love with the Soarer’s Keyboard Controller Firmware. Of course it handles scanning, but also includes debounce, muxing, and the trick to scan more keys than the uC has pins for. We still don’t fully understand that bit of it. But [Evan] did post the config file he’s using so perhaps after we get elbow-deep in the code we’ll have a better understanding.

If you give this a try, we want to hear about it. Anyone have any modern keyboards they’re in love with? Leave a comment below.

Arduino particle light box generates animations from sound

arduino-particle-display

Simple tools used well can produce fantastic results. The hardware which [Gilad] uses in this project is the definition of common. We’d bet you have most if not all of them on hand right now. But the end product is a light box which seems to dance and twirl with every sound in the room. You should go watch the demo video before reading the bill of materials so that the simplicity doesn’t spoil it for you.

A wooden craft box serves as the enclosure. Inside you’ll find an Arduino board, microphone, and an 8×8 RGB module. The front cover of the project box diffuses the light using a sheet of tracing paper on a frame of foam board. It’s the code that brings everything together. He wrote his own particle system library to generate interesting animations.

If you don’t have a project box on hand this might work with an extra-deep picture frame.
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Old LED marquee turned embedded video player

driving-led-marquee-with-rpi

[Sprite_TM] is was sent an old LED Marquee by an anonymous fan of his hacking projects. The display isn’t full color, but it’s large — 224 by 48 pixels — and he figured he could render some okay images with the bi-color diodes. In the end, he replaced the controller and turned it into a video player.

The original system work well enough, but the 100 MHz 486 industrial style PC that drove the display seems a little comical these days. After giving it a spin and testing out how it drives the display [Sprite] hooked up an FTDI chip and managed to get it playing video from his computer. Above you can see part of the opening sequence of The Simpsons.

Now that he had learned its secrets he set out to give it an embedded controller. His first attempt was with a Carambola board which he’s worked with before. That proved to be a little slow for all the pixel data he was pushing so he upgraded to a Raspberry Pi and never looked back. You can see the demo video after the jump.

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Perpetual pong

perpetual-pong

[Jeff Joray] wrote in to show off this perpetual Pong device he built. The six by ten LED matrix acts as a game board for Pong but there are no controls. The board simply plays against itself. It’s pretty much a pong clock without the clock.

The brain of the device is a PIC 16F684 which drives the six rows of the display directly. He went with a decade counter (CD74HC401) to scan the rows one at a time. Now what would you expect to find on the underside of this hunk of protoboard? A rat’s nest of point to point wiring? If so you’re going to be disappointed. [Jeff] spent the time to generate a schematic and board layout in Eagle. While at it, he knew he was going to be using protoboard so the artwork is designed to use solder bridging as much as possible. What he ends up with is one of the cleanest mutiplexed one-off projects you’re going to find. See it in action after the jump.

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Prototyping a modular LED matrix

led-matrix-modular-prototype

[Will] was toying with the idea of creating a scrolling LED marquee to display messages as his wedding in May. But you’ve got to crawl before you can walk so he decided to see what he could do with the MAX7219 LED driver chips. They do come in a DIP package, but the 24-pin 0.1″ pitch chip will end up being larger than the 8×8 LED modules he wanted to use. So he opted to go with a surface mount part and spun a PCB which makes the LEDs modular.

These drivers are great when you’re dealing with a lot of LEDs (like the motorcycle helmet of many blinking colors). Since they use SPI for communications it’s possible to chain the chips with a minimum of connections. [Will] designed his board to have a male header on one side and a female socket on the other. Not only does it make aligning and connecting each block simple, but it allows you to change your mind at any time about  which microcontroller to use to command them. For his first set of tests he plugged the male header into a breadboard and drove it with an Arduino. We hope to hear back from him with an update when gets the final device assembled in time for the big day.

LED marquee uses discrete through-hole lights

through-hole-led-marquee

[Michael] built his own LED marquee using individual diodes. Despite his choice to forego the 8×8 or 5×7 modules we often see in these projects, his decision to spin a dedicated PCB saved him a lot of trouble during assembly. Sure, he still had to solder 180 leads on the 9×18 grid of lights, but at least he didn’t have to deal with wiring up the complex display layout.

The chip driving the display is an ATtiny24. You can see that it’s an SMD package and spans one row of the through hole LED footprint. There are way too few pins to drive a multiplexed display of this size. Instead of adding a separate driver IC he decided to design the display to use Charlieplexing. We didn’t see a schematic for the project, but judging from the board images all of the I/O pins are used by either the display itself, or the serial connection provided by that right angle pin header.

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