Portable Pi Teensy Thumboard

Even on the go, there is no substitute for a physical keyboard with buttons that move and click. Sure, you could solder a bunch of tactile switches to some perfboard, but how about going all out and making something robust as [Anthony DiGirolamo] did for his Teensy Thumboard. Everything is insertion-mount so it is an approachable project for anyone who knows the dangerous end of a soldering iron, and that also makes it easy to hack on.

Each pin of the Teensy has an adjacent empty hole tied to it for easy access, and the serial data pins are exposed at the top of the board. All the holes use standard 0.1″ (2.54mm) spacing. The I/O points used by the keyboard are labeled, and the rest of them can use the space under the controller where proto-board style holes add some extra space for an IMU or whatever sensors suit your slant.

Most impressive is the shell, which is freely available on Thingiverse, where you can also find a bill of materials with links to everything you will need in case you don’t have drawers full of those tactile switches.

If this looks familiar, you have probably seen the PocketCHIP, and it is no secret that this project is an homage to that versatile pocket computer. We appreciate this kind of love for PocketCHIP, especially since they are now a limited commodity.

12 thoughts on “Portable Pi Teensy Thumboard

    1. I guess he’s not able to solder smt. i’d like if someone did a similar project to make a usb gamepad. current offerings are all rubber keyed (short life) and not firmware programmable in linux. those brass and steel momentary switches would be sweet.

    2. He addressed this in his hackaday.io page. And I agree with his reasons. There are too many broken or fragile arduino libs. The reason you go to a Teensy is not just for the significant performance increase, but mostly for the robust and performant code available from PJRC and the Teensy community.

  1. This keyboard is truly well-suited for this project, the other option would be to use a wireless palm-size keyboard that would suck more energy than a wired one, as well as broadcasting keystrokes in the air. No need for GPIO.

    This is just great, there isn’t a market for a palm-size USB keyboard that is wired, so why not use a teensy? Problem solved.

  2. I like the thumb keys, the plastic bits, but strangely there seems to be nothing said about them anywhere. To me that’s the most interesting part of the project.

    Having used a Zipit Z2 in the past I’m not really excited about thumbboards. But this might work e.g. in a custom calculator, or a calculator replica.

    1. I noticed the keys right away too. They are printed and you can see/download the model for them on the Thingiverse link. I am glad I am not the only one who thought those keys were where it’s at.

      1. The keys are what started this whole project for me. The ones in this build are sort of version 2 of this pocketchip faceplate print https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2490185 The bottom edge of each key is angled at 45deg and under that is a hole for a hinge. This is similar to classic HP calculators. I used straitened paperclips as the key hinges initially but have now switched to using music wire instead, straitening paperclips can get old. The new keys have a much better typing feel and a shorter overall height than the old version. STLs and fusion 360 models are at: https://github.com/AnthonyDiGirolamo/teensy-thumb-keyboard/#cases

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