Today, computers are separated into basically two categories: desktops and laptops. But back in the early 1980s, when this ideological line in the sand was still a bit blurry, consumer’s had a third choice. Known as “portable computers” at the time, and often lovingly referred to as luggables by modern collectors, these machines were technically small enough to take with you on a plane or in the car.
Improvements in miniaturization ultimately made the portable computer obsolete, but that doesn’t mean some people still don’t want one. [Dave Estes] has been working on his own modern take on idea that he calls Reviiser, and so far it looks like it checks off all the boxes. With the addition of a rather hefty battery pack, it even manages to be more practical than the vintage beasts that inspired it.
In the video after the break, [Dave] walks us through some of the highlights of his luggable build, such as the fold-down mechanical keyboard, gloriously clunky mechanical power switches, and the integrated touch screen. We also really like the side-mounted touch pad, which actually looks perfectly usable given the largely keyboard driven software environment [Dave] has going on the internal Raspberry Pi 4. With a removable 30,000 mAh battery pack slotted into the back of the machine, he’ll have plenty of juice for his faux-retro adventures.
[Dave] mentions that eventually he’s looking to add support for “cartridges” which will allow the user to easily slot in new hardware that connects to the Pi’s GPIO pins. This would allow for a lot of interesting expansion possibilities, and fits in perfectly with the Reviiser’s vintage aesthetic. It would also go a long way towards justifying the considerable bulk of the machine; perhaps even ushering in a revival of sorts for the luggable computer thanks to hardware hackers who want a mobile workstation with all the bells and whistles.
Right now there isn’t a lot of detail on how you can build your own Reviiser, but [Dave] says more info will be added to his site soon. In the meantime, you can check out some of the similar projects we’ve seen recently to get some inspiration for your own Luggable Pi.
Continue reading “A Luggable Computer For The Raspberry Pi Era”
The great thing about being a maker is that when the market fails to meet your needs, you can strike out on your own. [GuzziGuy] did just that, building a bespoke mechanical keyboard that’s stylish to boot.
The aim was to create a keyboard well suited to working without a mouse, and with a keypad on the opposite side to suit a left-hander’s predilections. The case consists of an aluminium top plate with an attractive walnut base, both cut on a Workbee CNC machine. Keycaps are sourced from YDMK and Amazon, with the parts chosen giving the build a striking early 1980s workstation look.
The keys are handwired to a series of DuPont connectors for easy disassembly. These hook up to an Elite-C controller, a USB-C remix of the popular Arduino Pro Micro. Based on the ATmega32U4, it’s got native USB HID functionality, making it perfect for keyboard builds.
The fit and finish is what really makes this project, going to show that a few hours well spent on the CNC can turn you out a beautiful project. As far as mechanical keyboards go, your imagination really is the limit!
There’s a newish development in the world of keyboards; the optical switch. It’s been around for a couple years in desktop keyboards, and recently became available on a laptop keyboard as well. These are not replacements for your standard $7 keyboard with rubber membrane switches intended for puttering around on your raspberry pi. Their goal is the gamer market.
The question, though, is are these the equivalent of Monster Cables for audiophiles: overpriced status symbols? Betteridge would be proud; the short answer is that no, there is a legitimate advantage, and for certain types of use, it makes a lot of sense.
Continue reading “Optical Keyboards Have Us Examining Typing At Light Speed-ish”
We’ve noticed a rash of builds of [ FedorSosnin’s] do-it-yourself 3D-printed mechanical keyboard, SiCK-68 lately. The cost is pretty low — SiCK stands for Super, Inexpensive, Cheap, Keyboard. According to the bill of materials, the original cost about $50. Of course, that doesn’t include the cost of the 3D printer and soldering gear, but who doesn’t have all that already?
The brains behind this is a Teensy that scans the hand-wired key matrix. So the only electronics here are the switches, each with a companion diode, and the Teensy. The EasyAVR software does all the logical work both as firmware and a configuration GUI.
If you look at the many different builds, each has its own character. Yet they look overwhelmingly professional — like something you might buy at a store. This is the kind of project that would have been extremely difficult to pull off a decade ago. You could build the keyboard, of course, but making it look like a finished product was beyond most of us unless we were willing to make enough copies to justify having special tooling made to mold the cases.
PCBs are cheap now and we might be tempted to use one here. There are quite a few methods for using a 3D printer to create a board, so that would be another option. The hand wiring seems like it would be a drag, although manageable. If you need wiring inspiration, we can help.
For ultimate geek cred, combine this with Ploopy.
With a new decade looming over us, the hot new thing for hackers and makers everywhere is to build cyberdecks to go with the flashy black-and-neon clothing that the sci-fi films of old predicted we’d all be wearing come next year. [Phil Hagelberg] has been designing one based on his own ergonomic keyboard, prioritizing not only form but also function.
The Atreus mechanical keyboard has a split layout that foregoes the traditional typewriter-inherited staggered arrangement in favor of one that better fits the user’s hands. The reduced number of keys limits hand movement for a more comfortable writing experience, however if you use function keys often, the trade-off is that you’ll need to use an auxiliary key to access them.
The deck [Phil] documents for us here is built from the ground up around that same design and aims to be small enough for travel, yet pleasant enough for serious use. It’s gone through four revisions so far, including an interesting one where the keyboard is laid out on the sides for using while standing up. As for the brains of the machine, the past revisions have used different flavors of Raspberry Pi and even a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone, though the latest model has a Pine64 running the show. How much has changed between each finished prototype really goes to show that you don’t have to get it right the first time, and it’s always good to experiment with a new idea to see what works.
[Phil] is now moving onto a fifth prototype, and hopes to eventually sell kits for building the whole cyberdeck along with the kits already available for the standalone keyboard. We’ve been struck by the creativity shown in these cyberdeck builds, which range from reusing retro computer shells to completely printing out a whole new one for a unique look. We can’t say for sure if this custom form-factor will eventually surpass mass-produced laptops, but it sure would be hella cool if it did.
Mechanical keyboards are all the rage right now, but the vast majority of them are purchased commercially. Only the most dedicated people are willing to put in the time and effort required to design and assemble their own custom board, and as you might imagine, we’ve featured a number of such projects here on Hackaday in the past.
But what makes this particular mechanical keyboard build from [kentlamh] so special isn’t the final product (though it’s certainly quite nice), but the care he took when hand-wiring all of the switches to the Teensy 2.0 microcontroller that serves as its controller. There’s no PCB inside this custom board, it’s all rainbow colored wires, individual diodes, and the patience to put it all together with tweezers.
[kentlamh] takes the reader through every step of the wiring process, and drops a number of very helpful hints which are sure to be of interest to anyone who might be looking to embark on a similar journey. Such as bending the diode legs en masse on the edge of a table, or twisting them around a toothpick to create a neat loop that will fit over the pin on the back of the switch.
He also uses a soldering iron to melt away the insulation in the middle of the wires instead of suffering through hundreds of individual jumpers. We’ve seen this trick before with custom keyboards, and it’s one of those things we just can’t get enough of.
Some will no doubt argue that the correct way to do this would be to use an automatic wire stripper, and we don’t necessarily disagree. But there’s something undeniably appealing about the speed and convenience of just tapping the wire with the iron at each junction to give yourself a bit of bare copper to work with.
Even if you aren’t enough of a mechanical keyboard aficionado to travel all the way to Japan to attend the official meetup or discuss the finer points of their design at the Hackaday Superconference, there’s an undeniable beauty to this custom board. With a little guidance from [kentlamh], perhaps it will be your own handwired masterpiece that’s next to grace these pages.
[Thanks to Psybird for the tip.]
Remember back in the early-to-mid 2000s when pretty much every cheap USB keyboard you could find started including an abundance of media keys in its layout? Nowadays, especially if you have a customized or reduced-sized mechanical keyboard, those are nowhere to be seen. Whenever our modern selves need those extra keys, we have to turn to external peripherals, and [Gary’s] Knobo is one that looks like it could’ve come straight out of a fancy retail package.
The Knobo is a small macro keypad with 8 mechanical Cherry-style keys and a clickable rotary encoder knob as its main feature. Each key and knob gesture can be customized to any macro, and with five gestures possible with the knob, that gives you a total of thirteen inputs. On top of that, the build and presentation look so sleek and clean we’d swear this was a product straight off of Teenage Engineering’s money-printing machine.
The actions you can do with those inputs range from simple media controls with a volume knob all the way to shortcuts to make a Photoshop artist’s life easier. Right now you can only reprogram the Knobo’s Arduino-based firmware with an In-Circuit Serial Programmer to change what the inputs do, but [Gary] is currently working on configuration software so that users without any programming knowledge will be able to customize it too.
Knobs are just one of those things that everyone wants to use to control their computers, much like giant red buttons. Alternative input devices can range from accessibility-designed to just downright playful. Whatever the inspiration is for them, it’s always nice to see the creativity of these projects.
Continue reading “A Macro Keyboard In A Micro Package”