Cyberdeck 64 Build
Originally Published on n-o-d-e.net
September 21, 2016
HOW TO CREATE A CYBERDECK64
This is my second attempt to build a real working version of a cyberdeck inspired by the machines used in the cyberpunk settings of Shadowrun and William Gibson's Sprawl novels. In those stories cyberdecks were portable computers hackers used to jack into cyberspace with a direct neural connection, cutting ICE and stealing data for the highest bidder. I don't have a neural interface, so I'm making do with a set of video glasses. The case for this project came from a dead Commodore 64c. It was the right size and shape, and its style perfectly matched the 80's aesthetic common to cyberpunk. The original keyboard was replaced with a modern keyboard/trackpad combo with 3 color backlit keys, and a USB hub slotted where the function keys once were. Inside was an overclocked Raspberry Pi 3 with a cooling fan powered by a 10,000 mAh USB battery.
For video I gave it a VGA output for either an external monitor or video glasses, but if you don't have either of those handy there's also a 5" LCD that slides out of the back and pivots towards the user on a pair of friction hinges. Finally, I wanted some styling to make it look like a machine that's seen some action on the mean streets of Night City. I painted it red, added a shoulder strap, and had custom stickers printed to badge it and add some flavor.
This was a challenging project for me. As well as modifying the case for the new hardware, I had to fabricate the LCD case and slide mechanism from scratch. The internal wiring ended up taking up a lot more room than I would have liked, owing to the size of my video cables and adapters, but I managed to get the combination of options I wanted, and everything fit, so I'm happy.
- Case from a Commodore 64c
- Raspberry Pi 3 with case and fan
- Kmashi 10,000 mAh USB Battery
- iPazz Wireless Keyboard with Trackpad
- 4 port USB hub
- HDMI splitter
- HDMI to USB adapter
- USB to Micro USB cable with a power switch
- Some Styrene Sheet Plastic
- Carriage bolts with inserts
- Sharp razor knife with spare blades
- Straight Edge
- Lighter or minitorch
- Rotary Tool
Step 1. Chassis. For this project I used the case from a Commodore 64c, but you can get similar results from any wedge shaped keyboard computer from the 80's. I think an Atari 800XL version would be pretty swank. I used a machine that was already dead so I didn't sacrifice any working computer history, but you do you. During the course of this build you will probably add a few holes and cover a few up, since you are repurposing an old case. I found that a rotary tool worked very well for widening holes, and to cover them I made plates of thin styrene plastic and glued them in place.
Step 2. Planning. Gather all of your components and connect them all on your workbench to make sure they work as intended. Once you know everything works and what you plan to include, start laying them out in your case to figure out where everything will go. I had to do this several times before I was happy and still had to make compromises. Try sticking your parts in place with some masking tape to test their fit.
Step 3. Keyboard. Your keyboard should be a bit bigger than the original so you can cut the hole in the case a bit bigger for a clean fit. I used a handsaw and a lot of hand filing to get the hole right, then I carefully fit the keyboard in place and glued it in along the inside with thick glue.
Step 4. USB Hub. You will want some external USB ports and will need a hub if you plan to use the Pi's ports internally. I found one that almost fit perfectly in the spot where the function keys used to be on one side. I trimmed the hole for a better fit and glued it in place from behind like the keyboard.
Step 5. Power. I had to shop around a bit to find a USB battery that had a charging port on the side, this enabled me to place it so that charge port was exposed. I opened up the holed from the joystick ports for this. I secured the battery in the case with glue, then I plugged the USB cable with switch into it and glued that switch to another opening so I could press it to turn the machine on and off.
Step 6. Pi. Connect the power USB to the Pi and then position it in the case so that the video cables can reach where they need to. Secure the Pi case in place with some double sided foam tape.
Step 7a. Displays. Decide how you want to handle your video. I wanted both an internal screen and an external VGA connection. If you don't want the internal screen it's really simple, just plug an HDMI-VGA adapter into the Pi and glue the VGA end into an opening so you can use it from the outside.
Step 7b. More Displays. If, like me, you really want that extra display then you need to get creative. I used an HDMI splitter with one end going to the external VGA adapter, and the other end going to a 5" LCD that ran off USB power. I powered the LCD from one of the Pi's USB ports. I wanted it to be there, but hidden when not in use, so I scratch built a case and slide assembly with some friction hinges, but that is a whole project in itself that I won't cover here. There are a lot of ways to work that problem.
Step 8. Strap. Get some carriage bolts from a hardware store and some inserts for them to screw into. Drill holes in the case and glue the inserts in from the inside, then screw the carriage bolts into the inserts from the outside through a loop of nylon webbing or other strap attachment.
Step 9. Finishing Touches. I chose to paint the chassis red and add some custom printed stickers, but you can do it however you like. For a final detail I added a power LED to the case in the same spot as the original and wired it to the 5v power and ground pins on the Pi's GPIO.
copyright 2016 Jason Benson