It happens to pretty much everyone who gets into keyboards. No commercial keyboard can meet all your needs, so you start building them. Use them a while, find problems, build a new keyboard to address them. Pretty soon you think you have enough user experience to design the perfect keeb — the be-all, end-all magnum opus clacker you can take to the grave. This time, it happened to [aydenvis]. We must say, the result is quite nice. But will it still be perfect in six months?
As you might expect, this board uses an Arduino Pro Micro. We can’t say for sure, but it looks like [aydenvis] created a socket with a second Pro Micro board populated only with female header. That’s definitely a cool idea in case the board fails. It also has two rotary encoders and a pair of toggle switches to switch controller and secondary designations between the PCBs.
We like the philosophy at play in this 36-key ‘board that states that prime ergonomics come when each finger must only travel one key distance from the home row. This of course requires programming layers of functionality into the firmware, which is easy enough to set up, but can be tricky to memorize. One thing that will help is the color-coded RGB underglow, which we’re going to call sandwich glow because it is emanating from the middle of a stacked pair of PCBs floating on 7 mm standoffs. We only wish we could hear how loudly those jade Kailh choc switches can clack. The board files are up on GitHub, so we may just have to make our own.
Oh, sure, there have been a few cube-shaped PCs over the years, like the G4 and the NeXT cube. But can they really be called cubes when the display and the inputs were all external? We think not.
[ikeji] doesn’t think so either, and has created a cube PC that puts them all to shame. Every input and output is within the cube, including our favorite part — the 48-key ortholinear keyboard, which covers two sides of the cube and must be typed on vertically. (If you’ve ever had wrist pain from typing, you’ll understand why anyone would want to do that.) You can see a gif of [ikeji] typing on it after the break.
Inside the 3D printed cube is a Raspberry Pi 4 and a 5″ LCD. There’s also an Arduino Pro Micro for the keyboard matrix, which is really two 4×6 matrices — one for each half. There’s a 6cm fan to keep things cool, and one panel is devoted to a grille for heat output. Another panel is devoted to vertically mounting the microcontrollers and extending the USB ports.
When we first looked at this project, we thought the tiny cube was a companion macro pad that could be stored inside the main cube. It’s really a test cube for trying everything out, which we think is a great idea and does not preclude its use as a macro pad one of these days. [ikeji] already has plenty of plans for the future, like cassette support, an internal printer, and a battery, among other things. We can’t wait to see the next iteration.
Tired of a boring, single piece keyboard? Thinking about a change but don’t know what all your options are? Well prospective-keyboard-shopper, today is your lucky day. We at the Hackaday are here to facilitate the habit with two excellent resources for the eager keyboard shopper; [pvinis]’s awesome-split-keyboards and [jhelvy]’s splitkbcompare.
As indicated by its title, awesome-split-keyboards is an awesome list of split keyboards 50 examples strong. Every split we’ve come across seems to be represented here, many with at least an image or two along with links to more information about how to build or buy the model in question. If that’s not enough, the bottom of the page has a wealth of background information about building or buying your own.
But before making such an important decision it’s important to make sure the keyboard in question will be a good fit in the hands. This is where splitkbcompare comes in, providing a visualization of many popular split layouts. If we hadn’t just found awesome-split-keyboards this filterable list and wide selection would have been the highlight here. But what does stand out is the ability to generate 1:1 scale printouts of the layouts in question, even stacking them for comparison, allowing a prospective buyer get a hands on feel for what they’re considering.
No matter how much geek cred your old vintage keyboard pulls, it’s not worth suffering through wrist pain or any other discomfort while using it. Especially now, when there are so many points of entry into the rabbit hole world of DIY mechanical keebs.
Once the wrist pain started, [Ben Congdon] switched from a big old Apple keeb to a Kinesis Freestyle — it’s basically a regular keyboard, but in two halves that can be placed far enough apart that [Ben]’s wrists are straight while typing. Comfortable as that split rectangle may be, it’s just not that cool looking, and he was ready to build something new, as long as it had enough keys.
[Ben] settled on building a Keebio Sinc, a new board which comes mostly soldered already and supports a handful of layouts. In the spirit of leaving doors open, [Ben] soldered in hot-swap sockets instead of permanently attaching the key switches to the PCB. This way, those Gateron reds can be easily switched out for something else, for instance should [Ben] want to try a little tactility down the road.
We think the Sinc is a cool offering precisely because it is such a full keyboard. Not everyone is ready to jump into 60% layouts or thumb clusters, and it’s nice to have options. This is entry-level ergo and DIY all at once. What’s not to like? Even if you want to go for something small and ortholinear, there are options. Here’s a build we saw recently that starts with a breakaway PCB that lets you choose between small and smaller.
If you had debilitating pain from repetitive stress injury in the 1990s, there were a lot of alternative keyboard options out there. One of the more eye-catching offerings was the DataHand keyboard made by DataHand Systems out of Phoenix, AZ. The DataHand debuted in 1993 with a price tag around $2,000. While this is admittedly pretty steep for the average consumer, it was well within the IT budgets of companies that wanted to avoid workman’s comp claims and keep their employees typing away.
In theory, this is holy grail territory for anti-RSI keyboards. The DataHand was designed to eliminate wrist motion altogether by essentially assigning a d-pad plus a regular push-down button to each finger. The layout resembles QWERTY as closely as possible and uses layers to access numbers, symbols, and other functions, like a rudimentary mouse.
Ergonomic to the Max
Typing on the DataHand is supposed to be next to effortless. The directional switches are all optical, which probably has a lot to do with the eye-popping price point. But instead of being spring-loaded, these switches use magnets to return to the neutral position.
Ever since my RSI surgery, I’ve had to resort to using what I call my compromise keyboard — a wireless rubber dome affair with a gentle curvature to the keys. It’s far from perfect, but it has allowed me to continue to type when I thought I wouldn’t be able to anymore.
This keyboard has served me well, but it’s been nearly three years since the surgery, and I wanted to go back to a nice, clicky keyboard. So a few weeks ago, I dusted off my 1991 IBM Model M. Heck, I did more than that — I ordered a semi-weird hex socket (7/32″) so I could open it up and clean it properly.
And then I used it for half a day or so. It was glorious to hear the buckling springs singing again, but I couldn’t ignore the strain I felt in my pinkies and ring fingers after just a few hours. I knew I had to stop and retire it for good if I wanted to keep being able to type.
No one loves hacked keyboards more than Hackaday. We spend most of our workday pressing different combinations of the same 104 buttons. Investing time in that tool is time well spent. [Max] feels the same and wants some personality in his input device.
In the first of three videos, he steps us through the design and materials, starting with a layer to hold the keys. FR4 is the layer of fiberglass substrate used for most circuit boards. Protoboards with no copper are just bare FR4 with holes. Homemade CNC machines can glide through FR4, achieving clean lines, and the material comes in different mask colors so customizing an already custom piece is simple. We see a couple of useful online tools for making a homemade keyboard throughout the videos. The first is a keypad layout tool which allows you to start with popular configurations and tweak them to suit your weirdest desires. Missing finger? Forget one key column. Extra digit? Add a new key column. Huge hands? More spaces between the keys. [Max] copied the Iris keyboard design but named his Arke, after the fraternal sister to Iris which is fitting since his wrist rests are removable. Continue reading “A Custom Keyboard At Maximum Effort”→