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.