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Ask MAKE is a monthly column where we answer your questions. Send your vexing conundrums on any aspect of making to [email protected] If we don’t have the answer, we’ll scare up somebody who does.

Phil asks:

I love the feel of the keyboards on old Thinkpad laptops and would love to use one of those
keyboards with my new iPad. How difficult would it be to yank out a Thinkpad keyboard
from a deceased ThinkPad and connect it up to the iPad Camera Connection Kit USB port?
It seems do-able, but I’m more of software than hardware guy.

Hi Phil,
After researching this, it appears your results may vary depending on the model of Thinkpad keyboard you have. However, there are certainly examples of mods to Thinkpad keyboards that change the output to USB. One iteration I found is by Lars Ole Pontoppidan. His hacked Thinkpad keyboard is pictured above. Unfortunately, his documentation on the project is scant, so you may want to drop him a line and ask about his methods.

Another avenue you may pursue is the GeekHack Forum. This is a message board dedicated solely to the discussion of keyboards, and there are many users who have modded their own and may be able to help you.

Finally, if you want the feel of the Thinkpad keyboard without the fuss, Lenovo sells the Thinkpad USB Keyboard, which is extremely similar to the original laptop version.

I hope this helps, and good luck on your project!

If anyone has experience with modding Thinkpad keyboards or has more information, please post in the comments.

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Michael Colombo

In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens’ educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.


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