A Google Pixel 7 with a detachable Bluetooth keyboard.

BlueBerry Is A Smartphone-Agnostic Keyboard Firmware

If you’re anything like us, you really, really miss having a physical keyboard on your phone. Well, cry no more, because [Joe LiTrenta] has made it possible for any modern smartphone whatsoever to have a detachable, physical keyboard and mouse at the ready. [Joe] calls this creation the BlueBerry.

A couple of metal plates and a mag-safe pop socket connect a Bluetooth keyboard to a Google Pixel 7. The keyboard/mouse combo in question is a little BlackBerry Bluetooth number from ZitaoTech which is available on Tindie, ready to go in a 3D printed case. What [Joe] has done is to create a custom ZMK-based firmware that allows the keyboard be device-agnostic.

In order to easily mount the keyboard to the phone and make it detachable, [Joe] used adhesive-backed metal mounting plates on both the phone and the keyboard, and a mag-safe pop socket to connect the two. The firmware makes use of layers so everything is easily accessible.

Check out the demo video after the break, which shows the board connected to a Google Pixel 7. It makes the phone comically long, but having a physical keyboard again is serious business, so who’s laughing now? We’d love to see a keyboard that attaches to the broad side of the phone, so someone get on that. Please?

Do you have a PinePhone? There’s an extremely cute keyboard for that.

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A Planck-inspired 40% ortholinear keyboard.

DIY Keyboard Can Handle Up To Three Host Devices

Here’s a story that may be familiar: [der-b] is a Linux developer who is forced two carry two laptops — one for work with unavoidable work stuff on it, and one for software development. Unfortunately this leads to keyboard confusion between the two when one is connected to an external display.

In an attempt to overcome this, [der-b] designed a keyboard that can be connected to more than one device at a time, despite ultimately thinking that this will lead to another layer of confusion. The point was to try to make something as lightweight as possible, since carrying two laptops is already a struggle. As a bonus, this project was a learning experience for soldering SMD parts.

The keyboard itself is based on the Planck and uses an ATMega32u4 running QMK firmware, so that means it’s a 40% ortholinear with 48 keys total. [der-b] used low-profile Cherry MX switches to keep things sleek.

In order to switch between different host devices, [der-b] uses shortcuts as you’ll see in the short video after the break. This is accomplished with a FSUSB36 IC on the USB connections between the ATMega and the host.

[der-b] encountered a spate of issues while building this keyboard, which you can read all about in the blog post. We love to see transparency when it comes to your write-ups, especially when the projects become learning experiences. (Aren’t they all?) But if 48 keys aren’t nearly enough for you, check out this learning-experience keyboard build.

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Building A Mechanical Keyboard As A Learning Project

[Thomas Rinsma] wanted to learn about designing PCBs. Thus, he set about a nifty project that would both teach him those lessons and net him something useful in the process. The result was kb1, a mechanical keyboard of his own design!

You might think [Thomas] would have started with a basic, barebones design, but he didn’t shy away from including some neat features. His keyboard has a “tenkeyless” layout, and uses Cherry MX-style switches, as has become the norm in the mechanical keyboard world. It has a 16×2 LCD display for user feedback, a rotary encoder, and it even has an RGB backlight for every key thanks to SK6812 addressable LEDs. Running the show is a Raspberry Pi Pico, equipped with the KMK firmware. The board actually uses twin PCBs as the enclosure, which is a nifty trick.

It’s remarkably fully featured for a first time build.

Microsoft Killed My Favorite Keyboard, And I’m Mad About It

As a professional writer, I rack up thousands of words a day. Too many in fact, to the point where it hurts my brain. To ease this burden, I choose my tools carefully to minimize obstructions as the words pour from my mind, spilling through my fingers on their way to the screen.

That’s a long-winded way of saying I’m pretty persnickety about my keyboard. Now, I’ve found out my favorite model has been discontinued, and I’ll never again know the pleasure of typing on its delicate keys. And I’m mad about it. Real mad. Because I shouldn’t be in this position to begin with!

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A Brief History Of Keyboard Encoding

Photoelectric encoder keyboard configured as ASCII
Photoelectric encoder keyboard configured as ASCII

While typing away on our DIN, PS/2, USB or Bluetooth keyboards one of the questions which we rarely concern ourselves with is that of how the keyboard registers which keys we’re pressing. One exception here is when the keyboard can only register a limited number of simultaneous keypresses (rollover). Even though most keyboards today use a matrix which connects the keys, there are many configuration choices even here, which much like other keyboard configurations come with their own advantages and disadvantages. As a good primer we can look at this article by [Daniel Beardsmore] as he takes us through both historical and current-day keyboards.

Especially before  it was realistic to just put an entire microcontroller with a look-up table into every keyboard, more inventive approaches were required to not only register keypresses, but also encode them for the host computer. The photoelectric approach of the 1960s was one such encoding method, before diode matrices became popular, along with more exotic encoding switches that contained their code already hard-wired on their multitude of pins. One inevitable limitation with these was that of a lack of multi-key support, leading to the development of matrix scan technology around 1970.

Matrix scanning keyboards allow for multiple key presses at the same time, tackle debouncing of keys and were at the forefront of what gives us the ubiquitous and generally boringly reliable keyboards which we use today.

Wico Boss Joystick Modded To Use Cherry MX Keyboard Switches

The Wico Boss joystick was one of the better designs of the 1980s. Yours truly had one, and put it through many brutal hours of Amiga-based gameplay. [Drygol] was recently asked if he could alter some of these sticks to be even clickier than stock, and jumped at the change to do some modding.

[Drygol]’s idea was to swap out the original microswitches in the sticks for keyboard switches instead. In particular, the idea was to use the Cherry MX Blues which have a particularly nice click to them. But this wasn’t just going to be a straight swap. Instead, since the hardware was retro and preservation was desired, the modification had to be reversible.

The result was a drop-in 3D-printed bracket that holds four Cherry switches around the joystick’s central bauble. Thus, when the stick is moved, it actuates the keyboard switches with a satisfying click. A 12mm tactile switch was also installed in the base to be activated by the fire button. Then, it was a simple matter of  tidying up some of the sticks during reassembly and wiring up the original cables to the new switches.

It’s a neat way to give an old-fashioned digital joystick a new lease on life. This would be a particularly great mod for tired sticks with worn out microswitches, too. Hilarious archaic marketing video after the break. They really are whacko for Wico.

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Left: a DIY chording keyboard with seven keys Right: the guts of said keyboard

Chording Keyboard Leaves Your Mouse Hand Free

[akmnos22] was getting tired of moving one hand to the mouse and back to the keyboard. Rather than integrating mouse controls into a keyboard, they decided to really lean in and create a chording keyboard — one that creates characters with combinations of key presses, like playing chords on a piano.

This project was inspired in part by the Infogrip BAT, which has graced these pages before. Much like the BAT, this uses a total of seven Cherry MX switches: one for each finger, and three for the thumb. In order to get the placement just right for you, [akmnos22] suggests laying your hand in a comfortable position on a piece of paper and marking where your fingers naturally rest, then importing these markings into CAD software to decide where the key switch holes should be.

The brains of this operation is a Raspberry Pi Pico, which provides more than enough GPIO pins to do the job. [akmnos22] does a nice job of explaining exactly how to put one of these together, from the design concept through the programming process and how to actually chord on the thing.

Would you rather chord with two hands? It might be even faster.