The Zipit keypad has a distinct click to it when pressing a key. This is fine most of the time, but when one wants to be quiet it can be a problem. I’ve been told numerous times to “shut that thing up” when my wife is trying to sleep so I needed to find a way to quiet the keys. I found that the Nintendo DS and DSi have similar keypad buttons to the Zipit, but are softer (presumably because it’s a gaming device). They are almost the same size only slightly larger. The D-Pad on the Zipit has smaller dots that are similar in size to the DS/DSi Start/Select/Power buttons. Thankfully there’s enough copper pad left on the Zipit that the DS button dots will still make contact.
My plan was to replace all the Zipit buttons with these softer ones. So, how does one get 46 DS/DSi regular buttons and 5 of the smaller buttons? I happen to have access to salvage electronics and there were plenty of DS boards to remove them from. You can purchase them DealExtreme but it doesn't appear to be cost effective that way. The larger and smaller buttons are available. If you could find the proper part number it would be cheaper from a distributor like Digikey or Mouser.
Using a small blade, remove the metal button "dot" from the button assembly. Do this for 46 of the big ones and 5 small. After you have then removed from the button there remains sticky plastic that held the button to the assembly. An easy way to remove this is soak the dots in acetone for a while which loosens the adhesive making it easy to remove with tweezers. Some of the dots I removed had corrosion or a film on them because they were from used electronics.I ended up scratching the metal in the center and outer edge of the dots on the side that makes contact with the board to ensure a good connection. Overall, the preparation of the dots was the most time consuming. After the dots were prepared, I took apart the Zipit and removed the motherboard. Since this had never been done before I figured I should just do a couple buttons as a test. I peeled back the sticker that holds the metal dots on the Zipit just enough to replace the power, comma, and period buttons (opposite corners of the board). After booting the Zipit to z2sid I tested out those keys and everything seemed fine.
The process for replacing the rest of the dots was fairly simple. I peeled the sticker back from the comma/period corner all the way to the power button, but leaving some sticker attached so that everything will line up properly as I put the sticker back on. Next, I removed all the stock Zipit dots from the sticker.
Now I proceeded to place the soft button dots over the contact points on the motherboard in rows starting with the top 2 rows (options/home/dpad/smiley/prev/next/zipit/play/stop) and gently laying the sticker down on them. I used a tool to hold the sticker back while I placed the dots onto the remaining rows, doing 1 or 2 rows at a time until finished. When everything was stuck down, I gave all areas a nice press to be sure the sticker was down all the way and put the Zipit back together. I've been using for several days now and I'm getting used to it/liking it. At First, it felt very foreign compared to the stock keyboard, but I quickly got used to it. The keypress is much softer than before and requires less pressure to get a keystroke. But ultimately I wanted it to be quiet. So, how quiet is it? Listen for yourself:
UPDATE: I did some measurements on the buttons from the DS that I used and I think I found a reasonably cheap option (even though it’s more than the going rate for a zipit these days). I haven’t tested them, but from the datasheets it seems like they would work.
For the D-Pad (small dots, need 5): Alps Part # SKRMAAE010 - Mouser Electronics - 33 cents each ($1.65 usd)
For The Rest (big dots, need 48): Alps Part # SKRRAAE010 - Mouser Electronics - 36 cents each if you buy 50 ($18 usd)
So, this would run you $20-$25 depending on shipping.