Tag Archives: ATmega48

Maker pranks his friend by hacking a 1337-sp34k keyboard

Heck, maybe the next generation of keyboards will permanently include words like “SWAG” and “YOLO.”

While at work, “ch00ftechTV” and his colleagues find amusement in pulling pranks on one another, especially when one of them leaves the office. When his pal — who happens to be an avid gamer and a particularly big fan of the “Montage Parody” 1337-sp34k — went on a holiday, the Maker decided to hack his friend’s keyboard hardware to make it type some of his most commonly used words like “SWAG” “YOLO” and “420.”


Well, what began as a quick (and may add ingenious) prank turned into of an in-depth exploration of how keyboards operate. The keyboard being hacked used mechanical keys mounted to a keyboard-sized PCB, an advantage of older devices compared to those today comprised of two sheets of plastic with conductive traces. As ch00ftechTV notes, this provided him with tons of places to solder on new elements.


The plan was to pick keys that were not commonly used, such as ’Scroll Lock,’ ‘Print Screen’ and ‘Pause/Break,’ and transform them to spit out the words “SWAG,” “YOLO” and “420.” The signal tracks from these three keys were cut away and replaced with outputs from an ATmega48, and had hooked up the original connections to the microcontroller as well. A toggle switch would then enable the keyboard to be put back into normal mode where his firmware could simply pass the key input to the output.


However, this course of action was not taken due to a lack of space to install the toggle switch. Instead, the Maker decided that he would just replace the keyboard in the unlikelihood that his friend gets upset. Moving ahead, ch00ftechTV modified the AVR PCB and firmware, and was able to get the selected keys to type out his desired words.

“I quickly hooked up the requisite keys: S, W, A, G, Y, O, L, 4, 2, 0, Print Screen, Pause/Break and Scroll Lock. I opted to use the num pad keys for the 420 so that they wouldn’t be modified by pushing shift (as I figured he’d be using shift for SWAG and YOLO as well),” he writes. “I did the schematic and layout for a simple breakout board for the ATmega48 in about 15 minutes.  All it had to do is bring the processor pins out to pads that I could solder to.”


Unexpectedly, this is where he ran into a few problems. “I was expecting this to be a super quick and dirty hack, but it turned into an awesome review of how keyboard scanning works,” the Maker explains. You can read all about this encounters, and the final outcome, in his detailed blog post here. As to what his friend thinks, ch00ftechTV will have to wait one more week until he gets back.

A retro modern Nixie clock with Atmel’s ATmega48

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, there really is nothing quite like the comforting glow of a Nixie tube. Reboots apparently couldn’t agree more, as the retro modern Nixie clock he designed clearly illustrates.

According to HackADay’s James Hobson, Reboots was inspired to build the clock after coming across an old General Electric battery charger for sale.

“The Nixie tubes he chose for the project came from a lot sale on eBay, Russian surplus IN-12 tubes. He even managed to find an English datasheet for them,” Hobson explained.

“Having decided on the Nixie tube, driver, and case, he now needed a reliable power supply. Threeneuron’s design fit the bill nicely, however it ended up being a bit noisy under load, but the TubeClock kit used a free-running transistor oscillator, which was in fact even louder under load.”

From there, said Hobson, it was a matter of testing the tubes, prototyping PCBs and programming Atmel’s stalwart ATmega48 microcontroller (MCU) for the task.

Interested in learning more about the retro modern Nixie clock? You can check out the project’s official page loaded with additional images here.

Previous Nixie-based projects featured on Bits & Pieces include “The ATtiny1634 Nixie clock,”  “Building an Arduino-powered Enigma machine,” and “Atmel’s ATmega645P goes tick tock.”