Semiotic keyboard, wip

Published on 16/09/2022 @15:55:28 by vigilante sculpting

I have really started enjoying using my XP-Pen drawing tablet with Krita now, but the one thing that bothers me is that I still need the keyboard, even for simple tasks such as canvas navigation, brush size/opacity, etc. (Sure, you can drive all of this with the pen/tablet, but using keyboard shortcuts is an easy way to stay productive).

To use my keyboard, I have to sit in an awkward position, since the keyboard and tablet don't fit side by side. Especially when I want to tilt the tablet, since then I have to reach behind the stand in order to access the keyboard. This inconvenience has made me look into getting a 12-key/3-knob macro keyboard. But if you know me, you'll know that I love a good yak shave. Plus I don't like spending money.

Thus, I started tearing apart an old Microsoft 1558 external keypad that I had lying around. This is a very simple keyboard, and it was easy to solder on a couple of leads.


Then I hooked it up to my Adafruit Feather using a breadboard, and hacked up a bit of code as proof of concept, to see if I could homebrew my own macro keyboard. And guess what, it works.


The plan is to add 3 rotary encoders on the side, so that I then have a one-handed 17 buttons / 3 knobs macro keyboard with which I can generate whatever key combinations I want. This should give me enough control over Krita so that the only time I have to dig around for my large keyboard (well, it is a Keychron K6, so it isn't that large) is when I need to type in file names and whatever.

Then, it has to be given a good housing and some kinf of lettering, because style.

For the housing, I have this old printer-control panel housing, that I will cut to size and greeblie up. The rotary encoders will get some junk knobs, with a better grip.


For the button labeling, I decided that since it will be a shortcut keypad, there is no use putting dedicated letters or words on the keys, since I should be able to change layout at will, if I manage to get QMK running on the board.

And what better set of keyboard symbols than the Semiotic Standard For All Commercial Trans-Stellar Utility Lifter And Heavy Element Transport Spacecraft, courtesy of Ron Cobb.

ron-cobb-semiotic1.jpg ron-cobb-semiotic2.jpg

Here is the layout I've come up with:


I plan to properly weather the white housing up, so it looks more like a 90's beige computer case. The keyboard buttons will be sprayed white and weathered in the same way.

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