Although some of the first Android-powered smartphones had them and Blackberries were famous for them, physical keyboards on portable electronics like that quickly became a thing of the past. Presumably the cost to manufacture is too high and the margins too low regardless of consumer demand. Whatever the reason, if you want a small keyboard for your portable devices you’ll likely need to make one yourself like [Kārlis] did for the Steam Deck.
Unlike a more familiar mechanical keyboard build which prioritizes the feel and sound of the keyboard experience, this one sacrifices nearly every other design consideration in order to be thin enough to fit in the Steam Deck case. The PCB is designed to be flexible using copper tape cut to size with a vinyl cutter with all the traces running to a Raspberry Pi Pico which hosts the firmware and plugs into the Steam Deck’s USB port. The files for the PCB are available in KiCad and can be exported as SVG files for cutting.
In the end, [Kārlis] has a functioning keyboard that’s even a little more robust than was initially expected and which does fit alongside the Deck in its case. On the other hand, [Kārlis] describes the typing experience as “awful” due to its extreme thinness, but either way we applaud the amount of effort that went in to building a keyboard with this form factor. The Steam Deck itself is a platform which lends itself to all kinds of modifications as well, from the control sticks to the operating systems, and Valve will even show you how.