Another alternate keyboard idea

It would be interesting to have a trackpoint like option for pocket MNT reform. in the middle of the keyboard. Although perhaps the same could be said for the regular MNT reform.

The trackball is nice, its just the location could be better. If this isn’t going to happen, no worries. Just thought I would make this suggestion.

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This comes up from time to time from people who are used to Thinkpads. Unfortunately I was never a big Thinkpad user so I don’t really “get” trackpoints and thus my motivation to work on this is relatively low. Also, existing solutions normally require a number of custom partially cut-out keycaps for the trackpoint to fit, and I didn’t look at the footprint of any trackpoint modules to check if they would fit between Kailh Choc keyswitches. I’m pretty sure that on Pocket Reform, which has densely packed keyswitches, there’s no room.

That being said, MNT Reform is an open hardware project and anyone can mod and fork the keyboard(s) or do some 3D modeling with STEP files from trackpoint manufacturers to check if it would even make sense mechanically.

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Yeah, its just habitually easier. I am sure your trackball is of similar use though.

But I appreciate your response. Perhaps there isn’t room, but I was curious if there was. Anywho, thanks for the reply.

Even as a long-time ThinkPad user who always preferred the trackpoint over anything else, I have found that the Reform 2’s trackball is easier to use in the most of situations.

But the Pocket’s trackpad is smaller so I’m curious if my experince will be the same.

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I have been a long-time trackpoint enjoyer as I used various thinkpads models for about 15 years as my main laptop before I switched to the reform. So I understand the excitement. I much prefer a trackpoint over a touchpad because it allows my fingers to stay on the home row while operating the pointer. Since the MNT Reform Trackball also has this property, I’m not looking back much.

But… today I disassembled some old Thinkpad keyboards I had floating around and this let me come back to this thread. It seems that the trackball of the Thinpad T440s keyboard uses the PTPM754DR controller. Searching online it seems that this chip is quite popular among Thinkpad keyboards and there is a large community of people who have re-used the Thinkpad trackpoint for their own hardware hacks. The pin-out is quite simple and there is a collection of them that can be found here:

https://deskthority.net/wiki/TrackPoint_Hardware

If that link should vanish, it’s essentially a PS/2 connector and some lines for three buttons which are unused in this design. On the photo below, from top to bottom the pins are: Data, RST, Middle, Right, Left, CLK, GND, VCC and rest unused.

Doing something similar for the Reform Keyboard might be challenging because of the space restrictions:

Even if you cut the circuit board that the trackpoint sensor sits on, the housing of the switches are too close together. Not only the keycaps would require some material to be removed but the switches themselves as well which I don’t think is quite nice. Then, the mechanical switches are quite high. You’d need quite the long stick for this to work and I’m not sure the sensor is designed for that.

Lastly, for this to be a sustainable solution, it should be possible to buy these components from somewhere without having to scavenge on thinkpad keyboards. I have not yet found the sensor itself online.

EDIT

Actually… It might be possible to pull off this mod by using a labret cheek piercing as a very thin stem. Yes, really: GitHub - alonswartz/trackpoint: How to integrate a trackpoint in a mechanical keyboard

EDIT2

But… there seem to be some traces exactly at the point where the hole should go. So any such mod would require creating a new keyboard PCB:

EDIT3

So… the plot thickens. Suppose somebody would produce some custom designed keyboard v3 with a hole at the correct location then there actually is at least one supplier of pointing stick sensors and PS/2 module board:

And there are people who published how they used this together with a RP2040 to build their own custom keyboard with trackstick:

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If his trackball is better than trackpoint, that is good enough for me.