Idea pools for MntRemix keyboard terminal

Hi!

As a keyboard maker I’ve always wanted to make a portable keyboard computer using a computer on module/system on a chip, I’ve come as far as getting some rough drafts done before I came into owning a reform. (for reference of what i’ve made before here’s a example of one of my keyboard projects)

Recently I’ve been thinking again about the project and had the thought that instead of making a cool slick modern one I’d love to make a big chunky terminal based reform keyboard computer with a nice big chunky keyboard. One thing that held me back is use cases but i recently had a thought that a computer that you can use to communicate to older devices, old serial connections, industrial communications, ‘obsolete’ protocols could be a handy ‘swiss army knife’ of sorts and bonus points if you can package it up neatly. I think it would be a good use case for the base I.MX8 module where you don’t need graphics and would justify having both a reform 2 laptop upgraded with fancy new bpi module and move the imx8 module over to the terminal project tool computer.

I think largely the physical design i have in my head will take inspiration from the clockwork pi dev terminal.

I thought I’d reach out to the community for ideas of what kind of ports might be most useful to include or options I haven’t even considered. I have to dig back into the docs to remind myself what the Reform COM standard breaks out but there’s always ic bridges and everything that can bridge some gaps for things not natively handled.

For starters I’ll list some ideas (not including usb and ethernet connections)

  • DE-9 rs232
  • DB-25 rs232
  • Mini-Din for apple rs 485
  • PS/2 for testing old keyboards or mice?
  • I don’t think can bus has a common standard connector but that would be cool
  • if not canbus then maybe an ODB connection for standardized diagnostics
  • GPIO breakouts
  • some kinda parallel connection?
  • esata
  • firewire

Some really dumb ideas but why not think about them:

  • built in multimeter
  • built in anameter
  • some kinda simple logic analyzer

Feel free to chime in with ideas or suggestions or things you would/wouldn’t want.

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I think there is a rack version of the Reform in works. Maybe it can serve as a basis for your terminal computer project?

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not a bad idea to look at!

The easiest things to add would be more serial ports with usb-serial bridge chips. Rs232, rs485 etc. I’m not sure how to go about the parallel port connection, physically wouldn’t be hard to implement but software wise would be kinda a mess. the i.mx8m module has 2 pcie’s I figure those still serve best as the mini pcie and m.2 pcie connectors like in the reform 2.

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maybe have one of those long narrow displays:

this one is dsi, i’d have to figure out how to make a driver board for it and everything which is probably too much work but i might still design around it. otherwise maybe just a display port out or something.

debating on just remixing the guts of the mnt reform and including the batteries/portability or making it just a desktop powered version.

I don’t really have the funds to build it but maybe at least take a stab at designing it.

ooo i wish it was easier to get docs and chips from manufacturers like this.
(warning pdf direct link, they didn’t have a individual product page)

this is a usb 2.0 → sata/ata drive (can do 1 of each) and that sounds like a perfect solution to throw a connection for old drives or some old harvested floppy drive.

I’ve been doing a lot of searching for bridge chips and most that exist for old perihperals (especially if i want something for a LPT connection) are just old super i/o controllers that connect to an LPC (low pin count) bus meant for older computers.

and yes I know you can do these with cheap USB adapters but it would be so nice and clean if you can integrate all these into a terminal. Was thinking I could be lazy and instead of a full board, just make an enclosure that uses the mnt re2 motherboard and just route the connections internally to some off the shelf adapters.

Oh yay! I found a TI chip that’s a usb → sata bridge.

was thinking I can use this to add a ‘slim’ form factor internal cd rom bay.

was looking at some old portables as inspiration and came across this beast: Toshiba T6600C - Higher Intellect Vintage Wiki

Chonkey you could fit all the bays computer!.

been torn on focus weather I should focus on remixing a mainboard or just a repurposing similar to the rack. was thinking if phsyically it could accept a 5.25’’ drive bay even the smaller 3.5’’ inch bay you could use a card reader or bay expansion with an internal usb 3.0 connector meant for a normal atx desktop could be fun and modular. maybe even a slim style laptop optical bay, those run on 5 volt rails so could be doable.

Here’s a quick sketch up of the more mnt rack idea from a top down. You could reuse the mainboard and just route internal connections with standard usb cables and some adapting boards. The motherboard would sit with the ethernet/sd power side on the case edge so the ports would be accesible but the usb ports would need space for the cabling. designing with desktop like bay standards you could potentially make it modular/expandable with the tools you’d want or need.

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I took the plunge and bought a couple T1000s off of ebay. For at least one of them I’m planning on designing a custom motherboard and other things that will fit nicely into the case and form factor. I’ve got some ideas I think will work out but time will tell how we do.

I’m making a hackaday project and I don’t know how far I’ll get, will probably be a while till I get the funds to build anything but I can at least do my best to design it.

Here’s some basic Ideas for the layout. the floppy drive caddy would be able to fit 8 cells so I can keep the power system relatively the same. The goal is to make it as drop in a replacement firmware-wise as I can to the reform2. If i put the mount module in that approximate area I could probably use the old modem expansion panel area for an active or passive cooling solution. It could be kinda fun to have a backplane type connector for the battery board that would let you slide the battery board in/out for easy of maintenance but idk how difficult that would be to spec. I have some more idea for I/O connection placement to match up with the cases. The nice thing is most of the ports in the back actually use a steel backplate which would be super easy to design a cutout replacement for a custom one with the new connectors.

I know i have chicken scratch but just jotting down design ideas.

I’m having trouble finding a good fitting display replacement for the original lcd so I’m thinking of actually filling the space with extra status displays and speakers.

to get a better picture vs my sketch here’s a pic of the display with what would be something like the main display in it.

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I forgot you can add reference pictures to kicad and that has come in very handy!

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So I’m working on planning out the design and I’m wondering if I could get away with changing from 8x 18650s to 4x26650s. Physically it can make it work i’m just wondering if i can get away with doing it without worring about firmware.

Hmm hmm iirc I remember reading you can run the reform off of 4 cells with now problem (other than reduced run time) ?

I also have a couple bondwell 310 shells I’m planning on doing the same project for. My plan is to remix the reform 2 for the mnT1000 and base the bondwell mnt off the reform next. That one will need a more custom battery pack.

If you want to power the reform from only one battery pack (4 cells) you might be interested in the work done by Dirk Eibach:

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Definitely! thanks for sharing, that’s definitely something i wanna explore