🛠 Creating a Cyberdeck - Part 0: The basics


2020-10-29

In the last few weeks i have seen several posts about cyberdecks. Either people were presenting their builds, people discussing about the meta of cyberdecks and the big question/debate where cyberdecks originate from.

All this talk has created an itch for me to not only build my own cyberdeck but to also document the process in several blog posts on here.

A quick warning: Even though a cyberdeck is not that hard to build this series will take a long time since my free-time is pretty limited and i am not able to work on it for long periods of time.

With that out of the way, let's talk a bit about what cyberdecks are and where they originate from.

What are cyberdecks?

There are two possible answers to this question. One is the historical definition of a cyberdeck the other one is a more modern definition.

Let's start with the historical one

In order to provide a overview i simplify things alot. I also skipping several aspects i deem to long or complex, so do not become angry at me if i miss something you might think is important.

Cyberdeck was a term coined in the Pen & Paper Game Shadowrun which in itself took great inspiration from the Sprawl trilogy by William Gibson. With the creation of the second edition in 1992 the authors of the rule book deepened a game mechanic they introduced in the first edition of the rules in 1989, the matrix.

The matrix is Shadowruns take on a more powerful, global internet. Every computer on the whole wide world is accessible via said matrix. In order to maintain some kind of structure and decomposition the matrix itself is organized in several layers. People in the Shadowrun universe are able to join the matrix by connecting their cyberdeck to the matrix and then immerse themselves in whatever they want to do within said matrix.

In the beginning days these cyberdecks were huge contraptions with common interfaces. Displays, mice and keyboards were dominating the IO. After inventing something called ASIST, people were able to connect to their cyberdeck by plugging a jack into their brains and thus not needing the until then common methods of in- and output. In the following years cyberdecks became more powerful, wireless and also significantly smaller to allow their wearer to join the matrix anytime and also anywhere.

So the old school definition of a cyberdeck is a small, wireless computer device which is operated by connecting or implanting it directly into the users brain, rendering other IO obsolete.

The (more) modern definition

Outside of the world of Shadowrun, cyberdecks became kind of a different definition. On the days where computers were bulky and not really portable cyberdecks referred to computer devices that had their IO bundled with the processing unit itself and thus were portable. (Using that definition the Apple II could have been considered a cyberdeck) Since we are unable to plug computers directly in our brain, the modern definition changed its focus away from the modern IO aspect (ASIST is still a far away dream) and instead tried to focus more on the portability and the small form factor. It would be wrong to say that cyberdecks are just a sub genre of modern case modding since cramming electronics in a fancy looking case is just a small aspect of cyberdecks. Sure there are people that 3D printed a mouse to integrate a Raspberry Pi and a keyboard into it, but many people are also tinkering with aspects of VR instead of displays or building cyberdecks that can be used as knowledge base or means of orientation and communication in case everything goes downhill.

What i want to build

Clearly i am in the second category. I want to build a portable cyberdeck which serves different purposes. The core will be a Raspberry Pi 3B+. But instead of cramming everything into a hardcase (which is unfortunately a common theme with cyberdecks these days) i want to repurpose old casings from old electronics, while combining them with modern aspects. Imagine something like this

Multimetr Ц4342

but with a modern display and a keyboard.

So in the future i will hunt down a cool case for my cyberdeck and ask myself what functionality i want to include. Then i need to design the parts that i need to build it and also to assemble everything. Sounds easy, right?

As i said before, i want to document the build process on here. So stay tuned for further updates and thanks for reading.

Tags: #cyberdeck

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