A modular laptop platform that leverages single board computers into usable laptops

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Laptop computer hardware has now become disposable. We use devices for 1-3 years and are forced to upgrade entire hardware systems. We also can't upgrade component parts any more as they are often soldered in place. I want to change that by leveraging single board computers as the core of a modular laptop platform. With the miniaturization of components we have the opportunity to create a better ecosystem of laptop hardware.


This project already has some legs as I started working before I decided to make the project page.  I want to finish the laptop by the end of the year and have it capable of operating as an off the shelf laptop.  

1. Working.  Including but not limited to...

  • 2x USB A 2.0
  • Keyboard
  • Trackpad
  • Display
  • Sound
  • Battery with normal external plug for charging
  • Fully supported Operating System
    • Going to start with Raspi 4
      • Lots of support
        • Ubuntu Mate 18.04
      • Good value

2. Reflect and re-evaluate purpose and the meaning of life

3. Improvements/ customizations

  • Screen controller
    • need to find a more reliable solution
  • Battery upgrade (14650 cells? pouch cells? Bigger?
  • New frame/ chassis (last)
    • aluminum
    • plastic
    • cfsmg
  • Keyboard?
    • not 100% on current solution, but going to work it out with a teensy
  • Trackpad
    • Looking for options (I have a macbook pro trackpad that doesnt work with the pi...yet)
    • (I could use some help on this.  If any one wants to join on that has knowledge I would appreciate it)
  • (I could use some help on this.  If any one wants to join on that has knowledge I would appreciate it)
  • Cooling
    • make a mount that fits to the pi to the cooling.  spring-y? steel mount with 3d print locater 
  • Ethernet (just because its there)
  • Antennas
  • USB C Hub Adapter

I believe eventually the single board computers will be good enough to use with just the USB C/ Thunderbolt connection, however this project is always about a modular, upgradable laptop.  

JPEG Image - 2.29 MB - 10/08/2019 at 08:08



Original LCD assembly

JPEG Image - 1.47 MB - 10/08/2019 at 08:08



Old heavy, low res tft lcd. Farewell!

JPEG Image - 1.56 MB - 10/08/2019 at 08:08



1080 16:9 IPS LCD. Couldn't find

JPEG Image - 1.11 MB - 10/08/2019 at 08:08


JPEG Image - 804.89 kB - 10/08/2019 at 08:08


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  • 1 × 2008 Macbook Pro A1278 A great platform to start from. The tech is outdated and time for a refresh.
  • 1 × BOE 13.3 inch IPS LCD 16:9 ratio which is "smaller" than the stock 16:10 lcd.
  • 1 × Raspberry Pi 4 Quad Core Arm V8 with Linux support and 4k output
  • 1 × Teensy 3.2 Keyboard controller
  • 1 × USB-C Battery Pack Powah!

  • Keyboard and trackpad controller

    Elliot05/31/2020 at 20:22 0 comments


    Made some minor progress in working with an engineer on doing the keyboard and track pad circuitry.  Not done yet, but still hacking away!

  • Trackpad woes

    Elliot10/12/2019 at 03:15 0 comments

    Got an older macbook 2008 polycarbonate top case.  Wired up the keyboard to usb and was able to get the keys working but not the trackpad...

  • USB Headers

    Elliot10/08/2019 at 08:32 0 comments

    This week the headers for the usb extensions arrived.  I went with common 2.54mm pitch double stack header pins.  I put 90 degree pins on the board and 2x 4 wire jumpers with 4 pin connectors carry the signal to the ports for the external USB.  I also sourced a flexible cable for the monitor.  This was a decent hurdle as the original cable was ffc which is flat, but doesn't work well for the laptop hinge.  After a few wrong orders, I found the cable that worked for this project came from an inspiron 7000 series.  It's an eDP 30 pin to ffc 30 pin 0.5mm pitch.  I have a hunch that I can get an older macbook polycarbonate keyboard/trackpad to work so I'm ordering that.  Another hackaday member, RRPrime has a good trackpad hack that might be usable for this project, and would be fun to keep as much original as possible.  I understood about half of what he wrote o.O

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Tom Nardi wrote 10/09/2019 at 02:48 point

Very interesting project. It's incredible how these small single board computers are allowing people to create their own computers that don't conform to the traditional designs. It's definitely a very exciting time.

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