J. Chitpin's ThinkDeck Is a Penkēsu-Style Raspberry Pi Zero W Homage to Classic IBM ThinkPads

With a 3D-printable case, full-size keycaps, and mechanical keyboard switches, this portable PC offers comfort and convenience.

Gareth Halfacree
2 months agoHW101 / 3D Printing

Maker J. Chitpin has built a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W-powered pocket-friendly portable computer, taking inspiration from the Penkēsu and IBM ThinkPad laptops — and featuring full-size keycaps on an ortholinear mechanical keyboard.

"[The ThinkDeck is] a Penkēsu-inspired portable PC that incorporates my favourite design elements of old ThinkPads," Chitpin explains of the 3D-printed cyberdeck. "Why would you want one? It looks cool and you like the (slightly chunky) form factor. You need a small(-ish) Linux box, possibly for connecting with other IoT [Internet of Things] devices. [Or] you want a portable computing/note taking device with support for full-sized key switches/keycaps."

As Chitpin says, the project was inspired by Penkēsu (ペンケース), an open-source Raspberry Pi-powered pocketable computer designed by self-styled "digital nomad" and CutiePi tablet designer Penk Chen. Like the Penkēsu, the ThinkDeck offers an ortholinear 40 per cent keyboard layout, using full-size keycaps and switches this time, without an integrated pointing device — though the ultrawide display has gone, replaced by a considerably more compact Pimoroni HyperPixel 4.0 display.

There's a reason for the small display: in order to make room for the keyboard in the bottom half of the 3D-printed clamshell case, most of the electronics — including the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W and the Adafruit PowerBoost 1000C battery pack — are located in the top. As a result, the smaller screen was a necessary trade-off — as was the introduction of a kickstand into the design, so the top-heavy chassis doesn't tip over when opened to a typical viewing angle.

Elsewhere in the build are panel-mount input/output (IO) ports for an external HDMI display, any USB 2.0 peripheral, and charging via a micro-USB port. Lacking a touchpad or IBM ThinkPad-style pointing stick, the display offers touchscreen capabilities for mouse work — and there's an internal power switch, designed to prevent accidental toggling during transit.

Chitpin has released design files, keyboard firmware, and 3D-printable STLs, along with a full bill of materials, on GitHub under the permissive MIT license. "I'd like to give a shout out to Penk," the maker writes, "for inspiring me to build my own cyberdeck."

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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