What’s the fastest way to master console stuff like screen or emacs? Force yourself to use it exclusively, of course. But maybe you’d be tempted to cheat with a desktop. We know we would be. In that case, you ought to build a console-only cyberdeck like this sweet little thing by [a8skh4].
This cyberdeck serves another purpose as well — the keyboard layout is Miryoku, so [a8ksh4] can get more practice with that at the same time. Fortunately, the layout is built for emacs.
Inside is a Raspberry Pi 4 and what looks to be an Arduino handling the keyboard input. The Paper Pi spotlights a 4.2″ e-ink screen between a split thumb keyboard that’s made of soft, silent, tactile switches.
Since they’re SMD, [a8ksh4] made clever use of header pins to get them to work with protoboard. As much as we love the keyboard, it would be awesome to see a few switches on the shoulders or even the back that make use of the rest of the fingers. Check out more build pictures in the gallery.
Whether we’re talking about Gibson’s Sprawl or our increasingly dystopian reality, one of the defining characteristics of a cyberdeck is that it can be easily customized and upgraded over time. While a few of the builds we’ve covered over the last couple of years have focused more on style than substance, we really appreciate the designs that embrace the concept of modularity to make sure the system can evolve to meet the changing demands of hacking on the go.
To that end, the M3TAL from [BlastoSupreme] is a perfect example of what a cyberdeck should be. Naturally it’s got the cyberpunk aesthetics we’ve come to expect, but more importantly, it’s designed so modifications and repairs are as quick and painless as possible. The trick is the use of a 2020 aluminum extrusion frame, which allows external panels and components to be attached anywhere along the length of the deck using T-Nuts. Similarly, by mounting internal components to “sleds” that ride between the pieces of extrusion, the electronics can easily be removed or swapped out as complete modules.
Furthering the idea of expandability, [BlastoSupreme] included an authentic 3.5 floppy drive on the M3TAL that allows him to pack an incredible 1.44 MB onto each rugged and portable disk. OK, so maybe the floppy drive isn’t terribly impressive compared to 2021 tech, but it does seem oddly appropriate for a cyberdeck. On the opposite side of the deck there’s a RetroCART slot, which cloaks modern USB devices in clunky faux cartridges. This provides a unified physical format for everything from removable storage to microcontrollers and software defined radio receivers.
While we’re not at all sick of the cyberdeck movement yet, we do have to admit that some of the builds we see are starting to fall into categories that are beginning to seem a little familiar. The clamshell aesthetic comes to mind, but really, with spaces for a display and a keyboard, the form factor is pretty much a natural for cyberdecking. Which is why we like this three-piece twist on the cyberdeck concept so much.
Like many cyberdeck builds, inspiration for the awesomely mustachioed [Max]’s deck came from the military surplus world. As the story goes, he has a smallish clamshell case that once held radio tools and supplies for the Bundeswehr. Figuring it would make the perfect case for half of a split keyboard, he tracked down a couple more of the sturdy aluminum cases and got to work. As a mechanical keyboard aficionado, [Max] already had PCBs that would fit into two of the cases, so he populated those with suitably clicky switches, came up with cool-looking faceplates, and connected the two boxes with retractile cables. The third case got a Raspberry Pi 4 with a trimmed-down heatsink, a battery and power management, and a generous touchpad and LCD panel display. A Kali Linux install completes the tacticool look.
The three-piece cyberdeck looks very cool when all wired up together, but [Max] needed one more piece to really sell it. So he 3D-printed a slipcase for all three units; painted in military colors and suitably distressed, the whole thing really just works. We’ve seen a lot of cyberdecks lately in all sorts of styles, but this one really pleases.
Cyberdecks were once a science fiction approximation of what computing might look like in the future. In the end, consumer devices took a very different path. No matter, though, because the maker community decided cyberdecks were too awesome to ignore and started making their own. After lusting after some of the amazing builds already out there, [Zach Freedman] decided it was time to start his own build, resulting in the Data Blaster.
The Raspberry Pi has always been popular in the nascent cyberdeck scene, providing real Linux computing power in a compact, portable package. Now, we have the Raspberry Pi 400, which is exactly that, built into a shell that is, approximately, half of a cyberdeck. This formed the base of [Zach]’s build, coming in handy with its full-sized keyboard.
To that, he added a widescreen 1280×480 LCD, wearable display, and a USB powerbank, turning it into a true go-anywhere terminal. The 3D-printed handles are a particularly nice touch, making it easy to use the deck from a standing position, something that no laptop really does well. As a bonus, there’s even a tiny software defined radio on the side, complete with a collapsible antenna for that added cool factor.
It’s a fun build, and a useful one too. We suspect the chunky plastics and grabbable design might actually make the Data Blaster preferable to a laptop in rugged field use versus a more traditional laptop. We’ve seen some other great work in this area, too. Video after the break.
For viewers of sci-fi TV and films from the 1960s onwards, the miniaturisation of computer hardware has been something of a disappointment. Yes, it’s amazing that we can get 1.21 Jigabytes onto a memory card that fits comfortably under a postage stamp, but we were promised a different future. One of satisfyingly chunky data modules that activated everything from starships to handheld data recorders to malevolent rogue supercomputers, and one that has so far only materialised in the form of cartridges for game consoles.
It’s a bit of pleasing retro fun, but behind it all could be a surprisingly practical and useful expansion system. Each cartridge contains enough space for a lot of extra electronics, so it’s almost the ideal format for building a USB-driven project inside. Best of all since the interface is USB, it still works with conventional USB plugs and sockets. We like the idea, and it’s one that would be a good addition to any cyberdeck project.
Why is Cupertino’s iOS anywhere near a cyberdeck? If a touch screen is better than an LCD panel, a tablet with a full OS behind it must be even better. You might even see this as the natural outgrowth of tablet cases first gaining keyboards and then trackpads. We weren’t aware that either was possible without jailbreaking, but [Alta’s Projects] simply used a lighting-to-USB dongle and a mini USB hub to connect the custom split keyboard to the iPad and splurged on an Apple Magic Trackpad for seamless and wireless multi-touch input.
The video build (after the break) is light on details, but a quick fun watch with a parts list in the description. It has a charming casual feel that mirrors the refreshingly improvisational approach that [Altair’s Projects] takes to the build. We appreciate the nod to this cyberdeck from [Tinfoil_Haberdashery] who’s split keyboard and offset display immediately sprang to mind for us too. The references to an imagined “dystopian future” excuse the rough finish of some of the Dremel cuts and epoxy assembly. That said, apocalypse or not, the magnets mounted at both ends of the linear slide certainly are a nice touch.
There are few hard and fast rules in the world of custom cyberdecks, but many of these bespoke machines do share a certain level of commonality. They generally use a low-power ARM board such as the Raspberry Pi that doesn’t consume much power or require any exotic thermal management, and a large mechanical keyboard is almost a given. But at a glance, it’s clear that [Daan Gerits] wasn’t concerned with the status quo when designing the Sypherdeck.
Now to be fair, dropping the ARM single-board computer for x86 isn’t completely unheard of. But those builds tend to be considerably bulkier than the Sypherdeck. The secret here seems to be that the 3D printed enclosure doesn’t hold much else than the LattePanda and a seven inch LCD touch screen. The hatch on the side covers the rear of the power, USB, and HDMI bulkhead connectors, but it looks like there’s enough room in there to squeeze in a bit of custom electronics should you wish. There’s no obvious place to install any batteries, so if you wanted to take the show on the road, you’ll need to use an external pack.