FlopKey, the Floppy Drive Keyboard

Inserting specially labeled disks has got to be the most tedious way to type.

Jeremy S. Cook
2 months agoRetroTech

Typing is an essential daily activity for many of us, and as such there are a wide variety of options to enhance your productivity and comfort. If, however, comfort and productivity aren’t your main concern, you could always enter text using this floppy drive device from Foone Turing — which doesn't rely on the familiar QWERTY layout, but instead the insertion of 3.5" disks.

The aptly named "FlopKey" uses a standard internal PC floppy drive that's hooked up to a Raspberry Pi via a USB adapter, all housed inside an SCSI magneto-optical drive enclosure. The Pi runs a Python program that detects when a new disk is inserted. Once this happens, it reads the disk’s volume ID label, which is set up with an ASCII code used as input. The Pi passes this information along over serial to a Teensy LC board that simulates a USB keyboard to a host PC.

The 29 “keys" are made by formatting the floppies with the appropriate label — one for all 26 letters, plus space, shift, and exclamation mark. The disks are otherwise blank, but it would seem they wouldn’t have to be if you need a place to store a rather small file or two.

As to the why question, Turing notes that “this is what I do,” which is a good enough explanation here. While certainly not the most efficient way of typing (or whatever you want to call it), you can see it write “hello world”with the FlopKey in the video below!

Jeremy S. Cook
Engineer, maker of random contraptions, love learning about tech. Write for various publications, including Hackster!
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