Tag Archives: Mechanical Keyboard

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.

ErgoDox EZ is a pre-assembled, open-source mechanical keyboard

Finally, everyone can have a beautiful split keyboard with mechanical keys.

Are you looking for the ultimate ergonomic keyboard without the hassle of building or customizing it yourself? You’re in luck. That’s because a trio of Rockville, Maryland-based keyboard enthusiasts have teamed up to launch what they’re calling the ErgoDox EZ project.


The device — which recently made its Indiegogo debut — is based on the official ErgoDox design. However, instead of having to piece together 160 different components, these keyboards will ship as a mass-produced, pre-assembled product that anyone can buy. What’s more, it’ll also come with a factory warranty. For those unfamiliar with the office accessory, the ErgoDox is an ergonomic keyboard that is divided into two halves with a columnar layout. This style of keypad has risen in popularity over the last couple of months, particularly throughout the online gaming scene.

Based on a Teensy 2.0 microcontroller (ATmega32U4), ErgoDox is 100% open-source, meaning users can customize it to their liking. Massdrop, the innovative startup behind the original ErgoDox kits, has an online graphical configuration utility that enables users to easily create their own layout and share with the DIY community. Crafted with portability in mind, the device comes with both a standard cable and a USB jack, too.

“Right now, you can choose between two main kinds of assembled mechanical keyboards: You have the compact “retro” ones like the Happy Hacking keyboard, or the large ergonomic ones like the Kinesis Advantage. The ErgoDox is a mechanical keyboard design that is both compact and ergonomic,” its creators explain.


Undoubtedly, one of the most important aspects of any mechanical keyboard is the key switches. While the ErgoDox EZ is equipped with Cherry MX Brown switches by default, users can choose between six different types, each with varying noise levels, type experiences and actuation forces.

“Each key on a mechanical keyboard hides an actual physical switch under it, rather than a squishy rubber membrane like on most keyboards. Typing on a mechanical keyboard is a very different experience from typing on a regular one. The keys have more travel, and everything is more tactile. Mechanical keyboards have their own unique sound, and you don’t have to press the keys all the way down to get a reaction, which makes typing easier on the fingers.”

Prior to the EZ, those seeking an ErgoDox would have to obtain a kit and then hand-solder its components together before having a fully-functional keyboard. Fortunately, those wishing to forgo the daunting task, or those simply looking for a much more expedited experience, can now purchase one out-of-the-box ready. ErgoDox EZ is currently live on Indiegogo, where its team is seeking $50,000. If all goes well, shipment is expected to begin December 2015 — just in time for the holidays!

Maker 3D prints a fully-functioning, Planck-inspired mechanical keyboard

Why go to Staples for a keyboard when you can print your own?

The Planck is a compact (40%) Ortholinear keyboard designed with ergomnomic thumb placement. For those unfamiliar the kits, the plate layouts are relatively the same as a traditional keyboard with the exception that the keys are all the same size. Recently, Maker Adam Forland 3D-printed and assembled a fully-functioning Planck-inspired mechanical keyboard.

“I just got into mechanical KBs a month ago but I was immediately drawn to the idea of a [DIY] keyboard. The plate, feet and key caps are all 3D-printed on my desktop printer,” Forland writes.


As you will notice, upon first glance, the keyboard may appear to be just like the ones you use regularly. However, this gadget omits an elongated space bar, and instead, uses a series of five yellow keys along the bottom to serve as navigation arrows and a function button.

To bring this idea to life, Forland employed his Lulzbot Mini 3D printer. The Maker notes that he needed to divide the main case of the device into two sections in order to accommodate its size, which measures approximately 9cm x 25cm x 3cm. Using a 0.5mm nozzle, he printed the board at a 0.3mm layer height and the actual keys at a 0.18mm layer height using ABS thermoplastic.


The keyboard itself is powered by a Teensy 2.0 USB dev board (ATmega32U4) and programmed with a few different custom layouts. Beyond that, the project is equipped with some 20-gauge copper wire, 1N4148 doides and 48 Cherry MX green switches.

Interested in a 3D-printed mechanical keyboard of your own? You can download all of its design files on Thingiverse here.