Add A Trackpoint To A Mechanical Keyboard

People love their tech, and feel like something’s missing when it’s not there. This is the story of one person’s desire to have the venerable trackpoint in their new keyboard.

[Klapse] loves a Lenovo old-style non-chicklet keyboard, so, despite the cost, five were ordered. They very quickly ended up with keys that didn’t work, although the trackpoints still did. After buying a sixth which ended up the same, [Klapse] decided that maybe giving up on the Lenovo keyboards was the best idea. A quick stop at a local store scored a fill-in mechanical keyboard, but in the back of [klapse]’s mind the need for a trackpoint remained. Maybe one could be frankensteined in to the keyboard that was just purchased?

Underside of the trackpoint, fitted to the keyboard PCB

The keyboard’s circuit board had traces everywhere, with nowhere to drill through between the correct keys, typically between the G, H and Y keys. But there was a hole used for mounting the PCB nearby. between the H, J, U and Y keys. The trackpoint needed to be extended to reach all the way through the key caps, so [klapse] searched the house looking for something that might do. Turns out that a knitting needle fits perfectly.

At this point a side-hack emerged. [Klapse] found a drill bit small enough to make the necessary hole in the trackpoint shaft to fit the needle. But the bit was too small for the drill chuck. In true hacking style, the bit was wrapped with duct tape and held in the drill. Sure, it wobbled a lot and it was really difficult to get it to drill in the center of the shaft, but it worked, eventually. The needle was cut off and glued into the hole, the key caps were modified a bit to allow the trackpoint through and the rubber tip put back on.

They say, “desire to cram old tech into new is the mother of invention.” Or something similar, anyway. Check out how a Teensy liberated a Lenovo laptop keyboard trackpoint and all. Also, check out this custom keyboard with integrated trackpoint, of course.

19 thoughts on “Add A Trackpoint To A Mechanical Keyboard

    1. How do you type if your fingers need to move past that point on the keyboard? With proper touch-typing technique, the only letter I can imagine being trouble at all is B, and I’ve never had a problem with it.

      1. I never learned proper touch typing technique, had to teach myself when I was a kid and later found it too difficult to ‘unlearn’ my way to learn the tight way. I was still able to pass the 30wpm requirement in college.

        1. I imagine hunt and peck typers to keep a higher distance from the keys. Why do you hit the trackpoint? Why does it bother you if you move the mouse pointer by a few pixels? Don’t you use click-to-focus?

          If Klapse learnt proper machine typing, he/she will have problems when moving the right index finger from J to Z.

          1. 1. a slight touch on the trackpoint moves the cursor a significant distance.
            2. I make no excuses for my hunt and pecking. When I learned it, typing was not nearly as important as it is today.
            3. I like using a mouse best, then trackpad, and I detest the eraserhead…too sensitive

            YMMV, of course.

    2. I find trackpoint much more intuitive than toucupad which i notourisly hit when typing. Didn’t know it goes in reverse.
      Always wanted to buy one of those lenovo keyboards for trackpoint but for this price i should be eternal. I never buy keyboard that costs more than 10 or 15$. None of them had ever broken. Shame on lenovo for killing old type keyboards from thinkpad series.

  1. Heat shrink works great for wrapping small bits so the chuck will grab. Its a little more permanent than tape, it keeps the shaft concentric because there is no overlap, and if you use a contrasting color it can make the really small ones easier to keep up with.

    1. “Pin Chucks” – a tiny drill bit with a round or hex shaft will be one of the better purchases you’ll make. Mine is probably fifty years old. You can use them as a hand drill by rotating them with your fingers, or chuck them into a crank/electric drill. Just a few dollars from the usual sources, or you can splurge on a Starrett but the cheap ones work just fine.

  2. I’ve had several IBM/Lenovo laptops over the years, and I still, to the eternal confusion of everyone around me, love and miss the TrackPoint. I used to draft with the thing. I loved the acceleration provided by small changes in pressure, something a mouse or trackpad just can’t replicate. People really seem to hate it, though. I’ve heard it called The Devil’s Nipple. Glad I’m not the only TrackPoint weirdo out there.

    1. I’ve found the touchpad top be much more accurate. The trackpoint never could get the right balance between too little acceleration and having to watch the cursor move slowly across the screen or too much acceleration and then not being able to make small movements. The touchpad I can move my finger wide and fast to move the cursor wide and fast or more it just a little and slow and the cursor move just a little and slow, no need for acceleration.
      Though I have noticed over the years that IBM/Lenovo had some of the worse touchpads making me think they made theirs bad intentionally.

  3. Just got a Tex Yoda keyboard with a trackpoint – it is great. And I’ve noticed that most trackpoint critics have never tried a real trackpoint – and instead used one on a Dell or HP or another “clone” trackpoint. Those are junk. It was later generation trackpoints from IBM where the software improved to give better control. It lets me used multiple editing windows and move between them seamlessly, never taking my hands away from the home keys. Of course, I still use a mouse if I’m using a graphics program. But for daily use, a good trackpoint makes my life as a programmer much easier.

  4. I used trackballs before ever seeing a mouse, later I cleaned balls for too many mice, so maybe I just hate mice? I own 6 Thinkpads, each with a trackpoint and I use a mouse every time I run the Church AV system. For whatever reason I will never prefer any rodent, even if wireless.

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