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Retro Computers as USB Keyboard!

Posted: Wed May 25, 2016 3:37 pm
by seastalker
I bought an Atari 800xl for nearly nothing, thinking I'd gut it and try the DIY project of converting it to a USB keyboard. I then found "Teensy" online, as well as someone doing this with many 80's computers:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/150436476/ ... b-keyboard

This may be an idea for a future device made by Lotharek and I'll start with my favorite computer as the example: How feasible is it to make the Atari 800xl perform as a USB keyboard, but WITHOUT gutting it's internals to render it merely as one? In theory, could a fully functional 800xl ALSO serve as a PC keyboard? Here are my concepts (though admittedly, I don't understand the tech mechanisms/limitations of an XL to know if ANY are possible):

Concept 1. INTERNAL
Unplugging the XL keyboard's ribbon cable from the mobo, and inserting it into some new middleman controller where a shorter cable goes in to the mobo, but also this middleman outputs what it needs as a USB keyboard. I imagine it may need a toggle switch to choose which functionality.

Concept 2. EXTERNAL
Ideally, one would not have to mod the XL's sleek plastic case. Perhaps the path to success is a new updated SIO2USB device (or make use of that PBI) and PC drivers?

Concept 3. Atari Bluetooth
Those tiny Bluetooth USB 'cufflinks'... maybe a modchip or external connection. I can't even imagine the added joy of having a WIRELESS 800xl keyboard for a media center, haha!

Is any of this even possible? That link is interesting as none of the keyboards look like they require external power cables. I'd guess any wireless concept would require a battery solution. Well, if nothing else, I hope you like my pipe dream.

Re: Retro Computers as USB Keyboard!

Posted: Wed May 25, 2016 3:46 pm
by Mindthreat
Personally, I would hate to use any Atari-computer keyboard as a keyboard for just that reason because unless you had the original 800 or the 1200XL, they were awful and mushy. Which reminds me, I need to get some of that mod from Best Electronics to get a more tactile feedback from my 130XE.

If it's your thing, I think it would make great use of a dead or malfunctioning beyond repair Atari-computer of sorts. So many people are quick to scrap things when they die instead of do something with them and this could fit that bill!

Re: Retro Computers as USB Keyboard!

Posted: Wed May 25, 2016 3:55 pm
by seastalker
I see your point, and one would need to have a nostalgic love or wanting a hipster vibe at parties in this world of paper thin Macbook Air. Still, I think there is a whole retro market world that would love to at least have the option.

Re: Retro Computers as USB Keyboard!

Posted: Thu May 26, 2016 2:22 pm
by nobox
Concept 2 is easy to do, and I also planned it long time ago. Use a program on the atari which puts the keyevents out on SIO, and on sio use a arduino leonardo or some other ATmega32u4 to listen these serial events and do a keyboard emulation.

Concept 1 is abit more difficult, because you have to read out the whole keyboard matrix. A normal arduino doesnt have enough pins for that , thats why the projects I know use a teensy for that.

Concept 3 is the worst - I dont know any device which can emulate a bluetooth keyboard. sure, there are some bluetooth adapters for arduino and co, but they work as a serial transmitter.

With Concept 2, I also plan to use an 65 XE System as a Keyboard for an Atari Mega ST. Kind of uniting 8bit and 16bit Ataris.

Re: Retro Computers as USB Keyboard!

Posted: Mon May 30, 2016 6:06 pm
by seastalker
Concept 1 may need to incorporate a Teensy solution.

Concept 2 - Nobox, you can do this and it is simple? Sign me up please! :)

For concept 3, I was thinking a keyboard version of these Bluetooth audio devices:

http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-980-0009 ... er+adapter

http://www.amazon.com/Bestfy-Bluetooth- ... er+adapter

With these, your old 70's vinyl player/preamp can convert to broadcasting to bluetooth speakers. I was conceptualizing one of the XL's outputs (likely SIO) converting and ending in a small bluetooth device that sends the keyboard signal to a receiver. Many android devices are ready to receive bluetooth keyboards, but the concept is where my skills currently end.

Re: Retro Computers as USB Keyboard!

Posted: Wed Jun 08, 2016 1:54 pm
by nobox
For concept 3 - bluetooth isnt bluetooth - there are many bluetooth profiles.

Audio, for example , or serial, or HID.

A bluetooth audio device can never emulate a keyboard. And i dont know of a bluetooth HID Sender for Arduino available on the market. It might be theoretical possible, but I never heard of one real existing.

Re: Retro Computers as USB Keyboard!

Posted: Wed Jun 08, 2016 9:43 pm
by seastalker
AH!! The description "bluetooth HID Sender for Arduino" is both the best description for my long winded version and what I will remember as a search term to find one. At least we are putting the idea out there...

Re: Retro Computers as USB Keyboard!

Posted: Tue Jun 14, 2016 9:05 pm
by nobox
I realized Concept 1.
46 Solder points connecting a 65XE keyboard with a Teensy 2.0.

I am typing this text with that 65XE Keyboard. I used the software from pixelpracht.net, but I improved it a bit. The software from pixelpracht cant deal with <START>,<OPTION>,<SELECT> and <RESET> Keys, it reports the modifier keys to late and it has a problem when pressing shift AND control, because its using wrong pinmode for lines that are'nt activly scanned. And it maps the Invers key to the GUI key - pretty useless - <ALT> Key makes more sense.

I solved all these problems but I am still dealing with the the special keymap of the atari - <CTRL><ALT><DEL> doesnt work yet.

Re: Retro Computers as USB Keyboard!

Posted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 3:59 pm
by skjult
Superb! Can you post or forward to me your code? I am *right now* attempting to modify pixelpracht's code to suit my 600xl project: http://atari600xl.blogspot.com/

I have the interface built. Modifying the pin mappings at the moment.

2 differences in my version: 1, I'm using the RESET key (pins 18,23) as a soft-power switch for the ControlBlock I added to the Raspberry Pi and 2, I'm using the LED (pins 18,24) as the status light for the ControlBlock (indicates the power status on the Pi). Thus, I'll need to mod your code to not use RESET. Fortunately, it's on it's own pin (23), so I can leave it not connected to the Teensy. Pin 18 is a ground common for RESET, OPTION, SELECT, & START as well as the LED. So I should be able to share it between the Teensy & ControlBlock without frying either.

nobox wrote:I realized Concept 1.
46 Solder points connecting a 65XE keyboard with a Teensy 2.0.

I am typing this text with that 65XE Keyboard. I used the software from pixelpracht.net, but I improved it a bit. The software from pixelpracht cant deal with <START>,<OPTION>,<SELECT> and <RESET> Keys, it reports the modifier keys to late and it has a problem when pressing shift AND control, because its using wrong pinmode for lines that are'nt activly scanned. And it maps the Invers key to the GUI key - pretty useless - <ALT> Key makes more sense.

I solved all these problems but I am still dealing with the the special keymap of the atari - <CTRL><ALT><DEL> doesnt work yet.

Re: Retro Computers as USB Keyboard!

Posted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:52 pm
by skjult
Hello all. I have the 600XL keyboard working with the Teensy 2.0, emulating a USB keyboard. Need to perfect the code, but 90% of it is working. I'll post a video when I can.

Re: Retro Computers as USB Keyboard!

Posted: Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:21 pm
by seastalker
I look forward to seeing your update. After you work out the kinks and make another, I'd be interested in one.