Open source keyboard project. If you want to help, or even just provide constructive criticism, please use the form at the bottom of this page.
My goal is to design a really good keyboard and when the money is available to make one of it for myself. I am perfectly comfortable with others using the same design or their own derivations. All work released under the M.I.T. license.
There may be license issues with some ideas. Which leaves four options (possibly even more): (1) negotiate a license from the rights holder, (2) abandon the feature, (3) cannabilize an existing product to place the liensed parts into the keyboard, or (4) develop an alternative that achieves the same result without needing the license.
All of the work on developing the specifications, drawing, schematics, and other documents necessary for fabrication can be created before money shows up.
I was questioned on whether this was something I should be doing. My claim is that I am entitled to some free time during which I can do anything legal and I enjoy working on this.
If famous wealthy musicians take an interest in the project, they can conceivably pay for the actual production of their own prototype.
Because there is no commerical product (unless an existing manufacturer decides to make one, which they legally can under the M.I.T. license without giving me a penny), I am only concerned about the problems a professional musician faces while touring the world, recording in the studio, practicing, experimenting, and composing.
I am concerned about what are the best solutions to the array of possibilities and how those solutions interact with each other. I am not concerned about cost, because from my current proespective, both a $10 instrument and a trillion dollar instrument are equally unobtainable and both require the exact same solution: eventually come up with the money.
I mentioned above the possibility of cannabilizing proprietary equipment to make a better system.
The following video shows one way the idea works. Origin made a demo (not for sale) example that put together a PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and RTX Titan Gaming PC all in one case:
This is perfectly legal. You are not violating anyones copyrights, patents, or trademarks if you legally purchase their devices and then mix them together.
And you can go beyond the example in the above video, and open up the hardware and take out the parts you need. Some satellites are built this way. Every gram matters in launch to space, so they can take a normal computer, rip it apart, and drop everything that adds extra weight and replace some parts with lower weight equivalents.
If we cant find any other legal method, we can simply purchase copies of major existing keyboards and extract the components we need to obtain proprietary items we need.
Our preference is to go ahead and build our own versions of as much as possible, and maybe license proprietary rights to install proprietary techonology on our own hardware and software (assuming a license can even be obtained and then at a reasonable price).
Each of the major keyboard manufacturers has their own proprietary hardware and software, which produce distinct, recognizable sounds. Our worst case is we simply buy the top of the line keyboard from each manufactuer and tear the guts out and reassemble them so that we have the complete variety of sounds and features available.
Compartmentalization is essential for both personal customization and long term use.
The US Navy has some very expensive vessels that are in service for decades (especially aircraft carriers and submarines). The military technology changes massively over time. Prewviously they would have tear a ship partly down and build it back up with the new equipment.
The Ford class supercarrier is compartmentalized. It is designed so that rectangular units can simply be lifted out and a same sized new piece lowered into its place.
This same principle applies to this keyboard. It should be super easy for each person to customize the layout of their keyboard and swap in new parts over time. This goes for both the visible surface interfaces and the internal electronics.
The interior of the case will be in layers. Dividing walls can be snapped into place and the layout of each layer rapidly modified. The walls pieces themselves will snap apart and back together, providing easy access to all internal wiring.
And speaking of wiring, special color coded cables will be used. When doing any repair work or swapping in new modules, you can look at a chart and see exactly what each cable is for by its color code. The telephone industry solved this same problem more than a century ago by using two colors for wires -- a main color and a smaller sized stripe of a second color. This provides an exponential growth of the number of color codes.
Support for fast swapping of layouts will need a special processor with software capable of handling all inputs and outputs being used simultaneously. As long as each section of the keyboard (as visible to the musician) properly connects to the control system, it becomes a simple matter of updating the internal software mapping so that it knows how to properly respond to the new configuration.
The outer case is ruggedized for heavy world wide touring.
The goal of the case is to protect the keyboard. I looked at the websites of the best known manufacturers of cases for professional musicians and noticed that they tended to name several military standards, to show how rugged their cases are. I then read those standards. And I also checked theWikipedia article on one of the standards and it points out regarding ruggedized consumer products that many vendors claim to have designed their products to be compliant with MIL-STD-810, but never actually perrformed the expensive testing. Although very expensive, it would be a good idea to put prototypes through the entire testing process to confirm the quality of the design.
Overview: When you open the top of the case, the keyboard is sitting at the top of the interior and the inside of the lid is a full size touch screen. If you open the cover on the back of the case, the connectors and patch bay are revealed. If you open the cover on the front of the case, the slots for inserting media (such as optical disks) and a few duplicated connectors are revealed. Underneath the keyboard are the electronics and other components for all of the features provided. Additionally, opening up the front of the case provides acces to one or more drawers, where accessories and other items (such as cables, tuning forks, violin rosin, drum wrenches, guitar strings, etc.) can be stored.
A small opening at some still unspecified location will allow access to emergency and convenience items without opening any other part of the case and without exposing any of the components to outside environmental harm. Examples of things in this category may be making a phone call, placing an international distress message through satellites, checking the current local time, wireless recharging of phones or tablets, etc.
When closed the case completely seals the keyboard and interior electronics and should provide protection from even the roughest baggage handling. The case is designed to meet or exceed military specifications MIL-STD-810 and MIL-C-4150J.
Standard case color is Fed Std 595 Color Code 17038 OSHA Black, ANA 515, 622.
Optional case colors of Fed Std 595 Color Code 24064 Green (for use by military bands), Fed Std 595 Color Code 13655 OSHA Safety Yellow, Fed Std 595 Color Code 12300 OSHA Safety Orange, Fed Std 595 Color Code 12246 OSHA Safety Orange, Fed Std 595 Color Code 12250 Coast Guard Orange, Fed Std 595 Color Code 11120 OSHA Safety Red, Fed Std 595 Color Code 11140 OSHA Safety Red, Fed Std 595 Color Code 10080 NASA Safety Brown, Fed Std 595 Color Code 10233 Cocoa Brown, National Parks Service, Fed Std 595 Color Code 12197 International Orange, ANA 508 Aviation Orange, Fed Std 595 Color Code 13695 Ivory, Forest Service, Fed Std 595 Color Code 14050 NATO Green, Fed Std 595 Color Code 14120 OSHA Safety Green, Fed Std 595 Color Code 14193 Coast Guard Green, Fed Std 595 Color Code 14260 OSHA Safety Green, Fed Std 595 Color Code 15090 OSHA Safety Blue, Fed Std 595 Color Code 15102 OSHA Safety Blue, ANA 501, Fed Std 595 Color Code 17142 OSHA Safety Purple, Fed Std 595 Color Code 17155 OSHA Safety Purple
Additional options include custom colors, custom designs, and even the incorporation of LED or other colored lights.
Nameplate. This is required by the military specification, which gives specific identifying information that must be formatted in a specific way so that any military personnel anywhere in the world can identify and use cased items. If this is extended to include additional custom information (which musician, which act, etc.), this will make life much easier for roadies during both set up and tear down.
All exterior and interior surfaces shall have a corrosion/erosion and abrasion resistant finish.
Solid stainless steel latches and hinges treated to resist corrosion. Will withstand the most demanding shipping conditions. Tension clasps recessed within the maximum envelope of the case, protected from damage and shall withstand direct impacts without malfunctioning or cracking.
Two carrying handles on the front of the case, one pull handle on the side of the case opposite the wheels, and four lifting rings on the bottom section of the case.
Synthetic gaskets that provide and maintain a seal to meet MIL-C-4150.
Tamper-proof security seal on diagonally opposite corners of the case. The seals are affixed after closure in such a manner that the case cannot be opened without destroying the seal.
Stackable. Each case shall support the superimposed weight of a number of like cases in a minimum stacking of 5 meters.
Protected from temperature, humidity, vibration, altitude, and vibro-acoustic/temperature.
Temperature. The case shall be capable of withstanding the worldwide extremes of MIL-STD-210, with temperature extremes of -54 to 74 °C and relative humidity extremes ranging from 0 to 100% over the temperature extremes. Can safely handle low pressure (altitude), high temperature, low temperature, temperature shock, and freeze/thaw.
Airtight. Impermeable to acidic atmosphere, explosive atmosphere.
Automatic vacuum and pressure relief valve.
Type II - Water-vapor proof. Impermeable to contamination by fluids, rain, humidity, salt fog, complete immersion in fresh or salt water in excess of 24 hours, icing/freezing rain, solvents.
Relative humidity indicator
Impermeable to sand and dust.
Useful life: The case shall be capable of meeting performance requirements when exposed to environments of handling, storage, and transportation for a minimum of 25 years.
Voids in the system to accomodate the quantity of desiccant required in MIL-P-116.
Drop resistant: free-fall drop, rotational drop, corner-wise drop, and edge-wise drop.
Vibration. The case shall prevent damage to the interior components resulting from the transportation vibration environment. The transmissibility at the resonant frequency in the major translational modes of vibration shall not exceed that specified in FED-STD-101, method 5019 and MIL-STD-648, para 5.3.2.
Not damaged by acceleration, vibration, acoustic noise, shock, pyroshock, gunfire shock, ballistic shock, rail impact, and mechanical vibrations of shipboard equipment (Type I - Environmental and Type II - Internally Excited).
Ultraviolet stabalized inhibitors to prevent environmental degradation. Undamaged by solar radiation (sunshine).
Flammability and smoke density resistant. Protects interior components for up to two (2) hours at temperatures of 925°C or 1700°F and a flash fire up to 1100°C or 2000°F for 30 minutes.
IP code (such as IP69Kf): first digit is solid particle protection, the highest 6 means No ingress of dust; complete protection against contact (dust-tight). The second digit is liquid ingress protection, the highest 9K The equipment is suitable for continuous immersion in water 1 meter or more in depth and Protected against close-range high pressure, high-temperature spray downs. The letter 'f' means Oil resistant.
Five methods of obtaining electricity: wall current, battery, USB/wireless recharge, solar power, or hand crank.
It is possible to adapt to any of the worlds wall electricity standards, making it easier for world tours. There are 15 different standards for wall electricity around the world, with different plugs, frequency, and voltage. Modern electronics can detect frequency and voltage and automatically adjust. Some common electronic products are shipping with a power cord that ends with a clip allowing any of the different plugs to be attached.
The largest single use of volume inside modern portable devices is the batteries. In some common devices 80-90% of the volume is battery.
Sharing a single battery (or bank of batteries) dramatically saves space and allows a lot more electronics and other hardware.
Some key issues are: how long willl the batteries last, how long does it take to recharge the batteries, how dangerous are the batteries, how much power is used for each different function or component. Carbon batteries should solve a lot of these issues.
The exterior top of the case provides a large surface area for solar power.
A hand crank provides an emergency backup.
Several people have already suggested having moving part, where physical portions of the keyboard can be moved, swung, slided, rotated, or otherwise moved aroud in relation to each other. For now I am viewing that as unnecessarily complex and prone to maintence problems, but I have not ruled out uch solutions.
Several people have already suggested having multiple keyboards. Musicians often have multiple keyboards on stage. Rather than building in some specific multiple number of 88 keys, the existing solution of putting multiple keyboards onto racks is a reliable solution that ofers great flexibility in the choice of combiantions and the choice of configurations.
The typing section is full size and intended to avoid stabbing fingers and/or thumbs at tightly spaced virtual buttons.
The sections in the typing section, from left to right.
Accents: Five dead keys for placing the most common accents. A dead key is a key that doesnt have an immediate effect (the dead part), but instead changes the behavior of the next key(s) pressed. The bottom key in this column is a key that serves as both the Windows key (for Windows) and as the meta key (for UNIX).
Standard typing: This section is based on the ISO (Europe) standard, with the exception of the right most key in the QWERTY row instead of the strange shaped return key.
Function buttons: Escape, 16 function keys, and the Help button acros the top.
Ten Key: A standard ten key pad.
Numeric Pad: A version of a numeric pad that combines choices from several different common keyboard models. Above the number pad are volume down, volume up, and mute buttons. The MOD key, which is for the modulo operation, is unusual. The order of the operation keys is based on calculators rather than computer keyboards. There are both an equals key (for algebraic calculations) and an enter key (for Reverse Polish calculations).
Currency: Five of the seven most used currency symbols in the world. The dollar sign is already in the standard typing area and the symbol for the Swiss Franc is not used even by many Swiss (they use two or three letter abbreviations instead). The currency promoted to the choices is the Indian Rupee as India is the second most poulous nation in the world. Currency keys: American cents, Euro, Japanese Yen and Chinese Yuan (or Renminbi), British Pound, Indian Rupee, and South Korean Won.
Scientific calculator: This section is going to undergo massive changes. This was borrowed from an internet calculator I made years ago (I could actually make those keys work by just copying and pasting the old software).
Calculator display: A screen copied from the box top of an existing calculator. This is likely to become larger to turn this section into a full graphing calculator.
Legacy keys: A set of keys that are rarely recognized by modern software, but used to be common.
The 88 keys (not yet all shown in the drawing above) need to be fully professional weighted ivory keys that match the touch and feel of a high quality grand piano.
It is important that the keyboard be able to connect with a wide variety of musical instruments, computers, workstations, tablets, phones, watches, headsets, microphones, speakers, mixing boards, effects units, amplifiers, and other devices. It is preferable that the connectivity be simple plug and play as often as possible, but some legacy devices may require additional set-up.
There are numerous functions and features that are pretty standard on keyboards, such as pitch bend. There is an even larger variety of functions and features that occur on one or a small numebr of keyboards. It is impossible to contain every possibility imaginable, so eventually this will become a matter of figuring out the best compromise. Therefore, my intent is to try to make the design flexible enough that every professional musician can make their own personal choices.
The layout currently shows a pitch bend wheel, modulation wheel, and octave up or down buttons.
I misunderstood the suggestion of one musician and started adding in MIDI triggers. Even though I now know about the misunderstanding, MIDI triggers are still useful, especially with a typing keyboard for much easier assignment of functionality.
Color coded, lighted, pressure sensitive buttons allow perfomance in the dark.
An open question is whether or not to include physical turntables capable of playing real vinyl records or rely on the more common virtual solutions.
The initial MIDI trigger section is based on the PreSonus Atom and the Reloop Neon. This will change over time as I merge in ideas from other MIDI trigger devices.
typing keyboard (based on ISO Europe)
accent creating "dead keys"
scientific calulator keys (still in progress)
scientific calulator display
pitch bend and modulation wheels
octave up and octave down
MIDI touch pad