What is a Cyberdeck?

Jeni_Odley
edited December 2023 in PC Tech

Cyberdecks are custom crafted personal computers that allow users to connect to cyberspace. These customized devices offer endless possibilities for techies to get creative and make their own stunning pieces of technology. Cyberdecks can be complex or simple depending on the user's needs and abilities and are often made to reflect a cyberpunk-style aesthetic. Standard cyberdecks are usually around the size of a paperback book and made of plastic, weighing approximately half a kilogram. Standard cyberdecks include a single-board computer with a display and keyboard. 

Origins of the cyberdeck 

The term cyberdeck stems from the 1984 novel Neuromancer by William Gibson, a science fiction genius who is said to have envisioned the internet and virtual reality before they existed. Laptops were not yet fully established in the 1980s, but they were already a prominent feature in Gibson’s cyberpunk world. Neuromancer depicts characters carrying chunky portable desktops known as cyberdecks, allowing them to access the Matrix, sci-fi’s forefather of the internet. 

Why build a cyberdeck? 

Cyberdecks are custom-made systems that take significantly more effort to design and build. So why build a cyberdeck in the first place? Building a cyberdeck from scratch gives users the freedom to include any type of component they choose, giving them greater control over every piece of equipment. Users can pick and choose components based on their individual requirements, allowing them to improve their decks and build something truly spectacular. From wiring and lights to cooling tubes and engraved panels, cyberdeck projects give gamers ultimate control.  

What do I need to build a cyberdeck?

First, users should select a Single Board Computer or SBC. This can be overwhelming as there are hundreds of options with different capabilities to choose from. SBCs come with a pre-set amount of RAM and include a microprocessor, memory, and input and output functions. Alongside RAM, SBCs usually comprise a motherboard, power system, graphics, and sound chips. Raspberry Pi powers most custom cyberdecks, as they are user-friendly and have lots of available accessories. Users should also consider peripheral accessories like a mouse, which are often easier to choose as they depend on personal preference.

Next, users should find a suitable display, carefully selecting a size, resolution, and interface that meets their visual requirements. High resolution may be better for clear visuals and sharper images, leaving low-resolution displays for secondary use like showcasing system statistics. Finally, just like laptops, cyberdecks also require a reliable case. Designers can use 3D prints, hard cases, sheet metal, or even wood or acrylic.

If this sounds exhausting, there are a myriad of helpful online resources designed to help newbie or seasoned creators build their next project. Some even provide handy lists of basic parts required to build a cyberdeck. The beauty of constructing a cyberdeck is that users can include anything they like on a budget to suit them. It may appear to be an expensive hobby, but creating an outstanding deck does not have to break the bank. Many components are available for purchase on sites like eBay or Craigslist, or from e-waste recycling providers. These are treasure troves of electrical components that may nicely complement your next cyberdeck project. Second-hand or thrift stores should stock glue or cables as required.

Some cool cyberdecks as inspiration

If you are looking for cyberdeck inspiration, YouTube has some great resources as a reference. Fans and aspiring deck builders can check out the top custom Raspberry Pi cyberdeck projects, including an impressive six-screen device created with 3D printing. This particular invention includes six single-board computers that can be split into individual display systems and operated independently. Moreover, experienced cyberdeck builders also post video tutorials detailing how to build specific models and offer a detailed explanation of parts and components. The Hackaday Cyberdeck Contest is a great place to admire the work of others and push the boundaries of our own creative skills. Some cyberdecks are seriously cool, and luckily, their creators are willing to share them with the world for inspiration. 

Conclusion 

Cyberdeck newbies may feel overwhelmed with how to build a cyberdeck, but there are ample online resources available to ease the process. Before starting, creators must draw a detailed plan and diagram that accounts for the amount of space available. They should also try to maximize the number of ports and limit cable runs or crossings. Designs should be neat and compact, which requires research and forethought. Fortunately, there are plenty of cyberdeck designs and resources available online to inspire creators of all abilities. 

Jeni is a translator and writer based in Taiwan. She is passionate about business development and loves helping companies enter international markets. She is fluent in English, German, and Mandarin Chinese, and combines these with her industry experience to provide practical market entry solutions.

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