The meaning of being a hard-core hacker from a 1985 recollection


Gather ’round children, we’re about to hear a story about the good old days. Except that this is really more of a horror story of what it used to be like as a code monkey. [John Graham-Cumming] shares his experience programming a 6502-based KIM-1 machine back in 1985. Simple, right? The caveat being that there was no assembler or hardware for loading the finished code!

The machine in question was a label application tool for a production line. You know, product goes in bottle, label gets slapped on the side. But the slapping needed to be perfect because consumers shy away from packaging that looks shoddy. Computer control would end up being far superior than the mechanical means the factory had been using because it simplifies the ability to adjust calibration and other parameters. [John] started from square one by interfacing the KIM-1 with the existing hardware. It has a hex keyboard which is how the program was entered into the device. But first he wrote the software on sheets of notebook paper like the one seen above. It includes his hand assembled code, which was then typed in on the keypad. Kind of makes you appreciate all the tools you take for granted (like Eclipse), huh?

[via Reddit]


Laptop backlight converted from CCFL to LED


[Lee Davison] acquired an Acer laptop that didn’t have a display anymore. He had enough parts on hand to add in an LCD panel and give it a CCFL backlight. But when he started looking for an inverter to drive the backlight he couldn’t find one. What he did have on hand were some smashed screens that had LED backlights and so the CCFL to LED backlight conversion project was born.

He tore into the LED display and found the driver board. Unfortunately he didn’t locate the datasheet for the exact LED driver, but he found one that was similar and was able to trace out the support circuitry on the PCB. This let him cut away the unneeded parts of the board without damaging the driver. He didn’t want to pull out the CCFL tubes until he was sure the LED conversion would work so he tried it out on another smashed panel (where does he come up with all these parts) and it worked great. Once he got everything in place he was very happy with the results. The only drawback to the system is that he doesn’t have the ability to dim the backlight.

Quadruped walks of four legs, rolls on four treads


This robot doesn’t know if it’s a walker or a tank. It’s the brain-child of [Marc Hamende] who works as a mechanical engineer by day and mad roboticist at night. The best place to find full details is by digging into the long thread he’s been posting to for about six weeks. It will give you a pretty good snapshot of his approach, starting with SolidWorks renderings of the project, and adding in assembled components as he brings the project together.

The mechanism for each foot is fascinating. He milled the white pieces which stack together to encapsulate the motor that runs the treads. These assemblies pivot to bring the metal rod serving as a walking foot in contact with the ground. But they also make it possible to adjust the treads to deal with rough terrain. A Propeller chip drives the device, with an Xbee module to communicate with the controller.

Don’t miss the video after the break. You’ll hear some skidding as it makes turns, but [Marc] plans to add code to adjust motor speed in order to compensate for the inside/outside differential issues. He’s also posted an image album over at Flickr.

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