John Park of DIY boutique Adafruit seems to be having some serious fun with tiny mechanical keypads – as hackable, ultra-compact MIDI controllers and (with screen) even the tiniest Ableton Live controller I’ve ever seen.

There’s been a very tasty nerd convergence, between the custom keyboard community – the folks who love building and modding their own mechanical keyboards – and the world of Raspberry Pi. The RasPi folks made a cute little low-cost microcontroller board with a new chip called the RP2040 as its brain.

The expanded processing horsepower and DIY-friendly ethos mean you can hack these things with Python – even if you’re just a novice, hobbyist coder, thanks to CircuitPython.

The projects look like easy builds, useful, and they’re just so damn cute. I’m a little afraid to check part availability in the midst of the Great Semiconductor Shortage we all find ourselves in, but I sure want to build these.

First, watch what they can do as MIDI keyboard – with the 1010 boxes, which we’ve reviewed here on CDM:

But the killer is the Macropad, an RP2040- and CircuitPython-powered device that adds a display (plus lights under the keys). That’s enough to make a palm-sized Live controller – like someone shrunk an Ableton Push.

There’s even one knob. This is ridiculous. I adore it. And yeah, it works with MIDI, too.

The Macropad itself is out of stock at Adafruit at the moment, but you could certainly riff on this idea with similar parts.

And hey, why stop there? This should spur some other keyboard-hacking ideas for your musical and visual use. Let us know what you make. Just don’t buy up all the microcontrollers, please.