NES processor cloned on a FPGA


[Bradley] decided to tackle the challenge to recreate the original Nintendo Entertainment System’s processor in a Field Programmable Gate Array. Say what? The original NES is a Legacy System, still used but no longer manufactured. If a system breaks, it becomes more and more difficult to repair or find replacements parts as time passes. By using a programmable integrated circuit such as a CPLD or a FPGA to clone the functionality of the original hardware, legacy systems can live on long after the original hardware has given up the ghost.

It took [Bradley] about a year to fully implement the NES processor as part of his Master’s project at Bradley University. He used what was known about the processor combined with some detective work with logic probes along the way. The programming was done in VHDL and those files are available for download (click on Documentation).

With the ubiquity of NES emulators on every device known to man you probably won’t be replicating this unless you want a reason to play with a FPGA. What interests us is the hardware solution this type of work provides for obsolete hardware that still serves a useful purpose. If you’ve used a FPGA or similar device to keep an old system running, let us know about it in the comments.

Radio cabinet media center


[Jon] picked up an old Philco radio from a pawn shop for $81. The electronics were shot and the controls had seen better days. So he set to work giving this old beast a makeover, turning it into a beauty of a media player.

The face plate for the controls had seen better days. His solution was to replace it, which gave him more options for mounting a display and controls. A menu system was implemented on the LCD display using a PIC18F4450 microcontroller. The chip also takes care of the three rotary encoders for the user interface and integrates the whole thing with the PC backend.

We’ll be the first to admit that a full PC is overkill in this situation. That being said, this was slow, unused system that is seeing new life. But is it worth the added noise and energy costs? Who knows, we think this leaves a lot of room for future revisions. Perhaps an NAS and wireless controls via iPhone or a similar device?

We’re a bit disappointed that [Jon] didn’t do some work to get better sound out of this. With a great big cabinet like this, the right speakers with a tube amp will produce some sweet sound. Certainly most things would be better than just using a pair of computer speakers. We’ll keep our eye out for an update that adds a tube kit to the project.

The glass recycling game


Operating under the premise that glass bottles were not being recycled as much as plastic or aluminum because there’s no payment for the effort, the team at The Fun Theory set out to add a non-monetary incentive. Here is the fruit of their efforts, the Bottle Bank Arcade. Now recycling glass bottles comes with a bit of a game.

A light flashes above one of the holes in the recycling bin and then rewards points if a bottle is inserted there quickly enough. This Simon says type concept proved incredibly popular in the video embedded after the break. We would image some of the kids in the video made their parents haul them home and back with some empties so they could play.

In one evening, this modified bottle bank was used over 100 times, while a nearby low-tech repository was used just twice. This is a great way to use some tech knowledge, a love of hacking, and desire to spread joy in order to make the neighborhood more fun and help increase the amount of trash that ends up being recycled. This is the same team that put together the musical subway steps, we hope they keep this trend going!

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Polycarbonate fish uses three servos to swim


[Amnon] is learning the hard way that water and electronics don’t always like to play nicely together. He’s been working on creating a swimming fish that uses three servos to flex a sheet of fish-shaped polycarbonate. This photo doesn’t really do the project justice but you can get a better idea of what he’s accomplished by watching the videos after the break.

The three servos along with some distance sensors for obstacle avoidance are all controlled by a PIC 16F877A microcontroller. [Amnon] tried out three different waterproofing methods; coating the device in varnish, dipping it in hot glue, and dipping it in epoxy. The first two resulted in water damage to the electronics, but the third managed to work. It kept the water out, but also prevents reprogramming of the controller.

Although not successful, we would have loved to see the process of dipping the fish in a churning vat of molten glue. Once perfected, this may be the perfect platform for carrying our weapons of doom.

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Easy touch capacitance

[Humberto] from NerdKits is one of our favorite tipsters. We like how he can take a concept that seems so extremely complicated, in this case touch capacitance sensing, and present it in a clear and concise manner thats impossible to not love. As previously mentioned the most recent NerdKits hack is on touch capacitance; by using a resistor capacitor pair and some clever switch timing, anyone is able to detect the presence of a human limb. Now who’s going to be the first to adapt this concept further in their own hack?