How many people still have a PS/2 keyboard kicking around in 2020? Admittedly asking such a question of the Hackaday audience is probably cheating (there’s a decent chance one of you will type a comment on one just to prove a point), but even the most pedantic reader has to admit that it’s a long dead standard. So we’re hardly surprised to hear that [Turbaned Engineer] didn’t have one handy when he tried to boot a motherboard so old that he couldn’t access the BIOS with a USB keyboard.
But rather than waiting for an adapter to show up in the mail, he decided to rig up an Arduino Nano to mimic a PS/2 keyboard just long enough for him to navigate the system configuration. Since that basically meant he only needed the arrow keys and Enter, he was able to rig up a handful of momentary buttons to serve as input. We wouldn’t recommend typing out your memoirs with such a spartan board, but it’s certainly good enough to juggle around the order of boot devices.
The fun didn’t stop there, though. [Turbaned Engineer] also had to clean some corrosion and fix a blown resistor on a bank of RAM to drag this old soldier over the finish line. He didn’t have a case handy, so he made a free-form one using the polycarbonate packaging that ICs ship in. The final machine isn’t exactly a sleeper, but it’s good enough to play Super Mario Bros. 3 on the TV.
At the end of the day, the minimal input device [Turbaned Engineer] put together isn’t so far removed from other homebrew keyboards we’ve seen recently. It seems that QMK even has some basic support for the PS/2 interface. Not that it would come up very often, but a “retro” mode might be an interesting addition to your next custom keyboard build.
The hardware and software required to make DIY keyboards happen has gotten more and more accessible, and that means it’s easier than ever to make one’s ideal input device a reality from the ground up. For [Cameron Sun], his Ellipsis Split mechanical keyboard buildlog details his second effort, refining his original design from lessons learned the first time around. The new keyboard is slim, split into two, and has integrated wrist supports made from stained wood. The painting and wood treatment took a lot of work and patience, but it certainly paid off because the result looks amazing!
When we saw [Cameron]’s first custom keyboard, we admired the unique aluminum case and some nice touches like the physical toggle switches. Those tactile switches allow changing the keyboard to different modes, while also serving as a visual indicator. [Cameron] liked those switches too, but alas they just didn’t fit into the slim new design. However, he’s very happy with swapping modes in software and using a small OLED display as an indicator. What kind of different modes does his keyboard have? There’s Windows mode and Mac mode (which changes some hotkeys) as well as modes that change which keys in the thumb clusters do what (moving the space key to the left for easier gaming, for example.) After all, it’s not just the physical layout that can be customized with a DIY keyboard.
Interested in making your own custom keyboard? Be sure to look into this breakaway keyboard PCB concept before you start, because it just might make your custom build a lot easier.
The idea is to take a standard keycap blank and pop an array of 25 holes in the face. Your thread or yarn is run through these holes, allowing you to create whatever shape you wish within the 5 x 5 matrix. While it’s somewhat tight quarters on the underside of the cap, nothing prevents you from using multiple colors or even materials to do your stitching. As an added bonus, the soft threads should provide a very comfortable and particularly tactile surface to tap on.
Now the most obvious application is to simply stitch up versions of all the alphanumeric keys, but there’s clearly room for some interpretation here. [Billie] has already shown off some simple iconography like a red heart and we’re sure creative folks will have no trouble coming up with all sorts of interesting needlepoint creations to top their prized mechanical keyboards.
The intricate details necessary to make this idea work may be beyond the common desktop FDM 3D printer, so [Billie] ran these prototypes off on a resin printer (she attributes the visible layer lines to a hasty print). She’d love to hear feedback from other keyboard aficionados who’ve made the leap to liquid goo printing, so be sure to drop her a line if you print out a set of your own. It sounds like a new version is in the works which will provide a false bottom to cover the stitching from below, but functionally these should get you started.
While nobody could deny that computing technology has some a long way in the last few decades, there are many out there who believe peak keyboard was sometime before the turn of the new millennium. They prefer the look, feel, and especially the sounds, of those classic keyboards to what passes for an input device these days. So much so that it’s not uncommon to see one of these old mammoths get freshened up and pushed into service with a modern computer.
Which is exactly what [Juan Pablo Kutianski] has done with his Compaq MX-11800. This keyboard, which is actually a branded version of the Cherry G80-11800, really stands out in a crowd. With an integrated trackball and a two-row arrangement for the function keys, it’s not hard to see why he’d want to show it off. But while the hardware itself was solid, the features and capabilities of this old school keyboard left something to be desired.
The solution was to replace the keyboard’s original electronics with a Teensy++2.0 running the popular QMK firmware. This not only made the keyboard USB, but allowed [Juan] to tweak things such as the trackball sensitivity and add in support for layers and macros. All of which can be managed through VIA, a graphical configuration tool for QMK.
[Cameron] had been using a 60 percent keyboard (a keyboard with around 60% of the keys of a standard keyboard) but missed the dedicated arrow keys, as well as home/end and pgup/pgdown keys. Thus began the quest for the ultimate keyboard! Or, at least, the ultimate keyboard for [Cameron.]
Keyboards begin and end with a layout, so [Cameron] started with keyboard-layout-editor.com, a site where you can create your own keyboard layout with the number of keys you’d like. The layout was a bit challenging for [Cameron] using the online tool, so the editing was moved into Adobe Illustrator. Once the layout was designed, it was time to move on to the case. Wood was considered, but ultimately, aluminum was decided upon and the basic shape was milled and then the key holes were cut using a water jet.
An interesting addition to the keyboard were three toggle switches. These allow [Cameron] to choose a modified layout for use when gaming, and also to move some of the keys’ locations so that one side of the keyboard can be used for gaming.
Custom keyboard layouts are getting more and more popular and there are lots of DIY cases to hold those layouts. [Cameron] has upped the ante when it comes to cases, though. If you’re interested in building your own keyboard, we have you covered with articles like The A to Z of Building Your Own Keyboard. If you’re looking for more custom cases, perhaps a concrete one is what you want?
We’ve featured a number of people who’ve taken the plunge and created their own customized keyboard; at this point it’s safe to say that there’s enough information and source code out there that anyone who’s looking to build their own board won’t have much trouble figuring out how to do so. That being said, it’s nice to have a comprehensive at a process from start to finish. Why sift through forum posts and image galleries looking for crumbs if you don’t have to?
That’s precisely what makes this write-up by [Maarten Tromp] so interesting. He walks the reader through every step of the design and creation of his customized keyboard, from coming up with the rather unique layout to writing the firmware for its AVR microcontroller. It’s a long read, filled with plenty of tips and tricks from a multitude of disciplines.
After looking at other custom boards for inspiration, [Maarten] used OpenSCAD to create a 3D model of his proposed design, and had it printed at Shapeways. His electronics are based around an Atmel ATMega328P using vUSB, and Microchip MCP23017 I/O expanders to connect all the keys. He wrapped it all up by designing a PCB in gEDA PCB and having it sent off for production. As a testament to his attention to detail, everything mated up on the first try.
[Maarten] is happy with the final product, but mentions that in a future revision he would like to add RGB lighting and use a microcontroller that has native USB support. He’d also like to drop the I/O expanders and switch over to Charlieplexing for the key matrix.
One of the worst things about your average modern keyboards is that they have a tendency to slide around on the desk. And why wouldn’t they? They’re just membrane keyboards encased in cheap, thin plastic. Good for portability, bad for actually typing once you get wherever you’re going.
When [ipee9932cd] last built a keyboard, finding the right case was crucial. And it never happened. [ipee9932cd] did what any of us would do and made a custom case out of the heaviest, most widely available casting material: concrete.
To start, [ipee9932cd] made a form out of melamine and poured 12 pounds of concrete over a foam rectangle that represents the keyboard. The edges of the form were caulked so that the case edges would come out round. Here’s the super clever part: adding a couple of LEGO blocks to make space for the USB cable and reset switch. After the concrete cured, it was sanded up to 20,000 grit and sealed to keep out sweat and Mountain Dew Code Red. We can’t imagine that it’s very comfortable to use, but it does look to be cool on the wrists. Check out the gallery after the break.