SQFMI's Franky Gets a BlackBerry Keyboard Upgrade, Becomes a Pocket-Friendly Beeper Chat Gadget

Adding Solder Party's upcycled BlackBerry keyboards to SQFMI's Franky creates a perfect pocketable for on-the-go CLI chats.

Gareth Halfacree
a month ago β€’ HW101

Open sunlight-readable hardware specialist SQFMI, working with Eric Migicovsky, has put together a design for a dedicated pocket-friendly chat gadget, powered by a Radxa Zero single-board computer and a SHARP Memory LCD panel: the Beeper.

"SQFMI has built my little dream Beeper device," Migicovsky writes on Twitter of the design, which builds on the company's earlier Franky handheld. "[A] 2.4" SHARP Memory LCD panel (same as [the Panic] Playdate. Running Linux and gomucks (terminal CLI Matrix client written by [Beeper's Tulir Asokan])."

The idea for the board came about back in May when SQFMI showed off the Franky, a pocket-sized gadget built around Sharp's single-color sunlight-readable low-power memory LCD technology, with a new keyboard next to Panic's Playdate console. Migicovsky suggested the design would work well as a client device for Beeper, the Matrix-based chat platform he co-founded β€” but only if the tactile-switch keyboard was replaced with something more usable, like Solder Party's upcycled BlackBerry keyboards.

That's exactly what SQFMI has done, taking the Franky and making something better-suited to long periods of typing. While technically compatible with most software β€” the Radxa Zero single-board computer at its heart runs Linux and is capable of a graphical user interface, albeit in black-and-white on the SHARP Memory LCD panel β€” Migicovsky is, naturally, focusing on its suitability for Beeper-powered chat on-the-go.

It's not SQFMI's first attempt at creating low-power sunlight-readable devices. The company unveiled Franky two years ago, shortly after launching its Watchy ePaper smartwatch β€” both of which built on Badgy, the ESP8266-powered smart badge built for that year's DEF CON conference.

Sadly, while the company's Badgy and Watchy designs are available to buy now from the company's Tindie store, it has yet to launch either Franky or the new Beeper variant. Some additional detail on Franky, in its Game Boy-inspired console variant, is available on the SQFMI website; its design, however, has not yet been published to the company's GitHub repository.

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