Propeller turned into chiptune player with a software SID

If there wasn’t reason enough to love the Parallax Propeller, now you can listen to chiptunes with your own pocket SID audio player.

This chiptune audio player uses the very unusual and very cool eight-core Parallax Propeller microcontroller. After soldering a few caps and resistors to a Propeller dev board to allow for audio out, the only thing necessary to play SID music files is a bit of code and an SD card breakout.

The key piece of code for this build would be the SIDcog object written by [Johannes Ahlebrand] this piece of code turns one of the eight cores in the Propeller into a virtual version of the classic Commodore 64 sound chip.

Since the SIDcog object only takes up one core on the eight core Propeller, it could be possible to turn this SID player into an all-inclusive chiptune audio source; the addition of an Atari POKEY or FM synthesis cog would allow for just about any conceivable chiptune sound to be carried around in a pocket.

No Hackaday post about chiptunes or SIDs would be complete without an audio demo, so you can check out the Propeller-powered SID after the break.

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The Simulacrum, an innovative solution to walking in Virtual Reality

If you’ve been following along with immersive gaming, even casually, you’ve probably considered the difficulty in trying to do a comfortable and believable “walk” in a game. The first thing that usually pops into peoples minds are Omni Directional Treadmills, or ODTs. There are many problems with these, one of the biggest simply being cost. They’re very expensive.

[Zalo] at the MTBS3d forums has been working on his own very cost effective solution called the “Simulacrum”. He has built this for under $100 and it allows for a walking motion to be translated into the game. As you can see in the video below it works fairly well, even when one is out of commission for repairs (hence the limp).

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Raspberry Pi synth gives a softsynth dedicated hardware

For all the musicians out there, here’s a great use for your Raspberry Pi. All the features you would expect from a nice analog synth are implemented in a Raspberry Pi-based polysynth – dual oscillators, LFOs, and phasers – and it looks like there will be a few more features added before the Raspi synth is released.

Even though the ‘synthesis’ part of the Raspi synth already sounds wonderful, getting MIDI on the Rasberry Pi leaves much to be desired. The creator of the Raspi synth thought about using the GPIO pins as a MIDI interface, but because the GPIO pins cannot run natively at 31250 bps (the MIDI spec), the Raspberry Pi has to waste most of its CPU cycles just listening for MIDI traffic.

Right now the Raspberry Pi synth is controlled by a USB-connected MIDI interface, and as you can hear after the break, sounds wonderful. We can’t wait to hear what this synth will be able to do in a few months’ time.

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Dual core Arduino for more pins

There are easy ways of getting more I/O pins for any project; shift registers, I2C expanders, or ADCs will give you plenty of pins for whatever project you have in mind. All these require extra components, though. Enter the ExtraCore library for Arduino, a software library that turns two or more Arduinos into a multi-core microcontroller with more pins than you’ll ever need.

The ExtraCore library comes from [Dustin Andrews], and allows anyone to control the input and output pins of two Arduinos with the same ease as a single Arduino.

The hardware setup is fairly simple – just connect A4, A5, power, and ground on both Arduinos together. After installing the ‘client’ sketch on the second Arduino, you can modify the ‘manager’ sketch to suit whatever project you’re building. From there you’ve nearly doubled the number of Arduino pins your project can control.

It may not be the most practical use of two Arduinos, but it’s certainly impressive. You can pick up [Dustin]‘s code over on GitHub.

Doubling down on motor drivers

Motor driver chip too weak for your needs? Just use two of them. That’s the advice which [Starlino] gives. He stacks motor driver chips to product move powerful controllers.

When stacked as shown, the driver combos should be able to drive at 4A. This is partly because he ganged together the outputs in pairs, and also because of the stacking. That’s a lot of juice, but [Starlino] documented his testing stage which shows that they’re up to it. It’s a bit hard to see from this angle, but he is using a serpentine heat sink. It snakes its way between the stack of chips, then over the top chip before folding back and spreading its wings. The motors he’s using have a stall current of 3.7A, and he included resettable fuses graded at a 2A hold current. He’ll be glad to have that extra protection is something goes wrong with the drivers.

[Thanks Roger]

Arduino Tachometer tutorial

This tutorial will guide you through the process of building a tachometer around an Arduino. Tachometers are used to measure rotation rate in Revolutions Per Minute (RPM). You don’t need much in the way of hardware, this version uses an Infrared beam to measure fan speed. As with last year’s PIC-based tutorial, [Chris] is using a character LCD to output the reading. Wiring and driving the LCD ends up being the hardest part.

An IR transmitter/receiver pair are positioned on either side of the fan. When the blade passes in between then, the receiver shuts off a transistor connected to one of the Arduino’s external interrupt pins. He shows how to use this interrupt to measure the amount of time between the passing of each fan blade. If you divide for the number of blades, and average the reading for greater accuracy, you can easily calculate RPM.

Another alternative would have been to use a reflectance sensor which allows to for the transmitter and receiver to both be on the same side of the fan.

Word clock of a different nature

This work clock functions in an unexpected way. With each passing second it displays a random four letter word on the right side of the display. Traditional word clocks tell the time in natural language, but this one is simply used as a learning opportunity.

[Iron Jungle] got his hands on the display for just five buck from Deal Extreme. Looks like the price has gone up two dollars but that’s still a bargain. He wanted to use all eight digits of the display, and was looking for an opportunity to control more than one i2c device at a time. He ended up rolling an EEPROM and DS1307 RTC into the design. He figured the could display 24-hour time on four of the digits, and pull a library of four-letter words off of the EEPROM to fill the rest. He grabbed a word list off of the Internet then used a Python script to remove words containing 7-segment unfriendly characters (K, M, V, W, X, Z). The final touch was to use a salvaged relay to give the clock a ticking sound. Hear it for yourself in the clip after the break.

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