Tag Archives: keyboard

The Model 01 is an heirloom-grade, open source ergonomic keyboard


The Model 01 doesn’t look or feel like any keyboard you’ve ever had before. 


The arrangement of characters on a QWERTY keyboard was first introduced back in 1868 by Christopher Sholes, who happened to also be the inventor of the typewriter. As legend has it, Sholes organized the keys in their odd fashion to prevent jamming on mechanical typewriters by separating commonly used letter combinations. Other than adding a few function and arrow keys, the text entry device has remained relatively unchanged for nearly 150 years.

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With just about everyone nowadays spending eight-plus hours typing away on their computers, too many of us are putting unnecessary strain on our wrists. Have you ever thought about how you might improve the standard QWERTY layout? Well, Jesse Vincent and Kaia Dekke — who together make up Bay Area startup Keyboardio — have with their butterfly-shaped keyboard that places a greater emphasis on the thumb, lessens the stress on your pinkies and offers a more natural position for the hand and wrist — something that may prove to be a lifesaver for those suffering from carpal tunnel or arthritis. And sure, there are plenty of ergonomic keyboards on the market, but the Model 01 was specially designed for serious typists.

“The traditional keyboard was designed for typewriters, not hands. Staggered columns made room for mechanical components, without concern for wrist angles or finger lengths. Shift keys were placed under the weakest fingers,” Vincent explains.

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Instead, the Keyboardio team has puts keys such as control, alt, delete, shift and a new ‘function’ button under the typists’ palms, all within easy reach of the thumbs. The duo says that they have been experimenting with ways to eliminate the mouse altogether by using the W, A, S and D keys for general cursor movements and other keys to tell the mouse where to go on the screen.

“You can think of it as a function key or a special sort of shift. Dropping the base of your thumb onto it turns the H, J, K, and L keys into your arrow keys, turns the number keys into F-keys and even turns the WASD keys into a high-precision mouse.”

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Not only does Model 01 ship with the source code and a screwdriver, users can even define custom key layouts or macros based on the application currently running on the PC. Meaning, typists can assign complex sequences of keystrokes and mouse movements to a single key press through a simple program — on any computer compatible with OS X, iOS, Linux, Windows or Android operating systems.

The modular keyboard is built around a versatile ATmega32U4 along with some battery charging circuitry, Worldsemi WS2812B LEDs and a Bluetooth module — all housed inside two blocks of CNC-milled solid maple wood. The keyswitches, which boast a lifetime of 50 million presses, are Matias Quiet Click ALPS-mount keyswitches with ultra-bright, colorful LEDs located under each one. Its creators have custom sculpted each of the 64 individual keycaps on the Model 01 to gently guide a typists fingers to the right keys. Beyond that, the Model 01 features a USB interface.

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“For a variety of reasons, many USB keyboards limit you to pressing six keys (plus modifiers) at once. Most of us would never notice this limitation, but an intrepid few really, really need to be able to hit more than six keys at once,” Vincent writes. “If you need True N-key rollover (NKRO), we’ve got you covered. The NKRO-over-USB technique we’re using works great on Windows, MacOS X and Linux without any special drivers.”

With its aesthetically-pleasing maple wood exterior, Vincent believes the Model 01 can be the first computer accessory made to “heirloom grade.” While Keyboardio may initially appeal to the enthusiast crowd, the open source nature of the gadget will certainly entice hardware and software fans to offer their own set of modifications as well.

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Though it ships with the default QWERTY arrangement, the unit also “speaks” Dvorak, Colemak, Workman and a variant of the Malt layout. What’s more, the Model 01 has an “any” key — whose function is left to the imagination of the beholder. Does it look like an ergonomic keyboard that you’d love to have at home or in the office? Click over to its Kickstarter campaign, where Keyboardio is currently seeking $120,000. Shipment is set to commence in May 2016.

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

Keyboardio looks to make keyboards better and brighter


This next-gen keyboard will give your pinkies a rest and eliminate mice. 


The arrangement of characters on a QWERTY keyboard was first designed back in 1868 by Christopher Sholes, who happened to also be the inventor of the typewriter. According to popular myth, Sholes arranged the keys in their odd fashion to prevent jamming on mechanical typewriters by separating commonly used letter combinations. Other than adding a few function and arrow keys, the text entry device has remained relatively unchanged for nearly 150 years. 

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Have you ever thought about how you might improve the standard QWERTY layout? Well, Jesse Vincent and Kaia Dekker have with their butterfly-shaped keyboard that places a greater emphasis on the thumb, lessens the stress on your pinkies, and offers a more natural position for the hand and wrist — something that may prove to be a lifesaver for those suffering from carpal tunnel or arthritis.

“The traditional keyboard was designed for typewriters, not hands. Staggered columns made room for mechanical components, without concern for wrist angles or finger lengths. Shift keys were placed under the weakest fingers,” Vincent explains.

20150219_165518_resized

Instead, the aptly named Keyboardio puts keys such as control, alt, delete, shift and a new ‘function’ button under the typists’ palms, all within easy reach of the thumbs. Vincent says that the team has also been experimenting with ways to eliminate the mouse altogether by using the W, A, S and D keys for general cursor movements and other keys to tell the mouse where to go on the screen.

And, unlike its predecessors, this next-gen keyboard is Bluetooth-enabled allowing users to switch between devices and carry it from one meeting to the next. Not only does Keyboardio ship with the source code and a screwdriver, it can even be programmed to create your own shortcuts.

The modular keyboard is built around an ATmega32U4 and a pair of Semtech SX1509 IO expanders, along with some battery charging circuitry, World Semi WS2812Bs LEDs and a Bluetooth module — all housed inside a CNC-milled anodized aluminum enclosure with wood-grain hand rests. Beyond that, the keyswitches are Matias Quiet Click switches with ultra-bright, colorful LEDs located under each one.

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After quite a bit of prototyping, the team has finally revealed what they’re calling the Keyboardio Model 01 — 20 of which will begin shipping in the coming weeks. Until then, Vincent and Kaia are working intensively on preparing a Kickstarter campaign that is expected to launch sometime this spring. In addition to that, the team is currently planning a “startup kit” with a set of keyboards geared towards the Maker crowd.

While Keyboardio may initially appeal to the enthusiast crowd, the open-source nature of the gadget will certainly entice a number of hardware and software fans to offer their own set of modifications as well. Interested? You can click over to its official page here.

Arduino Micro helps design the perfect keyboard

Writing for ExtremeTech, Sebastian Anthony reports that Jesse Vincent is working to design the perfect keyboard using an Atmel-powered Arduino Micro (ATmega32u4 MCU).

Vincent has already 3D printed a number of plastic prototypes, with mechanical key switches and (commodity) key caps. Inside the latest keyboard (Mark 13) is a programmable Atmel-Arduino microcontroller that provides a USB interface so the DIY keyboards can be plugged into a PC.

“As an Arduino, it’s programmable directly in the vanilla Arduino IDE. It even includes native support for ’emulating’ a USB keyboard and mouse,” Vincent explained in a recent blog post. “The bootloader is an AVR109 compatible Arduino bootloader. It’s free to use and modify. The hardware design is also free to use and modify.”

On the software side, Vincent says he learned Arduino C and wrote the first fully functioning version of KeyboardioFirmware in an hour and a half.

“It turns out that Arduino really is easy to develop for. I’ve [also] added support for keyboard-driven mouse emulation, multiple keymaps, rudimentary macros and dramatically improved reliability and memory efficiency.”

The next step for Vincent is to prepare the Mark 13 for mass production via a process known as design for manufacturability (DFM). Although every key switch has thus far been hand-wired, the final version will use a printed circuit board that has yet to be designed, along with a hard-wearing material for the keyboard’s chassis.

Interested in learning more about the Mark 13 keyboard? You can check out Vincent’s detailed blog post here.