Genius Or Cursed, This USB-C Connector Is Flexible

USB connectors have lent themselves to creative interpretations of their mechanical specifications ever since the first experimenter made a PCB fit into a USB-A socket. The USB-C standard with its smaller connector has so far mostly escaped this trend, though this might be about to change thanks to the work of [Sam Ettinger]. His own description of his USB-C connector using a flexible PCB and a BGA-packaged ATTiny84A microcontroller is “cursed”, but we can’t decide whether or not it should also be called “genius”.

Key to this inspired piece of connector fabrication is the realization that the thickness of BGA and flex PCB together comes to the required 0.7 mm. The BGA provides the necessary stiffness, and though it’s a one-sided connector it fits the space perfectly. There are several demo boards as proofs-of-concept, and the whole lot can be found in a GitHub repository.

We can see this technique finding a use in all kinds of diminutive USB-C projects, however cursed or genius it may be. We like to see projects that push the edges of what can be done with the medium, with a nod to a previous cursed USB-C device.

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Putting A Trackball Inside A Controller

Gaming on a PC is obviously superior and you would be a fool to argue otherwise. The keyboard and mouse is the obviously superior input device, but there are times when you just want to play games on a couch. [Gabriel] has an interesting solution to this input problem in the second version of his KeyBall Controller. It’s a controller, but it leverages the superior layout and precision of the keyboard and mouse combo, without making any compromises.

[Gabriel]’s KeyBall Controller began its life as several generic console controllers. The main body of is mostly a clone of the original Xbox S controller. Inside, there are parts from a clone SNES controller, a PSX controller, a generic USB trackball, and an iPazzPort USB handheld keyboard.

The construction of the KeyBall follows in the tradition of the best case modders we’ve ever seen: cutting plastic, gluing plastic, applying epoxy putty, and lots of sanding. The electronics for the controller also follow in the most hallowed traditions of case modders: perfboard, hot glue, and many fine strands of wire. Inside the controller is a USB hub to connect all the different USB devices.

It’s a great device that finally solves the problem of putting a traditional keyboard and mouse layout in the palms of your hands.

Peripherals Behind The Iron Curtain

The article Home Computers Behind the Iron Curtain sparked a lot of interest, which made me very happy. Therefore, I decided to introduce more computer curiosities from the Iron Curtain period, especially from the former Czechoslovakia (CSSR).

As I mentioned in the previous article, the lack of spare parts, literature and technology in Czechoslovakia forced geeks to solve it themselves: by improvisation and what we would today call “hacking.”  Hobbyist projects of one person or a small party was eventually taken over by a state-owned enterprise, which then began to manufacture and deliver to stores with some minor modifications. These projects most often involved a variety of peripherals that could only be found in the Czechoslovakia with great difficulty.

Much like the production of components, the production of peripherals was also distributed throughout the eastern block so that each country was specializing in certain types of peripherals. For example, East Germany produced matrix printers, and Bulgaria made floppy disks drives. This meant industrial enterprises had to wait for vital computer parts, because the production in another country was not sufficient to cover even the local requirements, let alone the home user.

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DIY Keyboard Backlighting Takes Forever, Worth It

LED Keyboard with Custom Lights

Want a back-lit keyboard? Make one yourself. Though you may not want to after seeing this build by [prodigydoo], who devoted 40 hours to upgrade his mechanical keyboard with a smattering of shiny.

No eye rolling just yet, though, because [prodigydoo’s] work is a monument to meticulous craftsmanship and dedication. So what if he accidentally dropped the keyboard’s PCB and cracked it? He patched that up with a few wires in true hacker-problem-solving fashion and no one will ever know.

With the electronics “safely” removed, [prodigydoo] set about desoldering every single key switch, then carefully detaching and disassembling the Cherry MX Blues. He then inserted an LED into each switch’s backplate, reassembled them, mounted the keys back on the board, then added some current-limiting resistors and heat shrink to the circuit. [prodigydoo] cut a few necessary holes for a power switch, state indicator LEDs (Caps Lock, etc.) and some under-the-board lighting, then rounded off the build by hooking up a power supply capable of running all the lights.

No microcontroller? No RGBLEDs? We like it anyway, and it seems [prodigydoo] is glad he kept it simple. Go check out the gallery for gritty details, an explanation of the circuit, and more pictures than your family vacation album.

An ITunes Rating Box For Everyone

If you’ve ever scoffed at the idea of opening up iTunes every four minutes to rate a song, [Steve] is the guy to talk to. He built a small hardware box with five illuminated buttons to rate the current song playing on iTunes.

This build comes after [Steve]’s earlier Arduino-based rating box that was functional, but didn’t have the level of polish he desired. To get to the current iteration, [Steve] designed a custom board around a PIC18F microcontroller programmed as a USB HID device. After a great deal of frustration soldering teeny SMD components, [Steve] had a functioning USB five-star iTunes rating box. With a custom acrylic case the build was finally completed.

We’re very impressed with the finished version of [Steve]’s TuneConsole, as he calls it. We can certainly imagine other people wanting a similar device. Whether that comes from releasing the schematics and boards or selling PCBs on Seeed Studio is something we’re eager to find out.