Raspberry Pi 4 Powers Chonky Palmtop Cyberdeck

Daniel Norris' Chonky Palmtop
(Image credit: Daniel Norris)

Cyberdecks, the hacker tool of choice from William Gibson's Neuromancer novel are a popular project for Raspberry Pi hackers. This project, called Chonky Palmtop, has a distinctive split keyboard and seems to be running what looks very much like Ubuntu 21.10, is powered by a Raspberry Pi4 and was created by Daniel Norris.

And we suspect your palms would need to be chonky too if you were to try and use it in such a configuration. The excellent 42-key keyboard is using the Miryoku layout and firmware, so the top line on the left runs QWFPB instead of QWERT, and each key has multiple additional functions triggered with modifier keys. Norris has chosen to use blank keycaps, so must be well acquainted with the keyboard.

Inside the unit you’ll find a Raspberry Pi 4, with Norris noting that a 4GB model is the minimum requirement. The seven-inch 1024 x 600 IPS touchscreen is from EVICIV on Amazon, there's a USB hub, and the keyboard is from Corne. Power is supplied to both the Pi and screen through an Amp Ripper 3K plus some spim08hp cells for portability. Three seven-segment displays under the main screen display the battery level at the touch of a button. Other parts are generic or 3D printed, and there's a full list of materials on Gitlab.

The Chonky Palmtop came about, according to Norris’ Gitlab page on the project, when he saw how close in size “the 7in touchscreen, battery cells, and [keyboard] folded vertically that I had sitting on my desk were.  And I needed a build that was actually functional for normal computer stuff, so this seemed like a good idea”.

And given the final result, we’d suggest that it was a good idea. It’s functional too: “The 7" display is okay as long as I fullscreen stuff,” writes Norris, “Alt+F11 works with a lot of stuff so far [and] I've been able to use Onshape CAD in Firefox. It's a little slow, but works as long as Firefox doesn't have issues with gfx acceleration. Console stuff and web browsing are  great!” Finding out what’s wrong with Firefox’ graphics acceleration is on Norris’ list of things to do, along with reworking the hinges so they match the lid better. 

The whole unit folds into a rectangular chonk, that clever keyboard pivoting on its corners and sliding up the center of the chassis to tuck away neatly. All it needs now is a cute carrying handle.

Ian Evenden
Freelance News Writer

Ian Evenden is a UK-based news writer for Tom’s Hardware US. He’ll write about anything, but stories about Raspberry Pi and DIY robots seem to find their way to him.