A BlackBerry Classic-sized device with a BlackBerry keyboard and an e-ink screen. It sits next to an e-ink smartwatch with a grey bezel that matches the 3d printed enclosure of the messaging device.

Beepberry Brings Memory LCD And A Physical Keyboard To Your Pi

As the 2020s are seeing the return of the flip phone, could we see a rebirth of other device form factors from before the slab era? [Eric Migicovsky] and [SQFMI] are working on a new physical keyboard device with the Beepberry.

Featuring a high contrast Sharp Memory LCD and the tried-and-true reliability of a BlackBerry keyboard, the device is designed for messaging all your contacts over WiFi without the distractions of a smartphone. As this is a collaboration with the Matrix-based chat service Beeper, the device is designed around the CLI version of their client.

If you want to eschew the distraction-free nature of the device, since it’s Pi-powered it can run any ARM Linux programs you might want as well being a playground for hardware mods. Add a DSP and headphone jack and this could be a neat little pianobar player. [Migicovsky] stresses this is currently a dev board and by no means should be assumed to be an off-the-shelf piece of kit.

If this looks like a familiar reuse of a BlackBerry keyboard, you might be remembering [arturo182]’s Keyboard Featherwing or this LoRa Messenger.

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RP2040 Gets Intellikeys Keyboard Up And Running

The Spectronic Intellikeys was an innovative keyboard-like accessibility device that used special plastic overlays that change its functionality. While a USB version of the accessible keyboard exists, it doesn’t work like a normal HID device, so it’s not plug and play as you might expect. It’s also no longer in production or supported by the manufacturer. Where industry falls down, the community steps in, right? To that end, Adafruit has built a tool for interfacing with these useful accessibility devices.

The key is the way the Intellikeys was intended to work with a computer. It was designed to download its firmware from the host machine, using special drivers that are only compatible with certain versions of Windows. That means you can’t use it with iPads or Chromebooks, for example.

To get around this, Adafruit used an RP2040 Feather configured as a USB host to talk to the Intellikeys. It queries the device, determines which overlay it currently has installed, and provides it the necessary firmware. On the other end, the Feather enumerates as a regular USB HID device. That allows it to work with a wide variety of tablets, computers, and even smartphones.

If you’ve got an Intellikeys USB device and miss using it, this could be just the thing you need. Meanwhile, you can check out some of the other interesting keyboard designs we’ve featured over the years.

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Like Chording But Not

Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) can be a real pain. You’ve got a shiny new laptop, and everything’s going smoothly, but suddenly you can’t use it without agonizing (as in typing-speed reducing) pain caused by years of keyboard bashing or just plain bad posture. All of us hacker types will likely have or will experience this at some point, and luckily there are many potential solutions.

[Zihao Wang] writes to show us kseqi, another chord-like textual input method, with a focus on the input sequences, as opposed to any particular mechanical arrangement of keys. The idea is to make use of two sets of independent inputs, where the sequence of actuation codes for the keystrokes to be emitted into the application.

Left-hand-first to select a column of the left character set. Right-hand-first selects the other set.

An example interface would be to arrange two sets of five keys as the input mechanism. One can arrange characters in a matrix. The left key is pressed and held first which selects a column (1 out of 5) then the right key is pressed to select a row, and thus a character. Next, you release in the same order, left, then right, to send the character.

Swapping left and right allows a different set of characters. In this simple scheme, fifty characters can be coded. Check out this web assembly demo for how this operates. Swapping out the physical inputs for a pair of joysticks is another option, which may be better for some folks with specific physical difficulties, or maybe because it just looks fun. As [Zihao] mentions in the write-up, the sequence order can be changed to code for other character sets, so this simple scheme can handle many more character codings than this simple example. All you have to do is remember them. Interested parties may want also wish to dig into the kseqi Rust crate for information.

Chorded keyboard projects are plentiful out there, here’s a nice Bluetooth-connected keeb, and another one that’s all wiggly.

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Connecting A Keyboard To A Vintage PC-XT, The Hard Way

We’re not sure if there’s any single characteristic that qualifies someone as a hacker. After all, we’re a pretty eclectic bunch, with skills that range all over the map, and what one person feels is trivial, others would look upon as black magic. But there’s one thing we’re sure of: if you find yourself reading the original POST code for the PC-XT motherboard just to get a keyboard working, you’re pretty much our kind of people.

That was the position [Anders Nielsen] found himself in as work progresses on his “PC-XT from Scratch” project, which seeks to build a working mid-80s vintage IBM Model 5160 using as many period-correct parts as possible. The first installment of the series featured the delicate process of bringing the motherboard up, lest the magic smoke was released. After seeing some life out of the old board, [Anders] needed a little IO, specifically video and keyboard. The video side of the equation was relatively trivial, with an early-90s VGA card from eBay — not exactly period correct, but good enough to get something to display. Continue reading “Connecting A Keyboard To A Vintage PC-XT, The Hard Way”

Mechanical Keyboard Is Also A Mouse

The mechanical keyboard community is a vibrant, if not fanatical, group of enthusiasts determined to find as many possible ways of assembling, building, and using as many high-quality keyboards as possible. With so many dedicated participants, most things that can be done with a keyboard already have been done. So when something as unique as this split keyboard that also doubles as a mouse pops up, we take notice.

The keyboard is a custom build from [Taliyah Huang] which uses a pair of Arduinos, one in each half of the keyboard, to communicate key and mouse information to a third Arduino which is plugged in to her laptop. The right-hand half of the keyboard also includes the circuitry from an optical mouse, which gets powered up when the caps lock button is held down. When activated, this allows the keyboard to be used as a mouse directly. It also includes support for most Mac gestures as well, making it just as useful as a trackpad.

While there were some problems with the design, including being slightly too tall to be ergonomic and taking nearly 24 hours of soldering to complete, the prototype device is an interesting one especially since it allows for full control of a computer without needing a dedicated mouse. For other unique mechanical keyboard concepts, we recently featured this build which takes design and functionality cues from the Commodore 64.

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DIY Macro Keyboard Wood Be Nice

Editing video tends to involve a lot of keyboard shortcuts, and while this might be fine for the occasional edit, those who regularly deal with video often reach for a macro pad to streamline their workflow. There are plenty of macro keyboards available specifically meant to meet the needs of those who edit a lot of video, but if you want something tailored for your personal workflow you may want to design your own keyboard like this wooden macro pad from [SS4H].

The keyboard itself is built around an STM32 microcontroller, which gives it plenty of power to drive and read the keyboard matrix. It also handles an encoder that is typically included on macro keyboards for video editing, but rather than using a potentiometer-type encoder this one uses a magnetic rotary encoder for accuracy and reliability. There’s a display built into the keyboard as well with its own on-board microcontroller that needs to be programmed separately, but with everything assembled it looks like a professional offering.

[SS4H] built a prototype using 3D printed parts, but for the final version he created one with a wooden case and laser etched keys to add a bit of uniqueness to the build. He also open-sourced all of the PCB schematics and other files needed to recreate this build so anyone can make it if they’d like. It’s not the only macro keyboard we’ve seen before, either, so if you’re looking for something even more esoteric take a look at this keyboard designed to be operated by foot.

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Spray-On Keyboard Is As Light As It Gets

We’ve all seen those ‘nothing’ keyboards, where the keys themselves are not much more than projected lasers, and users are asked to ritually beat their poor fingertips into the table — which has little give and even less clack. Well, a team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have come up with a way to eschew the keyboard altogether.

Essentially, the user wears a thin, breathable mesh of silver nanowires coated in gold, which is then embedded in a polyurethane coating. The mesh is sprayed onto their forearms and hands on the spot, and the mesh terminates in a small enclosure that is also worn on the skin. This contains a small Bluetooth unit that beams data back to a computer, a machine, or potentially another user wearing the same type of unit.

As the skin stretches and contorts, the mesh senses small electrical changes within. These changes become meaningful with applied AI, which maps the changes to specific gestures and manual tasks. To do this, the team started with teaching it to distinguish between patterns from tasks like typing on a phone, typing on a regular keyboard, and then holding and interacting with six differently-shaped simple objects.

The team isn’t stopping there — they plan to try capturing a larger range of motion by using the nanomesh on multiple fingers. In addition to facilitating communication between humans and machines, this could leave a huge fingerprint on gaming and VR.