Console Projects >> You Don't Know Jack Controller v2

Button Box

The first (and biggest) consideration of this new YDKJ Controller was that I wanted to eliminate the need for a separate "Encoder Box", which meant that the keyboard encoder now had to be inside the Button Box. The other big consideration was that I wanted the interface to be a single USB interface because I didn't want to have to tie up the PS/S keyboard port on the PC, and I didn't want to have to use any ugly-looking adapters to do so either. These requirements had always made this project a near-impossibility...until Ultimarc unveiled their I-PAC VE ("Value Edition") encoder: It interfaces through a single USB port, it has a very tiny footprint, and it's really inexpensive to boot! Score!

For the Button Box itself, there was a stumbling block right out of the gate: Radio Shack no longer carries their "Control Console Enclosure" project box! As it turned out though, this was a bit of a blessing in disguise, because I found the exact same item offered by PacTec Enclosures. How was it a "blessing in disguise" you ask? Because PacTec sells their enclosures in either "PC Bone" or black, which meant that I wouldn't have to spray paint it in order to get it black. Hooray! The exact model that I used is the PacTec KEU-10 Keyboard Enclosure.

So now that I had the encoder and the box that the encoder will go inside, I had a new obstacle to cross: the encoder takes up a decent amount of space inside the Button Box, so much so that I can't use the standard Pushbuttons With Horizontal Microswitch from Happ Controls because the buttons won't clear the encoder with the lid closed. After poking around on Happ's site for a bit though, I found their "Small pushbutton with shallow mounting depth" Momentary Contact Pushbuttons, which was exactly what I needed. They're not nearly as robust-feeling as the Happ Pushbuttons With Horizontal Microswitch are, but for this project they work fine.

Once I had all the necessary parts in order, putting everything together was pretty simple. I used insulated standoffs from Radio Shack to mount the I-PAC VE to the bottom of the Button Box (although any standard "PCB feet" would do). Once the I-PAC VE was lined up and mounted, a simple 1/2" hole punched and drilled in the aluminum back panel of the Button Box made a perfect opening for the single USB port.

The locations for the five buttons ("1", "2", "3", "4", and "screw") were punched and drilled out of the aluminum box top, as well as the locations for the three 1/8" panel-mount jacks that the hand buzzers plug into. I designed an overlay in Photoshop labeling the buttons and jacks, which I printed on a color laser printer and then laminated at my local FedEx Kinko's before mounting it to the Button Box. Once the overlay, buttons, and jacks were mounted, it was a simple case of wiring them up to the I-PAC VE (I used 22 AWG stranded wire) and then closing the box up.

Wiring it up.
A single USB cable is all that's needed for hookup.

The finished product.
Angled view.

If you want a copy of the overlay that I used, it's available in the Downloads section.


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