The 8BitFlux "Poor Man's Keyboard" Gives Your Apple I or Apple II Flip-Switch ASCII Powers

"Possibly the smallest keyboard in the world," says maker Bobby Nijssen — if you've the patience to use it.

Gareth Halfacree
2 months agoRetro Tech / HW101

Vintage computer enthusiast Bobby Nijssen has launched what may well be one of the smallest keyboards in the world, as an add-on for those who have an Apple I or Apple II lacking a more traditional text-input device: the Poor Man's Keyboard.

"Cheap," Nijssen writes of his latest creation, available in variants compatible with the original Apple I launched in 1976 and its considerably higher-selling and somewhat less rare successor the Apple II, "and possibly the smallest keyboard in the world, a real joke."

Designed to hook straight onto each computers' motherboard, the Poor Man's Keyboard only has three actual push-button switches — or two, in the case of the Apple II variant, which lacks the Apple I-specific Clear Screen switch. The secret to the ability to actually use the "keyboard" to enter text: a seven-way DIP switch, into which a seven-bit number is entered one bit at a time.

Push the "Keypress" button, and that number is transformed into the corresponding character from the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) table — and, as there's no debounce implemented, a steady hand will be required to have only one of the chosen characters entered into the device.

While Nijssen describes the device as "a real joke," there's definitely an emphasis more on "real" than "joke": the maker has release schematics and Gerber files for the two board variants on his website, 8BitFlux, under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 license, while selling kit-form or fully-assembled versions on Tindie for $8.99 as a bare PCB, $18.99 as a kit, or $23.99 fully-assembled — Apple I not included.

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