Designing an Adafruit FeatherWing Handheld with a BlackBerry Keyboard

The BlackBerry line of cell phones certainly wasn’t the first to integrate full QWERTY keyboards, but the proto-smartphones soon became…

Cameron Coward
9 months ago

The BlackBerry line of cell phones certainly wasn’t the first to integrate full QWERTY keyboards, but the proto-smartphones soon became known for them. As such, they were the go-to choice for business people who needed to type out emails and documents on their phones. When true smartphones with high-quality touchscreens hit the market, the popularity of BlackBerry phones quickly declined. But many people still love the tactile feel of BlackBerry keyboards, which is why Arturo182 designed an Adafruit FeatherWing-compatible handheld based around the BlackBerry keyboard.

FeatherWing is Adafruit’s name for add-on boards that work with their family of Feather development boards. You could, for example, use the Power Relay FeatherWing with an ESP8266-based Feather HUZZAH to quickly make an IoT device that can toggle power to AC appliances or lights. The FeatherWing pin layout and communications are open source, so anyone can build their own FeatherWing that is compatible with the Feather line of development boards. In this case, Arturo182 has created a FeatherWing that has all of the components necessary to turn a Feather into a handheld platform.

Arturo182’s FeatherWing PCB features an LCD, a five-way joystick, four additional buttons, a microSD card, a battery, an accelerometer, a resistive touch controller, a GPIO expander, an accelerometer, a SAM D20 MCU, and — most importantly — a BlackBerry Q10 tactile QWERTY keyboard. The idea is that you’ll be able to connect the FeatherWing to whatever Feather board you want, and end up with a sort of PDA or early smartphone kind of device. Because new development boards are frequently released in the Feather form factor, you can upgrade the device by simply swapping out the board.

UPDATE: Arturo182 notes that board is now fully tested, and aside from a few cosmetic changes, everything seems to be functioning properly. Be sure to follow along with his assembly thread here.

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