PCBWay 3rd PCB Design Contest

PiKeeb - the open-source portable digital typewriter

Imagine your keyboard becoming your computer.


Hello, PCBWay. My name is Ilya and I'm a maker, a keyboard enthusiast, and an electronics geek. And I am here to tell you about my project I've been working on for almost two years now - PiKeeb.


So, what is PiKeeb?

PiKeeb is the open-source Raspberry Pi-enabled battery-powered portable digital typewriter with the hot-swappable fully mechanical switches. The name "PiKeeb" originates from the "Pi", as in Raspberry Pi - the most famous brand of single board computers for students and hobbyists alike, and "Keeb", which is the short way of saying "keyboard".


Ok. But why?

You see, this project was born out of pure curiosity and a will to make something truly unique and mine. It was a way to test my skill set in electronics, modeling, and programming. I also work with texts a lot and am always on the go. I needed something portable, capable, expandable and mechanical. And a combination of laptop + mechanical keyboard did not cut it for me. That's how the initial idea of PiKeeb came to be.


What does it do exactly?

PiKeeb can do many things. It can function as a standard keyboard for any Windows, Mac, Linux PC by connecting via either Bluetooth or USB. It can also function as a stand-alone mini-PC that is capable of working with texts and running not so demanding apps (such as retro gaming, simple programming and debugging systems via ssh). The versatility of ARM-based Linux distros makes it great for customization not only from visual standpoint but also in functional aspects by having nearly all of the functions of a normal PC shrunk down into the miniature keyboard-size case.


Main features:

  • The built-in 7-inch TFT LCD display, which can be swapped to e-paper display to reduce eye strain
  • Fully programmable mechanical keyboard running custom open-source QMK firmware.
  • 5000 mAh battery for continuous typing/programming session
  • Full customizability of software, firmware, layout and even key feel (you can swap the keys to another type without soldering)
  • Two modes: PC mode and Raspberry mode.
  • Two layout variants: staggered and ortholinear


Project development:

I’ve managed to finish the first fully functional prototype. You can see its demo in the video below:


Currently, I am working on the second iteration design that has a better more expandable keyboard layout, better keyboard MCU, more features (like Bluetooth Low Energy support via discreet module and a small 0.91-inch display for keyboard status indication). I’ve already designed the electronics for the second iteration and started making the case.


Here is how the staggered main board would look like:

Here are all of the staggered layout options:


Ortholinear main board would look like this:


Here are all of the ortholinear layout options:


*NB: RE stands for the rotary encoder. You can install up to two rotary encoders per board that can be programmed to do whatever you want. Examples include controlling volume, brightness, navigating menus, and even playing mini-games on the keyboard status display.

Follow the project on social media:


Thank you for your time and consideration to follow my project!

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