Luggable Cyberdeck Can Still Be A Luggable PC

In the 80s and early 90s, there existed a class of personal computers that are no longer around today — the luggable. Planted firmly between a desktop and a laptop, these machines were lovingly called so because they were portable, but just barely. Think Kaypro, Osborne, or the Compaq Portable.

First things first — this lovely 1990-era industrial luggable has not been gutted according to [D1g1t4l_G33k]. The chassis, CRT, power supply, and ISA backplane are original and still intact, and they still have all the parts to restore it to its original DOS 3.1 form.

What [D1g1t4l_G33k] did do is replace the 386x-based ISA SBC with a 2005 AMD LX-600 Geode at 366 MHz. Gone are the ISA data acquisition cards and 80 MB SCSI hard drive, replaced with a 32 GB compact flash drive. The floppy drive is functional, too. Now it sits on a cart next to the workbench running AntiX Core 19.5, functioning happily as an AVR development workstation.

Having an old luggable to mess with in the first place isn’t a requirement. We’ve seen a modern take on the luggable, and here’s one with three monitors.

The Best Kind Of Handheld Gaming Is Homemade

[CNCDan] previously dabbled with Raspberry Pi CM4-powered gaming handhelds but was itching for something more powerful. Starting in May 2023, he embarked on building an Intel NUC7i5BNK-powered handheld dubbed NucDeck.

As he goes over the feature list, it sounds like a commercially available console. A 1024 x 600 screen provides a good balance of fidelity and performance. Stereo-chambered speakers provide good front-facing sound. Two thumbsticks with gyro aim assist, two hall effect triggers, and many buttons round out the input. Depending on the mode, the Raspberry Pi Pico provides input as it can emulate a mouse and keyboard or a more traditional gamepad. A small OLED screen shows battery status, input mode, and other options. This all fits on four custom PCBs, communicating over I2C. 6000 mAh of battery allows for a decent three hours of run time for simpler emulators and closer to an hour for more modern games.

The whole design is geared around easily obtainable parts, and the files are open-source and on GitHub with PDFs and detailed build instructions. We see plenty of gorgeous builds here on Hackaday, but everything from the gorgeous translucent case to the build instructions screams how much time and love has been put into this. Of course, we’ve seen some exciting hacks with the steam deck (such as this one emulating a printer), so we can only imagine what sort of things you can do once you add any new hardware features you’d like.

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Framework Motherboard Turned Cyberdeck

The beauty of a modular ecosystem lies in how it allows individuals to repurpose components in unconventional ways. This is precisely what [Ben Makes Everything] has achieved by using a Framework laptop’s motherboard and battery to create a slab-style cyberdeck. (Video, embedded below.)

The Framework motherboard presents an excellent choice for custom portable computer projects due to its relatively compact size and built-in modular I/O port options, all based on USB-C. Framework even released additional documentation to support this use-case. It’s significantly more powerful than the standard Raspberry PI, which is typically employed in similar projects. Ben chose a 2400 x 900 IPS display that can draw power and video through a single USB-C cable. For user input, he opted for an Apple keyboard and an optical trackball with a PS2 interface. He utilized a Arduino Pro Micro as a PS2-to-USB adaptor, using the remaining pins on the Arduino as a versatile interface for electronic projects.

The enclosure is crafted from machined aluminum plates with 3D printed spacers to secure all components. The screen can be tilted up to 45 degrees for more ergonomic desktop use. The Framework motherboard is equipped with four USB-C ports for peripheral devices; [Ben] allocated one for the display and another for a USB hub which connects the keyboard, Arduino, and external USB and HDMI connectors. The remaining USB-C ports are still available for original Framework expansion cards.

The completed project not only looks fantastic but may also be highly functional. It would have been a great entry in our recent Cyberdeck Challenge.

This CRT Luggable Makes Sense

There was a time when portable computing meant not a svelte laptop but a suitcase-sized machine that was really a slimmed-down desktop with a small CRT incorporated int he same box. They were heavy and unwieldy, but the computing compromises of using one at the time were less than with what served for more portable machinery. It’s a form factor which understandably has long ago disappeared, but that hasn’t stopped [Sdomi] from reviving it with a machine that packs plenty of modern computing power.

It’s a project that started with a monitor, a diminutive green-screen model which had previously adorned a CNC machine. It’s a composite model, so it’s driven from a VGA-to-composite converter. The computing power comes from a thin-client board that packs an up-to-date AMD Ryzen processor and 32 GB of memory, and the case is manufactured from oriented strand chipboard.

The result is a chunky but definitely practical and usable take on a portable cyberdeck, with the caveat that a composite monitor will not deliver the resolution some of us might be used to. We have to admit rather liking it, there’s nothing like the curved glass of a CRT.

It’s by no means the only up to date luggable we’ve seen, though more often now they feature an LCD.

2023 Cyberdeck Challenge: KOAT0 Portable Terminal

We’ve had cyberdecks as part of the scenery for long enough now that there are a series of common elements that appear across many different builds. The Raspberry Pi, for instance, or the mechanical keyboard, with a 3D printed body. [RobsonCuto]’s KOAT0 Portable Terminal has some of those in a particularly slim and neat design. The orange and grey color scheme is great really pops. Where this deck really shines though, is the display.  He’s eschewed LCDs or OLEDs, even CRTs, and gone for an unusual choice in a dot-matrix VFD.

The VFD in question is commonly available on AliExpress where it appears to be used for displaying Chinese characters. It’s not an obvious choice for a cyberdeck, so once the tidy-looking case is complete the real challenge in this project becomes how to drive it from the Pi. To that end, he appears to have some kind of text output working but still needs to complete a framebuffer driver. We applaud the effort and we really like the display.  We’re curious as to how its meager resolution might best be used in a Linux device.

All in all, this is a ‘deck we’d be happy to use ourselves if it were an option. We particularly like the on-the-arm style of use, and we’re pretty sure it’s the first time we’ve seen one of these displays on these pages.

Cyberdeck on a table

2023 Cyberdeck Challenge: Modular Cyberdeck Creation Kit

We were fortunate to run into [Sp4m] at DEFCON31 and see his Modular Cyberdeck Creation Kit in person. In fact, he was wearing it around the hallways like a rogue decker in search of fellow runners. Holding the unit feels like a serious tool because of its weight, mainly from the battery. Everything hangs from a single-point sling on a metal handle, probably from the cabinetry aisle, and we could move silently and comfortably. The sling is firearm-rated, which is appropriate since he has a printed Weaver rail on top. It just needs a flashlight/laser combo.

[Sp4m] aims to create printable parts that combine any on-hand materials into a usable cyberdeck. In this iteration, he uses a wired Apple keyboard and trackpad he found in the trash, so we have to assume he works in IT. Most of the trackpad is covered, but enough is accessible to scroll and maneuver the mouse, saving almost six inches. The Steam deck is the current head but is removable so that this hardware collection can work for many USB-C tablets without fuss.

The eye-catching white/orange is no accident and may earn it a top spot in the Icebreaker category of the 2023 Cyberdeck Contest. The judges are currently deliberating, so keep an eye out for an announcement about the winners shortly.

2023 Cyberdeck Contest: A Toddler’s Cyberdeck

[Josh] has a child and what do children like more than stuffing random things into their mouths? Pushing buttons, twiddling knobs, and yanking things of course! So [Josh] did what any self-respecting hacker would do and built his little man a custom cyberdeck.

The build follows the usual route of some electronics wedged into a pelican-style waterproof case — which is a good choice for this particular owner — a repurposed all-in-one LCD video player in the lid and a bunch of switches in the base. The player is apparently a V100-base SBC the likes of which are used in shops for those annoying looping promotional videos, but it doesn’t really matter if all it’s doing is being a focus point.

There is no connection from the base to the ‘display’ but that doesn’t matter here. The base is the fun part, with lots of old-school toggle switches and rotary knobs to play with and a load of LEDs to flash in mysterious ways. The guts of this are controlled via an Arduino Mega 2560, with copious amounts of hot glue on display in true hacker style. On the coding side of things, [Josh] used ChatGPT to produce the code from his prompting and Wokwi  to simulate it before deployment to the hardware.