Are you a hacker who happens to be missing his Blackberry? It seems that there is a new product that is only your speed: the “Beepberry”. It literally grafts a Blackberry Classic’s keyboard onto a pocket-sized custom board designed to fit a Raspberry Pi Zero W, all paired with a 400 x 240 “Memory LCD” display that looks like it came out of an old graphing calculator is torn – but it’s a bit more refined.
Beepberry was designed by Eric Migicovsky, founder of the go-but-not-forgotten Pebble smartwatch and more relevant co-founder of Beeper: the hacked all-in-one messaging app that crams every service from WhatsApp to iMessage (using a jailbroken iPhone) in one place.
The device is ostensibly designed to run Beeper without any other online distraction, but Migicovsky knows what you’re thinking: so does he describes Beepberry as a portable “e-paper” computer for hackers.
In case you’re wondering what that ‘e-paper’ screen is, technically it’s not e-ink, but it’s an LCD made by Sharp with a one-bit memory circuit embedded in each pixel for e-ink -like image retention.
For $79 you get the Beepberry, mounting screws and a 2000 mAh battery – although you’ll have to find a way to keep the battery in place. (In some demos, the makers literally use a rubber band.) In addition to the 2.7-inch screen and backlit Blackberry Classic Q20 keyboard, you get a USB-C port, an RGB LED, a side button, a power power switch, and General Purpose Input/Output (GPIO) breakouts.
For $99 you can get a Beepberry kit with a Pi Zero W pre-installed. Otherwise, you’ll need to bring your own computer chip or another single-board computer chip like the Radxa Zero or MQ-Pro – which should be drag and drop, since the Beepberry has a solderless header.
Notably, the Beepberry itself lacks any mobile data connectivity hardware, so it’s not really a standalone beeper in the traditional sense. You’ll need to use the Raspberry Pi’s built-in Wi-Fi, perhaps a hotspot to a smartphone when you’re out and about, unless you’re willing to come up with a mobile add-on that plugs into the headers.
If you’re interested in a Beepberry, you might want to act fast: there are only 50 available to ship initially. You need to place your order and then fill out the Early Access Program form at the bottom of the page to let them know you want it now. The site does not state how many of the first 50, if any, remain available for purchase.
It’s important to note that the software/firmware is still under active development and nothing is final, so don’t expect many out-of-the-box features when you get your hands on one. If you just want something with a complete out-of-box experience and a black and white screen then a Playdate might be more your speed. And if you just want to support the Pebble founder’s next venture, you can wait for his team’s upcoming small Android phone.