This enthusiast’s keyboard and trackball used to launch nuclear missiles

Nuclear keyboard on white background

It’s unclear what you’ll find on eBay like an old keyboard and trackball originally dedicated to firing nuclear missiles.

As detailed on Tuesday by Youtube channel Useless DIY, an enthusiast bought the keyboard from eBay simply because it “looked awesome” and had “interesting buttons” saying things like “TRANSMIT”, “ABORT” and “INITIATE”.

The keyboard and trackball were part of a larger control system for a nuclear missile silo command center. Specifically, the peripherals were part of a console used to launch Minuteman III missiles in the 1980s as part of the U.S. Air Force’s Rapid Execution and Combat Targeting (REACT) program.

As explained by the Cold War History website Nuclear companion and quoted by Pointless Tinkering, “There is an amazing difference between REACT and the old Command Data Buffer (CDB). While the CDB had two separate workstations, in REACT the two teams are side by side. in other words, they operate in a single console with keyboard and trackball included. “

The keyboard has reed switches, which use magnets to operate. Other parts include Intel MD82510 / B chip as serial controller, Intel 8051 family microcontroller, and RS422 communication chips.

After retrieving the keyboard and trackball from eBay and learning about their history, the enthusiast got to work, armed with tools like an Arduino Pro Micro (which eventually got fried) and a programmer for the microcontroller, which ‘it acquired through Dromeda Research. He also fixed the trackball which stopped working after purchase and made the keyboard and trackball work with modern computers that have a USB port.

“All this reverse engineering led me to create this little interface, which has the Arduino Micro, which can emulate a mouse and keyboard,” said the owner. there is even custom software for the keyboard.

Of course, there’s no RGB lighting, but some keys actually have LEDs.

Not quite RGB.

Needless Tinkering also highlighted a “BIT key” which appears to reset the keyboard.

According to the video, the keyboard and trackball work like regular PC peripherals, except for the Ctrl, Alt, and down keys, which makes the nuclear keyboard, as the video dubbed it, “very difficult to use as a keyboard. normal and daily pilot. “

Needless Tinkering said he will try to resolve any issues that arise in a follow-up video. Despite its flaws, the Nuclear Keyboard is still a fascinating testament to the power of old technology and fresh minds.


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