A Cyberdeck Built With Ergonomics In Mind

With a new decade looming over us, the hot new thing for hackers and makers everywhere is to build cyberdecks to go with the flashy black-and-neon clothing that the sci-fi films of old predicted we’d all be wearing come next year. [Phil Hagelberg] has been designing one based on his own ergonomic keyboard, prioritizing not only form but also function.

The Atreus mechanical keyboard has a split layout that foregoes the traditional typewriter-inherited staggered arrangement in favor of one that better fits the user’s hands. The reduced number of keys limits hand movement for a more comfortable writing experience, however if you use function keys often, the trade-off is that you’ll need to use an auxiliary key to access them.

The deck [Phil] documents for us here is built from the ground up around that same design and aims to be small enough for travel, yet pleasant enough for serious use. It’s gone through four revisions so far, including an interesting one where the keyboard is laid out on the sides for using while standing up. As for the brains of the machine, the past revisions have used different flavors of Raspberry Pi and even a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone, though the latest model has a Pine64 running the show. How much has changed between each finished prototype really goes to show that you don’t have to get it right the first time, and it’s always good to experiment with a new idea to see what works.

[Phil] is now moving onto a fifth prototype, and hopes to eventually sell kits for building the whole cyberdeck along with the kits already available for the standalone keyboard. We’ve been struck by the creativity shown in these cyberdeck builds, which range from reusing retro computer shells to completely printing out a whole new one for a unique look. We can’t say for sure if this custom form-factor will eventually surpass mass-produced laptops, but it sure would be hella cool if it did.

9 thoughts on “A Cyberdeck Built With Ergonomics In Mind

    1. “If they think you’re crude, go technical. If they think you’re technical, go crude. I’m a very technical boy. So I decided to get as crude as possible. These days though, you have to be pretty technical before you can even aspire to crudeness.” — Johnny Mnemonic

  1. > We can’t say for sure if this custom form-factor will eventually surpass mass-produced laptops …

    Custom form-factor computers are certainly cool, but if your definition of ‘surpass’ has anything to do with the number of computers in use, I think we can be pretty sure that custom form-factor computers will never surpass mass-produced anything.

    That’s probably not a bad thing though. As long as we can keep making our own hardware, the people who want custom computers will have access to them.

    1. Very well said! I think a more likely (not by much, mind you) possibility is that the tools to make these sorts of custom enclosures will continue to come down in price. Additionally, certain ad-hoc “standards” might develop around common features and code like they have in the mechanical keyboard community.

      I’m not sure that you will be likely to see the development of anything more involved than some form of active backplane that’s compatible with the Raspberry Pi pinout, though. That said, a RPi hat that runs the QMK firmware and/or has a charger circuit on it _would_ make for a good deck-making part.

  2. I hope we see more nice custom solutions like this in the future. I don’t care for the tiny screen but a keyboard like this on a tablet-top (like the Surface) would absolutely dunk on the mediocre commercial options. Give me them ergonomics.

  3. Is anybody else seeing this “Cyber Deck” trend and thinking what I am thinking?

    I don’t care much about the retro-future cyber punk aspect of it. Instead I am thinking… I have long wanted a customizable laptop that I can keep using long-term via piecemeal upgrades. I want a portable version of what desktops used to be.

    But.. industry will never provide it. Or more accurately, they will occasionally “test the waters” with some slightly more customizable hardware but only manufacturing it in low numbers will ensure it is too costly for me and far too expensive to catch on.

    I’d build my own but I’m not quite up to the miniaturization of a modern laptop.

    But this kind of form factor… that I can do! And look how powerfull Raspi 4 is…

    I think I’m gonna build a Cyber Deck!

  4. I initially didn’t see the ‘continued’ link at the bottom of the linked post, so was quite confused about where you were getting the Pine64 stuff from. I don’t think i could use a screen mounted on my leg from a standing position (too much boobage) but I really would like to have something small with a properly ergonomic keyboard that I could keep in my handbag, unfold and use anywhere. I would love to have something like a psion with updated hardware.
    I’ll be following this project with some interest.

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