Huge thanks to Stefan for his valuable contribution to the upstream of KMK! If you own Macro Pad 10, Knobs 3, and Knob 1, please consider upgrading the KMK firmware on your mini mechanical keyboard to get his fix.
In other news: the GitHub pull request that adds support for ANAVI Knobs 3 was finally merged in QMK! QMK stands for Quantum Mechanical Keyboard. It is probably the most popular firmware for mechanical keyboards and supports literally hundreds of devices, including ANAVI Macro Pad 8 and our other mechanical keyboards. The source code is available under GPLv2 license and written in C. Initial support for the Raspberry Pi RP2040 microcontroller in QMK was added in September 2022. We started the porting efforts in October, and shortly after that, patches for ANAVI Macro Pad 10 and Knob 1 were merged. However, it took almost 6 months to merge the GitHub pull request for ANAVI Knobs 3. The long wait is over: now all of our mini mechanical keyboards are supported by QMK!
The community is very important and makes all the difference in any open source project. Thank you for supporting and improving our open source hardware mechanical keyboards!
1991 was a remarkable year for computer science and the open source movement. On February 20th, Guido van Rossum released the first version of Python and then, several months later on August 25th, then 21-year old Linus Torvalds announced the first version of what would become Linux. Now, 31 years later, both projects are more popular than ever!
Python is a general-purpose programming language. It supports both object-oriented programming and structured programming which makes Python suitable for a broad range of tasks. MicroPython and CircuitPython are Python 3 variants optimized for constrained devices, primarily microcontrollers. MicroPython appeared in 2014. Three years later, in July 2017, MicroPython was forked into another open source project called CircuitPython. There are some differences, most notably that each of them supports a different set of hardware devices.
A classical mechanical keyboard consists of keys (mechanical switches with keycaps) wired to a microcontoller. There are a huge variety of models, variants, and manufacturers of mechanical switches. For example, the ANAVI Macro Pad 10 comes with Gateron red mechanical switches, but the hot-swap sockets allow you to actually use any other kind of Cherry MX compatible switch. Firmware on the microcontroller maps the keys to specific characters.
In general, a microcontoller has a limited number of GPIO (general-purpose input/output) pins, so the keys are most commonly organized in a matrix. For example, ANAVI Macro Pad 10 is designed with a three-by-three matrix which only requires six GPIO pins instead of nine. The role of the firmware is to detect when a key is pressed and then send a specific character or sequence of characters (i.e., a macro) to the computer.
Ease of use combined with the power of the RP2040 makes CircuitPython a very good programming framework for implementing mechanical keyboard firmware. Of course CircuitPython is not as fast as C. However this is not a problem for the RP2040 because it is a dual-core Arm Cortex-M0+ processor with a clock running up to 133 MHz. Furthermore RP2040 has 264kB on-chip SRAM – more than enough for keyboard firmware. Thanks to the powerful microcontoller, it is easy to get started and customize keyboard behavior directly by altering the CircuitPython source code. There is no need to install complex toolchains or to cross-compile the source code. With KMK, it is easy to edit the source code in CircuitPython on pretty much any operating system, no matter if you are a Microsoft Windows, MacOS or a GNU/Linux user.
ANAVI Macro Pad 10, ANAVI Knobs 3 and ANAVI Knob 1 all come with gold-plated black printed circuit boards, Raspberry Pi RP2040 microcontrollers, USB-C connector and clickable rotary encoders. The popular open source KMK firmware allows you to easily program and configure custom keyboard layouts and macros using CircuitPython.