Regrowing a Blackberry from the Keyboard Out

Here at Hackaday we’re big fans of device-reuse, and what [arturo182] has done with the Blackberry Q10’s keyboard is a fantastic example. Sometimes you’re working on a portable device and think to yourself “what this could really use is a QWERTY keyboard”. What project doesn’t need a keyboard?

Typically this descends into a cost benefit analysis of the horrors of soldering 60ish SMD tact switches to a board, which is no fun. With more resources you can use Snaptron snap domes like the [NextThingCo’s] PocketCHIP, but those are complex to source for a one off project and the key feel can be hard to really perfect. Instead of choosing one of those routes, [arturo182] reverse engineered the keyboard from a Blackberry Q10.

When you think of good, small keyboards, there has always been one standout: Blackberry. For decades Blackberry has been known for absolutely nailing the sweet tactile feel of a tiny key under your thumb. The Q10 is one example, originally becoming avalible in 2013 as one of the launch devices for their then-new Blackberry OS 10. Like most of Blackberry’s business the OS and the phone are long out of date, but that doesn’t mean the keyboard has aged.

[Arturo182] says he can find them from the usual Chinese sources for around $3 each, which is too cheap to not explore. Building on the work of [WooDWorkeR] (on and [JoeN] to reverse engineer the matrix and to find the correct connector, he integrated the keyboard into an easy to use breakout board that exposes the key matrix, per-row backlight controls, and even the MEMS mic! More excitingly, he has built a small portable device with all the trappings of the original Q10; a color LCD, joystick, function buttons, and more in a very small footprint.

KiCAD sources, including 3D models, for the keyboard and for the breakout board are available.

Now if only someone can find a way to salvage the unusual square, high-DPI displays from the Q10, we’d be in portable device nirvana.

19 thoughts on “Regrowing a Blackberry from the Keyboard Out

      1. DSI could be trivial if Broadcom would let us talk raw frames instead of forcing BLOB. 6of9 (former Broadcom dude) did manage to talk them into opening CSI – you can connect any MIPI camera you like as long as you know how to interpret the stream, raw mipi frames are accessible.

  1. Oh my, this is fantastic news. I spent hours and hours and hours trying to find the right connector. @arturo182 — please can you tell me where I can source them? I’ll buy a breakout board in support, but I’ll need raw connectors for my final design.

      1. D’oh, thanks. I’d love any insights into how they located the correct connector, I know it’s a black art but the hours I wasted in fruitless searching… I must be missing something obvious…

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