Ploopy and the promise of an open-source trackball

 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 annoying Logitech software pops up and asks me to navigate my system preferences. I would never do that. My trackball worked exactly what I needed, and the software seemed to do nothing but bother me.

A small company called Ploopy, started by brothers Colin and Phil Lam, has created a trackball – also called Ploopy – without annoying software. Instead it relies on QMK, the open-source firmware originally made for keyboards that stores all the important hardware settings instead of the computer.

That’s not why I bought a Ploopy. All the other elements of the open-source trackball appealed to me: Ploopy’s trackballs rely on a combination of relatively fast-source sensors and PCBs and multiple 3D-printed features. Lam’s brothers created Ploopy with the idea that there would be plenty of other nerds like them willing to join the project and make cool tweaks and mods. And they are right.

This month, The Vergecast created a special miniseries on Tuesday episodes that focused on creators building cool gadgets (and communities) that big companies might be reluctant to invest in. But Colin and Phil have created a whole community of trackball enthusiasts online, including me.

At this point, we spoke to another member of that community, Chris Person, who previously wrote about Ploopy right here on The Verge. He built more than one trackball and made many of his own mods, including a trackball based around a pool cue ball and one that used a large steel ball bearing. But first we talked to Colin and Phil, who talked about the rationale behind a company that focuses on open source gadgets and also explained why this thing is called Ploopy.



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