Author Topic: The Epsilon Keyboard  (Read 108005 times)

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Offline metalliqaz

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The Epsilon Keyboard
« on: Mon, 18 March 2013, 21:34:29 »
Well, having caught the fever for fine keyboards, I've gone through Filcos, Topres, Vintage, and Kustoms.  The only logical conclusion is to start building my own.  It's like building a light saber as the final task in Jedi training.   :cool:  It's fun and educational.  Anyway I thought I'd show off what I've been working on.

I call this thing the Epsilon keyboard.  Why Epsilon?  Only because I like naming stuff after greek letters.  It has no other meaning.



This keyboard is an intermediate step to my final destination, which is the keyboard of my dreams.  Epsilon's purpose is for me to try some things out and gain experience.  Therefore I tried not to spend much money on it.  The concept is to be cheap.  It was designed specifically for the keys from a G81-7000.  That's the MY POS board that Flynn stripped and sold for 15 bucks a pop. (POS = point-of-sale and/or piece-of-sh*t) :P

It is a (mostly) clean room design.  The PCB is entirely original.  I avoided looking too closely at the GH60 until after I sent it to be fabbed.  Now that I look closer, it's amazing how many similar design challenges I can see.  I also am very impressed with Komar's creativity (props).  The plate was entirely original but I decided to go with the switch cutouts from the Phantom.  I'm also impressed with that piece of kit.  Ultimately, I'm going to switch back to the datasheet cutouts, though.  The extra details add too much cost and I don't switch stems around.  Finally the firmware is entirely from scratch.  I have high standards for that part.  I am in the process of writing it.

For the time being, Epsilon uses a skeleton case.  You know those cases that sandwich Acrylic between Aluminum to get a cheaper Aluminum case?  Well this is like that except Acrylic is on the outside and the sides are simply standoffs.  It is therefore an open-air case design that looks very techie/geeky.  The switches are exposed and the plate is clear, so the PCB is easily visible.  The effect is really fun, although not very refined.

I fully intended this to be a learning experience, and it has been.  In other words, I have failed a lot.  What I have so far is really disappointing, which I will describe below, but also very promising.

I really love the layout.  It's as close to perfect as a compact board could be, IMHO.  That is indeed an offcenter caps and a 6x offcenter space.  Some of you may be offended by the movement of the menu key to the left side.  However, this was necessary to put the space bar in the middle.  I use my right thumb for the space.  Anyway, I made the PCB so that it could handle the traditional G80/G81 position as well.


There will be no group buy;
It won't be open source;
I made it for myself because I wanted it;
Simple as that.

EDIT: That doesn't mean if you want one you can have it.  It's just not an open thing.  I'm thinking of getting 5 more made, if you want to buy one at cost just let me know.  (This is done, moving to other projects now)

I don't have the PCB yet but it's on the way.  More updates to come when I get closer to putting this thing together. :)
thanks for looking!

UPDATE: Custom keymap tool is attached!
View tutorials HERE
Old version: * keymap_20130921.zip (4507.4 kB - downloaded 10246 times.) (no reason to download this)

Go here for newer firmware versions: http://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=51252.0


-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Photo log:


I really like how well that "E" came out.  Several tools flagged that as too small but the laser cutting ate it up.

Disappointments:
The 0.06" Acrylic plate isn't really doing the job.  First of all, it started to catch fire at about 60% of the way through cutting it.  That cause the edges to melt out and really half of the cutouts are unable to hold the switches.  I think there is just too  much detail on the design.  Also it is too flexible, to support the typing plane.  I will be going back to the mount holes from the datasheet.  More like this:

Hopefully that will be a bit stiffer.

The PCB presents some challenges.  On a compact board like this there's really no place to put a USB mount.  To have a breakout tab like the KMAC would add a great deal of cost.  I ended up moving some of the switches sideways and placing it on the edge, but not before considering a direct-solder solution as shown below.


Playing with the case.  Unfortunately this is out of price range for what this board is supposed to be, but it would be cool to do something like this.  It's too bad that there is no way to round edges or inset screws when you're working with 2D fabricators...


Boards came in and they're looking really good.  Probably lots of lessons to be learned.

Right off the bat, I regret only adding support for switch mounted diodes.  I initially thought about saving space in the layout, but that turned out to be unnecessary.  I don't want to have to disassemble every single switch.  Next rev is definitely getting SMD pads on the bottom, like the KMAC.

I'm trying to make the firmware as configurable as possible.  My intention is to be able to use it on my Phantom and my HID Liberation Device.  I whipped up a quick keymapper to support it:


Got the brains installed.  Now I just need my switches to come in!


Finally got it put together tonight.  I'm really liking it.  Some pictures before I write it up tomorrow



LEDs lit...


Little feet :)

« Last Edit: Wed, 20 November 2013, 23:31:53 by metalliqaz »
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Offline samwisekoi

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #1 on: Mon, 18 March 2013, 21:56:58 »
Nice layout - only the lower left differs from the GH75 design I've been building.  And very good thinking to design it around an inexpensive donor set of keycaps.  Nice.

I don't see a Fn key, but perhaps that is just because you are using one of the win/menu keys for that.  Regardless, where have you put Insert and Delete?  Particularly Delete for the Ctrl-Alt-Del boot chord.

Again, very nice job!

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I like keyboards and case modding.  Everything about a computer should be silent -- except the KEYBOARD!

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Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #2 on: Mon, 18 March 2013, 22:00:22 »
Good point.  Del will probably take Pause's location.  I was just throwing caps no there to snap a picture.  The Fn is the menu key.
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Offline SmallFry

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #3 on: Sat, 23 March 2013, 16:59:55 »
Looking good Metalliqaz:) I dub thee, QazPad™.

Offline ideus

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #4 on: Sat, 23 March 2013, 17:24:01 »
The top row may be taken out and be replaced a'la Poker, and the four slots of the last column may have double functionality for Del, PrintScr, ScrlLock and Pause. Having a donor board as the input for your design process makes a lot of sense, some other old cherries will be candidates to harvest key caps as well, which is one of the challenges with other modern designs. This is the kind of idea that we may ask why nobody has thought before.

Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #5 on: Mon, 01 April 2013, 21:01:11 »
Added a shot of the worlds quickest, dirtiest keymapper.  Hacked it together in just a few hours.  I friggin love python.
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Offline esoomenona

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #6 on: Mon, 01 April 2013, 21:03:24 »
Ooh, for Phantom AND HID Lib? Will you be posting that?

Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #7 on: Mon, 01 April 2013, 21:12:43 »
Maybe, let's see if it works first.
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Offline WhiteFireDragon

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #8 on: Mon, 01 April 2013, 21:17:12 »
I don't even care what the layout, types of caps it uses, or other features of this keyboard.

But what is amazing is how far you've come to be able to make this. I remember when you first registered and all your newb questions  ^-^ , and now able to integrate the designing of the PCB, plate, sourcing different manufacturers, and programming. These are all separate and independent skills needed to make a complete custom keyboard. Mad props to you, metalliqaz.

Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #9 on: Mon, 01 April 2013, 21:23:23 »
Heh, thanks... I think :))  GH definitely sucked me in, that's for sure.  That engineering degree did give me a head start, I think ;D
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Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #10 on: Sun, 07 April 2013, 23:35:48 »
Put it together!  Took a while to bring it all together.  Had to bend my own stab wire.  But it's complete and I'm totally digging it :)
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Offline esoomenona

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #11 on: Sun, 07 April 2013, 23:57:26 »
Congratulations! Always nice to see someone's hard work come to fruition.

Offline Glissant

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #12 on: Sat, 20 April 2013, 11:22:51 »
Exceptional work, metalliqaz!

That has now become my dream board, and I would love to be a part of any future plans you have for it :).

Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #13 on: Sat, 20 April 2013, 12:33:31 »
Thanks man.

Looks like I should be able to get to 5...

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« Last Edit: Sat, 20 April 2013, 15:39:21 by metalliqaz »
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Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #14 on: Sat, 20 April 2013, 12:37:20 »
YES! This is happening :D
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Offline esoomenona

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #15 on: Sat, 20 April 2013, 14:24:32 »
With the case and everything?

Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #16 on: Sat, 20 April 2013, 15:02:32 »
Took some potato-cam footage.
Damn thing can't focus but should give an idea of sound and feel.
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Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #17 on: Sat, 20 April 2013, 15:04:30 »
With the case and everything?

Should be able to do that, yes.  Assuming these guys want my skeleton case design rather than making their own.
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Offline mashby

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #18 on: Thu, 09 May 2013, 20:29:55 »
How did I miss this?



Incredible job metalliqaz. Your keyboard looks spectacular.

Offline keymaster

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #19 on: Thu, 09 May 2013, 21:03:32 »
I really like the layout because it's similar to the G84-4100. The acrylic case is also really nice...backlighting would be awesome.

Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #20 on: Thu, 09 May 2013, 21:14:23 »
Backlighting would have increased the price dramatically. :/  Would be cool though
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Offline thurst0n

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #21 on: Thu, 09 May 2013, 21:32:21 »
 :eek:  :drool:

This is sooo awesome.

I am so jealous. I wish I could whip up a keymapper in python in a few hours and/or do any of the other things you did to complete this.

I know I'm just a lil ol' nub but I definitely understand the amount of time, and skill and dedication and awesomeness.

Mad mad kudos, or props, or whatever they call it these days.
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Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #22 on: Thu, 09 May 2013, 21:42:04 »
Good news thurst0n, wish granted:

http://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=42366.0

Check that link out for a layout generator :D
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Offline thurst0n

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #23 on: Thu, 09 May 2013, 21:50:18 »
Good news thurst0n, wish granted:

http://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=42366.0

Check that link out for a layout generator :D
I actually greatly appreciate that link.

 What I meant was that I specifically envy is him makin his OWN, and in just a couple hours... I have a little programming knowledge and I'm starting to learn more and hopefully I'll be able to program/write code (or some variation) some day.
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Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #24 on: Thu, 09 May 2013, 21:57:39 »
Python is an amazing language.  Not only is it easy to learn, but in the hands of a master it is very powerful.

I've had many years of training prior to showing up at GH.
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Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #25 on: Thu, 09 May 2013, 21:58:43 »
Good news thurst0n, wish granted:

http://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=42366.0

Check that link out for a layout generator :D
I actually greatly appreciate that link.

 What I meant was that I specifically envy is him makin his OWN, and in just a couple hours... I have a little programming knowledge and I'm starting to learn more and hopefully I'll be able to program/write code (or some variation) some day.

Oooo sorry, misunderstood. You should hunt down some of Hasu's stuff. He does a lot of coding. ^__^
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Offline thurst0n

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #26 on: Thu, 09 May 2013, 22:25:23 »
@metalliqaz - Good to know.. I will check out some tutorials. I have a basic understanding of a few languages so we'll see if I can figure out the syntax. Seriously solid work man!!

@CPTBadAss - no worries, that's still a good link to have. Thanks for the tip.. I saw mention in a few other threads, will have to dig deeper!

Loving this site you guys rule! P.S. Got one buddy interested but he has to finish rebuilding his moped 2 stroke motor.
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Offline Bro Caps

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #27 on: Thu, 09 May 2013, 22:31:04 »
You did a really amazing job in such a short amount of time. Kudos to you, sir.

Offline jdcarpe

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #28 on: Thu, 09 May 2013, 22:55:49 »
Well, he is an engineer. I would expect no less.

I feel privileged to be among the few who will own and use an Epsilon.

Offline Sai

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #29 on: Thu, 09 May 2013, 23:00:19 »
make a review please. I'd love to hear from another point of view.
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Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #30 on: Thu, 09 May 2013, 23:13:35 »
Glissant and I were just saying the same thing jdcarpe. It's going to be amazing to actually have one of these. And Sai, I'll be writing a full review when I have mine built.
« Last Edit: Fri, 10 May 2013, 09:59:56 by CPTBadAss »
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Offline PixelScript

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #31 on: Fri, 10 May 2013, 04:04:59 »
The keyboard looks really awesome! I wish i had the skills to design my own PCB!

Offline phetto

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #32 on: Fri, 10 May 2013, 09:58:33 »

I feel privileged to be among the few who will own and use an Epsilon.

Same here

Offline BimboBB

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #33 on: Fri, 10 May 2013, 10:18:53 »
its the same board like the LZ MX Mini, only with small modifiers instead of the 1.5 ones. This with ISO-Enter would be also my favourite layout design.  :) Gratz.....really nice board.
« Last Edit: Fri, 10 May 2013, 10:21:28 by BimboBB »

Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #34 on: Fri, 10 May 2013, 10:37:02 »
its the same board like the LZ MX Mini, only with small modifiers instead of the 1.5 ones. This with ISO-Enter would be also my favourite layout design.  :) Gratz.....really nice board.

Yup, pretty much, except also a 6x space bar.  Thanks man


I feel privileged to be among the few who will own and use an Epsilon.

Same here

On the contrary, I feel privileged that someone else wants to build and use one of my designs :)  This was supposed to be a throw-away step on the way towards making a full TKL layout but I got lucky and there weren't really any flaws in the design.  And wouldn't you know it... it turned out the layout was a lot more interesting than the supposed "final" product  :))
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Offline Glissant

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #35 on: Fri, 10 May 2013, 10:37:55 »
Glissant and I were just saying the same thing jdcarpe. It's going to be amazing to actually have one of these. And Sai, I'll be writing a full review when I have mine built.

Indeed. I am pretty much certain it's going to be my new favorite keyboard once I get my GMK purple mods and combine them with white on black Cherrys.
Super epic mega uber stoked =).

Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #36 on: Fri, 10 May 2013, 10:41:07 »
If I knew you guys were going for the purps, I would have done a gold base instead of copper!
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Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #37 on: Fri, 10 May 2013, 10:42:05 »
It's ok Qaz, just having the pad is good enough. ^__^

I can't wait to number mine like 4 of 8 or something
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Offline SmallFry

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #38 on: Fri, 10 May 2013, 10:42:25 »
EW. Vikings.

Offline remedyhalopc

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #39 on: Mon, 13 May 2013, 03:21:25 »
can i get one?

 ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #40 on: Mon, 13 May 2013, 07:01:52 »
can i get one?

 ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

Sorry, I only made 8 and they're all spoken for  :(
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Offline SpAmRaY

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #41 on: Mon, 13 May 2013, 07:29:27 »
Just wanted to say reading through all that you've done to get to this point is very inspiring. One day I shall make something!

Oh and you've got skills :eek:

Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #42 on: Mon, 13 May 2013, 09:57:10 »
Thank you.  You should go for it. :)  There are lots of resources here and on the DT wiki, and several very helpful guys hanging around.
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Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #43 on: Wed, 15 May 2013, 20:20:32 »
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Offline SmallFry

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #44 on: Wed, 15 May 2013, 20:22:05 »
Oooooh shiny.

Offline Glissant

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #45 on: Wed, 15 May 2013, 20:23:09 »

Offline codyeatworld

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #46 on: Wed, 15 May 2013, 20:24:13 »
Very inspiring project! Those pcbs...  :eek:




Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #47 on: Wed, 15 May 2013, 20:26:40 »
ROFL, some assembly required. Those are most beautiful things I've seen today.
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Offline ApocalypseMaow

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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #48 on: Wed, 15 May 2013, 20:28:49 »
SO JELLY! Well you should just fire up a GB. Maybe just a little one?
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"#baby****fangerz" -Vesper 2015

Offline CPTBadAss

  • Woke up like this
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Re: The Epsilon Keyboard
« Reply #49 on: Wed, 15 May 2013, 20:32:24 »
You missed it. He did a run of 8. :P
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