Putting a PDP-10 on an FPGA

[dgcx] has been working on reimplementing a PDP-10/x on an FPGA for the last 2 and a half years. This surprised us because we’re only hearing about this project now.

After designing three versions, [dgcx] eventually ended up with a one-FPGA implementation of a PDP-10 and an awesome PDF writeup. Although PDP-10 emulators do exist, this project isn’t an emulation – the system actually has the 36-bit word length of the original, implemented on five 4096 kilobit SRAM chips. This is a fully functioning replica, and even has CHAOSNET implemented with a small Ethernet controller.

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Adding auto-off to a cheap multimeter

[Florin] picked up a cheap multimeter in order to make multiple measurements at one time. Unfortunately, he wasn’t very good at remembering to turn it off when he was finished so he burned through some batteries. Why an auto-off feature wasn’t the first thing coded into the firmware we’ll never know, but [Florin] developed his own hardware-based auto-off circuit.

It sounds like he had all of the components necessary for this on hand already. He grabbed an AVR ATtiny25 in a surface mount package. To keep the board small, he didn’t include an ISP header, but instead made long pads that could have wires soldered to them for flashing the firmware. The microcontroller drives an NPN transistor that can cut off the ground path between the multimeter and its battery. A tactile switch is connected to one of the external interrupt pins and, when pressed, gives you 15 minutes of time to use the meter. After that, the chip kills the power and goes into sleep mode. Simple, and small enough to fit inside the case.

[via Dangerous Prototypes]

IR communications tutorial

After seeing our communications via light post , reader [Chris] dropped this handy little link in our inbox. A very good tutorial about using infrared to enable communications between 2 pic micro controllers.

The tutorial covers all the parts you will need, physical wiring and schematics with notes detailing each section of the circuit. It then goes on into basic IR theory, and a simplified push button circuit you can make to see that it is, in fact, working. Once you get the exercise built on some breadboards, he does some software and get some results from it all.

Now in the end this little device was hitting in the neighborhood of 9600 baud, but had to be pretty darn close to each other with a direct line of sight. These  are often accepted as a couple of drawbacks to IR technologies. IR, which has never really vanished, is in use on a lot of devices though. The more you know the better off you are.

Join us after the break for a quick video!

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MIDI Air Drums let you play anywhere

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[Maayan Migdal] wrote in to share a really cool drum kit he constructed that has one special twist – no drums at all. Using a simple MIDI device and an Arduino, his “Air Drums” look pretty sweet.

The hack makes use of a pair of garden rakes, which serve as his drum sticks. The rakes were cut down and modified to allow the addition of accelerometers and some USB cables. The left stick contains a single accelerometer for registering hi-hat hits, while the right stick is armed with a pair of the modules, which are used to trigger snare and crash symbol strikes. He modified a pair of sandals to fit better while drumming before adding a sensor to each shoe. The left sandal contains an accelerometer to register bass drum hits, while the right shoe uses a light sensor to simulate the use of a hi-hat pedal.

We think that the results are awesome, but feel free to check out the video below to see what we mean. If Guitar Hero wasn’t dead in the water on hiatus, we think this sort of setup would make a great replacement for the flimsy drum set that comes with the game.

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Sleek, disc-less GameCube handheld

sd_card_gamecube_handheld

Console hacker [techknott] has a skill set that is quite possibly second to none. We do love [Ben Heck] and think that his portable consoles are beyond awesome, but you’ve got to check out this portable GameCube [techknott] put together.

While the construction details are pretty sparse, the video below shows off the bulk of the portable ‘Cube’s best features. Far smaller than his Flip-Top GameCube or Dreamcast portables we’ve featured in the past, his new handheld sports a wider screen and is completely disc-less. While the legality of booting backup copies of games from an SD card is something we won’t delve into, we do like the concept.

The console itself is probably only about one and a half times the width of a standard GameCube controller, and while it doesn’t sport an internal battery pack, we wouldn’t turn one down. Besides, who wants to play GameCube outside? With one of these in hand, we are more than happy to keep our pasty selves indoors, thank you very much.

The only complaint we have here is the lack of build details. [techknott’s] handheld consoles are pretty amazing – we just wish that we could see how the magic was made!

Be sure to check out the video below to see the console in action.

[Thanks, Dave]

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A Pill Reminder Box to be Proud of

Not satisfied with the traditional daily pill boxes, [Ryan] set out to build his own. According to his article, these particular pills had to be taken every three days, and he wanted a solution that required “zero effort.” Although one might question whether his solution actually took this amount of effort, the build came out very well.

The result is a box that reminds one to take a pill from one or two bottles using a blinking LED. When the pill bottle is picked up, consumption is assumed and the timer is reset. The main components consist of an Arduino, real time clock, and a battery backup.  Additionally, two picture frames are used to form the project enclosure along with some LEDs and other assorted hardware to finish everything.

This project combines some basic electronics hacking and programming with a very nice looking cover. The results are a very clean looking build with a good write up. For another example of a well finished project with great pictures, check out this N64 portable build.

NTSC video out with the Papilio One

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[Ben Leperchey] is working on building a Sega Master System clone using the Papilio One FPGA board, and although his ultimate goal has yet to be reached, he’s bringing some great stuff to the table in the meantime.

One component that is necessary for any sort of game system clone is NTSC/PAL video output, naturally. Since no one had constructed a TV output “Wing” (The Papilio One’s version of a shield or breakout board), [Ben] went and did it on his own. Using only 14 resistors and a low-pass audio filter, he was able to get the video output he was looking for with relatively little trouble. His VHDL code running on the Papilio does all the hard work of creating the video signal, while the wing he designed mostly handles the connectivity.

This is one of the first few projects/components we’ve seen come out of the Papilio camp, and it looks like things are off to a good start. We can’t wait to see the Master System implementation once it has been wrapped up!

Continue reading to see a quick video demonstration of the Papilio One and [Ben’s] TV output wing.

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