BlackBerry smartphones may have been all the rage at the start of the smartphone era, but the company shut down its hardware business years ago, sold off its related patents last year, and hasn’t even managed to license the BlackBerry name to any third-party phone makers in recent years.
But if you’re feeling nostalgic for the company’s iconic QWERTY keyboards, Solder Party’s BBQ20KBD brings the BlackBerry keyboard back to life as an accessory that you can use as an input device for your PC, tablet, or phone.
In a nutshell, the BBQ20KBD combines an actual BlackBerry Q20 thumb keyboard with a custom printed circuit board, a clear plastic case, and a USB-C port and I2C interface.
The backlit keyboard is missing some of the keys you’d expect to find on a full-sized keyboard, but Solder Party accounts for that with some software tweaks. For example, pressing the right-shift key and Alt at the same time enables Caps lock.
The microphone key can produce a “~”. And Alt + Enter produces a “|” character. And there’s a small optical trackpad above the keyboard that’s been programed so that you can hold the Alt key and swipe up, down, left or right to use the trackpad as arrow keys.
Solder Party used a Raspberry Pi microcontroller to translate key presses so that the BBQ20KBD can function as a USB HID keyboard & mouse that’s compatible with Windows, Mac, or Linux PCs as well as mobile devices running Android or iOS.
The firmware is also customizable.
The BBQ20KBD is available from Tindie for $30, where it appears to have been on on sale since last spring, but I first became aware of the device thanks to a recent article at Gizmodo.
Here’s a 3D printed top cover, in case anyone was looking for one:
(I know I was..)
There is also LilyGo T-Keyboard available from Aliexpress, which seems to be based upon BlackBerry keyboard as well: https://aliexpress.ru/item/1005004182998265.html?sku_id=12000028323401462
It was already mentioned on site – https://liliputing.com/this-tiny-keyboard-kit-turns-a-cheap-smartwatch-into-a-cheap-mini-desktop-computer/ – but it seems they make it standalone, wireless version, not just for their watch, but for any Bluetooth device.
I just picked up a second one. It works great with my Raspberry Pi. I also like that it’s backlit. Optical sensor is recognized as a hid mouse in Linux.
The I2C header is potentially interesting. Their website says I2C can be used to read the FIFO. So I suppose you could probably read the key inputs.
If I’m assuming correctly, it sounds like you could use this as a keyboard on a microcontroller, like an Arduino. Might be a useful tool for various projects.
Hi, the creator here 🙂
That’s correct, you can read the key presses and the trackpad movements via I2C using the Qwiic connector or regular jumper wires. We have a library for Arduino as well as CircuitPython.