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My wedge-style retro computer case


AndyMt
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Hi everyone

while waiting for the X16 to get real, I started to design my own computer case. I want it to resemble the keyboard or wedge-shape cases of the 80ies era. I owned a TI-994A and a Atari ST back then and I wanted to have something similar where I can put the X16 board in. As I just started with 3D printing I fired up Blender and started designing. After many, many hours of sketching, klicking, dragging and swearing I started printing the whole thing. Then I integrated a xtrify ten-keyless keyboard (which I want to lower a bit) and integrated a MISTER, Raspberry Pi (and a KVM Switch). This now gives me the full retro vibe - until the X16 will arrive...

So this is how it looks now, what do you think?

fronright.thumb.jpeg.658d5de19c3af5bca881bb8b6f5c83e1.jpeg

 

right.thumb.jpeg.ff26dfb1968124f1e2f7c705fab060ba.jpeg front.thumb.jpeg.713e9a225204a1afbe1ffce3f0c2ed30.jpeg frontleft.thumb.jpeg.a4b79a7d8eb444577deeca6243109065.jpeg 

EDIT: updated pictures with most current version.

This is the finished case. Now I have to stuff all the hardware in...

 

Edited by AndyMt
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Not bad! I've been looking at another all-in-one keyboard, but this one is better looking. 

Will you be making the design available in some form, once it's finalized? I have a friend who's willing to print a case on his large bed printer... this would be perfect for that use. 

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On 12/6/2021 at 11:31 PM, Edmond D said:

Are you considering it a one-off, making plans available, or even going for a commercial run?

Never say never... but I have no experience with non-software commercial projects at all. Production, stock, logistics... let me put it this way: unless I find a partner taking care of this, this will be a one-off from my side.

I for sure will put the design on Thingiverse - at least for non-commercial use.

On 12/6/2021 at 11:51 PM, TomXP411 said:

I have a friend who's willing to print a case on his large bed printer... this would be perfect for that use. 

The parts are split so they fit on a 230x230mm print bed and with that the side pods have to be printed 45° diagonally. Without splits the largest piece would be 380x225mm (base plate). The overall size of the case is 395x240x65mm. You need to find a suitable ten-keyless keyboard to integrate. The stands I've modelled fit the Xtrify K4 keyboard which is available in a retro colour scheme.

As this is my first big structure I've modeled and 3d printed probably there are better ways to split parts etc. I already know some awkward corners I want to fix first before publishing it.

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On 12/6/2021 at 11:57 PM, AndyMt said:

Never say never... but I have no experience with non-software commercial projects at all. Production, stock, logistics... let me put it this way: unless I find a partner taking care of this, this will be a one-off from my side.

I for sure will put the design on Thingiverse - at least for non-commercial use.

Thanks for the response. I appreciate that you realize that experience is a limitation to making this a commercial product. Making it available to those who want to build their own is noble; I think many will thank you for that.

Partnerships can be work in itself; it sounds like you have thought about that too.
 

On 12/6/2021 at 11:57 PM, AndyMt said:

I already know some awkward corners I want to fix first before publishing it.

I do hope you get it to publication. Not that I have any ability to manufacture one myself. With the project based case "unplanned" at least the earlier design goal of using a standard enclosure seems like a very wise decision. 


I find your case good-looking and impressive. I hope that once the X16 ships I'd be able to find a case as attractive as the one you've designed and built. 

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Somewhere I read someone's feedback on essentially the same concept applied to a different computer and I have to say, I totally agree with their assessment, which was something like...

Quote

Wedge computers of the era didn't really have keyboards all the way to the edge of the chassis.

While that isn't entirely accurate, I agree with the sentiment, because I think there is a certain visual balance between "this is a computer" and "this is a keyboard"... yeah, something like that.

I would say that if you're going to do another version, maybe make it a bit wider. Depth wise, it already looks like a computer. Perhaps you could even offset the keyboard to the left or right and put something in the empty space, like the super sexy Atari 600 or your old pal the TI-994A.

I too have designed a few wedge machines in Blender over the years, but I never built any of them. Good on ya for actually building yours!

Ps. As a humble non-owner of a 3D printer, I am still afforded the luxury of thinking of ways to make things without printing them. This lead me to looking into buying some sheets ABS plastic for cutting, bending, and gluing. Bending anything long isn't really practical for a home user (deep bucket of specifically temp'd hot oil and a bending jig), but cutting is actually really easy with just a jig saw or a coping saw, and gluing is as easy as it sounds. Using a purchased sheet for the bottom and perhaps the side and back panels may be more ridged or smooth (or textured, depending on what kind of sheet you buy). Awesome that you have a printer though - Maximum Creativity! 😀

Edited by Tatwi
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On 12/7/2021 at 3:32 PM, Tatwi said:

While that isn't entirely accurate, I agree with the sentiment, because I think there is a certain visual balance between "this is a computer" and "this is a keyboard"... yeah, something like that.

I would say that if you're going to do another version, maybe make it a bit wider.

I agree with this. It's probably not visible in it's current state, but the case is 2.5cm wider on each side than the keyboard and 2cm in the front. That's more than the Atari ST or the Commodore Amiga had. As for ofsetting... no, I'm too much of a fan of symmetry... The cursor key layout already adds enough visual asymmetry for my taste.

On 12/7/2021 at 3:32 PM, Tatwi said:

I too have designed a few wedge machines in Blender over the years, but I never built any of them. Good on ya for actually building yours!

Thanks 🙂. I tried with Balsa-wood and Polyester resin last year, but gave up, it was too much of a mess... Having the printer makes things so much easier. And stuff really fits together as planned.

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On 12/7/2021 at 10:47 AM, AndyMt said:

I agree with this. It's probably not visible in it's current state, but the case is 2.5cm wider on each side than the keyboard and 2cm in the front. That's more than the Atari ST or the Commodore Amiga had. As for ofsetting... no, I'm too much of a fan of symmetry... The cursor key layout already adds enough visual asymmetry for my taste.

I hear ya with the desire for symmetry, but having looked at loads of pictures of these types of computers over the last four or so years, I think the designers of asymetric machines were really on to something. I think my favorite designs was the Commodore Plus/4 until I discovered the Sanyo AX230R MSX computer in red - it just looks so cool, man!

Also, I wanted to apologize that I didn't acknowledge and congratulate your success and design enough. I really do think it's pretty awesome that you actually built it and the chassis itself really nice looking!

On 12/7/2021 at 10:47 AM, AndyMt said:

I tried with Balsa-wood and Polyester resin last year, but gave up, it was too much of a mess... Having the printer makes things so much easier. And stuff really fits together as planned.

Stuff fitting together as planned... that would be amazing! Sadly my wife is pretty stuck on the whole, "we don't need a 3D printer" thing and while she's not wrong, she also hasn't really built anything, ever.

My sticking point with stuff like this is that I just keep asking myself, "Is this practical? Is this necessary?" and the answer is always, "no...", so I tend to leave it at that until it something sparks my imagination again. One such time was last May when I decided that I needed to know how practical it really would be to have a custom wedge computer on my desk. See, a few years ago I bought a cheep 10 keyless keyboard and some custom keycaps for it (roughly $40 CAD total) to use in a custom wedge chassis, but I never got around to building the chassis. I couldn't decided what I really wanted to do with it. Anyway, in May I went to the basement and made a big mess with Styrofoam and craft paint to create this haphazard monstrosity...

20210520_095543.jpg.9da578bdfe2e44a7831f07c25194d33c.jpg

I plugged it into my PC and it only took an hour to determine the whole thing was kind of stupid and pointless really. As only a keyboard, it just didn't serve any practical purpose and its added depth made it a nuisance. And then paired with the modern 24" wide screen LCD, it didn't even "look cool", instead it looked out of place. So from this experiment I determined that...

The retro computer needs its own retro monitor and the system needs to be setup in its own retro space, otherwise it's just... weird. Context is everything!

And with that in mind, I was wondering what kind of physical setup you have for you Commander X16 station? And I suppose, how important is that space to you in general? Do you foresee yourself using the X16 regularly or will it be more of a display item? And do you have a space that can be a just a display area? I actually wonder about this with everyone, because ya know, context is everything! 🙂

Personally I have a U shaped desk that I cobbled together from an L shaped desk and various other bits of junk. I once had my Compaq Deskpro 4000 Pentium system setup at the secondary seating station to my right, but I found it made the space feel closed in and, honestly, the flat empty space was way more useful. That said, I picked up a small 4:3 LG LCD TV from a thrift store for $3 a while back and think it and a wedge computer would fit that space really well, without feeling crowded. However, the computer would have to be something I actually used regularly, because my nerd-space is limited to this 6'x6' square of the universe and I would be giving up doing other things with that desk area to accommodate it.

Back the olden days we didn't have these sorts of issues, because the wedge computer was the main/only computer in the house and thus it served such purpose as to warrant a space in our homes. Today, they're just toys, if we're being honest. And it's totally fine to have toys at any age, but you know, context, right? How we use these old machines in the modern world is an interesting subject of its own...

Edited by Tatwi
mo samy typso!
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On 12/8/2021 at 2:27 PM, Tatwi said:

Also, I wanted to apologize that I didn't acknowledge and congratulate your success and design enough. I really do think it's pretty awesome that you actually built it and the chassis itself really nice looking!

No worries, I totally got that from your first post. Thanks for that 🙂.

On 12/8/2021 at 2:27 PM, Tatwi said:

Anyway, in May I went to the basement and made a big mess with Styrofoam and craft paint to create this haphazard monstrosity...

This looks better than the mess I created last year 😅. It tells me I'm not the only one having the urge to build something like this.

On 12/8/2021 at 2:27 PM, Tatwi said:

I was wondering what kind of physical setup you have for you Commander X16 station? And I suppose, how important is that space to you in general? Do you foresee yourself using the X16 regularly or will it be more of a display item? And do you have a space that can be a just a display area?

Excellent question! I actually plan to develop software for the X16 - actually I already did (see the download section). Right now this is on hold until we get actual hardware. Then I will use it along with the emulator for the final testing phase for each of the projects. I won't develop the software on the X16 directly... well - actually I might in a sense, because I could include a Raspberry again und use a KVM switch to use that for development. I also use an old 4:3 LCD to connect the retro machines. This is retro enough for my taste.

I'm very lucky to have a separate office room (which is my home office now), which also serves as my man-cave. So 2 desks, one for my day job, one for my tinkering. No worries - my wife has her own room. Yes, we are very lucky, I know.

When the X16 board will be there I'll put it into a similar, slightly bigger case (to fit Micro-ATX). Then I want to teach my nephews the basics about computers. Because at least the older one now gets interested and wants to know how computers work. And it will be so nice to actually point to a CPU or RAM etc and explain what they do. You can actually follow the traces and kind of grasp what it means.

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Updated and added pictures in the starting post. Here's one for those who do not like to scroll up 😉:

fronright.thumb.jpeg.658d5de19c3af5bca881bb8b6f5c83e1.jpeg

I'm quite pleased with the outcome.

I'll change some of the parts so assembly is easier and the case gets more sturdy. Then I'll print a 2nd one and then upload the design to Thingiverse. This will probably happen after Christmas.

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The front-on photo truly demonstrates its majesty. From that angle it looks like a proper computer!

An other concern I noticed one day, when designing one of these in Blender was when I hit F12 and said to myself, "That's a typewriter". In that instance I think it was the blue chassis color which brought my mind back to the typewriter my mother used when I was in fifth grade, but it does help point the fact that there's some kind of magic recipe for a "wedge computer" that makes it more than a keyboard and definitely not a typewriter. I think you've nailed it.

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On 12/12/2021 at 5:17 AM, Cyber said:

What about the internals? Mounting places for motherboard, connecting keyboard, accessing ports - do you have these things designed?

Not really. I plan to use an additional frame inside for mini-ITX or the micro-ATX boards.

But right now I just stuffed the following components in:

  • Power supply
  • Mister stack
  • Raspberry Pi
  • KVM switch (sits below the RPI)
  • Loads of much too long cables I don't dare to shorten

See for yourself😅:

signal-2021-12-12-194932_001.thumb.jpeg.31f6086d3e0528f8c81b6c2db8534db0.jpeg

Still missing:

  • Mini-Amp
  • 2x 1inch speakers in the sidepods
  • USB hubs at the back.
  • Power socket
  • Power switch
Edited by AndyMt
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Waaay back when I converted an AT server tower case into an ATX case I decided it was best to de-rivet the motherboard tray and PCI slot mounting / backplate wall from an unwanted ATX case and "simply" mount that inside AT case, after much cutting with tin snips. It actually worked out perfectly. This has me thinking that you may be able to do the same with a half height ATX case, maybe even one of those Dell Optiplex or HP Pavilion Core2 era chassis that were common as dirt. Saves making all those precise measurements, cuts, and threaded holes.

That said, I don't now how tall the expansion cards will be for the X16. Half height? Full height? Hard to say. Though depending on your needs, it might be a long while after getting the full board that you'd feel the need to use an expansion card, so maybe it won't even matter.

BTW, I love the ventilation you've got going on there. Hexagons even match the 8 Bit Guy's new set theme. 🙂

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I've had this nagging thought since I first read this thread, that I've seen something similar. I suddenly remembered what it was:

 

 

Yours definitely looks more polished, but I'm really loving how FPGA technology and 3D printing are allowing end users to skip the industrial design phase and go straight to making their own dream machines.

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On 12/13/2021 at 11:08 PM, Ffin72 said:

I've had this nagging thought since I first read this thread, that I've seen something similar. I suddenly remembered what it was:

Yes, I know that one, but it looked too blocky for my taste. So I decided to do one myself - what could possibly go wrong 😀? ...a lot 🤣! I made it more difficult for myself because I wanted to put 2 computers in one case...

But now I'm determined to finish it. Today I've integrated the mini-amp and the 2 speakers. They sound astonishingly good - compared to what we had back in the day... The Amiga version of the R-Type intro sounds marvelous! Can't stop playing it.

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On 12/13/2021 at 10:19 PM, AndyMt said:

But now I'm determined to finish it. Today I've integrated the mini-amp and the 2 speakers. They sound astonishingly good - compared to what we had back in the day... The Amiga version of the R-Type intro sounds marvelous! Can't stop playing it.

 That's Amiga for you! Well, keep going, us nerds need more hardware pr0n 😄

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Beautiful design Andy! 

Sadly phase 1 definitely wouldn't fit in there without a complete redesign. Phase 2 just about might fit if designed specifically for this form factor. Phase 3 definitely would fit though, so if you make 3D plans available for the community that would probably be a nice option.

Well done!

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On 12/13/2021 at 11:46 PM, Perifractic said:

Beautiful design Andy! 

Thank you very much! I took some inspiration from the front cover of the initially planned X16 desktop-case.

On 12/13/2021 at 11:46 PM, Perifractic said:

Sadly phase 1 definitely wouldn't fit in there without a complete redesign.

Yes, true. The case would need to be considerably deeper. Also the power connector would need not to be soldered and cables soldered directly instead. To keep proportions I would use a full size keyboard and also make it about 1cm taller. The only problem: my 3D printer is too small for that. So not sure if that will ever happen.

On 12/13/2021 at 11:46 PM, Perifractic said:

Phase 2 just about might fit if designed specifically for this form factor.

Mini-ITX should fit, although without usable space for expansion cards (maybe a raiser card could work). Also here depends a bit on where the connector for the power supply is placed. The keyboard stands need redesign for sure, as some would sit on the board directly.

On 12/13/2021 at 11:46 PM, Perifractic said:

so if you make 3D plans available for the community that would probably be a nice option.

Yes, I will make the plans available. Thinking about doing this in the next few days, just the way it is now. Maybe someone comes up with better solutions in some areas.

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