Are you completely over the idea of the keyboard in any flattish form and looking for something completely different for inputting your data? Or do you want a mega macropad for 3D design, GIMP or Inkscape work, or to use while relaxing with a nice first-person shooter? Then this ergonomic, double-fistable keyboard/controller mashup named CAT may be what you’re looking for.
Inside each of these slinky felines is pretty much what you’d expect to find — 25 or so switches and an Arduino Pro Micro. Interestingly enough, the switches are all lever-action and not push buttons. There are two breeds of CAT available to build or buy: one has 25 buttons, and the other has a joystick or trackball on the thumb between two upper and two lower buttons. You could have one type for each hand!
More information is available on the Lynx Workshop site, which is where you’ll also find tutorials and instructions for everything from the 3D printing to the electronics to the assembly and coding. There is even a bonus 3D modeling tutorial. Don’t want to invest the time to make your own CAT? These kitties are also available for pre-order. Claw past the break to check them out in action.
When you spend a lot of time on the computer doing certain more specialised tasks (no, we’re not talking about browsing cat memes on twitter) you start to think that your basic trackpad or mouse is, let’s say, lacking a certain something. We think that something may be called ‘usability’ or maybe ease-of-use? Any which way, lots of heavy CAD users gush over their favourite mouse stand-ins, and one particularly interesting class of input devices is the Space Mouse, which is essentially patented up-to-the-hilt and available only from 3DConnexion. But what about open source alternatives you can build yourselves? Enter stage left, the Orbion created by [FaqT0tum.] This simple little build combines an analog joystick with a rotary knob, with a rear button and OLED display on the front completing the user interface.
The idea is pretty straightforward; you setup the firmware with the application you want to use it with, and it emits HID events to the connected PC, replacing the mouse or keyboard input. Since your machine will take input from multiple sources, it doesn’t replace your mouse, it augments it. It may not be very accurate for detailed PCB layout work, but for moving around in a 3D view, or dialling in a video edit, this could be a very useful addition to your workstation, so why not give it a try? The wiring is simple, the parts easily found and cheap, and it’s only a few printed parts! This scribe is already printing the plastics right now, if you listen carefully you might be able to make out the sound of the Lulzbot in background.
When [jns] and their colleague came across an industrial or possibly military grade keyboard/trackball combo on eBay, their minds did the same backflips that yours or mine might. Enthralled by the specialty key caps, the custom layout, and companion trackball adorned with its own keys rather than buttons [jns] and his workmate they did the only thing that infatuated hackers can do: They each bought one! [jns]’s goal? Make it work via USB. Everything’s been documented in both software and in a very well done video that you can see below the break.
After doing some digging, they found that the keyboard and trackball combination was used in Minuteman III nuclear missile silos beginning in the early 1990’s, when the REACT program replaced aging cold war era computers and communications systems with simpler, more flexible systems.
Since the eBay auction came with only the keyboard and trackball, and not the entire Minuteman III outfit, using the new keyboard in its native habitat and wielding nuclear launch capabilities was right out the door. Instead, [jns] focused on reverse engineering the keyboard and trackball, collectively known as the OID (Operator Input Device) for use via USB.
In the video, [jns] goes into more detail about the discovery of reed switched keys, the RS422 protocol being used, blowing up an Arduino Pro Micro, and even repairing the aging trackball. Success was had, and he’s graciously shared the software and hardware design with the world.
In 1980, France took a step into the future when the telecom companies introduced the Minitel system — a precursor to the Web where users could shop, buy train tickets, check stocks, and send and receive electronic mail through a small terminal. Minitel still had 10 million monthly connections in 2009, but the service was discontinued in 2012.
So, you can imagine how many Minitel terminals must be floating around at this point. [Gautchh] picked one up at a garage sale a while back and converted it into a battery-powered laptop for taking notes in class. Luckily for us, [Gautchh] recently open-sourced this project and has given us a wiring diagram, STLs, BOM, and a good look into the build process.
[Gautchh] started by gutting the Minitel, but saved the power button and the très chic power indicator that looks like a AA cell. The new 10.4″ LCD screen is held in place with four 3D-printed corner blocks and a bit of hot glue, and the original keyboard (which we’d love to clack on) is now wired up to an Arduino Pro Micro. The main brain — a Raspberry Pi 3B — is easily accessible through a handy little hatch in the back. Well, it looks like we’ve got a new ebay alert to set up.
Do you kind of want a macropad, but aren’t sure that you would use it? Hackaday alum [Jeremy Cook] is now making and selling the JC Pro Macro on Tindie, which is exactly what it sounds like — a Pro Micro-based macro keypad with an OLED screen and a rotary encoder. In the video below, [Jeremy] shows how he made it into a music maker by adding a speaker and a small solenoid that does percussion, all while retaining the original macro pad functionality.
[Jeremy]’s original idea for a drum was to have a servo seesawing a chopstick back and forth on the table as one might nervously twiddle a pencil. That didn’t work out so well, so he switched to the solenoid and printed a thing to hold it upright, and we absolutely love it. The drum is controlled with the rotary encoder: push to turn the beat on or off and crank it to change the BPM.
To make it easier to connect up the solenoid and speaker, [Jeremy] had a little I²C helper board fabricated. There’s one SVG connection and another with power and ground swapped in the event it is needed. If you’re interested in the JC Pro Macro, you can pick it up in various forms over on Tindie. Of course, you might want to wait for version 2, which is coming to Kickstarter in October.
The best streamers keep their audience constantly engaged. They might be making quips and doing the funny voices that everyone expects them to do, but they’re also busy reading chat messages aloud and responding, managing different scenes and transitions, and so on. Many streamers use a type of macro keyboard called a stream deck to greatly improve the experience of juggling all those broadcasting balls.
Sure, there are dedicated commercial versions, but they’re kind of expensive. And what’s the fun in that, anyway? A stream deck is a great candidate for DIY because you can highly personalize the one you make yourself. Give it clicky switches, if that’s what your ears and fingers want. Or don’t. It’s your macro keyboard, after all.
[Patrick Thomas] and [James Wood] teamed up to build the perfect stream deck for [James]’ Twitch channel. We like the way they went about it, which was to start by assessing a macro pad kit and use what they learned from building and testing it to design their ideal stream deck. The current version supports both the Arduino Pro Micro and the ESP32. It has twelve key switches, a rotary encoder, an LED bar graph, and an OLED screen for choosing between the eight different color schemes.
When [Tavis] and his father were inspired to lend their talents to building a robot sculpture, they split the duties. [Tavis]’ father built a robot head, and [Tavis] utilized designs old and new to breathe life into their creation.
Many a hardware hacker has been inspired by robotic art over the years. Whether it’s the vivid descriptions by the likes of Asimov and Clarke, the magnificent visuals from the formative 1927 film Metropolis, or the frantic arm-waving Robot from Lost In Space, the robots of Science Fiction have impelled many to bring their own creations to life.
For [Travis]’s creation, Two rare Russian Nixie Tubes in the forehead convey what’s on the robot’s mind, while dual 8×8 LED matrices from Adafruit give the imagination a window to the binary soul. A sound board also from Adafruit gives voice to the automaton, speaking wistful words in a language known only to himself.
A DC to DC converter raises the LiPo supplied 3.7v to the necessary 170v for the Nixies, and a hidden USB-C port charges the battery once its two-hour life span has expired. Two custom Nixie driver boards are each host to an Arduino Pro Micro, and [Tavis] has made the PCB design available for those wishing to build their own Nixie projects.
As you can see in the video below the break, the results are nothing short of mesmerizing!