Look. Things aren’t great. COVID-19 is ravaging the planet, wildfire season is about to start, and weather experts say that this year’s hurricane season may be worse than usual. It’s a great time to take up a hobby like, say, building your computer. In a desolate future, it’s possible we’ll be surrounded by technology that’s impossible to use without some simple computers to interface with them.
Enter the Off-Grid CyberDeck, a durable, waterproof computer built from a Raspberry Pi 4.
Creator Jay Doscher pitches the CyberDeck as a recovery kit. This is a machine built to help people get other machines working again. It’s got a mechanical keyboard, is water-resistant, uses an internal battery for power with the ability to switch to an external source, and is shielded from electromagnetic pulses with copper foil.
Doscher is a tech worker in California who told Motherboard in an email that he’s passionate about making technology that’s a force for good in the world. He said he started the project so he could have a machine that would keep his internet connected devices working should the internet ever fail. “I wanted something that could replace my current fixed PC/servers that do local DNS and DHCP, but also mirrors for APT (a common software user interface package for Unix style computer systems) and Linux distributions,” he said. “When building Raspberry Pi projects, there's a ton of reliance on APT packages.”
This CyberDeck is just the latest version of Doscher’s apocalypse-proof machines. He built the original in 2015, but it was more of a prototype that came without a keyboard, lacked waterproofing, and—by his own admission—had wiring that “was a mess.”
The newest CyberDeck has been so popular that he’s built some for private buyers.
“Most people that have customized and built their own from the design seem to have other goals or make design changes like batteries or changing CPU types,” he said. “Most of the community is focused around the 'CyberDeck' and creating custom-built (semi) portable computers.”
There’s an increased interest in the machines, but COVID-19 has made it harder to build the them. “Sourcing parts is very slow now, and while it's important to stay safe and support our critical workers, many of us are at home,” Doscher said. “This is a good time for projects but also a time where getting some parts can be difficult.”
Doscher’s project is just one of many projects focused on rebuilding the world’s machines after the end of civilization. CollapsOS is an operating system designed to work with easy-to-scavenge electronic equipment and artists in Latvia are using e-waste to build looms.
“COVID-19 looks to be still teaching us lessons on what needs to change, but I think more attention on resilient computing will come with time,” Doscher said.