The ClockworkPi uConsole looks so cool

on Wholesomedonut's blog

This thing is basically a Star Wars datapad

I'm nerding out again over tech I don't (yet) have,

... but which I desire dearly.

Meet the boxy little wizard that lives in your backpack.

It's basically a solid aluminum body, hardware-keyboard-equipped, expandable, portable console device. It quite obviously shares a lot of blood with its bigger older brother the DevTerm; but in a smaller form factor similar to the GameShell.

The fluff page for this thing is pretty impressive. ClockworkPi has added in a newer revision of their mainboard and circuitry, which now allows for the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 with the usage of an adapter riser. So that way if you have any spares of those lying around, you could just get the empty kit and slot one in. Et voila!

In terms of connectivity, this one's got a 5G WIfi antenna built in, with Bluetooth included. And, in a nod to the mobile nature and design intent of the device, there's a 4G cellular card optionally available. For me, that means I could get this thing set up with a cheap prepaid phone plan, configure a tunnel to my cloud services, and have full access to all of my cloud stuff through the terminal, wherever I go.

Picture it: server updates, Gemini and Spartan browsing, chats over any protocol you care to use, accounting in a 5-inch terminal (if you're a masochist among us) - all while blasting Outkast's "Hey Ya!" to your active noise-canceling earbuds across the Bluetooth connection.

Yeah, I can already do that through my myriad of other devices, cuz everyone can that owns a device made in the last decade.

But damn, this looks like a cooler way to do it. Don't @ me.

Sleeker, cassette-future design

When I say sleek, I don't mean the new-body Mustang "sleek", which looks like a normal Mustang got stung by a bee on its hood and got all swollen up.

When I say sleek, I don't mean it's pointlessly minimalistic and thin enough to make Apple jealous.

When I say sleek, I mean a crisp, clean set of body lines with exposed hex screws, a rectangular width and height, and only a slight variation in depth due to the battery pack sticking out a bit on the back end.

I mean a piece of technology I'd expect to see sitting on a box in the Millennium Falcon's cargo bay next to a hydrospanner and a blaster pistol.

I mean a chunky, punkish aesthetic and design that makes me wanna go buy Johnny Silverhand a drink for no reason.

I mean a full QWERTY keyboard and a 5-inch IPS screen that doesn't feel cramped because the keys are mapped to their own buttons on the circuit board, and aren't clustered together like an old Thinkpad's keyboard.

THAT kind of sleek.

Physical design thoughts

Really though, if looks are any indicator you'll have much smoother I/O from the onboard keyboard (compared to other devices like this that have come up over the years) just by virtue of not accidentally rubbing your thumb over 3 different keys because there's no space between keys and a mesh blob between your keypresses and the actual input board. Every single key has a dedicated button underneath, and the I/O for the top controls like the gamepad and trackball in turn have their own dedicated I/O setup to minimize latency.

This thing comes with all the standard ports (or variations thereof): USB-A for data, USB-C for charging, mini-HDMI for a video out, and a dedicated 3.5mm headphone jack. It even comes with a metal kickstand, which doesn't seem too flimsy, but I'll be eyeing it carefully when I get one in the near future.

All of this to say that between the onboard keyboard, dedicated 4-button gamepad and 4-button set, and a trackpad with left and right buttons, and the potential to get better connectivity through a USB hub and an external screen? Man. This thing's your spaniel.

Choose your own console-venture

Use it how you want, where you want. Play games on it like a Gameshell, and then hack into Arisaka's mainframe like a DevTerm.

Do both, in a form factor that would fit Ye Olde Cargo Shorts or a small pouch in an everyday backpack or purse.

Bring it home, and plug some other toys and tools into the GPIO FPC slot to bring your breadboards and wizbangs to life.

I'm not sure what else I can say to drive the point home that this is a real flexible machine.

I'm not paid for saying any of this. But man, will I happily rant about a product I think is really cool. And this is it. I've been continually impressed with ClockworkPi's market resilience and continued product iterations over the course of the last few years. Not everybody can pull that off in a sustainable way, to where you've got multiple products coming out of your primary line of business in a niche market.

Yeah, they could stand to improve on certain things. I think their lead times are a bit extensive (90 business days for the uConsole, 60 for the DevTerm); but that's just as much a fault of the global infrastructure's reliance on crappy JIT production schemes as it is the fact that weird leads are a reality in niche manufacturing endeavors. I would know. I've worked on stuff like that for industrial parts. Therefore I can't blame them for it, but I'll still feel a bit disappointed it's not faster.

At least it's not Mycroft. Some of their stuff's been in the works for 4 years. 😂


If you wanna get ahold of a hacking, tinkering, and wirelessly connectable device that looks equal parts Cyberpunk and Star Wars, for less than the price of a Walmart laptop that would come with half the features and none of the repairability?

Give this a try.