I do most of my work right here at Hackster, and usually I type away at my desktop computer. That is necessary, because I need to be able to do research on all of the amazing projects that we report on. But I also have aspirations of someday finishing a novel and I wanted a way to be able to write comfortably even when I’m not at home. That’s why I designed FeatherQuill, which is a dedicated word processor built on a Raspberry Pi that has 34+ hours of battery life and a mechanical keyboard.
This project was heavily inspired by vintage portable computers and dedicated word processors from the ‘80s and ‘90s. I’m a retrocomputing enthusiast, and I own a TRS-80 Model 100 that is something of a predecessor to today’s laptops. I was amazed at how long the TRS-80 Model 100 could run on just a handful of batteries, but was disappointed by the layout and orientation of the display. I decided to create something modern that has similar capabilities. My primary goals were to achieve an extremely long battery life (much longer than my MacBook Pro offers) and to have a solid mechanical keyboard that is comfortable to type on for extended periods of time.
I believe I have succeeded in implementing both of those features in FeatherQuill. It’s built around a Raspberry Pi Zero W single-board computer that is running DietPi — an operating system that is more lightweight than the standard Raspberry Pi OS. It boots up directly into word processing software called WordGrinder and only takes 20-25 seconds to do so. The display is a 5” touchscreen LCD, though the touchscreen functionality is not being used. The keyboard is a relatively affordable generic model that contains RGB-backlit keys attached to knockoff Cherry MX Blue key switches. While they don’t feel as good as genuine Cherry MX key switches, they are far superior to what you’d find on a typical laptop keyboard.
The battery pack, which is responsible for the amazing battery life, is made up of eight 18650 lithium-ion battery cells. Each of those has a capacity of 3100mAh, resulting in a total capacity of 24800mAh at 3.7V. Power is provided by a generic LiPo board, which also handles charging. All of these components are housed within a 3D-printed case that was designed in Autodesk Fusion 360. The case is similar to a modern laptop and is hinged to tilt the keyboard at an angle when the lid is opened in order to make the typing as comfortable as possible. I’m happy with the results and have made the entire FeatherQuill design available for you to build yourself if you like.