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Read a ZX81 keyboard with Arduinos and build things with it

Connect a ZX81 keyboard to an Arduino. This is a tutorial to quickly get the keyboard running and use if for all kinds of applications.

The ZX81 was one of the iconic computers of the 80s. They made a computer with minimal hardware which still could do a lot of things. They came assembled or as do it yourself kit at a price of &69.95. Other home computers cost 5 times as much.

To safe money a 40 key mechanical foil keyboard was used. It is hard to type quickly on them but it was good enough to enter short programs. As the computer really had only 1k of free memory, programs and text couldn’t be that long anyway. The machine was very popular and 1.5 millions of them were sold.

The ZX81 keyboards are still available today. Typical price is 20 Euros. I got mine from Ebay. Alternatively this seems to be the link to the source:

If you want things with Arduinos that require keyboard input the ZX81 is a good option. It is alphanumeric, requires minimal electronic to scan and works on all kind of microcontrollers. They are easier to integrate than PS2 keyboards. They need no power when inactive and can be connected and disconnected when running.

This is a tutorial how to use them on an Arduino using a library I wrote as part of a bigger project.”

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