Sunday, 4 August 2013

Boxed Raspberry Pi

I put my Raspberry Pi into a plywood box to create this 1980s-inspired integrated "home computer". This time I'll spare the details. I used almost similar approach with the ZX Evolution. 

A slight annoyance when casing the Rasp' in this way is that the different ports and inputs are scattered to all four winds. Yet I wanted to avoid soldering. I positioned the board to the back right side of the box, allowing the SD card, power and HDMI ports to be visible from direct openings. I extended the other ports with off-the-shelf parts and led them to the backside. My aim was not to spoil any existing parts, so basically the casing holds a huge amount of cables which could have been in principle shortened and re-soldered. For this reason, the box is quite tall, 58 mm at the highest point. (The footprint is 330x195.)

The keyboard cable is contained in the box in its entirety. Likewise, the audio jack is continued with a ridiculous extension piece, because I did not have a shorter one. The USB ports are simply a Targus USB hub screwed in place, cable and all. I continued the RJ-45 with a short piece. Only thing I soldered was the TV composite lead into the "port" at the backside. The audio could have been connected to these RCA sockets, but for my use I find the headphone jack more convenient.

From left to right: opening for HDMI. Composite. (7 unused) Stereo audio jack. Internet. 3 USB ports.

Compared to the Evo project, this time I had a clearer idea about how to do the box. The cover panel and the side and front panels form one part. The sides and the front are again from the 9mm plywood. The bottom is similar to the material used as backsides for cheap bookshelves. The top is made from material taken from the backside of a photomount. Both about 3mm thick. (Apologies for the unprofessional description. I just can't know what exactly these chipboards are made of.) 

The keyboard (A Fuj:tech/ Deltaco) is very similar to the one I used previously, so I knew what to expect. The keyboard, with the plastic cover removed, is connected to the box cover. The bottom and backside of the computer are joined together, so only the keyboard cable crosses the bottom-top boundary. The box is held together with four 3mm machine screws from the sides. This way, the case can be closed and re-opened with relative ease.

A nut for receiving the machine screw. It is overlayed with a thin veneer or balsawood strip that keeps the nut in place.
I'm quite pleased with the result. The rough and simple look has its charm. It is vaguely similar to BBC B, C64 and maybe some MSX models. Granted, it might not be a very wild, innovative or original use for the Pi. Perhaps some other time!

To be honest, I'm not a huge Linux or Raspberry fan, nor did I look into any existing projects when doing this. It might seem a bit silly to put such a small computer into a box this big, but I find it neater to have all the required parts in one convenient place. And yes, the retro nostalgia factors heavily here. I'm running a RetroPie installation on one SD card and messing around with OpenELEC Mediacenter (The NOOBS install in fact) on another. Although the Linux terminal is a bit hard on the eyes on a TV, the games look more "warm".

The existing keyboard LEDs needed some air...


  1. I have seen all sorts of case mods over the years. This reminds me a lot of the cases I saw in the 70s especially Apple 1. I have no manual skills but I think I could manage something similar. Super.

  2. Too bad the emulators for Raspi tend to be really low quality. Running stuff at steady 50 Hz on a real video monitor would be neat. OTOH Risc OS alone is worth a lot!

    1. MAME on the RetroPie installation (which is slightly overclocked) seems to be quite smooth, at least with the pre-90s stuff. Good fun on a TV. Stella is also smooth, UAE and C64 not so much. Spectrum emulator refuses to work.