Apollo Guidance Computer clone

[Cliff Miller] pointed out this incredible project from 2004. [John Pultorak]’s journey began in late 2000 when he decided to build a 60’s or 70’s era minicomputer. While gathering technical documentation, he found some interesting information on the Apollo Guidance Computer and felt that was the way to go. The AGC was the first integrated circuit computer ever built. Designed by MIT in 1964 it was constructed from ~5000 ICs, almost all 3-input NOR gates. [John]’s version uses late 1960’s 74LS TTL logic which gains him a 10 to 1 reduction in the number of ICs. A good thing when you have to do ~15K wirewrap connections. He also used flipflops and register chips instead of building everything from NOR gates. [John] essentially built the AGC three times: First, he coded a simulator in C++. Then, he imported the logic design into CircuitMaker to verify that it would actually work. Finally, he built the 3 by 5foot machine. He’s provided an amazing amount of documentation for anyone that wants to explore this device and the overview alone is well worth a look.

Modular portable system

Reader [John Grayson], known for his multiconsole portable, has constructed a brand new portable. Not liking the controls or the tethered nature of retro TV games he decided to build a modular portable system. He built a custom system that uses cartridges created from TV game systems. The device has a 5.4″ screen and two Canon batteries for 4.5 hours of play.

MySpace cofounder Tom Anderson former hacker

MySpace users are very familiar with the visage of their first “friend” and MySpace cofounder [Tom Anderson], but did you ever wonder what he used to do before he became everyone’s friend? TechCrunch’s investigative reporting revealed that [Tom] was a hacker in the eighties who hacked into the Chase Manhattan Bank computer system, which attracted the attention of the FBI. Under the handle “Lord Flathead”, he became the leader of a black hat hacker group by the time he was fourteen. His activities (along with those of other hackers) led to one of the largest FBI raids in California history. Because he was a minor at the time, he was not arrested, but put on probation in exchange for an agreement to stop committing computer crimes. This definitely makes having [Tom Anderson] on your friends list just a bit more interesting, doesn’t it?

[via Digg]

Hacking a scale to test rocket motors

[David Steeman] sent us this project. He uses a consumer scale to measure rocket engine thrust. He wanted to be able to map the thrust curve of his homemade rocket motors to determine whether they are meeting the design goals. It does this by measuring the force applied by the rocket engine via a microcontroller that records it in a text file on a computer. He then analyzes this data in an Excel spreadsheet.

The sensors were harvested from a consumer scale while the rest of the electronics were built by hand. He’s using a PIC 18F2550 microcontroller which has a built in USB interface. He has breakdowns of each piece with detailed information on how it works as well as some nice pictures. There is also a list of future improvements that he would like to do such as increasing sample speed, integrating it with the ignition, and decreasing the physical size. Files for the schematic, firmware, and excel spreadsheet are available for download at the bottom of the page, so keep scrolling down.

Tiny cubic PC

We’ve been watching the progress of the Space Cube since 2004, but PC Pro managed to get their hands on it first. Developed by the Shimafuji Corporation, it comes with 16 megabytes of flash memory and a version of Red Hat is run off a 1 gigabyte CompactFlash card. The design of the Space Cube is pretty minimal, but it’s got the basics down, from a USB port to a VGA output and a D-SUB RS232 input, and even an Ethernet port. The most interesting thing about it is the Space Wire port, which is a proprietary interface use by NASA, the ESA, and JAXA for outer space. Unfortunately for working hackers, this ingenious micro-computer will set you back about £1,500.

[via NOTCOT]