Illustrated Kristina with an IBM Model M keyboard floating between her hands.

Keebin’ With Kristina: The One With The Ballpoint Typewriters

So you want to minimize finger movement when you type, but don’t have three grand to drop on an old DataHand, or enough time to build the open-source lalboard? Check out these two concept keebs from [SouthPawEngineer], which only look like chord boards.

Every key on the home row is a five-way switch — like a D-pad with straight down input. [SouthPawEngineer] has them set up so that each one covers a QWERTY column. So like, for the left pinky switch, up is Q, right is A, down is Z, and left is 1. Technically, the split has 58 keys, and the uni has 56.

Both of these keebs use KB2040 boards, which are Adafruit’s answer to the keyboard-building craze of these roaring 2020s. These little boards are of course easy to program with CircuitPython, which supports KMK, an offshoot of the popular QMK. Thanks for the tip, [foamyguy]!

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Palm portable keyboard gone Bluettoh

Palm Portable Keyboard Goes Wireless

Long ago when digital portables where in their infancy, people were already loath to type on tiny keyboards, stylus or not. So Palm made a sweet little portable keyboard that would fold up and fit in your cargo pocket. And what do we have now for luxury typing on the go? Rubber roll-up jelly keebs? That’s a hard no from this scribe.

But why mess with the success of the the Palm Portable Keyboard? It just needs to be updated for our times, and that’s exactly what [Xinming Chen] did with their PPK Bluetooth adapter.

Inspired by the work of [cy384] to make a USB adapter as well as [Christian]’s efforts with the ESP32, [Xinming Chen] points out that this version is more power efficient, easier to program, and has a built-in Li-Po charging circuit. It also uses the hardware serial port instead of the software serial, which saves brainpower.

There’s really not much to this build, which relies on the Adafruit Feather nRF52840 and will readily work with Palm III and Palm V keyboards. Since the PPK is RS-232 and needs to be TTL, this circuit also needs a voltage level inverter which can be made with a small handful of components. We love that there’s a tiny hidden switch that engages the battery when the adapter clicks on to the connector.

The schematic, code, and STL files are all there in the repository, so go pick up one of these foldy keebs for cheap on the electronic bay while they’re still around. Watch the demo video unfold after the break.

Want an all-in-one solution for typing on the go? Check out the history of tiny computers.

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Repurposing A Palm Portable Keyboard

Typing comfortably on a Smart Phone is best done using an external keyboard, especially if you spend a lot of time on IRC or use other chat apps. Obviously, the keyboard needs to be portable too. [cy384] felt the current crop of portable keyboards left a lot to be desired in terms of build quality and feel. That’s when the Palm Portable Keyboard (PPK) caught his eye. It’s small enough to fold up and fit in a pocket, yet unfolds to a size big enough to feel comfortable while typing. Unfortunately, the version he preferred to use did not have either a Bluetooth or a USB interface, so he built up this Palm keyboard adapter.

The portable keyboards have a serial interface and custom connectors depending on the Palm model they were designed to connect to. [cy384]’s goal was to adapt the PPK as a generic USB HID keyboard using an Arduino Pro Mini clone, with a 3D printed adapter for both of the keyboard types that he had. The keyboards  use inverted TTL logic at 9600 baud with no parity and one stop bit. Some handshaking needs to be taken care of and there’s a low power mode that needs to be managed via the Arduino code. He was lucky to get his hands on a reference document that provided the hardware and software details to help him crack all of this. His Github repository has the code and 3D printable files for the adapters.