Barrel organ made from Lego plays the Star Wars theme

lego-starwars-barrel-organ

Whether or not you are a fan of the first installment of the Star Wars prequels, you have to see what [Lorenz Lnggrtnr] and [Renee Hoffmeister] have put together for the movie’s 3D debut.

In an attempt to capture the essence of Star Wars in a new fashion, they constructed a large barrel organ from Lego bricks that plays the movie’s legendary opening theme when turned. The barrel is separated into four parts, each representing one of the series’ iconic settings in plastic block form.

Hoth, the Death Star, Tatooine, and Endor are all featured on the organ, with each environment’s structures playing specific notes from the song. As the barrel turns each Lego structure toggles a note to be played on the attached organ, via a “reading” mechanism built from metal arms and Lego tires.

It looks fantastic, and sounds pretty decent too. Be sure to stick around for a short video that shows off the barrel organ in action.

[via Wired]

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A glorious mechanical seven segment display

If you’ve ever wondered why you’ve never seen a mechanical seven-segment display, now you know. They’re fairly complicated and most likely absurdly expensive, especially when a few light bulbs or LEDs would do the same job equally well. This didn’t stop [kiu] from completing his mechanical seven-segment clock he calls SevenBlocks, and for that we are thankful.

Each of the 28 segments in [kiu]‘s clock is made of three layers of acrylic and a short section of a rack gear. Unlike every seven-segment display you’ve ever seen, tiny hobby servos provide the indication for each segment. For the electronics, An ATMega8 is used for the brains of the outfit with a 74HC595 shift register to expand the number of I/O lines. A DS1307 RTC module provides accurate timekeeping, and the dozens of servo outputs visible in the ‘guts shot’ makes you realize why you’ve never seen a mechanical seven segment display before – they’re really friggin’ complex.

If you want to build your own mechanical seven-segment clock, [kiu] put all the files up on Github. Everything is there, from the .DXF files ready to feed to a laser cutter to the schematic and board files for each of the three PCBs. A video showing this clock in action is sort of necessary, so you can check that out after the break.

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Playing Zork on the Arduino

If you’re looking for something to do on a boring Sunday afternoon, how about dusting off your Arduino and playing a text adventure? [Louis] wrote in to tell us about his project called AZIP, an app that will let you play classic 1980s text adventures on your Arduino.

The famous Infocom text adventure games such as Zork and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (reputed to be better than the book, by the way) all ran on a virtual machine called a ZMachine. We’ve seen a few unsuccessful attempts to run a ZMachine on an Arduino, but these builds usually end up going with a Linux-based single board computer. As far as we’re aware, [Louis]‘ build is the first time classic text adventures have been available on the Arduino.

[Louis] based his build on the popular Jzip ZMachine. The required hardware is fairly minimal – just an Arduino with an SD card. Right now the limitations of Flash and RAM on the Arduino means [Louis] needed to remove the game save and restore functions, but with a little clever coding and continued development those functions can be restored. Very cool indeed.

Printing anything with a thermal receipt printer

Over the last year, [James] has been a part of a few commercial projects that used a thermal receipt printer as part of the build. Something must have cracked in his mind, because [James] spent a lot of time developing a way to print customized content on receipt printers, connecting these printers to the Internet, and sharing content with other Internet-connected receipt printers. Even [James] doesn’t know why he spent so much time on this project; [James] figured he was bound to find something interesting. We’ve got to commend him for that.

[James] had been aware of the Adafruit Thermal Printer Library, but this library is a little kludgy. Text is the Adafruit Library’s forte, and while graphics and non-ASCII characters are possible they’re certainly not easy to print with the existing libraries. With his current system based on HTML, CSS, and Javascript, [James] has a really easy way to print anything he can put on a webpage on receipt paper.

Getting his receipt printer onto the Internet had its own challenges. After wrangling with the Arduino Ethernet library through the month of February, [James] realized larger prints (about 15cm of paper) would fail inexplicably. To get around this, [James] wrote an HTTP client for the Arduino that would fetch data, put it on the SD card, and then start printing.

Right now, [James]‘ project is a polished as anyone could hope. We’re a bit concerned – although we completely understand –  that he could get sucked into the black hole of pointless development of receipt printer software so easily. All was not for naught, though; now anyone can make very professional-looking prints on receipt paper very easily.