A yellow computer with a black keyboard and a small monochrome LCD screen

Low Power Challenge: The PotatoP Runs Lisp For Months Without Recharging

A common complaint among laptop users is that while battery technology has vastly improved over the past decades, a simulltaneous shrink in form factors has meant that a typical laptop today doesn’t last much longer on a battery charge than one from the early 2000s. But it doesn’t have to be that way, as [Andreas Eriksen] demonstrates with his entry for the Low Power Challenge. The PotatoP is a portable computer that should be able to run for about two years on a single battery charge, and can be topped up through an integrated solar panel.

Granted, it doesn’t have the processing power of even the cheapest laptop you can buy today, but it’s perfectly fine for [Andreas]’s use case. He’s a Lisp hacker, and a Sparkfun RedBoard Artemis can run uLisp just fine on its 48 MHz Cortex-M4F processor. The operating environment is very basic though, even requiring [Andreas] to write his own text editor, called Typo, to give him editing luxuries like backspace functionality and a movable cursor.

The Artemis board is very power-efficient by itself – typical power consumption is less than 1 mA. [Andreas] added a simple monochrome black-and-white LCD screen capable of displaying 53 columns of text, plus an SD card reader for data storage, and designed a sleek 3D-printed case to hold everything together. When running a typical piece of code, the entire system uses around 2.5 mA, which translates to about 125 days of continuous run-time on the beefy 12000 mAh lithium battery. Add a bit of solar power, plus a more realistic eight-hour working day, and the two year runtime estimated by [Andreas] appears entirely reasonable.

This has to be one of the most power-efficient portables we’ve ever seen, and one running Lisp at that. Despite its age, Lisp keeps popping up in interesting custom computers like the Lisperati1000 cyberdeck and The Lisp Badge.

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TRS-80 Model 100 Inspires Cool Cyberdeck Build, 40 Years Down The Line

The TRS-80 Model 100 was a strange beast. When it debuted in 1983, it resembled nothing that was available at the time, and filled a gap between desktop computers and the mostly-not-invented-yet laptop segment of the market. Collectors covet these machines, but they’re getting harder to find four decades later. So, if you want one, you just might have to roll your own.

Honestly, it doesn’t appear [Roberto Alsina]’s purpose here we to recreate the Model 100 per se, but rather to take inspiration from its oddball form factor and experiment with the latest components. The design elements from the original that [Roberto]’s creation most strongly echo are the screen with the extreme landscape aspect ratio and the somewhat compressed keyboard. The latter is based on the cheapest mechanical 65% keyboard available, while the former is a 1920×480 LCD display intended for automotive applications. The display seems like it put up a fight, between its need for a custom HDMI cable to connect it to the Radxa Zero SBC under the hood as well as the custom kernel needed to support it.

Along with a USB hub for IO and some 18650s for power, everything went into a 3D printed case with considerably sleeker lines than the Model 100. It’s worth pointing out that [Roberto] didn’t have much experience with design or 3D printing when he kicked off this project. We love to see people stretching their skills like that, and we think the results are great in this case. We’ve seen a lot of Model 100 retrofits and brain transplants, but this may be the first time we’ve seen a build quite like this.

Retro Computer Enclosure Without The Sacrifice

The unique look of early desktop computer systems remains popular with a certain segment of geekdom, so it’s no great surprise when we occasionally see a modern hacker or maker unceremoniously chuck 40+ year old electronics from a vintage machine just to reuse its plastic carcass. We try not to pass judgement, but it does sting to see literal museum pieces turned into glorified Raspberry Pi enclosures.

But with a little luck, perhaps the Retro Wedge Computer case designed by [AndyMt] will be able to save a few of those veteran computers from an unnecessary lobotomy. As the name implies, this 3D printable model is designed to resemble “wedge” desktop computers such as the Atari ST, TI-994A, and Commodore 128. But don’t be put off by its considerable size — the model has been chopped up so no piece is larger than what can fit on a fairly standard 230 x 230 mm print bed. Continue reading “Retro Computer Enclosure Without The Sacrifice”

2022 Cyberdeck Contest: Prototype Cyberdeck Is Anything But Questionable

We see many projects here at Hackaday, about which their creators are unreasonably modest. We like a good cyberdeck, and we think [betaraybiff] is one of those creators from their project description for a Prototype Cyberdeck of Questionable Practical Use. It may be a prototype, but we think it could be quite a practical computer.

At its heart is the ubiquitous Raspberry Pi 4 paired with a PiSugar power supply and a minimalist mechanical keyboard. The case is the interesting part, because it’s well-designed to be 3D printed in sections with the HDMI display hinging up from above the keyboard. The Pi is open and visible on top of the deck, but this could easily be covered with another printed piece if desired.

So we disagree on the practicality, given a train journey and this cyberdeck we think we could easily crack out a Hackaday article or two. Never undersell your creations, like this one they’re almost certainly better than you think.

If you’d like to see more of the 2022 Cyberdeck Contest, take a look at the best of the best.

A widescreen slate-style cyberdeck with a small keyboard sits in front of a cassette deck stereo. Headphones sit to the left of the deck and an old Casio calculator watch is to the right.

2022 Cyberdeck Contest: QAZ Personal Terminal

The slabtop form factor has had a resurgence in the cyberdeck community, and [Greg Leo] has designed the QAZ Personal Terminal to be about as small as a slabtop could be while still having full-sized keys.

Since the device is using a 35% QAZ keyboard as its primary input device, [Leo] has helpfully given a quick overview of how text is input in the video below. Coupled with that surprisingly popular 4:1 LCD screen we’ve seen elsewhere, this cyberdeck looks like a modern interpretation of a TRS-80 Model 100. The Banana Pi powering the QAZ Personal Terminal is running Debian with spectrwm, a tiling window manager making arranging windows a breeze with either a mouse or keyboard. The integrated mouse layer on the keyboard means you don’t need a separate mouse at all if you don’t want to spoil the 1980s mobile chic.

[Leo] has another video all about doing calculus on this cyberdeck with the math shortcuts integrated into the keyboard. Fractions, exponents, and common Greek letters are demonstrated. We can see this being a really great note-taking device for engineering and math courses if you wanted something more portable than a laptop.

It’s hard to get very far hacking without a little math. For more math-focused input devices, check out the Mathboard or the MCM/70.

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An ortholinear keyboard with predominantly blank white keycaps. There are two red keycaps on the bottom outside corners. The center of the keyboard houses a large LCD in portrait orientation on a red PCB.

2022 Cyberdeck Contest: Keezyboost40 Is A Cyberdeck Masquerading As A Keyboard

There’s something to be said for ├╝ber-powerful cyberdecks, but there’s also a certain appeal to less powerful decks squeezed into a tiny form factor. [Christian Lo] has designed a cyberdeck that looks like a simple ortholinear keyboard but is running a more flexible environment.

There are games and animations you can play on QMK, but [Lo] felt that a different framework would give him more flexibility to really stretch the limits of what this Raspberry Pi Pico-powered deck could do. He decided to go with a Rust-based firmware with the keyberon library and says, “it felt like I was in control of the firmware.” While the board is using Rust for now, [Lo] says he’s open to conversations about other firmware options to achieve his goals, like a virtual pet game for the board.

The PCB is described as “bog standard” with the possible exception of placing the Pi in a cutout on the board to keep things as low profile as possible. The trade-off comes in the form of reduced board rigidity and potentially increased strain on the connections to the microcontroller.

Looking for more cool cyberdecks? Check out the Winners of the 2022 Cyberdeck Contest or go see all the entries on the Contest Page.
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Retro Speaker Becomes The Perfect Micro PC

We’ve seen many cyberdecks and home built computers in our time here at Hackaday, but we’ve not seen many so tiny and so neatly built as this one from [Carter Hurd]. It takes the form of a tiny retro PC with a working display and keyboard, and we like it a lot.

The diminutive computer started life as a neat little retro themed Bluetooth speaker that a company bravely sent him for a project when he declined the chance to review it. Out came the speaker and electronics, and in went a USB Blackberry keyboard with a custom made bezel where the speaker’s keys had been.

The display is a 4″ LCD designed for a Raspberry Pi, and somewhat incredibly, he trimmed its corners to fit into the case. Making the curved CRT-style display front was achieved with vacuum form plastic, and a new display bezel was 3D printed.

A full-size Raspberry Pi fits in the base of the unit, and here he admits that it’s not the tidiest job. Perhaps a Pi Zero would have been more unobtrusive, but either way from the top and front it’s a really cute little machine. It may not be the only tiny cyberdeck we’ve seen, but it’s certainly a well-built one.

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