A Customizable Macropad To Make Anyone’s Tail Wag

[Gili Yankovitch] has always wanted some kind of macro keypad for all those boss-slaying combos he keeps up the sleeve of his wizard robe while playing WoW. Seventeen years later, he finally threw down the gauntlet and built one. But really, this is an understatement, because Paws is kind of the customizable macropad to end all customizable macropads.

This thing is completely bespoke, and yet cookie cutter at the same time — but we mean that in the best possible way. Paws can be made in any shape or form, and quite easily. How is this even possible, you ask? Well, every single key has its own microcontroller.

Yep, each key has an ATtiny85 and a cute little ribbon cable, and these form a token ring network that talks to an Arduino, which provides the keyboard interface to the computer. To make things even easier, [Gili] built a simple programming UI that automatically recognizes the configuration and number of keys, and lets the user choose the most important bit of all — the color of the LED.

[Gili] wanted to combine all the skills he’s learned since the worst timeline started in early 2020 — embedded software, CAD, electronics, and PCB design. We’d like to add networking to that list, especially since he figured out a nice workaround for the slowness of I²C and the limitations of communication between the ‘tiny85s and the Arduino. Though [Gili] may have started out with a tall order, he definitely filled it. Want to get your paws on the design files? Just claw your way over to GitHub.

If your customization interests lie more toward what program is in focus, be sure to check out Keybon, which was one of the many awesome winners of our Odd Inputs and Peculiar Peripherals contest.

4 thoughts on “A Customizable Macropad To Make Anyone’s Tail Wag

  1. It is crazy the best way to get ATTiny85 might be stripping them from Digispark

    Otherwise the RP2040 is cheaper at $1 each, might even knock some latency off with those PIO :D

    I’m torn, if it is expandable then it is good, but if it is $2.00 ($8.00?) BOM for every key it can’t expand very far.

    Maybe slave 5-10 keys per micro, and use a wider ribbon? Have the pass through for i2c on the ribbon and use addressable LEDs instead? Unless there are addressable leds with an input, which would be really cool!

    RP2040 with RGB LED in a SOIC-8 or 14 sounds great

    1. I use a ESP32-S3 as a Passwordsave / TOTP generator unlocked by Buetooth. It has USB build-in and can even Programmed via it. I never found the Attiny based USB quite stable enough.

    2. I’ve found that the ATTiny85s aren’t as hard to buy as some of the other semiconductors. The “6 week” lead times really are something like 6 weeks, unlike some of the other parts where the lead time is more like 10 MONTHS and even then the due date keeps getting pushed back. This is for the SOIC version of the ATTiny85, I don’t know about the other packages.

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