ESP32 Provides Distraction-Free Writing Experience

Writing out a few thousand words is easy. Getting them in the proper order, now that’s another story entirely. Sometimes you’ll find yourself staring at a blank page, struggling to sieve coherent thoughts from the screaming maelstrom swirling around in your head, for far longer than you’d care to admit. Or so we’ve heard, anyway.

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for writer’s block. But many people find that limiting outside distractions helps to keep the mental gears turning, which is why [Un Kyu Lee] has been working on a series of specialized writing devices. The latest version of the Micro Journal, powered by the ESP32, goes a long way towards achieving his goals of an instant-on electronic notebook.

The writing experience on the Micro Journal is unencumbered by the normal distractions you’d have on a computer or mobile device, as the device literally can’t do anything but take user input and save it as a text file. We suppose you could achieve similar results with a pen and a piece of paper…but where’s the fun in that? These devices are more widely known as writerdecks, which is an extension of the popular cyberdeck concept of hyper-personalized computers.

This newest Micro Journal, which is the fourth iteration of the concept for anyone keeping score, packs a handwired 30% ortholinear keyboard, a 2.8″ ILI9341 240×320 LCD (with SD card slot), ESP32 dev board, and an 18650 battery with associated charging board into a minimalist 3D printed enclosure.

Unable to find any suitable firmware to run on the device, [Un Kyu Lee] has developed his own open source text editor to run on the WiFi-enabled microcontroller. While the distraction-free nature of the Micro Journal naturally means the text editor itself is pretty spartan in terms of features, it does  allow syncing files with Google Drive — making it exceptionally easy to access your distilled brilliance from the comfort of your primary computing device.

While the earlier versions of the Micro Journal were impressive in their own way, we really love the stripped down nature of this ESP32 version. It reminds us a bit of the keezyboost40 and the EdgeProMX, both of which were entered into the 2022 Cyberdeck Contest.

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A terminal window with a search for "Guineau Pig Olympics" is inset on a photo of an ortholinear keyboard attached by a yellow USB cable to a 70s aluminum and plastic Super 8 film editor/viewer. The device has a large screen on the right hand side, a silver grate on the left, and a tray at the bottom for slotting in film.

Super 8 Film Editor Reborn As A YouTube Terminal

We love hacks that give new life to old gadgets, and [edwardianpug]’s YouTube Terminal certainly fits the bill by putting new hardware inside a Super 8 film editor.

[edwardianpug] could have relegated this classy-looking piece of A/V history to a shelf for display, but instead she decided to refresh its components so it could display any YouTube video instead of just one strip of film at a time. The Boost-Box keeps the retrofuturistic theme going by using the terminal to search for and play videos via Ytfzf.

The original screen has been replaced by an 800×600 LCD, and the yellow USB cord gives a nice splash of color to connect the ortholinear keyboard to the device. Lest you think that this “ruined” a working piece of retro-tech, [edwardianpug] says that 20 minutes would get this device back to watching old movies.

Are you looking for more modern and retro mashups? Check out these Dice Towers Built In Beautiful Retro Cases, a Vacuum Tube and Microcontroller Ham Transmitter, or this Cyberdeck in a Retro Speaker.

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An ortholinear keyboard with predominantly blank white keycaps. There are two red keycaps on the bottom outside corners. The center of the keyboard houses a large LCD in portrait orientation on a red PCB.

2022 Cyberdeck Contest: Keezyboost40 Is A Cyberdeck Masquerading As A Keyboard

There’s something to be said for über-powerful cyberdecks, but there’s also a certain appeal to less powerful decks squeezed into a tiny form factor. [Christian Lo] has designed a cyberdeck that looks like a simple ortholinear keyboard but is running a more flexible environment.

There are games and animations you can play on QMK, but [Lo] felt that a different framework would give him more flexibility to really stretch the limits of what this Raspberry Pi Pico-powered deck could do. He decided to go with a Rust-based firmware with the keyberon library and says, “it felt like I was in control of the firmware.” While the board is using Rust for now, [Lo] says he’s open to conversations about other firmware options to achieve his goals, like a virtual pet game for the board.

The PCB is described as “bog standard” with the possible exception of placing the Pi in a cutout on the board to keep things as low profile as possible. The trade-off comes in the form of reduced board rigidity and potentially increased strain on the connections to the microcontroller.

Looking for more cool cyberdecks? Check out the Winners of the 2022 Cyberdeck Contest or go see all the entries on the Contest Page.
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