Are you a hacker who happens to miss their BlackBerry? Looks like there’s a new product that’s just your speed: the “Beepberry.” It literally grafts the keyboard of a BlackBerry Classic onto a pocketable custom board designed to fit a Raspberry Pi Zero W, all paired with a 400 x 240 “Memory LCD” screen that looks like it was ripped from an old graphing calculator — but is a bit more sophisticated.
Beepberry is designed by Eric Migicovsky, founder of the gone-but-not-forgotten Pebble smartwatch and more relevantly co-founder of Beeper: the hacky all-in-one messenging app that stuffs every service from WhatsApp to iMessage (using a jailbroken iPhone) into one place.
The device is ostensibly designed to run Beeper without any other online distractions, but Migicovsky knows what you’re thinking: he also describes Beepberry as a portable “e-paper” computer for hackers.
You could build yourself a fun handheld device that’s purposefully limiting but also kind of limitless in terms of what you can do with a Raspberry Pi. The website provides a few examples to get your mind oriented, including a simple weather checker, playing Ascii Star Wars, browsing the cyberdeck subreddit, and running a gomuks Matrix client.
In case you’re wondering about that “e-paper” screen, it’s not technically e-ink — but it is 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 2,000mAh battery — although you’ll have to find a way to hold the battery in place. (In some demos, the creators are literally using a rubber-band.) In addition to the 2.7-inch screen and BlackBerry Classic Q20 backlit keyboard, you get an USB-C port, a RGB LED, a side button, a power switch, and General Purpose Input / Output (GPIO) breakouts.
For $99, you can get a Beepberry kit that includes a Pi Zero W preinstalled. Otherwise, you’ll have to bring your own or another single-board computer chip like the Radxa Zero or MQ-Pro — which should be drag-and-drop since the Beepberry has a solder-less header.
Notably, the Beepberry itself lacks any hardware for cellular data connectivity, so it’s not quite a self-contained beeper in the traditional sense. You’ll need to use Raspberry Pi’s built-in Wi-Fi, perhaps hotspot it to a smartphone when you’re out and about, unless you’re willing to devise a cellular add-on that plugs into its headers.
If you’re interested in a Beepberry, you might want to act fast: there’s only 50 initially available to ship. You’ll need to put in your order, and then fill out the Early Access Program form on the bottom of the page to let them know you want it now. The site does not mention how many of the initial 50, if any, remain available for purchase.
Software and firmware for the Beepberry is available to download online. There are even 3D-printable enclosures to get started with, and a Discord community for anyone taking on a Beepberry project.
It’s important to note that the software / firmware is still actively being developed and nothing is final, so don’t expect many out-of-box features if you get your hands on one. If you simply want something with a complete out-of-box experience and a black and white screen, a Playdate may be more your speed. And if you’re just looking to support the Pebble founder’s next endeavor, you could wait for his team’s upcoming Small Android Phone.