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Thread: [HELP] USB Device for a Tablet need parts list

  1. #1

    [HELP] USB Device for a Tablet need parts list

    Hey everyone,

    I made a Reddit post here asking if it were possible to make a USB attachment for my Surface Pro 3. Here's a mock up of what I have in mind. My SP3 just doesn't feel comfortable when drawing because of the keyboard placement when on my lap. So, I want to make HotKeys with a screen to display what each button does. Eventually I would like to have it attach to the side of my tablet, but i want to implement first before refining.

    Right now I need a parts list of things I need to make this work. I've been looking at these so far:

    • Teensy 2.0
    • I2C OLED screen
    • Push buttons (what kind)
    • Resistor (?)
    • Soldering Iron (which type?)
    • soldering wire (which kind?)
    • ESD wrist strap

    There's a Home Depot nearby, so I'm sure I can get soldering stuff there. Everything else I'll have to order through Amazon. Is this the right start? Is the screen the right kind/type for what I'm trying to do? This would be my first project ever. Thanks for any and all help provided.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    The first suggestion before spending money with this would be to download and install arduino and Teensyduino, have a look at file->examples->teensy->USBkeyboard and

    If you can work out what to do to those to do what you want that is a good start. Look especially for keypresses for drawing that will not work just as 'print' because they can be challenging to get right (escape key etc).

    See if you can modify the code to read enough buttons to send the shortcuts you want, and confirm it compiles without errors. Does not mean it will work but a good start before spending money.

    Next step would be to make sure your SP3 actually works with a standard keyboard plugged in, in case it gets special about hardware not OEM, Teensy will be emulating a generic USB keyboard.

    Then we get to the actual hardware. Would suggest a Teensy LC rather than a T2, since the cheap T2s you find online are counterfeit and highly unreliable. The LC will work with current firmware and much the same price as a legit T2.

    Buy at least two of everything, since you will blow things up learning. Especially in this case you will probably have a prototype on the bench and a pretty final version, and much much easier if you can keep testing on the prototype as final version comes together.

    OLED screens are generally pretty easy, starting point would be, even better if you spend the extra money and buy a couple from there (or somewhere else that has wiring photos and code to use). Means they will work, and you can work from their tutorial without guessing (note pin order is different with the Amazon model, and address needed to make it work is printed on the thing).

    For buttons it is really a case of experience them, electrically they will all work for this big thing is feel, size, apearance, can you mount them in your frame etc. If possible would suggest going to an electronics place and poke the buttons yourself, get a feel for what is not too stiff, has unpleasant finish etc.

    With soldering starting point is generally a breaboard and jumper wires and not solder at all. If you get a Teensy pre soldered or know someone with an iron you can get your prototype going without one.

    If buying an iron you generally want a basic temperature controlled one, the sort that has an adjustable temperature knob, though for this project you MIGHT be able to get away with the uncontrolled type, increases risk of problems when you do not know what results were poor skill and what was the iron overheating everything. Solder wise thin solder for electronics (rather than jewelry or plumbing), the thick stuff sold for car electrical repair can work but again will probably lead to accelerated learning experiences as you trash parts.

    ESD strap is actually not a show stopper because microcontroller are reasonably robust as long as you do not pat cats with them or something. If you have one use it, but more important is not abusing the parts electrically or with the soldering iron.

    And for the plan as designed you will probably not need resistors, since you will be using pullups internal to your microcontroller and the OLED will probably have the ones it needs onboard.

    Edit: also have to point out that you can probably also do this project just by taking a cheap keyboard, gutting it and adding buttons just for the keys you want. More physical work to do, no software.

  3. #3
    Thank you so so much for the advice! I'll post back here with updates when the time comes. For now I'll look at the tutorials you linked, and try to find an electronic parts store near me (no Micro Centers unfortunately). Thanks again!!

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