The proliferation of desktop 3D printing and powerful single-board computers like the Raspberry Pi has given rise to an absolute explosion of small bespoke computing devices. Whether or not you think these cobbled together devices are close enough to Gibson’s original vision to call them cyberdecks, it’s a remarkable shift from the norm that brings us closer to the “High Tech, Low Life” philosophy so prevalent in cyberpunk literature and films.
[Jay Doscher] has been on the front lines of this movement for some time now, producing several very popular designs. His latest creation leans hard into the more utilitarian aspects of the cyberpunk ethos, inspired more by the grit of The Expanse than the lusciously upholstered interiors of Star Trek’s Enterprise-D. The culmination of lessons learned over the last several years, the new Kuiper Deck is cheaper and easier to build than his previous designs, thanks at least in part to the fact that you no longer need to go out and get an expensive Pelican case.
Like his previous designs, the Kuiper Deck makes extensive use of 3D printed components. But this time around, [Jay] is using an array of smaller pieces that are bolted together on an acrylic front panel. This not only means the project is compatible with a wider array of machines, such as the Prusa Mini, but it’s also easier to print as larger parts have an annoying tendency to warp. The downside is that you’ll need some way to get the acrylic panel cut to shape, though you can buy one through him if you don’t have any way to get it made locally.
In place of the Pelican case his previous designs used as an enclosure, [Jay] has found a heavy-duty stackable plastic tote available from McMaster Carr for $12 USD. It’s not particularly nice looking, nor is it waterproof. But that’s also sort of the point. If you’re just trying to put together a small computer that you can toss around the shop and not have to worry about breaking, the Pelican case was always a bit overkill.
The electronics bill of materials is similarly sparse, comprising mainly of the Raspberry Pi 4, a cooling fan, and a 10 inch LCD from Pimoroni. Everything gets screwed to the rear of the panel and connected with pre-made cables, making assembly very simple. That said, there’s still plenty of room inside the case for custom hardware should you want to put something custom together such as a mobile software defined radio rig.
At Hackaday we’re strong believers that you can learn just as much from a failed attempt as you will from a rousing success, which is why we especially appreciate the way [mickwheelz] has documented this project. The basic layout and general bill of materials for his hypothetical cyberdeck had been sorted out in his head for about a year, but it took a few attempts until everything came together in a way he was happy with. Rather than pretend those early missteps never happened, he’s decided to present each one and explain why it didn’t quite work out.
Frankly both of his earlier attempts look pretty slick to us, but of course the only person who’s opinion really counts when it comes to a good cyberdeck is the one who’s building it. The original acrylic design was a bit too fiddly, and while his first attempt at 3D printing the computer’s frame and enclosure went much better, it still left something to be desired.
The final result is a clean and straightforward design that has plenty of room inside for a Raspberry Pi 4, UPSPack V3 power management board, 10,000 mAh battery, internal USB hub, and a AK33 mechanical keyboard. Topside there’s a 7” 1024×600 IPS LCD with touch overlay that’s naturally been offset in the traditional cyberdeck style, and on the right side of the enclosure there’s a bay that holds a KKMoon RTL-SDR. Though that could certainly be swapped out for something else should you decide to print out your own version of this Creative Commons licensed design.
If you’re familiar with vintage portable computers, you know about the GRiD Compass. Even if you’re not into computers of yesteryear, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a Compass or two without realizing it. From battling xenomorphs in Aliens to making the trip to orbit aboard the Space Shuttle, the trendsetting clamshell computer seemed to be everywhere in the 1980s. While far too expensive for the average consumer to afford back then, its no-compromise design and sleek looks helped lay the groundwork for today’s ubiquitous laptops.
Getting your hands on a working GRiD Compass in 2021 isn’t a whole lot easier than it was in 1982, so [Mike] decided to do the next best thing and build his own. His GRIZ Sextant certainly isn’t a replica, but the family resemblance is strong enough to get the point across. The Raspberry Pi powered machine has a greatly reduced “trunk” section in the back as you might expect, but the overall layout is very similar. The Commodore 64 inspired color scheme is probably the biggest departure from the source material, but it’s hard to argue with the results.
It’s clear at a glance that a lot of thought was put into the external aesthetics of the Sextant, but a peek under the hood shows the internal details are equally impressive. [Mike] tells us he has a background in product design, and it shows. Rather than approaching this project as a one-off creation, he’s clearly taken great pains to ensure the design is as reproducible as possible.
All of the individual components of the 3D printed frame and enclosure have been carefully designed so they’ll fit within the build volume of the average desktop machine. Electronic components are screwed, not glued, to the internal framework; making future repairs and maintenance much easier. When combined with the ample internal volume available, this modular approach should make adding custom hardware a relatively painless process as well.
So when will you be able to build a GRIZ Sextant of your own? Hopefully, very soon. [Mike] says he still needs to work some kinks out of the power supply and finalize how the speakers will get mounted into the case. Once those last tweaks are locked in, he plans to release all the STL files and a complete Bill of Materials. For those who want to get a sneak peek before they start warming up the extruder, he’s also started documenting the assembly of the Sextant on his YouTube channel. Continue reading “3D Printed Pi Laptop Honors The Iconic GRiD Compass”→
A few months back we brought you word of the YARH.IO, an extremely impressive Raspberry Pi portable that featured rugged good looks and a unique convertible design made possible by a removable keyboard. One of the most appealing aspects of the design was that everything was built from off-the-shelf modules; it only took a couple jumper wires and some scrap perfboard to get everything wired up inside the 3D printed enclosure.
The downside of this construction style was that the finished product was a bit chunkier than was strictly necessary. But that’s not the case with the new YARH.IO Micro. The palm-sized portable looks almost exactly like the original, though it had to ditch the removable keyboard in the shrinking process. Gone as well is the touch pad, though with the touch screen capabilities of the Pimoroni Hyper Pixel four inch IPS display, that’s not much of a problem.
What’s the catch? Well, at a glance we can tell you this one is considerably harder to build. For one thing, you’ll need to remove the Ethernet and USB connectors from the Pi 3B+. The USB ports get relocated, but Ethernet understandably has to be left on the cutting room floor. Nothing to worry about with the GPIO pins, the display takes up all of those, but you’ll probably want to wire the I2C lines to the female header on the side of the case so you can add external hardware and sensors.
You also need to nestle an Arduino Pro Micro in there to communicate status information about the battery to the operating system over I2C. If you wanted to save a little wiring you could probably leave off the DS3231 RTC module, but it depends on how often you’ll be able to sync up with NTP.
While it may be more difficult to assemble than its predecessor, it’s certainly not unapproachable. Once again, no custom PCBs or exotic components are required. You might be doing a lot more soldering (and desoldering) than you would have before, but it’s nothing that the average Hackaday reader isn’t capable of. For your troubles, you’ll get a exceptionally portable Linux machine that’s ripe for hacking and modification.
If the time and effort it will take to put together a YARH.IO is a bit more than you’re willing to invest right now, there’s always commercial alternatives like the DevTerm. But whether you go with the original or this new Micro edition, we think the satisfaction of having built the whole thing yourself will be more than worth it.
What makes a cyberdeck? Looking as though it came from an alternate reality version of the 1980s is a good start, but certainly isn’t required. If you’re really trying to adhere to the cyberpunk ethos, any good deck should be modular enough that it can be easily repaired and upgraded over time. In fact, if it’s not in a constant state of evolution and flux, you’ve probably done something wrong. If you can hit those goals and make it look retro-futuristic at the same time, even better.
Which is why the Clockwork DevTerm is such an interesting device. It ticks off nearly every box that the custom cyberdeck builds we’ve covered over the last couple years have, while at the same time being approachable enough for a more mainstream audience. You won’t need a 3D printer, soldering iron, or hot glue gun to build your own DevTerm. Of course if you do have those tools and the skills to put them to work, then this might be the ideal platform to build on.
With a 65% QWERTY keyboard and widescreen display, the DevTerm looks a lot like early portable computers such as the TRS-80 Model 100. But unlike the machines it draws inspiration from, the display is a 6.8 inch 1280 x 480 IPS panel, and there’s no pokey Intel 8085 chip inside. The $220 USD base model is powered by the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3, and if you need a little more punch, there are a few higher priced options that slot in a more powerful custom module. Like the Waveshare Pi CM laptop we recently looked at, there’s sadly no support for the newer CM4; but at least the DevTerm is modular enough that it doesn’t seem out of the question that Clockwork could release a new mainboard down the line. Or perhaps somebody in the community will even do it for them.
Speaking of which, the board in the DevTerm has been designed in two pieces so that “EXT Module” side can be swapped out with custom hardware without compromising the core functionality of the system. The stock board comes with extra USB ports, a micro USB UART port for debugging, a CSI camera connector, and an interface for an included thermal printer that slots into a bay on the rear of the computer. Clockwork says they hope the community really runs wild with their own EXT boards, especially since the schematics and relevant design files for the entire system are all going to be put on GitHub and released under the GPL v3.
They say that anything that sounds too good to be true probably is, and if we’re honest, we’re getting a little of that from the DevTerm. An (CPU BLOBs aside!) open hardware portable Linux computer with this kind of modularity is basically a hacker’s dream come true, and thus far the only way to get one was to build it yourself. It’s hard to believe that Clockwork will be able to put something like this out for less than the cost of a cheap laptop without cutting some serious corners somewhere, but we’d absolutely love to be proven wrong when it’s released next year.
History will always have its in-between technologies — that stuff that tides us over while the Next Big and Lasting Thing is getting the kinks worked out of it. These kinds of devices often do one thing and do it pretty well. Remember zip drives? Yeah you do. Still have mine.
The halcyon days of the AlphaSmart NEO sit in between the time where people were chained to heavy typewriters and word processors and the dawn of on-the-go computing. Early laptops couldn’t be trusted not to die suddenly, but the NEO will run for 700 hours on three AAs.
The NEO stands for the freedom to get your thoughts down wherever, whenever, without the need for a desk, paper, ink, ribbons, power cords, and the other trappings that chain people indoors to flat surfaces. And that’s exactly what was so tantalizing to me about it. Inspiration can truly strike anywhere at any time, so why not be prepared? This thing goes from off to blinking cursor in about a second and a half. There’s even a two-button ‘on’ option so you don’t run the battery down or accidentally erase files while it’s in your bag.
I bought this funny little word processor a few years ago when I wanted to attempt NaNoWriMo — that’s National Novel Writing Month, where you write 50,000 words towards a novel, non-fiction book, or short story collection in any genre you want. It averages out to 1,667 words a day for 30 days. Some days it was easy, some days it was not. But every non-Hackaday word I typed that month was on this, my Mean Green Words Machine.
Over the last year we’ve seen a wave of portable computer builds that center around the Raspberry Pi taking up residence inside a commercial heavy-duty storage case. It’s not hard to see why; whether you spring for the Pelican case or get a cheaper alternative, these water-tight cases are far stronger than anything you’re going to 3D print or otherwise cobble together in the home shop. Especially if you can avoid popping any holes in the side.
Inspired by these builds but looking to make it even easier and cheaper to roll your own version, [Dmitry] recently took the wraps off of what he calls the Militarish Pi. You don’t need a CNC to cut out any face plates or a 3D printer to create an internal framework for all your components. You could even do it without soldering anything, if you really wanted to. Short of just buying one of these rigs pre-built from somebody, it’s hard to imagine it could get much easier than this.
Most of the effort involves cutting the PVC foam sheet that holds the Raspberry Pi, battery pack, and the driver board for the LCD in the bottom of the $15 USD case [Dmitry] managed to track down on AliExpress. The “carbon fiber” sticker he put on the PVC sheet won’t do much for the structural integrity of the build, but it sure looks nice. Of course if you have access to the appropriate tools, you could certainly cut the plate out of something stouter. As for the display, the nine inch LCD is perfectly sized to press fit into the lid.
Rounding out the build, [Dmitry] found a cheap Android phone case that included a tiny USB keyboard which plugs right into the Pi and he’s looking to add a BlackBerry trackball to the setup down the line. We especially like the large open area that he’s kept around the Raspberry Pi’s ports that allow you to easily hook up to the network or plug in a flash drive. It could also be a nice compartment to keep your RTL-SDR for some mobile radio work.
For those that don’t mind spending name-brand money and have access to a 3D printer, the Raspberry Pi Quick Kit by [Jay Doscher] is another great way to get yourself a rough and tumble Pi without reinventing the wheel.