A USB keyboard for the Apple II? Not quite…

Filed under Hacks & mods;
1 comment.

There have been many attempts over the years to bring the USB interface to the Apple II. Most, such as the iDisk and even Vince Briel’s upcoming A2MP3 card, focus on the storage possibilities of the interface. But what about the variety of other peripherals modern computers have access to via USB? Even something as basic as a keyboard has eluded Apple II users.

Ironically, Andrew Filer’s approach goes in the completely opposite direction, turning the Apple II into a USB peripheral. His hack turns the Apple II Plus into a keyboard for a MacBook Pro. This hack is made possible by Keyduino, an application of the open-source electronics prototyping platform Arduino.

Apple II Plus as a USB keyboardAn Apple II Plus as a USB keyboard? Sacrilege!

Filer says it was “surprisingly easy”, but his brief blog post on the subject addresses few of the technical concerns he must’ve addressed to accomplish this feat. For example, KansasFest alumnus Rob, who first pointed me to this hack, asks, "How does he handle shift keys? Does he properly implement the game port shift key modifier?"

Regardless, it’s neat to see the variety of modern uses that are still to be found in classic hardware — even (or especially) if it’s not what we expected.

(Hat tip to Brian Benchoff)

  1. I didn’t modify the Apple II Plus at all for this hack, though it’s trivial to support the shift key in the way that the game port shift key mod does. What I did is to repurpose the Reset key as an upper/lower case switch, as the Reset signal is available on the keyboard connector. To support the shift key mod instead, the wire from the shift key would just need to be connected to the Teensy, and I’d switch the case-swapping in software to be non-latching. Maybe I’ll work on this this weekend.

    Can anyone explain how one would type an @ or ^ (or ], I suppose, even though it was unlisted on the keyboard) with the shift key mod installed?