Feather Plus Blackberry Equals Open Source Fauxberry

The keyboard is a superior means of input, but to date no one has really figured out how to make a keyboard for small, handheld electronics. You could use tact switches, but that’s annoying, or you could use a touch screen. The best option we’ve seen is actually a Blackberry keyboard, and [arturo182] has the best example yet. It’s a small handheld device with a screen, keyboard, and WiFi that’s ready to do anything imaginable. Think of it as an Open Source Fauxberry. In any case, we want it.

This project is actually a breakout board of sorts for the Adafruit Feather system, and therefore has support for WiFi, cellular, or pretty much any other networking of connectivity. To this blank canvas, [arturo] added an accelerator/magnetometer sensor, a single Neopixel, and of course the beautiful Blackberry keyboard. This keyboard is attached to an ATSAMD20G, a microcontroller with a whole bunch of I/O that translates key presses into I2C for the Feather.

Aside from that, there’s also a gigantic screen to display just about anything you would want in a portable computing device. There’s still a bit more work to do on this project, most notable figuring out where the battery goes, but [arturo] is developing everything in a livestream, someting we love to see as it really puts a focus on how much effort goes into making custom hardware.

16 thoughts on “Feather Plus Blackberry Equals Open Source Fauxberry

  1. ” to date no one has really figured out how to make a keyboard for small, handheld electronics.”

    Apart from Psion?

    (And Planet. Have you seen the Gemini?)

  2. Palm Treo 270/600/650 .. e-nuff said ..

    .. or not ..

    1.) great pushbutton keyboard with no effort special character support by sub-menu-key
    2.) fantastic Organizer: Dates / Contacts / Memos
    3.) could run a gameboy emulator
    4.) could do on the go eMail with the great K9
    5.) could run opera-beta back in the day
    6.) all functions just very few button clicks away
    7.) 20 days on one charge (the 650) when used as an alarm clock
    8.) with the TomTom Kit it even worked as a navi
    9.) It played music

    With the treo270 later 650 organized myself when I studied mechanical engineering, I kept track of dates for leissure and for learning. Before anyone would have ever heard of Android.

    So excuse me if I dont buy the Blackberry and keep the power in my Palm.

    Nowadays, I use it as a trusty never failing alarm clock at home and on business travel.

    1. Comparing the feel, usability, and reliability:
      I carried a Treo 700p from ~2005 until about six months ago. (Only as a PDA to store personal info.) Between 2011 and 2016 I also had a few Blackberries. (Used as a work phone, no personal info.) The BB keyboard had a FAR superior feel — as long as it worked, which was about 3 months. Then it would get gummed up with body oils, then not long after that the keyboard would completely fail. Happened at least three times, exactly the same way each time.

      Replaced the BBs in 2016 with an iPhone (and when I found a way to put personal info on it, replaced the Palm with that as well this year) and while I can’t stand the selection+copy+paste on an iP, typing is very good. I’m typing on it right now :-) It hasn’t failed in the almost three years I’ve had it. Not even a screen crack, though I recognize that is unusual. (I have a cheap but good case and screen protector.) I am about as good with it as with a BB. It’s the muscle memory, tapping sound, and excellent autocorral. Er, um.

      That’s on the default iP keyboard. When I first got this iP it was locked down, no external apps. (Found a way around that after some time.) Because no external apps I couldn’t load the swipe keyboard I had gotten accustomed to on the Android I briefly owned. I thought, “uh oh. Qwerty tapping is slow.” But after some use and getting accustomed to blending the auto correct in daily use I am about as comfortable with it as I was with the old BB. (Almost.) I later found how to install apps and tried the Google keyboard. But it just wasn’t as good as the built in, so it got deleted.

      The Treo keyboard was just okay. So reliable; I had several Treos fail in the many years I carried them, but never in the keyboard. And selecting/copying/pasting was unbelievably good with an app I found. But meh for typing feel and speed. The BB keyboard was just so buttery smooth those first three months. After each replacement I would WOW!

      And the selection/copy/paste on the BB, while not a Treo, was definitely better than the iP. I feel like cursing when I need to copy something off a web page, something I do several times a week. At least I found (after two years!!!) :-( the hidden Easter egg keyboard track pad (hold down space) but it doesn’t work for selecting on web pages and in general it’s just not terribly easy to use even in input fields like this one.

      My kingdom for a device with the selection capabilities and keyboard reliability of the Treo, the overall reliability and autocorral of the iPhone, and the buttery feel of the Blackberry.

    1. I love my DM42, and wish for its keypad on many devices. Not sure it would be so good in a Qwerty mode though. I’d like to give it a try some day. hint hint swissmicros :)

      1. well, he is using parts stripped off former “products” for his “project” – isn’t he?
        Just strip off parts of current “products”, e.g. the front half of a DM1xL case…
        (I know: this might bloat the costs, dependig of your parts source…)

        But that sentence “but to date no one has really figured out how to make a keyboard for small, handheld electronics” made me go raging ;-)

    1. If memory serves the PocketChip didn’t actually come with keys, just the exposed clicky push switches. Not sure if that is enough of a difference. I know many people did get a keyboard overlay thing for their PocketChips.

  3. About a year back, I was trying to find a toy cellphone for my grandson on Amazon. Came across what looked like a very realistic Blackberry for about $7.00. Bought it. What arrived was a real Blackberry, working keyboard and all. Just sayin, $7.00 wasn’t bad.

  4. Alrighty! It’s great that everyone has their favorite product with their favorite keyboards.. but I think that sentiment was more: how do you add a keyboard to your projects, without using switches and silkscreen.
    I tried the xbox keyboard once, but got one that didn’t have the right serial settings to easily connect an Arduino. So I had to rewire the matrix to a pro micro. Here Artur did the same thing and more, to get you a head start to make your own keyboard handheld, based on your favorite microcontroller on a feather. And before you say “XYZ is not on a feather board” – please google that first. There are a lot of boards that don’t come from adafruit directly from people who see the benefits of the form factor. You can also make your own feather. Bonus points for a 555 timer version. Please share them on hackaday.io and send in a tip to the tip line. k, thx, bye.

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