Forget about waiting for the future to bring you the gadgets you’ve seen in your favourite cyberpunk movies and TV shows. A community of DIY enthusiasts has emerged in recent years to create the cyberpunk devices of their dreams using tiny computers like the Raspberry Pi. While these creations may not replace your current smartphone, they’re not just idle props, either.
The Origin Story of DIY Cyberpunk Hardware
The Ceres 1
Brendan Charles, a tinkerer and hacker who has been experimenting with miniature computers like the Raspberry Pi for years, always envisioned a different sort of future than the one we live in today. COVID lockdowns gave Charles the time and space to create the Ceres 1, a battery-powered micro-PC with fold-up design fit for the streets of Night City. The TV show Halt and Catch Fire, not Cyberpunk 2077, inspired Charles to create his device. The Ceres 1 is based, in part, on the design of a child’s toy called the Talking WizKid. While it’s an impressive piece of hardware, according to Charles, making your own DIY cyberpunk device isn’t as hard as it appears. Per Charles, “you can find premade modules and connectors to do almost anything you want.”
Richard Sutherland’s tinkering journey began as a child when he wanted a TRS-80 Model 100. Single-board computers like the Raspberry Pi allowed him to experiment with creating his devices as an adult. Sutherland creates high-end hobby projects under the name BrickBots online, including a steel-frame cyberdeck. He even created a mini keyboard, touch screen display, and four-hour battery life device called the HandiPi that he uses to play text adventure games. DIY devices are about more than just utility. According to Sutherland, “there will always be people interested in DIY or unique things that don’t make sense to mass-produce.”
Why DIY Cyberpunk Devices Matter?
As the open-source movement and DIY communities grow, tech companies are pursuing walled gardens for their software, making DIY tech increasingly relevant. Charles believes that these groups are the closest thing we have to the cyberpunk dream in real life. While he underscores that increasing component prices will lock some people out of the hobby, he’s convinced that the DIY movement will continue to grow.
The cyberpunk dream of homemade wrist-mounted computers, once deemed impossible, can now become a reality. With communities of DIY enthusiasts emerging and sharing their creations, you can now learn how to build your Pip-Boy or the cyberdeck of your dreams. As we continue to see tech companies close off their systems, an open-source and DIY approach may be the only way forward for those who want to pursue a different path.