Installing the logic, final pics

Now we have connections to the led, the capslock-indicator and to 5V, we need some logic to make sure the led toggles when the capslock led goes on and off again in a short timespan. While I could have used regular logic, the problem can also be solved by throwing an uC to it, which has the added advantage that it can be an one-chip solution. I used an ATTiny13 with a small piece of firmware to do the job. The LED is connected between pin 5,6,7 and gnd. The caps led is connected to pin 2.

Soldering the AVR. No PCB needed :P Unfortunately, I didn't have a SMD version of the uC, if I had it could be an even smaller solution.

At first, I tried putting the uC here. Eventually, I found out there wasn't enough room there and put it next to the PCB.

You want to glue the wires firmly in place. If one of them gets in the way of a screw, you can destroy the circuit or even your laptop.

And after screwing a hell of a lot of screws back in the laptop, unscrewing them because a wire got in the way of a screwing hole, re-seating the wire... well, you get the idea, I had myself a working Thinklight-clone! Normally, the keyboard stays dark...

...but after tapping the CapsLock-key twice, it lights up nicely.

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W Sanders wrote at 4 Sep 2015, 0.40:

Why not use a $5 USB light? Because it would be WRONG! to just go out and buy a $5 USB light. Anybody can do that!

Mohammad Suhaimi wrote at 1 Sep 2013, 15.22:

why don't you tapping the power source from usb?

Mike wrote at 26 Dec 2010, 13.25:

Excelent job dude..., I want the same for my old laptop... I will do it tomorrow ;)

Cornel wrote at 13 Mar 2010, 21.41:

Useless hack... too complicated! Buy an USB LED lamp! 7-8 bucks

spiral wrote at 29 Nov 2009, 20.06:

can you reupload the firmware please?:) thanks for the cool hack, keep up the good work!

Sprite_tm wrote at 1 May 2009, 1.02:

What is this 'warrantee' you speak of? Never heard of it ;)

HB wrote at 29 Apr 2009, 21.53:

Great hack, but a question. Won't this void any warrantee?

mf wrote at 14 Jan 2009, 21.37:

great idea......how about modding the keyboard itself ? cut out the letters on the keys , cover inside of keys with clear something , maybe use like 3 tri color leds under or in keyboard , wire it to turn on with fnc and some other key .... any ideas

Ruan wrote at 19 Jul 2008, 20.55:

Impressive hack you have there, another way I was thinking of being able to do this is, since you are running Linux, it is relatively easy to access the SMBus, so tapping into the SMBus on the motherboard and adding an I2C expander in so you can then write to the expander to be able to turn the light on. I'm not an expert on tapping SMBus and it would take some figuring though I'm pretty sure I've seen it done somewhere else. Keep up the good work!

nabegente wrote at 29 May 2008, 21.41:

muy sigue asi con ilusion imaginacion y mas ó menos tecnica y suerte te saldra todo lo que te propongas pero no lo dejes en simples proyectos pequeñas cosas para otros satisfaccion para ti

ollyk wrote at 30 Apr 2008, 16.41:

Really nice job that. pity my laptop is brand new or else I would be doing the same thing myself! It did occur to me to perhaps try a UV LED instead of a white that way there would be less distracting glare - might try that myself!

Jeremy wrote at 29 Oct 2007, 5.25:

Too Cool. This is the kind of hack that I'd do just because. I can't say I remember too many times I've been stuck in the dark hunting for the right key, but any excuse to add functionality is good enough. I can't wait to get started, thanks for the idea!

leethax0 wrote at 28 Oct 2007, 4.52:

This kind of hack is the greatest one! Very ingenuous! I cant understand how people can read such article and post thigs like mr. nobody. And neither why some other people don't read anything and posts like michael...tsc

PFC Burns wrote at 30 Jun 2007, 6.54:

Very smart!!!! Bravo

uber wrote at 19 Jun 2007, 19.26:

Pegasuz's idea is great, I have never used that key, even the few times I have to use a Winbox, it's just a dead key. If I do this I'll use that one. Nice hack BTW, I didn't even know this and we have several T41's and X31's here and they all have that light! Very Nice!

RobotTeapotUltra wrote at 8 Jun 2007, 15.38:

Uncanny, I was thinking of doing this to my aged E500 just last week, trouble is the screen bezel at the top is a lot narrower than your toughbook and has the catch mechanism built in. /thinks; maybe 2 LEDs on each side... Caps lock key activation is awesome! @mr.nobody Why mod? Because you can!

johnr1 wrote at 14 May 2007, 6.33:

I did this using the scroll lock key instead and using www.goldmine-elec-products.com (product number G15614) and ran "magnet wire" (super thin enamel coated wire) up the display. I soldered the wires to the scroll lock LED using a liquid solder pen and a Q-tip and then used a soldering iron to heat the dried liquid solder for stronger connection to the LEDs. I also liquid soldered directly to the LEDs on the light bar that i got from goldmine electronics so it would lay completely flat on my display cover. I then used double sided tape to mount the LED bar above the display. It was pretty easy to install that way. it was time consuming because i had to be careful working with the tiny components but it was completely worth it. I use it constantly. It will be great for camping or riding in a car on a long trip at night time. The liquid solder pen made it so much easier. the good thing about the liquid solder and a q tip is that if you mess up you can wipe the solder off before it dries and start over. usb light would work too but is not as convienient and sticks out too far if your usb ports are in the back. In my opinion you might as well just plug in a lamp or something while you are at it. More laptops should already have a light built in or have a light up keyboard. what the hell is the hold up?

michael wrote at 3 May 2007, 20.53:

uhm, I really like your work dude, but why bother if you can buy a usb-light for less than 5 bucks??

PegasuZ wrote at 30 Apr 2007, 14.41:

Hi there! very nice hack, but as ur a linux-user, why don't put a simple switch underneath the annoying windows-key... could have saved you some trouble on finding the doubleclick event on ur Capslock-key...

wasdftw wrote at 24 Apr 2007, 6.43:

i've been thinking of doing this for the last year but alwasy to scared to try, will give it a go now! but i might go bcr666 way and use the scroll lock and run a LEd in parrel off it.

dhfgvjsdhfgjd wrote at 26 Jan 2007, 6.41:

Awesome. I just saw this and im doing the same thing or something similar to my Panasonic Toughbook CF-72. Panasonic makes the coolest stuff in my opinion. I got a Toughbook specifically to put next to my drum set. I donít think much else if anything out right now could handle the vibration. Plus it has a touch screen and a handle. The processor and the hard drive are upgradeable too so I say mod it/upgrade all you want. Screw buying a new one just to be able to see the keys or whatever. Especially when you already have a great laptop in the first place. There will always be something newer and better comming out so Fu*k it.

JDP wrote at 15 Jan 2007, 18.18:

RE: Bloodenberry wrote at 26 Nov 2006, 1.20: "Why not EL cable under the keys?" If you did that to most laptops, which have solid opaque plastic keys, all you would get is the outline of the keycaps. Almost useless. On modern Apple laptops, like the G3 PowerBooks and the iBooks you can backlight the keys as they are translucent, but the space underneath to fit the EL wire is small, and the driver circuit is not very small either. A single or double LED hack is much easier and generally more useful. If needed you can use the LED light ot read a piece of paper or something else useful.

bettr.thn.u wrote at 15 Jan 2007, 4.52:

Amen, Sprite.

Sprite_tm wrote at 10 Jan 2007, 1.42:

Just had to react to mr. nobody, although he's probably a troll: As far as I know, these keyboard lights are patented by IBM (now Lenovo) so you won't find them on any other laptop. My Toughbook is a machine I specifically picked for it's robustness and carrying handle. A combination of the two just isn't available on the market. Secondly: a laptop is just like any other PC, just with smaller components and less standardized stuff. If you're afraid of firing up the soldering iron in range of a motherboard, don't do this. If you've ever thought about hacking a PCI-card, you can do this: modding a laptop isn't any more dangerous. A piece of electronic equipment remains a piece of electronic equipment, and therefore is hackable.

mr.nobody wrote at 2 Jan 2007, 6.10:

Post script.... ducktape is a very purdy thing, less 1's and zeros the better , id rather just work with what i got then reg. the V's and A's from inside the book, shit it's everything but the kitchen sink , we arnt 007 or batman everything doesnt have to be intergrated with the keyboard , the best hacks are the simple ones, Tread lightly and carry a big stick..... leave a light foot print ect. ect. keep it simple stupid, dont major in the minors , nuff said

mr.nobody wrote at 2 Jan 2007, 6.03:

you're all fools who have to many brain cells for your own good , laptops are a pain in the ass if i ever had to open one up id shoot my self or just buy a new one of course you can do it , you dont need to prove that you can , a tech , who works at he factory or who designed the damm thing can tell you its possible a laptop is not like a box there are close tolerances and its really not worth the trouble , might as well just make a usb led whip light that you can toss in your gear bag , why make your shit fragil if you want to be a guerillea

Myself wrote at 28 Nov 2006, 1.41:

Plus, if you drop the machine with one of those USB lights plugged in, you'll break the plastic tongue in the USB connector, or worse. Such was the fate that befell my old CF-17 motherboard. I just picked up a CF-72 for myself too, and while it's nowhere near as "tough" as the other Toughbooks I've owned, the giant screen and awesome speakers mean it's my preferred machine for most use. I might have to do this mod myself, on the lounging-around CF-72, and the car-navigation CF-M34. I don't suppose you'd sell programmed uC's for those of us too lazy to build a programmer? Also, you should head on over to toughbook.wikispaces.com, where we're only slightly jealous of the much larger and more comprehensive ThinkWiki. ;)

Bloodenberry wrote at 26 Nov 2006, 1.20:

Why not EL cable under the keys?

John Smith wrote at 16 Nov 2006, 4.45:

A hack is a hack especially if it's as useful as this one. I don't even have a laptop but maybe they should be made to support different power connectors more easily, & I would for sure do it.

Sprite_tm wrote at 15 Nov 2006, 12.09:

Aside from the knowing-its-possible-factor (imo, knowing it's possible isn't that big an issue -- I know it's possible to shoot a rocket to the moon, that doesn't mean _I_ can do it tho', I'd have to try first) an external light is a lot more bulky and easy to forget than an internal light. If every time I worked in the dark I had to reach into my laptop bag and find the light (in the dark, mind you!) I probably wouldn't bother.

cheebster wrote at 15 Nov 2006, 3.19:

Um, knowing it's possible is enough ? Maybe for some it's true. Nice mod, i got a ZD7000 and i'm doing this mod for sure on it. Maybe i'll use a Blue Led.. a bright one with 5V on it, i guess it's gonna do it. Thanks.

Matt wrote at 14 Nov 2006, 3.28:

Yeah it's a (great?) idea but an external clip-on white LED lamp would be far more appropriate - why risk messing up a good laptop when u can just clip on a lamp?!. Good idea but I can't see myself hacking my ACER to pieces JUST for this!. Yes I KNOW it is POSSIBLE - and so KNOWING it is possible is enough for me thanks!. :)

Steve wrote at 4 Nov 2006, 1.56:

I like pie. Pie is good.

homeslee helms wrote at 3 Nov 2006, 19.10:

link to source code is not working?

hairil87@time.net.my wrote at 3 Nov 2006, 18.59:

awesome...huhu mel me k..

Jason wrote at 3 Nov 2006, 10.32:

Dewd, that is one hell of a cool mod ... three thumbs!!!

dragonBTV wrote at 1 Nov 2006, 10.15:

hackmiester: The one that I am using is still dim orange. ---> IBM Z61t

hackmiester wrote at 1 Nov 2006, 1.59:

dragonBTV: Actually, IBM, not Lenovo, released the R51, the first model to have a dim orange LED. It's also the one I own. The last model to have this was the R40.

Sprite_tm wrote at 1 Nov 2006, 0.08:

Nope, it's not retractable but it just doesn't stick out that much. The rubber pads on the top of the screen leave some room betreen the display and the laptop body, and the led fits perfectly inthere.

Akyles wrote at 31 Oct 2006, 21.53:

Totally cool! So... what happen when you close the computer? is that a "retractable led" ?

keen wrote at 31 Oct 2006, 20.42:

very keen!

MrTwiggy wrote at 31 Oct 2006, 18.44:

Nice mod dude! I am condering doing this to my old Dell laptop now. Thanks!

Chip Anderson wrote at 31 Oct 2006, 15.45:

Nice mod but... What happens when you close your laptop? A led crash?

bcr666 wrote at 31 Oct 2006, 15.33:

Nice! Why not use the scroll lock instead of the caps lock? I don't think I've ever used my scroll lock key at all.

dragonBTV wrote at 31 Oct 2006, 8.52:

Acturally, your fix would be better than the new IBM as they had changed it's white LED into a dim orange ... That's the diffeient between IBM and LENOVO!

nitejumper wrote at 31 Oct 2006, 6.55:

very nice !! thanks for sharing it with the 'net. I had the same 'problem' working with my Inspiron 8200 in the dark and I found a 4-LED blue SMD blue lightbar from www.goldmine-elec-products.com (product number G15614)- only 99-cents. I glued it under the cover-latch on the LCD, covered it with a VERY thin piece of black plastic to keep the light out of my eyes, then adjusted the current-limiting resistor to get the right amount of light to see the keyboard. Since the LEDs are SMD and side-throwing, almost all the light goes down onto the keyboard. With about .008" of plastic on top, the entire assembly is only 1/16" thick and does not hit the palmrest. I especially like your control scheme with the mini-processor. Mine uses two transistors and is controlled by the backlight control signal (found that signal, 5-volts, and ground on the CCFL inverter board) and a photo-transistor stuck through a (new) hole on the top of the lid. The clear top of the photo-transistor was sanded down flat to eliminate the built-in 'lens' and make it more of an ambient-light detector. By adjusting the current-sensing resistor for sensitivity (cut-and-try method), the light doesn't turn on until the room is dark, and makes just enough light to see the keyboard. When the room is dark, AND the backlight is on, the keyboard light is on. When either condition is not-true, the light is off. I might have made mine too sensitive, since the light from a lit cigarette will turn the light off from 6-inches away.

mike wrote at 31 Oct 2006, 6.41:


lolorbox wrote at 31 Oct 2006, 4.43:

nigro peligro

Andrew wrote at 31 Oct 2006, 4.40:

Awesome hack, very useful! :)

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