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Background

I am building a custom embedded computer system and need only a few keys to be accessible by the users. I could attach a button board and program that in but was thinking it would be easier to just use and/or mod a 5 key keyboard. I have seen them before but cannot seem to find them online; it could be 6 keys as well preferably in a row.

Research

The closest thing I've found is chorded keyboards which are similar to what I'm looking for but rather expensive.

Question

Does anyone know what you call a keyboard that has only a few keys on it?

Updates

In response to the comments here are some clarifications:

  • My project is a portable bluethooth and FM radio speaker.
  • The embeded system is the Raspberry Pi Zero using the Zero4U to add USB ports.
  • Bluetooth is added with a tiny USB dongle as well as the FM receiver.
  • I need 6 keys preferably, 5 could work, in a row is the best.
  • Something like the Cooler Master DIY Micro Keyboard is what I think I'll do.
  • Googling Micro Keyboard or Macro Programmable Keyboard gives the best results.

I have found some awesome resources and ideas because of your answers. I will add these when I have time in an answer to help everyone else. I will also leave this question open for a bit to encourage more answers. This has become a great resource so please keep adding.

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  • I think it's easier to ask here retrocomputing.stackexchange.com
    – phuclv
    Nov 14, 2016 at 1:30
  • 1
    @LưuVĩnhPhúc I did my homework before posting. This is the stack exchange best suited for this question. I will remove hobbyist. I think that might confuse people. Nov 14, 2016 at 1:37
  • I don't know if it has a proper name, but googling "4-keys keypad" or some number-keys keypad seems to come up with some result. If you check sites that sells primarily electronics equipment like element14 - they have heaps of different options, but all of them usually have some component cabling out (not your standard USB) - so I'm not sure if that is what you're after.
    – Darius
    Nov 14, 2016 at 6:06
  • What's your hardware platform? Have you got GPIOs to spare? example for Raspberry Pi that would work on other things
    – Chris H
    Nov 14, 2016 at 10:03
  • Googling for Cheap 6 key keyboard leads here: dx.com/p/6-key-usb-handle-hid-keyboard-173cm-cable-70892, which shows a 6 key 'usb handle' (?) keyboard for ₤ 8.43 and a numeric keypad for ₤ 4.65. There is also this $45 keyboard: techkeys.us/products/sixkeyboard
    – Berend
    Nov 14, 2016 at 10:37

3 Answers 3

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From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_keyboard :

A keyboard with few keys is called a keypad.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keypad:

A keypad is a set of buttons arranged in a block or "pad" which usually bear digits, symbols and usually a complete set of alphabetical letters. If it mostly contains numbers then it can also be called a numeric keypad.

If you have a few more keys, you could call it a 40%:

40% – Extremely small form factor with only the bare minimal of dedicated keys required to function. No alphanumeric keys, F-row or numpad. Many standard key operations will be hidden under multiple function layers. Some keys will be of a non-standard size.

Or alternatively, you could call it Apple Keyboard 2018.


Example:

enter image description here

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  • Ya I read that already and if you search those "Key pad" or "Key block" nothing like I'm referring to in my question comes up. I already found that example for $90. That is insane! Nov 14, 2016 at 3:07
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    Small-run electronics in nice injection-moulded cases does tend to be much more expensive than mass-produced stuff. Another term is "bump bar" bematechus.com/products/kitchen-systems/bump-bar/kb1700
    – pjc50
    Nov 14, 2016 at 12:12
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Why not simply get the standard 9-10 digit Numeric Keypad, cover up some of the buttons you don't use, and overlay a paper on top with actual buttons / instructions you do use? (Example as below):

Standard USB Numeric Keypad with Custom Keycaps

This is the same method POS (Point of Sale) systems often used. They used a default keyboard, but pre-programmed each key for specific functions (or for adding pre-programmed items) and they overlayed the keyboard with a piece of paper (or maybe plastic-covered paper to make it somewhat water-resistant) with the correct program / function of the buttons.

If you want it to look better you can get your own custom-colored-printed-keycaps:

The reason what you wanted is expensive is because it is custom-built for a certain purpose. Anything that is not mass-produced is always more expensive.

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  • My build is barely bigger than a bar of soap. I'll update my question to point that out. Also I just can't find them again but it was a gamer thing. A 5 key mini keyboard for $10 Nov 14, 2016 at 5:57
  • An 8 keys pad? - maxkeyboard.com/… but yeah not cheap... (not $10)
    – Darius
    Nov 14, 2016 at 6:02
  • I like that 8 key pad. Expensive but in the right direction and I'm sure with digging I can just buy the board and finish it myself. Nov 14, 2016 at 6:31
  • Gamers wants things that can handle a rough time. This does not sound like a $10 device. Nov 14, 2016 at 7:38
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    @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen Cherry key gamer keyboards are around $1.25 per key - the keys being most of the cost - so $10 for 8 keys isn't necessarily low quality. Nov 14, 2016 at 12:46
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  • You could try with the terms "mini game controller"
  • there are all sort of form factors, maybe one fits your needs,
  • and they should be available in the "cheap price range" < 10 USD.

Examples:

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