Messing with the Beepy (formerly known as Beepberry)

Every once in a while, there's a little project that pops up in my feed that is just so neat, it's hard to resist buying it.

I have a couple boxes full of these things.

Meet the Beepberry:

Beepberry Board Black and White

This thing is the brainchild of SQFMI, a group who seems to know exactly how to tickle the interest of a tech enthusiast who loves little gadgets.

Beepberry LCD screen closeup

On the front, there's a crisp low-power LCD display (no backlight, but readable in most lighting).

Beepberry Blackberry Keyboard backlit

Under that, a backlit Blackberry keyboard. Very clicky.

The keyboard feels almost as good as any old Blackberry, though it doesn't have full support from behind—I think a good case design could provide a tiny bit more structure behind the left and right side of the keyboard. The center keys feel great, the outside keys have a tiny bit of flex to them. Ctrl is mapped to the little 'pick up phone' icon (which looks more like an empty bowl to me), and you can hold down the 'hang up phone' (the park bench on the right) to safely shut down the device. There's also a power switch on the bottom.

Beepberry back with battery RP2040 and Pi Zero 2 W

On the back, room for a Raspberry Pi Zero W, or Zero 2 W—or, considering the Pi shortage, some Pi-compatible clones. Then there's a space for a little battery pack, which, when installed, covers up the integrated RP2040 microcontroller and some other circuitry.

Unlike many similar projects that came before, this thing has pretty much full feature support out of the gate, and it only took me about 10 minutes to go from box to fully booting.

Beepberry cowsay hello world

The install script works on Raspberry Pi OS (32 bit if you're on an older Pi Zero, or you can also choose 64-bit on the newer Zero 2 W). The hardest part is waiting while the thing boots up the first time and appears on your WiFi network—the Zero's only work on 2.4 GHz networks, and it's easiest to configure the credentials when you flash the microSD card using Raspberry Pi Imager.

One really cool design aspect is the LGA-style pins that rest on the Pi Zero's underside. Though getting them all perfectly aligned can be finicky (I had to carefully bend a couple slightly to get them all to make contact). But the layout allows the Pi Zero to be popped on and off relatively quickly—no soldering required! And the IO ports are all aligned on the topside so you could plug in an external display via HDMI, or some USB device.

Just don't try powering the board through the Pi's USB power input! It needs a little extra juice, so you should only use the bottom USB-C power input. That port also doubles for flashing the RP2040 firmware—you just turn on the device while holding the 'end call' key and the RP2040 will boot in flash mode.

The Beepberry Docs are currently getting filled in, but there's enough in there to get the board into a very usable state.

Some things still being documented are how to control the integrated RGB LED, how to read the battery power level, and different ways to control the thing using the side button, too.

Over in Discord, I noticed the community is already working on a buildroot configuration to create a Beepberry image that should boot from scratch in less than 10 seconds (potentially as quickly as 2-4 seconds!).

There are still plenty of other little things to test, and I'm printing the 'slim' 3D printable case right now (there's also a blockier one that requires a little more 3D printing finesse), but it's already a very fun little board.

I'm sure the folks at SQFMI would prefer I load Beeper on the device for multi-service messaging, but I might see about just loading up old school IRC for now. Maybe SMS or iMessages, hearkening back to BBM.

Comments

I was too late to get one but I put my name on the notify list. This is a really cool project!

I was also a REALLY big fan of Blackberry back in the day and this would give me an excuse to use one of those keyboards again

Would the install script work with DietPi? That OS generally boots quick as it only install the bare minimum needed to run

A little e-ink display might make it perfect, but I'm on the wait list for this. I've got a few zero 2w. I could definitely spare one for this

very latency keyboard. In my opinion keyboard must be plugin directly to gpio or other way to make faster typing.
second trouble is power. Why I would buy computer with short time working than my phone?

The keyboard on my beepberry is not responding. Any ideas on how to fix this?
Thank you.

On the official Beepy website, the device is out of stock and all the product photos have the keyboard blurred out. I'm wondering if they are in trouble, got hit with a lawsuit over the name/use of keyboard with BlackBerry logo, etc. This looks like such a fantastic device, it would be a real shame if it were stopped before it really got started because of a lawsuit from a pioneering-yet-now-defunct mobile phone company.

yeah - been on the waitlist forever. I also noticed the keyboard now blurred out. What a shame. Last Blackberry licensee - Onward Mobility - went bust. OTOH, there are a ton of refurbished blackberry Curves etc on the market - might even have one in my parts bin. Maybe sell it with a compatible connector and source the original keyboard separately ?

Also wondering if this is just vaporware. I sometimes think about this device and wish I could get one. Think you could use some creator clout and get an official statement Jeff?

I bought one in the early batch, so it seems like they may have shipped that out, probably run into some legal trouble with Blackberry (just a guess), and that probably turned the excitement/funding down a bit :(