Fellowes USB Stowaway Keyboard - Thoughts and Mod possibilities
If your not one for reading, skip to the end for an interesting hack possibility.
After seeing this thread I decided to pick up a Fellowes USB Folding Stowaway keyboard.
Actually I had eyed this a while back but they were near $100 then. At the time, I picked up a serial Palm III version for a few bucks and was going to use a PIC16Fxxx to make it appear as a normal PS/2 keyboard.
It appears I don't have to. You can find the USB versions for around $20 now.
So I got it the other day and it's for the most part, pretty nice. Feels very sturdy for something so slim. Keys have a nice feel.
A few downsides. ESC is a Fn key. So it takes two keys to press escape. Don't care for that.
The other is bigger. For some reason, they follow the PDA versions by having the cable attachment angled. For a PDA it makes sense, for a cabled version, it doesn't.
It's too bad because if it wasn't, you could easily cut out a notch in the side and leave the cable in while it's closed.
The awkward plastic locking "tangs" that hold it in seem sure to break from repeated use too.
So I thought about just attaching it permanently. Figured it should be as simply as running some 8 conductor wire from the keyboard, to wherever I put the box.
Still curious as to how it works, I open her up.
First thing I do is open her up by removing the four screws.
Looking at the "converter", get's me thinking two things.
1. ADC - kindof
Couple this with a some optoisolators and you could use it for sampling. Obviously the sample rate would be low, but if you wanted to check if a line that doesn't switch too often was active or not, this would do the trick.
Windows would probably be trickier, but for linux, I would think it would be simpler to load your own driver for it.
2. Custom buttons
I think this one is what would interest most car-puting people. You'd just have to determine how the keyboard chip scans the rows.
By wiring one or more NO switches to the appropriate leads, you could have them generate key presses. No plugins/serial or other hassle. Just a Platform/OS agnostic plug and play solution. I'll have to investigate this more.