Improved Technique For Resistive Divider Keypads

[Lauri Pirttiaho] from the [Swiss Knife of Electronics] channel explains how to simplify your resistive divider keypad design on Hackaday.io.

The usual method involves building a resistive ladder that gives unique and equally spaced voltages for each keypress. If you have just four or five discrete buttons, it isn’t terribly difficult, but if you have a 12- or 16-keypad matrix, things get complicated. [Lauri] looked into the past to come up with a better way, specifically a 646 page, 1 kg textbook from 1990 — Analogue Ic Design: The Current-Mode Approach by Toumazou, Lidgey, and Haigh. He learned that sometimes what’s hard to do in the voltage domain is easy in the current domain.

Normally you’d throw in some resistors to form different voltage dividers depending on which key is pressed, and read the resulting voltage off of a voltage divider with an ADC. But that means using the voltage divider equation, and the difference in voltage between keys can get very small. Dropping the voltage divider and measuring the current through a current mirror generates a linear voltage across its output load resistor that can be easily read by your microprocessor. And [Lauri] has posted an example of just such a program on his GitHub repository for an Arduino.

Heavy analog electronics, for sure, but something to keep in mind if you’re reading more than 12 keys. Do you have any examples of solving problems by looking into old and/or less-common techniques? Let us know in the comments below.

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Miss The Predictive Text From Your Old Nokia? Build Your Own T9 Keypad

Do you miss the mind-blowing typing speed of your old Nokia brick with predictive text turned on? Well, so did [Guy Dupont], so he created a USB keypad with T9 predictive text built-in to turn typing into a one-handed affair. Video after the break.

T9 was the first predictive text technology to gain widespread use in the late ’90s and early 2000s. The goal was to minimize the number of keypresses required for typing on multi-press keypads by matching key sequences to a dictionary of the possible words. It prioritizes words based on the frequency of use and can adapt to user preferences. [Guy] implemented T9 in Circuit Python, mainly for the RP2040 microcontroller used on the Raspberry Pi Pico, which will appear as a normal USB keyboard when plugged into any device. The dictionary is stored in the flash memory and can be updated using a tool also created by [Guy]. It can also change modes for old multi-press typing, numeric pad, or macro pad.

We would be interested to see just how fast it’s possible to type one handed with T9, and what application our readers can imagine. It doesn’t look like this implementation can learn the user’s preferences, which we think would be a worthy feature to add.

We’ve covered several unique custom keyboards recently, some more practical than others. On the silly side, these include a grenade-shaped function pad, a five-button chording keyboard, and a tiny two-key keyboard. Continue reading “Miss The Predictive Text From Your Old Nokia? Build Your Own T9 Keypad”

Adaptive Macro-Pad Uses Tiny OLED Screens As Keycaps

When we first laid eyes on Keybon, the adaptive macro keyboard, we sort of wondered what the big deal was. It honestly looked like any other USB macro keyboard, with big icons for various common tasks on the chunky keys. But looks can be deceiving, and [Max.K] worked a couple of surprises into Keybon.

First of all, each one of Keybon’s buttons is actually a tiny OLED display, making the keycaps customizable through software. Each of the nine 0.66″ displays has a resolution of 64 x 48 pixels, which is plenty for all kinds of icons, and each is mounted over an SMD pushbutton switch. He had to deal with the problem of the keycaps just wobbling around atop the switch button without depressing it; this was solved with a 3D-printed cantilever frame that forced the keycaps to pivot only in one axis, resulting in clean, satisfyingly clicky keypresses.

The other trick that Keybon has is interactivity. By itself, it boots up with a standard set of icons and sends the corresponding keystrokes over USB. But when used with its companion Windows application, the entire macro set can be switched out to accommodate whatever application is being used. This gives the users access to custom macros for a web browser, EDA suite, CAD applications, or an IDE. The app supports up to eight macro sets and can be seen in action in the video below.

We love the look and the functionality [Max.K] has built into Keybon, but we wonder if e-ink displays would be a good choice for the keycaps too. They’re available for a song as decommissioned store shelf price tags now, and they might be nice since the icon would persist without power.

Continue reading “Adaptive Macro-Pad Uses Tiny OLED Screens As Keycaps”

A Microwave Repair Even Mechanical Keyboard Fans Will Love

Microwave oven design and manufacturing have been optimized to the point where the once-expensive appliances are now nearly disposable. Despite the economics, though, some people can’t resist fixing stuff, especially when you get a chance to do it in style. Thus we present this microwave repair with its wholly unnecessary yet fabulous adornments.

The beginning of the end for [dekuNukem]’s dirt cheap second-hand microwave started where many of the appliances begin to fail first — the membrane keyboard. Unable to press the buttons reliably anymore, [dekuNukem] worked out the original keypad’s matrix wiring arrangement and whipped up a little keypad from some pushbutton switches and a scrap of perfboard. Wired into the main PCB, it was an effective and cheap solution, if a bit on the artless side.

To perk things up a bit, [dekuNukem] turned to duckyPad, a hot-swappable macropad with mechanical switches and, of course, RGB LEDs. Things got interesting from here; since duckyPad outputs serial data, an adapater was needed inside the microwave. An STM32 microcontroller and a pair of ADG714 analog switches did the trick, with power pulled from the original PCB.

The finished repair is pretty flashy, and [dekuNukem] now has the only microwave in the world with a clicky keypad. And what’s more, it works.

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Gesture Controller For Roku And Universal Keyboard Built By UCPLA Dream Team

The coolest part of this year’s Hackaday Prize is teaming up with four nonprofit groups that outlined real-world challenges to tackle as part of the prize. To go along with this, the Dream Team challenge set out a two-month design and build program with small teams whose members each received a $6,000 stipend to work full time on a specific build.

The work of the Dream Team project is in, and today we’re taking a look at United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles (UCPLA) project which not only designed and built a universal remote for those affected with this condition, but also went to great lengths to make sure that “universal” was built into the software and user experience just as much as it was built into the hardware itself. Join us after the break for a closer look a the project, and to see the team’s presentation video.

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Build The Baddest Keypad On The Block With LEGO

Like so many of us, [EducatedAce] has been quelling the quarantine blues by resurrecting old projects and finding new challenges to fill the days. He’s just finished building this blocky macro keypad to hold a bunch of shortcuts for Photoshop, thus continuing and compounding the creative spree.

[EducatedAce] already had everything on hand except the Arduino Micro. Instead of standard key switches, this macro block uses 16 of the loudest, crunchiest tactile buttons out there — those big ones with the yellow stems that sound like small staplers.

And don’t worry — no LEGO or LEGO accessories were harmed in the making of this macro pad — the base plate and switch plate are 3D printed. [EducatedAce] has the STL files posted along with great build instructions if you want to wire one up for yourself.

This is a great project because it’s sturdy, it gets the job done without a lot of expense, and still looks like something you’d want on your desk. [EducatedAce] plans to rebuild it with uniformly colored bricks, but we think it looks great as-is, especially with those vented 1×2 pieces. If it were ours, we might use a different color for each row or column to help keep the shortcuts straight.

What? You’ve never printed your own interlocking building blocks before? Well, don’t limit yourself to 1:1 scale, otherwise the minifigs have won. Build a go-kart big enough for humans!

Acrylic Mold Makes For Professional-Looking Silicone Keyboards

The border between consumer electronics and DIY projects is getting harder and harder to define. First it was PCBs, which quickly went from homemade to professional with quick-turn services. Then low-cost CAD/CAM packages and high-end fabrication services gave us access to enclosures that were more than black plastic boxes with aluminum covers. Where will it end?

That’s a question [arturo182] begins to answer with this custom-molded silicone keyboard for a handheld device. There’s no formal writeup, but the Twitter thread goes into some detail about the process he used to make the tiny qwerty keypad. The build started by milling a two-part mold from acrylic. Silicone rubber was tinted and degassed before injecting into the mold with a baster. The keys are connected by a thin membrane of silicone, and each has a small nub on the back for actuating a switch.

There’s clearly room for improvement in this proof of concept – tool marks from the milling process mar the finish of the keys slightly, for instance. There may be tips to be had from this article on silicone keyboard refurbishment to improve the process, but overall, we’d say [arturo182] is well on his way here.