Analog Joypad for your Retro PC

Part of the fun with old computers is playing some old school games, and while you could play them with a keyboard it is much more fun with a joystick. You can get old joysticks all day long on auction sites, but you have to watch out. Some are digital, which wont work for many games on many systems. Some were cheap to begin with and probably worn out, and many are flight sticks … ever play pac-man with a giant flight stick?

What I really wanted was a game pad like device for my 1986 Apple //c , using one of the modern thumbstick analog controllers. Using a thumbstick out of an old XBOX(1) controller, some generic parts from Radio Shack, and a little bit of effort , I ended up with exactly what I wanted.

Join us after the break and I will show you how to get there!

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Program a microcontroller over the Internet

If you’ve ever wanted to program a microcontroller “in the cloud,” you might want to head over to Inventor Town, an online IDE that allows you to write and compile firmware for the MSP430 series of microcontrollers.

After logging in with your Google account, you’re presented with a ‘My Projects’ page. From there, you can make as many projects as you like for the MSP430x2231 or ~x2211 microcontrollers. The online editor has the vital keyword highlighting feature, but sadly not many of the more advanced text editor features, like a red underlined syntax errors. After you’ve written your code, press the compile button, download your .HEX file and upload to your board.

We’re surprised we haven’t seen something like this before. To us, this seems like the ideal basis for a github-style microcontroller code-sharing website. Any enterprising ATtiny fans want to take a crack at this one?

Thanks [Rob] for sending this one in.

[Sprite_tm]‘s three-component FM transmitter

When the Regency TR-1 transistor radio came out onto the market in the 1950s, it was hailed as a modern marvel of microelectronics. With only four transistors and a handful of other components, the TR-1 was a wonder of modern engineering. [Sprite_tm] may have those old-timers beat, though. He built an FM transmitter with the lowest parts count of any transmitter ever.

Like most of [Sprite_tm]‘s builds, it’s an unimaginably clever piece of work. [Sprite] overclocked the internal RC oscillator of an ATtiny45 to 24 MHz. After realizing the PLL running at four times the frequency of the oscillator was right in the middle of the FM band, he set about designing a tiny FM transmitter.

[Sprite_tm] remembered his work on MONOTONE and made a short song for hit ATtiny. The firmware for the build takes the notes from his song and varies the 96 MHz PLL frequency a tiny bit, thereby serving as a tiny FM transmitter.

Does it work? Well, if you want to compare it to a Mister Microphone, the range is incredibly limited. That being said it works. It’s an FM transmitter built out of a microcontroller and a battery, and that’s very impressive. Check out [Sprite_tm]‘s demo after the break.

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Jam a remote helicopter

The Syma S107 IR is a popular little remote controlled helicopter. When a friend of [Michael]‘s started flying one around the office he decided to try and jam the signal, creating a no fly zone. Luckily some people on the internet have already decoded the IR signals used by the flying menace. From there, a quick browsing of Mouser to source some LEDs, and to whip up some code for a TI MSP430 was all that was left.

The software on the micro controller is set to broadcast a “thrust off” signal, but [Michael] admits he is not 100% sure if the helicopter is actually receiving that, or if the signal from the no fly zone is mixing with the remote’s signal, causing garbage to be received. Either way when the helicopter gets in range of the no fly zone pad it drops from the air.

Things didn’t go perfectly though, overestimating the current capabilities of the MSP was causing the micro controller to reset and crash the debugger. But a simple rearrangement of how the signals are sent quickly solved this problem.

Join us after the break for a quick video.

[Read more...]

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