Getting 12 year olds to learn assembly programming

[notch], the mastermind behind Minecraft, is working on a new game. It’s called 0x10c (pronounced ‘trillek’, we think) and promises to teach an entire new generation the joys of assembly programming on a 1980s-era computer.

The setup for the game is nerdy/awesome enough to make [Douglas Adams] blush; a ‘deep sleep core’ was invented in 1988 that attached to the 16-bit computers of the day. This core was big endian, where the DCPU-16 (the computer in the game) was little endian. What was supposed to be a one-year hibernation turned into a 281 Trillion year coma, the Universe is dying, and everyone from 1988 is just waking up.

The game features a fully functional 16-bit CPU that controls every aspect of your spaceship. The specs for the DCPU-16 have been released and there are several emulators available.

Already, a few communities have been set up around the web to discuss how to program the DCPU-16: the official forum of 0x10c, the 0x10c subreddit, and another dedicated to programming the in-game computer. Already there’s a C-like language that compiles executables for the DCPU and a Game of Life implementation.

We know this isn’t a usual Hackaday post. Despite this, we’re fairly certain a good percentage of our readership will be programming a DCPU-16 in the next year. It just might be time to crack the books and learn how to build a compiler and OS. The dragon book (Compilers Principles, Techniques, and Tools, Aho, Sethi, Ullman, 1985) is very good, and [Andy Tanenbaum]’s Operating Systems Design and Implementation is how [Linus Torvalds] got his start.

One more thing: we’re going to be running a contest for the best physical implementation of the DCPU-16 in a few months. We’ll wait until the in-game hardware is nailed down, along with any peripherals [notch] plans to add. Right now the prizes are some HaD schwag, but that may change. Further info with updates pending, but you’re free to start working now.

Build an induction heater and become a metalsmith

If you’ve ever wanted to forge, cast, or smelt metal, this project is right up your alley. It’s a 30 kVA induction heater built by [bwang] over on Instructables. It gets hot enough to melt and forge steel, iron, and aluminum.

An induction heater operates by surrounding the object to be heated with a coil carrying high frequency AC current. Basically, the entire setup acts like a huge transformer with a shorted secondary. To get these currents into a workpiece, [bwang] used a TL494 PWM controller as an oscillator. The output of the TL494 is filtered and amplified a few times to generate a huge amount of AC current.

Larger versions of [bwang]’s induction heater are found in foundries and forges all across the land; even though this small version sucks down 50 A out of a dryer or stove outlet, induction heating is very efficient. We’re actually wondering why we don’t see many home blacksmiths using induction heating, so we’ll leave that for our readers to discuss in the comments.

[sessions] reminded us of this induction heater from a few years ago. A little smaller, but still usable.

Want a two person self destruct button, but tired of pesky microcontrollers?

We all know that our precious cruisers/warships/assets can not fall into the wrong hands, and what better way to assure that information security than incorporating a self destruct button into the design? While the general premise is simple enough the only real way to make sure some crazy space-virus can’t infect your captain and force him to destroy your ship is to add a two button security system! Wait, what if it’s a computer virus?! Well [Andrea] has it covered with this two hand hand control switch. We guess you could also just use the scheme to flip on a dangerous piece of equipment, since it forces the operator to remove both hands from the machine to operate the buttons, but where is the drama in that?

The buttons are timed using a combination of voltage dividers and caps to activate transistors, one to activate the 555 timer and another to disable the button input after a half second or so. Since it’s all resistor capacitor timing your circuit may require just a bit of tuning (or precision components) to get everything right.  There is a bit of an issue with using two people to trigger the output, as the second button actually operates the output relay directly. If the second button is held it will only remain active until the timer’s output is triggered, but if your second in command gets cold feet and releases the button before the core goes thermo, well, you’ll have an embarrassing jog to the escape pods.

Check the video after the jump to see [Andrea] fiddling around with the switch.

Continue reading “Want a two person self destruct button, but tired of pesky microcontrollers?”

CNC’d business cards will definitely get you noticed

cnc-business-card

The guys over at North Street Labs were bored, so they figured why not go ahead and built a CNC machine just for kicks. While they haven’t put up build details on the CNC just yet, they do have some newly milled business cards to show off just how well the machine works.

Part ruler, part LED throwie, we think their new business cards look great. Milled out of thin acrylic sheeting, their cards feature the North Street Labs logo and URL along with 1/32” ruler markings along the top. The card is also fitted with space for a button cell battery and RGB LED, which illuminates the entire card nicely from the side.

They say that the cards take about 5 minutes apiece to make, which is not bad at all. At $0.50 a pop, the cards are not nearly as cheap as those made from cardstock, but when you’re looking to impress what’s a couple of quarters?

Continue reading to see a short video of their CNC-milled business cards in action.

Continue reading “CNC’d business cards will definitely get you noticed”