Old Part Day: Voltage Controlled Filters

For thirty years, the classic synths of the late 70s and early 80s could not be reproduced. Part of the reason for this is market forces — the synth heads of the 80s didn’t want last year’s gear. The other part for the impossibility to build new versions of these synths was the lack of parts. Synths such as the Prophet 5, Fairlight CMI, and Korg Mono/Poly relied on voltage controlled filter ICs — the SSM2044 — that you can’t buy new anymore. If you can source a used one, be prepared to pay $30. New old stock costs about $100.

Now, these chips are being remade. A new hardware revision for this voltage controlled filter has been taped out by the original hardware designer, and these chips are being produced in huge quantities. Instead of $100 for a new old stock chip, this chip will cost about $1.60 in 1000 unit quantities.

The list of synths and music boxes sporting an SSM2044 reads like a Who’s Who of classic electronic music machines. E-Mu Drumulators, Korg polyphonic synths, Crumars, and even a Doepfer module use this chip in the filter section. The new chip — the SSI2144 — supposedly provides the same classic tone but adds a few improvements such as improved pin layouts, an SSOP package, and more consistent operation from device to device.

This news follows the somewhat recent trend of chip fabs digging into classic analog designs of the 70s, realizing the chips are being sold for big bucks on eBay, and releasing it makes sense to spin up a new production line. Last year, the Curtis CEM3340 voltage controlled oscillator was rereleased, giving the Oberheim OB, Roland SH and Jupiter, and the Memory Moog a new lease on life. These chips aren’t only meant to repair broken, vintage equipment; there are a few builders out there who are making new devices with these rereleased classic synths.


Look at me with your Special Animatronic Eyes

Animatronics for movies is often about making something that works and is reliable in the short term. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it doesn’t have to last forever. [Corporate Sellout]  shows us the minimalist approach to building animatronics with this pair of special eyes.  These eyes move in both the pan and tilt. Usually, that means a gimbal style mount. Not in this case. The mechanical assembly consists of with popsicle sticks, ping-pong balls, film canisters and dental floss.

The frame for the eyes is made of simple popsicle sticks hot glued together. The eyes themselves are simple ping-pong balls. Arduino powered servos control the movement. The servos are connected to dental floss in a cable arrangement known as a pull-pull system. As each servo moves, one side of the arm pulls on a cable, while the other provides enough slack for the ping-pong ball to move.

Mounting the ping-pong balls is the genius part of this build. They simply sit in the open end of a couple of film canisters. the tension from the dental floss holds everything together. We’re sure it was a finicky setup to build, but once working, it’s reliable. Only a glue joint failure or stretch in the dental floss could cause issues.

There are plenty of approaches to Animatronic eyes. Check out the eyes in this Stargate Horus helmet, which just won our Sci-Fi contest. More recently we saw Gawkerbot, which uses a CD-ROM drive to provide motion for a creepy robot’s eyes.

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Error: LP0 On 🔥

You don’t need fancy ICs and DACs to build a sound card for a PC. As [serdef]’s build over on hackaday.io shows, all you really need is a bunch of resistors. [serdef] built a clone of a sound card released for PC in the 80s, but with a few improvements. This mess of resistors features the best 8-bit sound you can get with a low-pass filter, volume divider, and a handy DB-25 connector.

The design of this LPT0 sound card is pretty much the same as when it was introduced to the world as the Covox Speech Thing. This ‘sound card’ was designed to clip onto the parallel port of a computer and send the 8-bit I/O of this port through a resistor ladder. Plug a pair of speakers into this thing, and you have a sound card that is completely made out of resistors. It was cheap, and in the demoscene it was popular.

There are a lot of amazing demos out there using this resistor DAC thing, and [serdef] has videos of his project playing a lot of them. You can check that out below.

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Heavy Metal Detectors

Helsinki has a strong underground Heavy Metal scene, so what better way to show it off than to have listeners literally unearth the local sounds themselves with converted metal detectors that play, naturally, Metal? [Steve Maher] built these modified detectors and handed them to a bunch of participants who went on exploratory walks around the city. The tracks from local bands changed as the user moved from one concealed metallic object to the other to create the experience of discovering the hidden soundscape of the land.  Continue reading “Heavy Metal Detectors”

Hackaday Prize Entry: Brightenmacher

We have all at some point have made a flashlight. It used to be a staple of childhood electronics, the screw-in bulb in a holder, and a cycle lamp battery. If you were a particularly accomplished youthful hacker you might even have fitted a proper switch, otherwise, you probably made do with a bent paperclip and a drawing pin.

So you might think that flashlights offer no challenges, after all, how many ways can you connect a bulb or an LED to a battery? [Peter Fröhlich] though has a project that should put those thoughts out of your mind. It uses a power LED driven by a TI TPS61165 boost driver, with an ATTiny44 microcontroller providing control, battery sensing, and button interface. The result is a dimmable flashlight in a 3D printed case housing both control circuitry and a single 18650 cell which he sourced from a dead laptop. Suddenly that bent paperclip doesn’t cut it anymore.

The result is a flashlight that is the equal of any commercial offering, and quite possibly better than most of them. You can build one yourself, given that he’s published the physical files necessary, but probably because this is a work in progress there are as yet no software files.

We’ve featured a lot of flashlights over the years, but it’s fair to say they usually tend towards the more powerful. Back in 2015 we published a round-up of flashlight projects if it’s a subject that captures your interest.


Ask Hackaday: What About the Diffusers?

Blinky LED projects: we just can’t get enough of them. But anyone who’s stared a WS2812 straight in the face knows that the secret sauce that takes a good LED project and makes it great is the diffuser. Without a diffuser, colors don’t blend and LEDs are just tiny, blinding points of light. The ideal diffuser scrambles the photons around and spreads them out between LED and your eye, so that you can’t tell exactly where they originated.

We’re going to try to pay the diffuser its due, and hopefully you’ll get some inspiration for your next project from scrolling through what we found. But this is an “Ask Hacakday”, so here’s the question up front: what awesome LED diffusion tricks are we missing, what’s your favorite, and why?

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Around the Globe on World Create Day

Last weekend was great for science and technology. While thousands of people took to the streets to protest anti-intellectualism, a few members of the Hackaday community dug their heels in, turned on the soldering iron, and actually did something about it. This was World Create Day, a community effort to come together and build something that matters. What did these people build? So much awesome stuff.

The Nest I/O in Karachi, Pakistan

The folks at The Nest I/O hackerspace in Karachi, Pakistan had a rather large meetup for World Create Day featuring the finest in laser cut, googly-eyed fighting robots. [Nasir Aziz] hosted a meetup at his favorite hackerspace for people to get together, discuss, and build something for the Hackaday Prize.

The highlight of the meetup was a discussion from EjaadTech, an industrial design firm that graduated from The Nest I/O accelerator. Among the projects invented during World Create Day were a ‘shopping helper drone’ and miniature fighting robots. Useful projects on one hand, awesome projects on the other, just like we like it.

MakerBay in Hong Kong

A solar oven found at MakerBay

MakerBay is a hackerspace located smack in the middle of Hong Kong. Like most hackerspaces, finding a place was a problem, but the folks at MakerBay found something spectacular. They’re zoned industrial, and only a five-minute walk from a train station.

There are quite a few projects sitting around MakerBay including a solar oven that would be pretty dangerous if it were outdoors on a sunny day. Also on deck are prototypes of small sailing vessels with a flexible hull designed to track and contain oil spills.  Highlights of World Create Day include upcycled wood construction and a spontaneous piano interlude. I’m surprised I haven’t seen more hackerspaces with a piano; they’re effectively free if you have a truck and a place to store it.

BlenderLab in Lille

While the World Create Day event at the BlenderLab hackerspace in Lille, France didn’t set out to change the world with a project, they did manage to come up with a really neat digital hourglass. The body of this hourglass is made out of laser cut plywood, with the display made out of two LED matrices oriented at a 45-degree angle.

Hackaday NYC

[Zach Freedman] reveals his devious plot
While World Create Day is a challenge for hackerspaces around the globe to come together and create something that solves a problem, that doesn’t mean there aren’t slightly more official events around the globe. Hackaday set up our own events in New York City, LA, and San Francisco.  The New York event was great thanks to our lovely East coast community manager [Shayna] and our hosts at Fat Cat Fab Lab.

[Zach Freedman], one of the regulars at our NYC meetups has an ulterior motive for getting the Fat Cat Fab Lab members to contribute their ideas to the Hackaday Prize: winning the Hackaday Prize would result in donating the winnings to the Fab Lab. It’s a brilliant and devious plot we very much recommend.

Tell us about your World Create Day

There were many more events going on around the globe last weekend, and we want to hear about how your World Create Day went. We’ll be covering more of the events of last weekend in the coming days, so make sure to add your pictures, stories, and links to the projects you started on your World Create Day event page on Hackaday.io. Event organizers are going to get some super awesome swag for making that effort.