Vintage Atari Becomes Modern Keyboard

The modern keyboard enthusiast is blessed with innumerable choices when it comes to typing hardware. There are keyboards designed specifically for gaming, fast typing, ergonomics, and all manner of other criteria. [iot4c] undertook their own build for no other reason than nostalgia – which sounds plenty fun to us.

An Arduino Leonardo is pressed into service for this hack. With its USB HID capabilities, it’s perfectly suited for custom keyboard builds. It’s built into a working Atari 65XE computer, and connected to the keyboard matrix. The Keypad and Keyboard libraries are pressed into service to turn keypresses on the 80s keyboard into easily digseted USB data.

There’s plenty of room inside the computer for the added hardware, with the USB cable neatly sneaked out the rear. [iot4c] notes that everything still works and the added hardware does not cause any problems, as long as it’s not used as a computer and a keyboard at the same time.

It’s possible to do a similar hack on the Commodore 64, too. If you’re doing tricky keyboard builds yourself, you know where to send ’em.

4 thoughts on “Vintage Atari Becomes Modern Keyboard

  1. “There are keyboards designed specifically for gaming, fast typing, ergonomics, and all manner of other criteria.”

    I remember looking for an ergonomic keyboard with Cherry switches. None at the time.

  2. A lot of keyboards here are screaming to get a usb attachement, be it inside or just a cable converter. Unfortunately, I use a lot of keys not available on those nice keyboards (mostly ex-terminal types from IBM, HP or DEC) and they tend to be on the big side, and since desktop space on my desk is sparse, I am still typing on a old Dell pc keyboard…

    oh well

  3. What would be really slick is putting one of those nano PC boards into the expansion bay of a Tandy 1000EX or 1000HX, while continuing to keep the Tandy fully functional. Tapping into the keyboard shouldn’t be difficult since the keyboard electronics are on the main PCB and the matrix connects with a ribbon cable to a two row 0.1″ pin header.

    Mount an LCD to it with some hinges and take your Tandy Laptop to a LAN party. :)

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