Cyberdeck Running On Apple Silicon, Though An A12 Not An M1

Overall view of Alta's Projects cyberdeck

[Alta’s Projects] built a two-in-one cyberdeck that not only contains the requisite Raspberry Pi (a zero in this case) but also eschews a dumb LCD and uses an iPad mini 5 for a display.

We need to address the donor case right away. Some likely see this as heresy, and while we love to see vintage equipment lovingly restored, upcycling warms our hearts and keeps mass-produced plastic out of landfills too. The 1991 AST 386SX/20 notebook in question went for $45 on an online auction and likely was never destined for a computer museum.

Why is Cupertino’s iOS anywhere near a cyberdeck? If a touch screen is better than an LCD panel, a tablet with a full OS behind it must be even better. You might even see this as the natural outgrowth of tablet cases first gaining keyboards and then trackpads. We weren’t aware that it either was possible without jailbreaking, but [Alta’s Projects] simply used a lighting-to-USB dongle and a mini USB hub to connect the custom split keyboard to the iPad and splurged on an Apple Magic Trackpad for seamless and wireless multi-touch input.

Alta's Projects Cyberdeck Internal USB Wiring
Internal USB Wiring, Charging Circuit, and Pi Zero

The video build (after the break) is light on details, but a quick fun watch with a parts list in the description. It has a charming casual feel that mirrors the refreshingly improvisational approach that [Altair’s Projects] takes to the build. We appreciate the nod to this cyberdeck from [Tinfoil_Haberdashery] who’s split keyboard and offset display immediately sprang to mind for us too. The references to an imagined “dystopian future” excuse the rough finish of some of the Dremel cuts and epoxy assembly. That said, apocalypse or not, the magnets mounted at both ends of the linear slide certainly are a nice touch.

[Alta's Projects] Cyberdeck Linear Slide
Magnetic End-Stops for the Linear Slide

That could be a complete project, but [Alta’s Projects] added a Pi with access to I/O ports for future hardware hacks. VNC provides a simple way for the iPad to share the keyboard, trackpad, and display with the Pi when that is powered up. The Pi also provides an opportunity to have an auxiliary eInk display, able to show system information or graphics even when the system is powered down. The other display is a 7-segment style battery charge indicator that counts down from 100%, useful when working untethered as neither the Pi nor the iPad could report the status of the nine 18650 cells.

We like that this cyberdeck is easily upgradable with a newer tablet and given that the iPad is connected with a quick release magnetic mount, it can easily be removed for other uses. And, speaking of upcycling, when this iPad dies we fully expect the display to find a new life too.


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