This is the Yin to my other current cyberdeck project's Yang. This former TI Silent 700 Teletype was on the junk pile and made a good learning platform for converting random undocumented keyboards to USB with a Teensy LC microcontroller. After that was done the parts I decided not to use for my main cyberdeck were enough to get the Hackypuff Jr. up and running as a fully working laptop on it's own. It's not pretty, it's not clean, hot glue abounds, and it doesn't need to be pretty, but it's a fully usable computer and you can flip the top open to stick things in it.
A light-hearted, easy, breezy build seemed to deserve a lighter tone and theme than it's stodgily early 80s designed case would suggest. Plenty of speculative fiction around hackers involves machines tossed together in a cave with a box of scraps, so there's no shame there. I considered how to tie those parts together into a cohesive whole though, and you know what any self-respective rebellious badass hacker wouldn't be caught dead without? Stickers. An what stickers would be more fitting and badass than dinosaurs, smarmy hedgehogs, and pizza? I'd wager none. Also, no computer is without it's bugs, so bugs it has:
I also tossed together a little amplified speaker set to stick to the printer lid. The fact that the printer lid can be latched down means getting into the guts of the Hackypuff Jr is dead easy. I'll likely glue down the microUSB extension lead at some point.
For the time being that's it! Feel free to suggest more feature to fill it with, or more stickers it needs to have.
I started on my "big" cyberdeck, dubbed the AXE-1770, shortly after getting the teletype keyboard going. Where the teletype conversion was quick and dirty, progress on the 1770 has been slower and more deliberate since I want to use that as a daily-driver when it's done.
One problem with doing something slower when you know how to knock things together as a proof of concept quickly though is The Itch. The urge to pull out the hot glue gun, slap something together, and call it good enough. Sometimes that urge is a good thing. Sometimes it'll get in your way.
As I hit small roadblocks or was waiting for parts to arrive on the 1770 I realized I had basically all the parts I needed to make that little teletype keyboard into a second cyberdeck with a raspberry pi 4, touchscreen case, and battery bank. A pi4 is totally enough computer to use as a lightweight laptop, so I thought I'd scratch the itch to move along and make use of some of my parts pile and toss together a "low effort" cyberdeck from stuff I already had around. It took longer to download a fresh copy of Raspberry Pi OS than to hot-snot all the parts together and get it working.
I showed it off on the cyberdeck cafe discord group, having been keyed into that group from my half-done log for the AXE-1770 deck build log, and one of the admins there asked if they could publish this one, so I wrote this up so they'd have more than a couple photos to show. But I couldn't just show it off like that with no more fanfare than "i tossed some stuff together ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ". It needed some personality, even if it is playing second fiddle to my main build.
Now that I had the whole thing working (as an educational exercise, remember?) I stuck it all on a small painting canvas while I sorted out what to do next without accidentally yanking things out of the breadboard.
In picking my Keeb-conscious friends' minds I quickly learned more thoroughly what I already knew. Mechanical keyboard folks are masochists. While the likes of QMK and custom keyboards are a marvelous thing when they work, there's a learning curve that doubles back on itself if you're not already a decent programmer. I needed something a bit more straightforward to cut my teeth on, and came across an instructable page that does a good job at helping convert arbitrary laptop keyboards to USB with most flavors of Teensy microcontroller:
I'm not a complete noob to custom PC controls. I've made custom keyboard hardware for my brother's special needs video players over the years and hacked up an old PS/2 keyboard back in the heady mid-00s to build a MAME cabinet so I knew the way this goes. A keyboard is basically treated like a spreadsheet as far as it's control board sees things. You have two sets of wires (rows and columns) that allow the controller to see every keypress without needing a hundred input pins. The trick is figuring out which combinations go where. The instructables page does a good job explaining how this can be done, but I also made myself a spreadsheet and traced the PCB of the keyboard with a multimeter to help me keep it all straight.
I laid into the little TI machine and quickly excised it's printy-printy bits, it's thinky-thinky bits, kept it's switchy-blinky bits, and was pleased to find that the keyboard was connected via a simple connector similar to what most hobby electronics with a normal through-hole pin pitch use. I quickly wired it up with a rainbow of jumpers to a Teensy LC I had kicking around and began bugging some old friends who have far more familiarity with the mechanical keyboard scene than me.
This project started from a desire to save an old 80s teletype that was going to be tossed out. It had spent many years sitting in a back room monitoring a long-dead access control system and probably hadn't been fed paper in so long it's last printout could be in college.
I'd been considering making a cyberdeck for some time, but putting it off since I didn't want to use an off the shelf keyboard, and had never built a custom one or converted one. I'd wanted to get an 80s PC with a built in keyboard an convert it to USB, but didn't want to buy a machine to convert just to break it anyway, so when this Texas Instruments Silent 700 thermal teletype came home with me, I was happy to give it a new least on life....