Trying to escape from the dystopian suburban world is a tricky proposition, and that's exactly what YouTuber Zack Freedman ran into after moving from a large city. To combat this, he wanted to build a cyberdeck, which is a device that evokes images of the early days of personal computing, with rugged, aspirational designs that look simultaneously retro and futuristic. Most are similar to laptops by having a keyboard, screen, and some other kind of input device, although they can be built up even more to include various sensors and I/O.
A cyberdeck without a processor would just be a brick, and most modern ones use single-board computers (SBCs) that contain everything needed in a single, small footprint. Freedman went with perhaps the most ubiquitous SBC of all, the Raspberry Pi. And not just any Pi would do, since nearly all of them require a lot of external peripherals to work. So for the Data Blaster, he chose to use the Raspberry Pi 400, which is a keyboard that houses a Raspberry Pi 4 underneath its cover, and with plenty of pins, display connectors, and USB ports on the back, building a cyberdeck with this as its base would be far easier.
Displays are some of the hardest components to mount in a device like this due to their large sizes and unwieldy attachment points. However, Freedman was able to find a 1280 x 480 touchscreen that was large enough to see text well while still being able to fit nicely into an enclosure. But that's not the only screen in the Data Blaster.
There's also a Vufine wearable display that magnetically clips onto the side of a pair of glasses which acts as a second monitor, letting the user multitask on the cyberdeck.
The Raspberry Pi 400 already has a Bluetooth and WiFi module onboard, which means an external networking dongle isn't necessary. But since the goal was to build the coolest cyberdeck, it needs a way to sniff the air for signals of other frequencies, not just 2.4GHz. That's where the NESDR Nano 3 comes in. It's a software-defined radio, letting it pick up signals anywhere from 25MHz to 1700MHz. By using a bit of software, this information can be decoded and read with ease, giving fun waterfall spectrogram images like this one:
Originally, Freedman was going to integrate the battery pack from a 5V rechargeable power bank, but after opening it up he realized that it contained a single LiPo pouch-style battery rather than several cylindrical ones.
So he had to crack open another one and harvest the cells from it. Each individual battery had a small enclosure made that houses it safely.
The entire device is almost entirely 3D-printed, with the front panel in a translucent blue color and the rest of the panels/components being a sleek black. On the back is a micro USB port for charging and a light-up pushbutton for switching the cyberdeck on. The powerbank's PCB is mounted at the very bottom and its output is routed to both the Pi and the screen. Routing cables was the hardest part in all of this, as the internal space is limited and the touchscreen's ribbon cable is extremely fragile.
Eventually, Freedman was able to get everything connected together and working. After adding a few additional logos onto the front and back of the cyberdeck, along with the handles, the Data Blaster was completed.
The Data Blaster turned out quite well, and with the combination of a head-mounted display and software-defined radio, this cyberdeck is ready for whatever the dystopian suburban landscape can throw at it.