The DIY laptop built entirely from PCB

Public Chat
Similar projects worth following
Presenting a laptop built ENTIRELY from PCB .

No plastic enclosure, no moulds, no mechanical parts.
The whole laptop is built as a thin stack of 6 PCBs with carefully designed shape and thickness. Add to those a 7" display touch panel and a battery, and that's everything it is. Eight components all in all, you can see them in one of the pictures. That makes it easy for assembling by almost anyone.
I have even tried to work out a little bit of aesthetic design with the PCBs side plated with gold, round corners, etc...

The hardware is not aiming for astonishing quantities, and is built around the popular Micromite MMbasic (PIC32MX470-120), plus a number of added small hardware extras - three microSD drives (one internal), RF transceiver, RTC, serial NVM, buzzer, and... a nice solderless prototyping space built from four PGA sockets, for electronic experiments.

The idea behind is not to boast with top parameters, but to make a nice and cute pure entry level machine

There are a few things about this computer, which I am really proud of. First, it is thin, I mean really thin - 6.4mm total in its thinnest configuration without the sockets. In size it is just about a standard A4 sheet.

The keyboard design was fun. It is the top two panels, the first one being the keyboard layout with cutouts at suitable locations, so the buttons can be pushed. The PCB underneath is to provide a frame for the buttons and also to raise the panel so the buttons can be pushed. There is a separate microcontroller PIC16F1517 which takes care of scanning the keyboard and communicating with the MM+ via the console port, also controlling the power supply to everything and controlling an RGB status LED as well. It is the only part in the schematic which is on at all times. The keyboard optionally can be backlit as well.

In order to reach this thin size I had to dump the use of pre-assembled display modules, and built the SSD1963-based display and XPT2046 touch controller on the main board.

The laptop also has three micro-SD cards, one is permanently built-in emulating a 'hard drive', the other two and removable. You can see them on the right side of the keyboard. It also has internal serial FRAM for data and code storage.

There is also an 'expansion port', which is a single row standard square pin receptacle. The whole laptop is powered and charged via micro-USB connector, which can be used also as console for the MM+ for the initial configuration.

Additionally there is a really cool RF module built-in, which essentially emulates a wireless UART connection and also has an internal stack with ability for simple networking with similar devices. The range (by specs) is about 100 metres.

Of course there is a real-time clock with a built-in coin battery as well. And a small buzzer.

All this may sound really complex, but in fact the whole laptop is only nine chips and some moderate number of discrete components, connectors and other stuff. You can see it in the picture.

My plan is to make this available to DIY hobbyists and entry level users in three possible configurations - bare PCB kit, 'assemble it yourself' kit with populated main board, and a fully assembled laptop. Currently considering options how to take it further.

In short, my concept behind this laptop is to give in the hands of the kids something simple and friendly, just like the old 8-bit machines from our time. Something that will not focus on gigabytes and gigahertz, a massive OS, or other stuff of the sort, where a learner would most probably end up as a user of premade software, but the thing that inspires creativity without distracting with greed.

Of course needless to say - once I release it, the project will be open-source.

  • New updates and video

    Kn/vD01/29/2017 at 22:37 0 comments

    Posted a new video and update in the Facebook group:

    Check also Youtube for the new videos:

  • Unprogrammed PIC32

    Kn/vD01/05/2017 at 16:31 0 comments

    It looks like some people have received ELLO systems with blank PIC32 chip. This is something that wasn't supposed to happen since I explicitly ordered pre-programmed chips from Microchip Direct. No idea what is the reason for that and apologise if that has happened to someone.

    The good thing is that the system can be programmed easily with Pickit3, ICD3, or some other compatible programmer. I have released the most current HEX file for ELLO 2M (not 2M²!) in the project's page on GitHub:

    The file is called "MicromitePlus_ELLO_2M.hex".

    On the expansion connector there is access to the PIC32's programming lines. Connect the programmer's data line to the pin marked "PGD", the clock line goes to "PGC", and the reset line to "MCLR" (not "MCLRK"). Connect a wire from the programmer's ground to one of the ground pins on the connector. Do the same with the 3.3V line.

    Switch the system on and it should be ready for uploading the hex into the chip. Reset it after programming and everything should be working fine.

  • Facebook group

    Kn/vD01/02/2017 at 15:57 0 comments

    All owners and supporters of ELLO are welcome to join the new Facebook group:

  • ELLO 2M assembly including keyboard patching

    Kn/vD12/28/2016 at 18:24 0 comments

    People asked me how to assemble the keyboard. I am planning to shoot a new assembly video as soon as I can, but until then...

    The self-adhesive pads supplied with ELLO are mean to go on the back side of the front board (called Panel). The assembly of the machine ALWAYS starts with attaching the fourteen standoffs to the front panel. Make sure you also remove the lid covering the prototyping space. You can either carefully snap it off, or cut the holding pieces using sharp cutters.

    The place the panel face down (the standoffs will tall up), and start inserting the other PCBs in thus formed frame. The first one to go next is PCB0. Just like with the panel - if there is a lid covering the prototyping space, just snap it off or cut. Round up the remaining stumps a little bit, if necessary.

    When PCB0 is in the stack, NOW is the time to put the patches. Carefully stick all of them in their places using the top line as reference.

    Here is how the frame looks after the operation

    Again, use the top line as reference, i.e. insert a patch into its frame until it hits the top and then stick. Thus you will guarantee that the keys are moving freely in their frames.

    After patching the keyboard, the next to follow is the computer's main board - PCB1. Place it face down (components must be facing up).

    Next - install the display panel face down in its place, and connect it to the connector on PCB1. Stick one of the two supplied round 3M double-sided adhesive patches on the back of the LCD (don't remove its top cover yet).

    Stick the second 3M patch somewhere in the in centre of large black area marked for the battery. Remove the top cover as well. Then connect the battery (make absolutely sure that red wire goes to the contact marked '+', and black wire goes to the contact marked '-'). Then carefully stick the battery on the 3M patch in such way that it does not extend over the boundaries marked with lines on PCB1. Tidy up the battery wires so they don't go over the display cable, but around it. With poor assembly you might experience poor picture on the screen as well due to noise, so this is pretty important, actually.

    Now install PCB2 again face down. The prototyping sockets must go in their spot. If they can't, that means there is a stump remaining on PCB0. Round it up a bit more and then install PCB2.

    PCB3 follows next.

    Now it is the time to remove the top cover from the 3M path that is already stuck on the back of the LCD. But don't do that yet, and do this little trick instead.

    Install the final PCB4 and screw in the bottom two corner screws so it is fixed in its place. Now bend the top side slightly up to reach under it and remove the top cover from the 3M patch which is on the LCD. Carefully release the board back in its place and screw in tightly all screws.

    Your new ELLO 2M is ready to dance.

  • First MMBasic Addendum document for ELLO 2M

    Kn/vD12/26/2016 at 14:03 1 comment

    First, Merry Christmas to all!

    These days I finally had some time to sit and type this document which was long overdue. It is not a full MMBasic manual (those have already been written by its author), but focuses more on the additions on ELLO from user's perspective. I will keep updating this document when I can with the hope that one day it will become a full book for ELLO. If anyone else is interested in helping as well, please let me know.

    The file is now in the project's GitHub repository:

  • Problem solved (so it seems)

    Kn/vD11/17/2016 at 20:36 1 comment

    It looks like things are not as bad as they looked a few days ago when I discovered the issue with the soldermaks in the keyboard combs. Have been thinking about solutions and tried Velostat (unsuccessfully). There is of course always the option for chemical treatment but I wanted to see first if there is some more user-friendly way. So the good old Microchip came to save the day once again :-)

    Just received from them a box with sample chips for unrelated project. The chips have no connection here, but the box caught my attention, and especially the black foam inside.

    So I took the scissors and cut two pieces to fit into the key holes in the PCB0 frame board. The miracle happened - the keys worked perfectly fine! In fact so well that I started feeling sorry that I was so quick to revise the board, and even considering whether to make this the standard way for building ELLO keyboards.

    Obviously now the challenge in front of me - to identify where to buy this foam and more especially to have it with the right thickness (0.5-0.7mm) and cut into small square and rectangular pieces as per given specs. Searching and welcoming any information about it.

    Getting really close to the finish now...

  • No luck this time...

    Kn/vD11/12/2016 at 21:03 10 comments

    Well, it's time for the first bad report... :-(

    Received the production samples. Excellent build. In fact so much excellent that it has created a problem on it own.

    In the earlier prototypes I used to work with a different PCB factory which had more limited production capacity and less precise equipment. The result of that - working prototypes. This time the new factory has equipment which is apparently much better and has managed to run soldermask between the teeth of the keyboard comb pads. Result - keyboard not working unless some other techniques are used, such as additional rubber pads, etc. The reason for that is because the soldermask is taller than the exposed copper in the pads and the panel contacts can't create the needed short in the comb. Grrr... :-(

    I have fixed the PCB file now to force soldermask expansion (should have done that long time ago!), but now the big question in front of me - what to do with all those first batch manufactured systems with damn non-operation keyboard combs? Trying to think of a quick solution to patch them so people can receive them sooner. So far my ideas are circling around additional self-adhesive conductive rubber pads (tried them with success), or some sort of thin elastic conductive sheet to stick under the keyboard panel (no idea if such thing exists at all).

    It is very frustrating problem that needs a quick and clever solution...

  • Release samples ready

    Kn/vD11/06/2016 at 11:15 3 comments

    The first three fully manufactured samples are on their way to me from the factory.

    To make everyone's life easier I have also added in the kit a small screwdriver and two self-adhesive pads to keep the LCD panel and the battery securely in place. Obviously a pack of screws and standoffs as well. The battery now is wired with a small 2-pin connector, so it won't be needed to be soldered making it easier for assembly by users with no soldering equipment or abilities.

    Once I verify and confirm these three systems (will probably publish a new YouTube video soon), people will start receiving their ELLO 2M systems.

    Maybe should put together a one-page printed instruction for assembly to be included in the box as well... Ugh.

  • License update

    Kn/vD10/09/2016 at 14:25 5 comments

    This log is probably a little overdue and people already know this, but in case anyone has missed it - I have managed to negotiate the licensing conditions for MMbasic for ELLO. So no more issues on that front, whoohooo!

    Ah, did I mention the packaging carton box? Yes, there will be one. The design is probably slightly simplistic and controversial, that's the way I like it to be :)

  • Shortlisted in Elektra 2016 awards

    Kn/vD09/13/2016 at 11:27 5 comments

    The ELLO 2M project is in the final shortlist stage for the annual Elektra European Electronics Industry Awards 2016, which is due in December:

    It is listed as "Yellow Beak Computer Ltd" in the "Educational Support" category. Among the six finalists it is the ONLY entry which is NOT coming from a large corporation, and I consider that as I great recognition for the project.

View all 24 project logs

Enjoy this project?



Ale o co chodzi wrote 06/17/2023 at 17:07 point

This project is alive?

  Are you sure? yes | no wrote 06/21/2022 at 13:10 point

Can I run on this computer?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Nazwa wrote 06/14/2022 at 15:27 point

200 like, 2 pages comments, awesome board, mobility and not on indeigogo or kickstarter?

     W H Y !

I prefer unix and c compiler but many people no needed this. Meybe only add mechanic keyboard (chocolate == every keys this same size)

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kn/vD wrote 06/14/2022 at 18:07 point

There was a successfully funded Crowd Supply campaign back in 2017. I learned a lot from it, including some sour lessons too about procurement issues and things like that. This set of boards is relatively expensive to produce and the design can be optimised as well. I have gone through several optimisation revisions, and it will eventually be a matter of organising a new campaign - a tedious and boring marketing process which doesn't sound very exciting. But stay around for more news...

  Are you sure? yes | no

Nazwa wrote 06/16/2022 at 18:19 point

Note that not all your projects have so many likes. Just this one. Because it is a complete solution and has wood ;-) enclosure

  Are you sure? yes | no

tywy wrote 06/11/2022 at 16:55 point

very interesting

  Are you sure? yes | no

James Hall wrote 10/13/2021 at 12:58 point

It's been a few years since this was crowdfunded, I'm a little curious how the pcb keyboards held up. Any issues with those over time?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kn/vD wrote 10/15/2021 at 21:02 point

I have not noticed any deterioration , but it is only based on my own experience. WIll be happy to hear of any issues. In the next PCB laptop however, I will be using a slightly different approach; hopefully to improve the robustness. That is already an active development

  Are you sure? yes | no

esiako wrote 06/21/2021 at 09:34 point

Can I run on this device?

  Are you sure? yes | no


[this comment has been deleted]

Kn/vD wrote 04/27/2021 at 11:20 point

Yes, it is possible. The easiest way would be a plug-in board, however, as mentioned before, I am preparing a new board which has that as native functionality.

Pi-Zero, along with all other Pi stuff is out of question. I am NOT a fan of the bloated Linux

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kn/vD wrote 04/28/2021 at 18:22 point

I will investigate the options for software

  Are you sure? yes | no

Nazwa wrote 06/16/2022 at 18:21 point

fuzix sound awesome

  Are you sure? yes | no

pewnosc wrote 06/03/2020 at 07:37 point

Nice idea. Small mobile computer. Meybe reactivate this format with fpga as heart of computer?

  Are you sure? yes | no

fabian wrote 07/22/2018 at 16:28 point

very nice, is possible to changin processor to FPGA+ARM in my opinion 50Mhz FPGA+ 50Mhz arm linux processor is ok. And huge memory 512MiB

and start kickstarter campainin

  Are you sure? yes | no

James Hall wrote 06/26/2018 at 17:25 point

Did you see this badge? They seem to be doing the MMBasic thing too, but there's also an emulator that boots into a cpm environment.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kn/vD wrote 06/26/2018 at 18:06 point

I am moving away from MMbasic. The next version will be something different

  Are you sure? yes | no

James Hall wrote 06/26/2018 at 18:20 point

I'm excited to see what you end up doing. :)

  Are you sure? yes | no

prosto wrote 06/26/2018 at 09:58 point

Hello, what next?

Is possible to using FPGA not pic processor? For example emulating zx spectrum or dos machine (cp/m)

Meby add lorawan to this machine to communications?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kn/vD wrote 06/26/2018 at 10:53 point

Had FPGA under consideration for a while but eventually chose to take a different simpler path. What is next is coming after the summer... ;-)

It took me several months to choose a suitable processor which is a balance between power and maximum simplicity for entry-level learners of the low level.

  Are you sure? yes | no

fabian wrote 07/25/2018 at 13:57 point

look this

this fpga + arm for linux.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Thierry Deval wrote 05/15/2017 at 18:46 point

Yay !  Got the ELLO 2M² from CS in the mail today !

This is as nice hardware as I expected it to be. And it powered up in a pinch. (-:

Now I'll have to play with it as much as I can, and try to bring the kids to love it too.


  Are you sure? yes | no

Bartosz wrote 03/13/2017 at 14:20 point

How power using this machine? Is possible to using solar panel? many people need small machine for e-mail or srd completly offgrid. Think about it.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Martian wrote 01/25/2017 at 07:17 point

Beautiful machine, really nice.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Dirk Wouters wrote 01/08/2017 at 21:49 point

Be the "Ello 2M²" already sent too? And do you we get an email with the tracking number when the delivery has been sent?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kn/vD wrote 01/10/2017 at 15:19 point

It is still in manufacturing. Are you expecting one? They will be shipped probably in early February.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Dirk Wouters wrote 01/10/2017 at 15:25 point

Yes, I had chosen the 2M² version. Hard time, waiting so long...  ;-) 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Brian Whitman wrote 01/03/2017 at 19:15 point

My PCB1's keyboard was covered in clear yellow tape and I didn't know i had to remove it. I now have ST turning solid blue after holding down CTRL and ON, but nothing on the screen (yet!) 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kn/vD wrote 01/03/2017 at 20:03 point

Can you talk to the device (when it is on) via USB? Does is appear as serial port on your computer?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Brian Whitman wrote 01/04/2017 at 16:41 point

No-- no new usbserial / modems in /dev/tty* / dev/cu*, and nothing in Mac OS X system profiler or USB prober. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kn/vD wrote 01/04/2017 at 17:15 point

Well, that looks like unprogrammed PIC32... Are you able to program it yourself? Alternatively please leave me a PM and we will organise you to send it to me so I can do it for you

  Are you sure? yes | no

Brian Whitman wrote 01/03/2017 at 13:17 point

Hi! I got my Ello the other day, thank you! I put it together and all I see is a flashing "ST" light -- maybe once every 8 seconds. Any idea how to proceed to debug? 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kn/vD wrote 01/03/2017 at 13:32 point

Excellent. Flashing ST is the normal operational mode. Have you seen this document? 2M - Addendum.pdf

It should explain to you how to switch on, off, etc...

  Are you sure? yes | no

Brian Whitman wrote 01/03/2017 at 13:34 point

Yes, i did see that. When I hold control-ON for a few seconds nothing changes -- nothing on the screen, light still blinking. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kn/vD wrote 01/03/2017 at 13:41 point

Did you install the conductive pads under the keyboard panel?

The way you describe it means it is not switching on, otherwise ST should become permanent blue.

Reasons for why it is not switching on could be not installed conductive pads on the keyboard, poorly installed pads so one or more of them keeps permanent contact on, not holding Ctrl when pressing [On], or not holding both for long enough. I can't think of any other possible reason.

If you have no luck at all switching on, remove the front panel and try to simulate pressed "Ctrl" and [On] by using some of the excess conductive pads or create short between the combs of those two keys in any other way.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Dirk Wouters wrote 12/21/2016 at 22:17 point

Is there any news? Maybe a nice Christmas surprise? ;-) 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kn/vD wrote 12/22/2016 at 08:02 point

They are being shipped at the moment :)

  Are you sure? yes | no

Dirk Wouters wrote 12/22/2016 at 08:12 point

Cool, thank you! :-) 

Is there a website with tutorials, examples, etc.?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kn/vD wrote 12/22/2016 at 13:22 point

Not yet... I have the plan to launch sometime in the near future, but it will be a slow process without input from other people.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Dirk Wouters wrote 12/22/2016 at 14:52 point

Where can I get now information to get started? How are the SD cards used, command overview of programming language, etc. Without information, it will be hard to find the entry. ;-) 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kn/vD wrote 12/22/2016 at 15:50 point

ELLO 2M uses MMBasic. There is a small number of additional commands and features to handle the multiple SD cards, etc. I am currently working on a document describing all additions, and that should be available for release very soon.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Thierry Deval wrote 10/19/2016 at 22:18 point


I've seen today that ELLO 2M has been elected as the project of the month @ CircuitMaker.

Congrats !!!

On a side note, how is the 2M² going ?  I've not yet seen much files about it.


  Are you sure? yes | no

Kn/vD wrote 10/20/2016 at 08:01 point

Thanks! It was a total surprise for me. And a great honour, considering the size of the CM community.
2M² has been ready for long time. The MMbasic port for it...

  Are you sure? yes | no

Thierry Deval wrote 10/20/2016 at 12:26 point

I didn't update git for a while.
I now see the 2M² MZEF archives too.  :-)



  Are you sure? yes | no

Trevor Johansen Aase wrote 09/20/2016 at 04:21 point

Saw a thumbnail and it caught my eye immediately! I love the all PCB and gold edge especially but how the heck much is this to manufacture?? It cost me $40 just for a 6x6 panel with no quality controls!

I would love a version with a Pi Zero as a brain and I would make the prototyping area modular with an i2c connection so you could have "learning modules". Combine that with a "Learning To Code" and "Learning Electronics" like the pi tops and kid me would bug my mom for christmas!

Licensing question, GPL3 is mostly a software licence so if I were to modify and build my own what kind of attribution is required outside of a version notice stating the original and my modifications dated? If I do mod one I will just fork the github so you can use any changes if they are useful to you.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kn/vD wrote 09/20/2016 at 05:56 point

Manufacturing 6 PCBs with this size is certainly not a few bucks exercise, but it is not incredibly expensive either. I am working with two particular companies - NOA Labs and H&W Electronic.

Raspberry, and in general all ARM-based systems are against my understanding for 'simple machine' so that's why I didn't use any ARM in the design. Still had to make a compromise with myself by putting the PIC32 in there... But if you feel a version with Pi Zero is what you want to make, please be welcome. Just make your design open so other people can use it as well.

The prototyping area can be improved much, I know. It is associated with other challenges, but is on my radar for the future anyway.

As to the license, I chose the simplest possible license there. In summary - you are free to copy, modify, distribute, and in general do whatever you want with it.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Trevor Johansen Aase wrote 09/20/2016 at 12:06 point

Awesome, thanks for the effort you have done so far. I have a laser cutter so I will be able to iterate designs quickly and cheaply with a few ideas I have. 

I started out on a C64 and Vic-20 so BASIC has some fond memories. Another option is to run embedded python and a REPL on the PIC32 which would allow much more complex uses.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Similar Projects

Does this project spark your interest?

Become a member to follow this project and never miss any updates