MIDI Spoon Piano Is Exactly What You Think It Is

Pianos traditionally had keys made out of ivory, but there’s a great way to avoid that if you want to save the elephants. You can build a keyboard using spoons, as demonstrated by [JCo Audio]. 

The build relies on twelve metal spoons to act as the keys of the instrument. They’re assembled into a wooden base in a manner roughly approximating the white and black keys of a conventional piano keyboard, using 3D-printed inserts to hold them in place. They’re hooked up to a Raspberry Pi Pico via a Pico Touch 2 board, which allows the spoons to be used as capacitive touch pads. Code from [todbot] was then used to take input from the 12 spoons and turn it into MIDI data. From there, hooking the Pi Pico up to a PC running some kind of MIDI synth is enough to make sounds.

It’s a simple build, but a functional one. Plus, it lets you ask your friends if they’d like to hear you play the spoons. The key here is to make a big show of hooking your instrument up to a laptop while explaining you’re not going to play the spoons a la the folk instrument, but you’re going to play a synth instead. Then you should use the spoon keyboard to play emulated spoon samples anyway. It’s called doubling down. Video after the break.

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A Google Pixel 7 with a detachable Bluetooth keyboard.

BlueBerry Is A Smartphone-Agnostic Keyboard Firmware

If you’re anything like us, you really, really miss having a physical keyboard on your phone. Well, cry no more, because [Joe LiTrenta] has made it possible for any modern smartphone whatsoever to have a detachable, physical keyboard and mouse at the ready. [Joe] calls this creation the BlueBerry.

A couple of metal plates and a mag-safe pop socket connect a Bluetooth keyboard to a Google Pixel 7. The keyboard/mouse combo in question is a little BlackBerry Bluetooth number from ZitaoTech which is available on Tindie, ready to go in a 3D printed case. What [Joe] has done is to create a custom ZMK-based firmware that allows the keyboard be device-agnostic.

In order to easily mount the keyboard to the phone and make it detachable, [Joe] used adhesive-backed metal mounting plates on both the phone and the keyboard, and a mag-safe pop socket to connect the two. The firmware makes use of layers so everything is easily accessible.

Check out the demo video after the break, which shows the board connected to a Google Pixel 7. It makes the phone comically long, but having a physical keyboard again is serious business, so who’s laughing now? We’d love to see a keyboard that attaches to the broad side of the phone, so someone get on that. Please?

Do you have a PinePhone? There’s an extremely cute keyboard for that.

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Building A Mechanical Keyboard As A Learning Project

[Thomas Rinsma] wanted to learn about designing PCBs. Thus, he set about a nifty project that would both teach him those lessons and net him something useful in the process. The result was kb1, a mechanical keyboard of his own design!

You might think [Thomas] would have started with a basic, barebones design, but he didn’t shy away from including some neat features. His keyboard has a “tenkeyless” layout, and uses Cherry MX-style switches, as has become the norm in the mechanical keyboard world. It has a 16×2 LCD display for user feedback, a rotary encoder, and it even has an RGB backlight for every key thanks to SK6812 addressable LEDs. Running the show is a Raspberry Pi Pico, equipped with the KMK firmware. The board actually uses twin PCBs as the enclosure, which is a nifty trick.

It’s remarkably fully featured for a first time build.

Most of a three-key macro pad featuring a 3D-printed, LEGO-compatible plate.

3D-Printed Macro Pad Plate Is LEGO-Compatible

We love LEGO, we love keyboards, and when the two join forces, we’re usually looking at a versatile peripheral that’s practically indestructible. Such seems to be the case with [joshmarinacci]’s LEGO-compatible 3D-printed plate for a three-key macro pad. For a first foray into scratch-built keyboard construction, we think this is pretty great.

The idea here is threefold: the plate holds the switches in place, negates the need for a PCB, and makes it possible to build the case completely out of LEGO. In fact, [joshmarinacci]’s plan for the keycaps even includes LEGO — they are going to 3D print little adapters that fit the key switch’s stem on one side, and the underside of a 2×2 plate on the other.

Although [joshmarinacci]’s plan is to design a PCB for the next version, there is plenty to be said for combining the plate and the PCB by printing guides for the wires, which we’ve seen before. We’ve also seen LEGO used to create a keyboard stand that fits just right. 


Microsoft Killed My Favorite Keyboard, And I’m Mad About It

As a professional writer, I rack up thousands of words a day. Too many in fact, to the point where it hurts my brain. To ease this burden, I choose my tools carefully to minimize obstructions as the words pour from my mind, spilling through my fingers on their way to the screen.

That’s a long-winded way of saying I’m pretty persnickety about my keyboard. Now, I’ve found out my favorite model has been discontinued, and I’ll never again know the pleasure of typing on its delicate keys. And I’m mad about it. Real mad. Because I shouldn’t be in this position to begin with!

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HDMI DDC Keypad Controls Monitor From Rack

Sometime last year, [Jon Petter Skagmo] bought a Dell U3421WE monitor. It’s really quite cool, with a KVM switch and picture-by-picture support for two inputs at the same time. The only downside is that control is limited to a tiny joystick hiding behind the bezel. It’s such a pain to use that [Jon] doesn’t even use all of the features available.

[Jon] tried ddcutil, but ultimately it didn’t work out. Enter the rack-mounted custom controller keyboard, a solution which gives [Jon] single keypress control of adjusting the brightness up and down, toggling picture-by-picture mode, changing source, and more.

How does it work? It uses the display data channel (DDC), which is an I²C bus on the monitor’s HDMI connector. More specifically, it has a PIC18 microcontroller sending those commands via eight Cherry MX-style blues.

Check this out — [Jon] isn’t even wasting one of the four monitor inputs because this build uses an HDMI through port. The finished build looks exquisite and fits right into the rack with its CNC-routed aluminium front panel. Be sure to check it out in action after the break.

Ever wonder how given keyboard registers the key you’re pressing? Here’s a brief history of keyboard encoding.

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A Brief History Of Keyboard Encoding

Photoelectric encoder keyboard configured as ASCII
Photoelectric encoder keyboard configured as ASCII

While typing away on our DIN, PS/2, USB or Bluetooth keyboards one of the questions which we rarely concern ourselves with is that of how the keyboard registers which keys we’re pressing. One exception here is when the keyboard can only register a limited number of simultaneous keypresses (rollover). Even though most keyboards today use a matrix which connects the keys, there are many configuration choices even here, which much like other keyboard configurations come with their own advantages and disadvantages. As a good primer we can look at this article by [Daniel Beardsmore] as he takes us through both historical and current-day keyboards.

Especially before  it was realistic to just put an entire microcontroller with a look-up table into every keyboard, more inventive approaches were required to not only register keypresses, but also encode them for the host computer. The photoelectric approach of the 1960s was one such encoding method, before diode matrices became popular, along with more exotic encoding switches that contained their code already hard-wired on their multitude of pins. One inevitable limitation with these was that of a lack of multi-key support, leading to the development of matrix scan technology around 1970.

Matrix scanning keyboards allow for multiple key presses at the same time, tackle debouncing of keys and were at the forefront of what gives us the ubiquitous and generally boringly reliable keyboards which we use today.