Ploopy and the promise of an open-source trackball


The worst thing about my beloved Logitech trackball is the software. Every time my computer restarts, the annoying Logitech software pops up and asks me to change my system preferences. I never do. My trackball works exactly as I need it to, and the software seems to do nothing but annoy me.

A small company called Ploopy, started by brothers Colin and Phil Lam, has created a trackball – also called Ploopy – that has no annoying software. Instead, it relies on QMK, an open-source firmware originally created for keyboards that stores all crucial settings on the hardware instead of the computer.

That wasn’t the reason I bought a Ploopy. It was all the other elements of the open-source trackball that appealed to me: Ploopy’s trackballs rely on a combination of relatively easy-to-find sensors and circuit boards and lots of 3D-printed parts. The Lam Brothers created Ploopy with the idea that there would be plenty of other nerds like them willing to join the project and create cool tweaks and mods. And they were right.

This month, The Vergecast is doing a special miniseries of Tuesday episodes focused on creators creating some really cool gadgets (and communities) that big corporations may be reluctant to invest in. But Colin and Phil have forged a whole community of online trackball enthusiasts, myself included.

In this episode, we talk to another member of this community, Chris Person, who has previously written about Ploopy right here at The edge. He has built more than one trackball and created many of his own mods, including a trackball based on a billiard ball and one using a large steel ball bearing. But first we spoke with Colin and Phil, who talk about the rationale for a company focused on open-source gadgets and also explain why the hell this thing is called Ploopy.


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