MrNiceThings Takes His Love of Laptop Keyboards to the Next Level with an STM32 USB Converter Board

Designed to work with a variety of laptop keyboards, this compact adapter board — and 3D-printed chassis — bring them to your desktop.

Gareth Halfacree
14 days agoHW101

Pseudonymous maker "MrNiceThings" is a fan of laptop keyboards — to the point of salvaging one, building a case, and using an STMicro STM32 microcontroller to convert it for use with a desktop via USB.

"Call me crazy, call me a heretic, but I love laptop keyboards," MrNiceThings explains. "They are super silent, incredibly fast to type and small... until now I was using Cherry Stream 3.0 which is closest to a laptop keyboard you can get. I also happened to get a hold of few old laptops so the goal was obvious!"

Laptop keyboards, however, don't normally have a standardized USB port - relying instead on a typically-custom ribbon cable connection to the motherboard. The solution: A conversion board, built around an STM32 Blue Pill, which accepts the keyboard and converts it to USB.

"The scanning is super simple, you don't need to know which pins are rows and which are [columns], it scans through all of them and everything else is done in the sketch," MrNiceThings writes. "Even the CAPS/NUM/SCROLL LEDs, FN [Function] combos and media keys work. [The] only limit is the available 27 GPIOs [General-Purpose Input/Output pins] of STM32F103C6/C8."

Initially, MrNiceThings was concentrating on making the two keyboards he had to hand, both salvaged from older laptops, work with the board - but discovered that many other keyboards, including from other laptop manufacturers, work fine so long as the use the same 1mm-pitch connector and have a maximum of 27 active pins.

MrNiceThings has promised to upload the PCB design files and the Arduino sketch for the converter board to GitHub in the near future; for now, more information is available on the project's Reddit thread.

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