Solar Powered Split Wireless Mechanical Keyboard

When thinking about a perfect keyboard, some of us have a veritable laundry list: split, hot-swapping, wireless, 3d printed, encoders, and a custom layout. The Aloidia keyboard by [Nguyen Vincent] has all that and more.

One of the first things to notice is a row of solar panels on the top, which trickle charge the keyboard. The keyboard uses 65uA in idle and 30uA when in a deep sleep. With the solar panels providing anywhere between 600-1200uAh a day, the battery should last a year and a half under even harsh conditions. The encoders were specially chosen to reduce pull-up power consumption. Given the focus on power and the lack of wires between the halves, you might wonder how the connection to the computer is handled. Does one-half handle the connection and use more power? The answer is that both talk to a dongle based around an nRF52840. This lets the keyboard halves idle most of the time and enables the dongle to handle the expensive communications to the host PC.

Instead of an e-paper screen in the top left, [Nguyen] placed a Sharp memory display. The 3D-printed case is stunning, with no visible screws on the top and tenting feet on the bottom. The two halves snap together very satisfactorily with the power of magnets (the printed palm rests also magnetically attach). Overall it is an incredibly well-thought-out keyboard with all sorts of bells and whistles.

There are project logs with detail to dig into and more videos and photos. We love a good keyboard journey like this one that went for a more ergonomic shape that meant more custom wiring.

Schematics are up on in the files section—video after the break.

Thanks [Shantanu] for the tip!

Continue reading “Solar Powered Split Wireless Mechanical Keyboard”

Mechanical Keyboard As Travel Saxophone

Those who play larger musical instruments, things like drums, piano, harp, tuba, upright bass, or Zeusaphone, know well the challenges of simply transporting their chosen instrument to band practice, a symphony hall, or local watering hole. Even those playing more manageably-sized instruments may have similar troubles at some point especially when traveling where luggage space is at a premium like on an airplane. That’s why [jcard0na] built this electronic saxophone, designed to be as small as possible.

Known as the “haxophone”, the musical instrument eschews the vibrating column of air typical of woodwind instruments in favor of an electronic substitute. Based around the Raspberry Pi, the device consists of a custom HAT with a number of mechanical keyboard switches arrayed in a way close enough to the layout of a standard saxophone that saxophonists will be able to intuitively and easily play. Two pieces of software run on the Pi to replicate the musical instrument, one that detects the player’s breaths and key presses, and another that synthesizes this information into sound.

While [jcard0na] notes that this will never replicate the depth and feel of a real instrument, it does accomplish its design goal of being much more easily transportable than all but the most soprano of true saxophones. As a musical project it’s an excellent example of good design as well, much like this set of electronic drums with a similar design goal of portability.

Fulcrum Foils Finger Fatigue

It turns out that typing all day just might be bad for your hands and fingers. Repetitive Strain Injury, RSI, was a real problem for [David Schiller], particularly when coding. So, naturally, he started designing his own keyboard. And bless him, he’s shared the whole project on GitHub.

The solution is Fulcrum, a chording keyboard with keys that can be pressed with minimal movement. And one more clever trick is a thumb joystick, mounted in the thumb’s opposable orientation. It’s a 5-way switch, making for a bunch of combinations. The base model is a 20-key arrangement, and he’s also designed a larger, 40-key option.

The build is pretty simple, if you have access to a 3D printer. Print the STLs, add key switches, and wire it all up to a microcontroller. Use the supplied code, and all that’s left is to learn all the chord combos. And why stop with combos for single characters, when there are plenty of common words and plenty of key combinations. If you decide to build your own take on the Fulcrum, be sure to let us know about it!

A 3D-printed case for the ZX Spectrum with a mechanical keyboard

The ZX Spectrum Finally Gets A Proper Keyboard

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum is fondly remembered by many for being their first introduction into the wonderful world of computing. Its advanced capabilities coupled with a spectacularly low price made it one of the great home computers of the 1980s, at least in the UK and nearby countries. What was less spectacular about the Spectrum was its awful keyboard: although a step up from the flat membrane keyboards of earlier Sinclair computers, the Spectrum’s tiny rubbery keys made typing anything more than a few characters a bit of a chore.

If you’re planning to do any serious programming on your Spectrum, you might therefore want to check out [Lee Smith]’s latest project in which he redesigns the Spectrum’s case to include a proper mechanical keyboard. [Lee] got this idea when he was looking for ways to fix a few Spectrums with broken or missing cases, and stumbled upon several projects that aim to recreate classic Sinclair machines using modern components. He took a keyboard PCB meant for the ZX Max 128 project, populated it with some high-quality switches, and added a modified set of keycaps from the ManuFerHi N-Go.

A new ZX Spectrum case, opened to show the keyboard connecting to the mainboard
The new keyboard plugs into the original connectors and doesn’t require any board-level modifications.

Together, those parts formed a modern, comfortable keyboard that still had the proper labelling on all keys. This is rather essential on the Spectrum, since each key is also used to generate symbols and BASIC keywords: for instance, the “K” key also functions as LIST, +, LEN and SCREEN$.

With the keyboard design settled, [Lee] set to work on the rest of the case: he designed and 3D-printed a sleek enclosure that takes the new keyboard as well as an original Spectrum mainboard. The resulting system is called the ZX Mechtrum, and looks fabulous with its matte black exterior and the obligatory four-coloured rainbow. A replaceable rear panel also allows several board-level modifications, like composite video or VGA output, to be neatly incorporated into the design.

We wrote an extensive retrospect on the Spectrum on its 40th anniversary earlier this year. If, somehow, you actually like the Spectrum’s original rubbery keyboard, then you can also modify the whole thing to work with modern computers.

Continue reading “The ZX Spectrum Finally Gets A Proper Keyboard”

A grey keyboard with orange and dark grey accents is angled away from the camera. The keys nearby are clearly distinguishable in the foreground but blurry toward the back/right. The keyboard is quite thick as it also contains a computer motherboard.

Mechanical Keyboard With A Framework Inside

Like the Commodore 64 and other keyboard computers of yore, the [Elevated Systems]’s CJ64 fits all of its processing and I/O into a single keyboard-shaped package.

This iteration of the project takes it to the next level with an enclosure milled out of aluminum instead of the mere 3D printed enclosure of the previous versions. With a Framework mainboard, the ports are configurable via the Framework expansion card system giving you even more options to customize this build. To round it out, this keyboard PC doesn’t scrimp on the keyboard part either with mechanical switches and MT3 profile keycaps.

If you’d like to build one of these for yourself, [Elevated Systems] has uploaded the 3D printed enclosure files to his GitHub repository. The files for machining are available as well, but only to patrons.

For some more Framework-based mods, check out this Framework Tablet, the Framedeck, or this other retro-inspired Framework build. If you want an all-in-keyboard slabtop, then maybe check out Are Slabtops the Future of Computing?

Continue reading “Mechanical Keyboard With A Framework Inside”

An e-ink screen mounted on a small white box is flanked by four mechanical keyboard switches. A power cable is routed from the device to a power bank that is mostly out of frame.

DIY E-Reader Has Hot Swap Mechanical Keys

In the early days of e-readers, most devices had physical buttons to turn pages and otherwise navigate the device. [bwkrayb] longed for these halcyon days before touchscreen e-readers and improved on the concept by adding mechanical keyswitches.

By using an Adafruit NeoKey 1×4 as the keyboard interface, the e-reader has four hot-swappable keyboard sockets with built-in LEDs. [bwkrayb] is hoping to use these LEDs to implement a front lighting system in a future revision of the hardware.

The 3.7″ screen displays pages after running an EPUB through ebooklib and Beautiful Soup to generate files that can be used by the Waveshare drivers. Refresh time is reportedly slow, although [bwkrayb] suspects this  might be due more to the limited power of the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 more than the display itself.

If you want to see some other open e-reader projects we’ve covered, check out the EPub-Inkplate or the Open Book Project.

Maiden Kansas City Keyboard Meetup Was A Clacking Good Time

Wow! I can’t believe it already came and went — but the first annual (semi-annual?) Kansas City Keyboard Meetup was, in my opinion, a rousing success. And I think organizer and Discord-nominated god among men [Ricardo] agrees with me. (He does; I checked before we left the venue.)

First of all, the attendance was off the charts, perhaps thanks in part to our announcement last week. We aim to get you the news sooner next time, in case you want to come in from surrounding states and municipalities. RSVPs sat around 20-something, and then shot up to 60 or so in the days leading up. Fortunately, there were enough tiny sandwiches, granola bars, and s t i c k e r s to go around. I already put mine on my keebin’ toolbox.

The Hive Was Buzzing

The event took place at Hive Co-Working thanks to [Nick], and overall, the space turned out to be a good layout. We were set up right inside the windows looking out to the street, and I like to think that we drew in a few passers-by, though I am probably more than a little bit biased. I wondered aloud on the way home how a sandwich board out on the sidewalk would have affected the influx of randos.

My husband pointed out that even though we were all the way downtown, this is Kansas City and not New York City, and most of the keyboard enthusiasts about town were already accounted for. Hmpf. I still say we should try a sandwich board next time. We could go meta and mention the tiny sandwiches inside. Don’t worry — there was plenty of sanitizer and napkins to go around, plus a box of gloves.

Continue reading “Maiden Kansas City Keyboard Meetup Was A Clacking Good Time”