Hackit: Community hacking project?

By popular request, I’ve added a hackit category. Today’s hackit is one of my coffee shop creations. Considering the quality of work we’ve seen, I can’t help but wonder… If the Hack-A-Day community were to come together and produce a joint collaborative hardware project, what could it build? A modular robotics platform? A digital I/O platform for other projects? If you could harness the power of thousands of hardware hacking geeks, what would you ask them to do?

Got a better idea? Let’s hear it.


  1. Nabeel says:

    1 how about a hardware platform that has a nice amount of memory and can be used to actually hack other hardwares do do multiple other things

    2. A nice ground up build of a computer that can support many platforms(osx linux,windows while still maintaing great speeds.. and how about maintianing to have some basic programmers and other hardware built in

    3. A nice ebook with projects and tools starting from basic tools, projects and programs to Advanced projects tools and programs… you like a compiled up with hundreds and thousands of hack programs projects and different amounts of hardwares which will come handy when someone is bored and wants to do sumthing to someone who is stuck on sum thing and needs help

    4 how about sprusing up some great already made hardware (improving the design shrinking it with better quality hardware, maybe a nice case wit some leds or sumthin on that basis

  2. Emperor says:

    collaborative super cheap rf receiver /| transmiter platform?
    we could design it to receive gps, wifi, bluetooth, and NOAA weather satellite frequencies. It could be useful for decrypting satelite tv, or whathave you.

  3. julian says:

    a cheap logic analyzer/oscilloscope combination, with powerful triggering abilities?

  4. error32 says:

    Some sort of usb oscilloscope, so there is no need for a crt but instead it can be shown on the computer screen or logged to a file.

  5. Tim says:

    I second comment #3. These are probably the most cost preventative item on a workbench, and a lot would be learned in the process of building on.

  6. Skyler Orlando says:

    A hacking course for beginners, with detailed lessons starting with simple hacks and building up to the (more or less) famous ones.

    That, or a cheap O-scope.

  7. jonouk says:

    what #3 said.

    I have a printer cartridge testing setup idea which would require a logic analyser, plus it would come in handy for a lot of other things.

  8. jake says:

    #3 is on target. i need a logic analyzer bad. it would probably need to be fpga based unless you can find a real good u-controller.

  9. Peter says:

    A cheap and full featured usb oscilloscope would indeed be nice

  10. andres says:

    truly there is only one answer, a fskin gundam of course

  11. Emperor says:

    #3, a logic analysis tool with a powerful software frontend would be sweet. its a project for both hardware and software peoples.

  12. turbo says:

    I also agree that a quality usb logic analyzer/o-scope would be a great project. Existing standalone scopes/analyzers with respectable specs are prohibitively expensive (at least for many of us DIYers), while the cheaper USB ones only work at low frequencies. It also seems like this project could be nicely split up into several sub-projects – the analog h/w, the data acquisition/usb stuff, and a multi-platform OSS GUI.

  13. zach says:

    I agree with Comment #6, Detailed lessons for the new hacker would be great. Ex.) Tools, Projects, Help, etc. etc.

  14. jeanphe says:

    #3 got it, a logic analyser;

    for what it can do, and how much it costs, this has been the stuff of dreams for me

  15. phishinphree says:

    An o-scope or logic analyzer gets my vote. Even if it isn’t the fastest thing on the market, it would be better than what the majority of us can afford.

  16. Chaos Theory says:

    I’d probably try to to build a machine that makes energy drink. Or somekind of supercomputer that can play crysis

  17. Njay says:

    Definitely something to do some real good to the world.
    What can tech guys do? Starting to free ourselves from oil. How? By finding easy and cheap ways to convert our current cars to electric. Starting where? For example, on the electric engine…

  18. macegr says:

    it would be like herding cats, it’s almost a requirement for a hacker to be very independent and making leaps of logic that others won’t immediately understand. that said, if you could somehow tame a group of hackers, the electronics hobby world really needs a desktop automated system for making circuit boards, especially with plated holes and multiple layers (required for most high speed and bga chips). then someone could make their own logic analyzer that wouldn’t suck from not being able to use the best chips.

  19. zat says:

    i like the noob tutorial… but i am a noob and so please don’t count my opinion *goes in search of a tutorial now >.

  20. Sean says:

    I think the most valuable thing we could do is reduce the cost of becoming a hacker. Money comes and money goes… but the amount of time invested to become a hacker is both large and irreplaceable.

    I’d like to see a single, unified document that serves as an introduction to hardware hacking. Assuming a knowledge of math up to functions, there’s no reason a sufficiently dedicated person couldn’t be introduced to hardware hacking within their spare time over a few months, and for under 200$.

    Dev platforms are also great. I’m happy to see someone got the AtMega microcontrollers to talk to flash memory cards. Maybe we could make an Atmel development board that lets you load programs for the Atmel to compactflash instead of using the STK500 or equivalent? If it could also write to the compactflash in a sane way, and have free pins and analog to digital converters, then we will have successfully reduced the complexity to entering the microcontroller world (yes, I know atmel has some usb flashdrive/microcontroller products, but we can do better). Graduate students around the world would also have a universal datalogger which can be programmed to produce output already in a .csv file, which would be damn cool for us SAS or R users.

  21. yamhill says:

    #3 – with USB port

  22. nullobject says:

    +1 on the call for a USB scope/analyser. I’ve been eyeing off CRT scopes on eBay for a while now, but I’m hesitant to buy a piece of old technology. With a USB scope I could do very useful things like take screenshots of waveforms etc. Imagine how helpful it would be if the hardware-hacking blogosphere started posting waveforms of how their circuits work along with their hacks! Unfortunately I haven’t come across any USB scopes which are A. Linux/Mac friendly or B. within my price range. Yay for a community project.

  23. ginge says:

    Robot platform sounds good. A simple modular approach to code that will run on pic avr with abstraction. Think arduino but better. Hardware would consist of modular motors both servo and stepper with modular hardware interfaces all of the same size and interface layout. Brackets and connectors would be cheap and simple like lynx ses but simpler and cheaper. Plans should be available for cnc milling. high level software should be available for linux/win32 with a shared lib and gui should consist of use of existing platforms such as player/stage or ms robotics studio.
    This opens the scope for everyone to have a say on many parts of the project, no matter the experience level.

    i would second the scope but it is cheap to get a half way decent digital scope from ebay for

  24. ginge says:

    it appears I went over the post limit. or my use of lessthan borked it up
    … continued

    i would second the scope but it is cheap to get a half way decent digital scope from ebay for sub $150 prices and creating one from scratch involves FPGA hardware tricky coding, soldering and filtering. This is something I did a few years ago and it became more expensive than a cheap scope.

    my 2p

  25. Rhomp says:

    Yea a usb o-scope would be sweet but i do like the idea of a beginner hacker ebook. It could just be a collaboration of everyone’s favorite beginner hacks, a ton of good tutorials from soldering to program design for hacks. also include design ideas and sample code. a universal troubleshooting guide that includes basics that a new hacker would forget.

    A quick start guide that gets them to make something they could use in less than an hour or 2 of work, so they find it fun and not repetitive reading.(think of absolutely everything u would need and try to find it on the net for under $200 cause i know it needs to be cheap.)

    Thats about all i could think of but hey it should be comprehensive and go from a maybe a simple tv-b-gone to mircocontrollers and basic robotics.

  26. computerwiz_222 says:

    not sure if this is what everyone is looking for but Circuit-Test makes a USB oscilliscope. Two channels and I think it comes with the software. http://www.circuittest.com Part Number: DSO-2032

  27. alexb says:

    vote #3 ++

    other than that all I can think of is an arm processor board reference design or board itself with somewhere from 16-128mb ram and USB host/slave, small enough to be a cell mobo, yet flexible enough to be a robotics brain or controller, modularity being key.

    the way I see it, make everything smart, I want my toaster to complain if I use white bread to much and tell me it’s boring, to try english muffins, then make a joke about tea and crumpets or something.

  28. Doug Parker says:

    a) Need free hardware? Sign up for freecycle.org. Lots and lots of free hardware being given away. Just be patient.

    b) #3 – the o-scope-man – he gets my vote, too.

    c) I need someone out there to figure out how to convert multiple cordless phones into a set of personal boom mics for a troupe of improv actors. For Bluetooth ear boom mics, the BT stack on a laptop cannot handle pairing with multiple devices. Someone’s got to figure out how to hack that, too.

    Thanks hackaday, ur so kewl.

    (/|\) Peace

  29. bencoder says:

    Totally agree with the O-scope idea. Even very old second hand units go for prohibitively(for some of us) high prices on ebay

  30. Emperor says:

    any chance we could get rid of the 20 comments per page and bump it up to 50?

  31. David says:

    I also agree that a pc based scope would be extremely useful! I wouldn’t know where to start making one though, other than you would need something that runs at a fairly high frequency.

  32. Weirdguy says:

    Honestly, I would like a forum.

    For projects, I can think of many things that are made for niche markets and therefore, overpriced. However, it is usually simple enough that someone on their own could figure it out, but a forum would help ;)

  33. Brian Howell says:

    A lot of good ideas here, but for the first project, I vote for the USB o’scope/logic analyzer combo. Can we do it for under $200.00?

  34. alexb says:

    I like the idea of #3

    What I would suggest, would be a modular controller platform, linux based, similar in size to gumstix or COG, but flexible enough that it could be a cell phone mobo, robotics platform, soft/hardware radio, connected to an FPGA, USB host/slave, maybe an LCD controller, with a code base so someone new to electronics and with minimal understanding of code, could purchase an assembled version, maybe a motor controller “module”, and an I/O sensor interface yet still powerfull enough to interface to something like the PSP LCD from sparkfun, or a cellular module per say, maybe IDE and definately SD interface…
    anyways what a wishlist

  35. theonlyari says:

    How about an inexpensive solar powered UAV that communicates through existing cellular phone networks? It could incorporate GPS, alternative energy, cellular phones, rc airplanes, video transmition?

  36. MaverickNZ says:

    A modular robotics platform sounds interesting. Something that has easy to use software and hardware modules that can be put together simply.

  37. jetblack says:

    what ever it is im in!

  38. D4rk says:

    Definitely a laser show from the tip of the robot’s antenna :D

  39. Lonny Kight says:

    a wifi card that automatically decrypts router keys and passwords for universal access

  40. Taehl says:

    Perhaps my ambitions are low, but I’d like some software that emulates simple hardware devices (like calculators, speak’n’spells, those cheap handheld game devices, etc.). Let the user lay out circuits in a GUI.

    I can see a few uses for this. You can test a hack idea on your computer before dedicating hardware to the project. You could test a device to predict power requirements and bugs. You could circuit-bend. You could see if that device you just made really could run off of solar power, without having to buy solar panels and then discover it can’t.

  41. cloner says:

    how about an instructional DVD for basic hardware hacking or best practicies compilation of some sort? how about a movie showcasing hardware hacking? let’s invite McGyver as the narrator :D

  42. Daren says:

    1.) I would be for a Printed Circuit Board maker that is a little more durable then just ones made from laser/inc printers. Could use a CNC machine as a basis and build from there to deal with copper.

    2.) A hack a day guide to getting copper on those through holes your drill on a pcb.

  43. Christopher Reitmann says:

    Silly Pooh Bear, have them take over Canada. It would just be the stepping stone. Our real target would be Wal*Mart, but we’d still be too week to take it head on…that’s where Canada comes in…

  44. MRE says:

    There have been a lot of requests for logic analysers and o-scopes, which immediately reminded me of a series of articles in Electronics now in the late 90s.
    here are the stub articles:
    Logic Analyser
    DSO add-on
    Speed doubler

    essentially an fpga 40mhz 16 (8 out, 8 in)channel l.a. with simple (dos) software to run it. If I remember right, it was a parallel port device.
    The second link is for a two channel 40mhz digital storage oscope addon module. It pluged in where the 16 channel inputs were on the l.a.
    Finally the third was a speed doubler for the l.a. (80mhz l.a. but cut channel count to 8 (4 out, 4 in? or was it 8 any way you want?). again, it pluged into the input/expansion connector of the original unit)

    The whole set was pretty impressive, and not terribly expensive. I think the main unit would have set you back about $50 to $80 at the time. Kudos to james barbarello for all the hard work!

    So, not to burst a bubble, but its been done (and very well I might add).
    However, I would like to suggest reviewing this series and then comming up with a vastly updated (esp USB and software) model based on this design (with the same goals.. I.E. speed, channel count and a wide enough voltage range so as to avoid blowing the device if you hook it to the wrong end of your circuit.

  45. Oneohm says:

    Another vote for #3.
    Outdated ebay o-scopes work fine but what kind of hacker buys something when they can build it?

  46. samurai1200 says:

    As a noob, if ya’ll were to write an ebook on an intro to hardware hacking, i would definitely include a section on reverse-engineering/circuit-bending/chip-salvaging. I say reverse engineering because as I have seen it, the best way to learn electronics (apart from the theory) is to mess with existing electronics, ie mods and hacks.

  47. Bill.jr says:

    Imagine the brand new platform for hacking. Something in size of Asus EEE or common laptop. Or take an old laptop casing with LCD and make the new platform into it. It could be x86ish (or not), linux or windows, something really easy for programming. It should be highly modular and hackable, should have serial and parallel ports and some hacker-invention-port.

  48. afbcom says:

    I thought over various ideas whilst drinking in the bathtub (beer not bathwater) and the only concept I fealt could apply to all levels of “hacker” would be either an electric/hybrid vehicle, or an ecologically friendly home. On the vehicle side it would apply to engineers and tinkerers alike, whilst the home side would be appealing to a wider audience I believe. From waste management to energy usage to lighting to power generation to structure to heating/cooling to even self sufficience.

    I feel that to impact the largest audience with the talent available, changing the world is neccesary, and every one needs somewhere to live.

  49. afbcom says:

    …continued from 42:

    I think that no matter what idea(s) be selected, consider how to make the biggest difference, help the greater number of people, and to include the most people in the project.

    THiNkInG beyond just hackers, engineers, mad scientists, tinkerers, modders, observers, and general spooks, try and gen as many people as possible involved.

    I propose a vote/poll based on the suggestions in the comment section of this article.

  50. Transcendor says:

    I agree with #3, given todays microcontrollers, building a sophisticated oscilloscope/logic analyzer shouldn’t be impossible, although we might have to throw in external A/D converters, those in the common AVRs and PICs are not nearly fast enough at high conversion resolutions (and seriously, we need more than a maximum of highly exaggerated 10bit resolution of the typical AtMega 16);
    Might be a project for a cost effective 16 bit microcontroller which should be programmable in C; given that fact, we should be able to build a custom easy-to-use language which we’ll convert to C-code or whatever to give users the chance to easily develop test cases for their scope.
    I’ll have to disagree with #20 in that at least here it is near impossible to get a decent scope for a reasonable price at ebay. Hey- Our Scope could, with a little effort, address external memory to make it a persistence oscilloscope. Imagine the possibilities if we throw in a module for flash memory extensions, USB connectivity or Signal generation!

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