CAPTION CERN CONTEST – Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

The tangled web woven by Week 22 of the Caption CERN Contest has come to a close. It’s been another bumper week with 112 comments. Thank you to everyone who submitted a caption! We realize it may have been hard for some of the network engineers out there to type through their tears, but thank you for persevering! While we don’t know exactly what these two CERN scientists were wiring up, [rwells97] did figure out that the scope in the image is most likely a Tektronix 545/A, which was a popular scope back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The weight on a beast like that was around 70 lbs!

The Funnies:

  • “Dude, this one’s full of wires too! Every single one of these is full of wires! Why would anyone need so many wires? What in the name of God were they DOING down here?” – [The Green Gentleman]
  • “Getting to blinky” required a whole lot more work then the engineers realized…” – [Kieran Paulger]
  • “I think I lost an electron back here, Bob. I’m positive.” – [Christine Hampton]

This week’s winner is [alan] with “Daft Punk was actually two of CERN’s best acoustics researchers prior to forming the band. Here they are after hours working on the track that would later be named ‘Da Funk'”. [Alan] is a Computer Science PhD candidate with focus on computational biology, specifically population genomics. Hopefully he has some hardware in the mix somewhere, because we’re sending him a Stickvise from The Hackaday Store!

Week 23

cern-23-smSomething a bit different this week. CERN is probably best known for the various particle accelerators they’ve had over the years. One of the first units was synchrocyclotron SC-1, which operated from 1957 to 1974. According to the album page on CERN’s servers, SC-1’s last day of operation was celebrated with a funeral procession. Scientists, and staff walked the grounds with flowers, top hats, and even a shrouded coffin. We can all related to decommissioning a well-worn piece of equipment. Be it a computer, a machine tool, or even a synchrocyclotron, there are always the mixed feelings of thanks that it did a good job, and relief that it will no longer need to be maintained.

Even though we have a pretty good idea of what’s going on in this image, we’re going to caption it anyway! Give us your best captions of what you think is really going on here! This week’s prize is a LightBlue Bean from The Hackaday Store. Add your humorous caption as a comment to this project log. Make sure you’re commenting on the contest log, not on the this post. As always, if you actually have information about the image or the people in it, let CERN know on the original image discussion page.

Headphone Amp Features A Tiny CRT

[ErikaFluff] needed an amp for his Grado open cans. Rather than build yet another boring black box, he built what may be the most awesome headphone amp ever. [ErikaFluff] added a tiny CRT to the project, which displays the current audio waveform passing through the amp. He packaged all this up in a customized Hammond box which makes it look like it just rolled off the line from some audiophile studio.

The amplifier in this case is based upon the CMoy, a common headphone amp design. [ErikaFluff] added a MOSFET on the output to drive his relatively low impedance (32 ohm) Grado headphones with reasonable volume. The CRT is from an old video camera viewfinder. Before LCDs were advanced and cheap enough to include in video cameras, CRTs were the only show in town. These tiny black and white screens use high voltage to scan an electron beam across a phosphor screen just like their bigger brethren.

In action! - ImgurSince he was going with an oscilloscope style vector scan rather than the raster scan the screen electronics were originally designed for, [ErikaFluff] had to create his own horizontal and vertical deflection circuits. Horizontal scan is created by a 555 timer generating a sawtooth wave at 75 Hz. Vertical deflection is via an LM386 driving a hand wound impedance matching transformer. The high voltage flyback transformer and its associated driver circuit were kept from the original CRT, though repackaged to make them as small as possible.

You might think that having a few thousand volts next to a sensitive audio amplifier would cause some noise issues. We also worried a bit about shorts causing unexpected shock treatments through the wearer’s ears. [ErikaFluff] says there is no need to for concern. The signal is fed to the CRT circuit through optocouplers. The audio circuit is also electrically split from the CRT and runs on a virtual ground. Judicious amounts of shielding tape keeps the two circuits isolated.

This may not be the most practical project, but we think it’s pretty darn cool. The response over on Reddit’s electronics subreddit seems to be positive as well. We hope [ErikaFluff] is sitting down when this post gets published!

Caption CERN Contest – Cut the Black Wire

Week 21 of the Caption CERN Contest is now history. It’s been a great week of captions, so as always a huge thank you goes out to everyone who entered. We still have no idea what these two CERN scientists were working on. Lenses, switches, and a giant glass screen which could have anything behind it. It’s a tough one. But what we lack in facts, you all made up for in humor.

The Funnies:

  • “I spy with my quantum eye, something with a 75% probability of being spin up!”- [bbarrett90]
  • “Preping the Voight-Kampff set up, they have learnt from their unfortunately predecessors that a mirrored bullet proof glass between them and the upset replicant subject might be a good idea.” -[K.C. Lee]
  • “Mary and Steve swore that they were going to be the ones to win this year’s where’s Waldo competition, unfortunately they lost to the guys in the next lab with an SEM.” – [TrollinTeemo]

This week’s winner is [Lou] with “CERNs early attempts at a retina scanner were a bit cumbersome and time consuming. You had to get to work 20 minutes early just to get past the security check.” Lou’s bio is “Test engineer with Mechanical background who likes to tear things apart”. We bet he’s going to enjoy using his new Teensy 3.1 from The Hackaday Store to build something new with all the parts he has left over from teardowns!

Week 22

cern-22-smHoly cable gore, Batman! This image may make a network engineer or IT person weep, but it was business as usual back in the early days of CERN. 14 racks of equipment, with coaxial cables running everywhere. Let’s hope all those patches are connected to the correct ports! What were these two CERN scientists working on? It’s up to you to tell us as CERN has lost the records!

While you’re working on your captions, check out the old oscilloscope the standing scientist is using. Scope carts used to be necessary. Today all but the most powerful oscilloscopes weigh in at under 10 pounds.

This week’s prize is a Stickvise from The Hackaday Store. Add your humorous caption as a comment to this project log. Make sure you’re commenting on the contest log, not on the contest itself. As always, if you actually have information about the image or the people in it, let CERN know on the original image discussion page.

Good Luck!

Hacklet 54 – Virtual Reality Projects

Virtual Reality is finally coming of age. Hackers, Makers and Engineers have dreamed of creating immersive interfaces for years. From the first flight simulators to today’s cellphone powered head mounted displays, VR has always been an exciting field. Many of the advances today are being created by hackers who were inspired by systems like Virtuality from the early 1990’s. Now 25 years on, we’re seeing amazing advances – not only in commercial systems, but in open source VR projects. This week’s Hacklet is all about the best VR projects on Hackaday.io!

vr1We start with [j0nno] and D.I.Y Virtual Reality. [J0nno] has become interested in VR, and decided to build his own head mounted display. His goal is to create a setup with full head tracking and an open source software stack. He’s hoping to do this within a budget of just $200 AUD. [J0nno] started with the Ritech3d-V2 VR Goggles, which are a plastic implementation of Google’s project cardboard. For display he’s using a 5.6 inch 1280 x 800 TFT LCD. Tracking is optical, using IR LEDs and a PS3 Eye camera. [J0nno’s] background is in software, so he’s doing great setting up OpenVR and Perception. The hardware side is a bit new to him. This isn’t stopping [J0nno] though! In true hacker spirit, he’s learning all about resistors and driving LEDs as he works on D.I.Y Virtual Reality.

vr2Next up is [Josh Lindsay] with Digitabulum: The last motion-capture glove. Digitabulum is a motion capture glove designed to be able to emulate most other motion capture systems. It is also designed to be relatively low-cost. At $400 per hand, it is less expensive than most other offerings, though we’d still love to see something even cheaper. [Josh] is going with inertial sensors, and a lot of them. Specifically he’s using no less than 17 LSM9DS1 Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) sensors from ST Microelectronics. IMU sensors like this combine multiple rate gyros, accelerometers, and magnetometers into a single unit. Essentially every segment of every finger has its own sensor suite. As you might imagine, that is quite a bit of data to crunch. An Altera Max II CPLD and an ST Arm processor help boil down the data to something which a VR engine can process. [Josh] has been working on this project for over a year now, and he’s making great progress. The prototype glove looks terrific!

vr3[Thomas] brings augmented reality to the table with Oculus Rift featured Crane control. What started as a hobby experiment became [Thomas’] major project at university. He’s connected an Oculus Rift to a toy crane. A stereo camera on the crane sends a video image to the operator. The camera is mounted on a pan/tilt mechanism driven by the Rift’s head tracking unit. Simple joystick controls allow [Thomas] to move the boom and lower the line. On-screen displays show the current status of the crane. The use of the Rift makes this an immersive demonstration. One could easily see how moving this system into the real world would make crane operations safer for crane operators.

vr4Finally we have [Arcadia Labs] with DIY Augmented Reality Device. This project, which is the [Arcadia Labs] entry in the 2015 Hackaday Prize, uses two 320 x 240 screens to create an augmented reality head mounted display. While the resolution can’t match that of the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, [Arcadia Labs] is ok with that. They’re going for a lower cost open source alternative for augmented reality. Tracking is achieved with an IMU, while a PS3 Eye camera provides the video. A Raspberry Pi controls the show. [Arcadia Labs] was able to get 50 frames per second on the displays just using the Pi’s SPI interface, however the USB PS3 Eye camera limits things to around 10 FPS. This project is under heavy development right now, so follow along with us to see where [Arcadia Labs] ends up!

If you want VR goodness, check out our new virtual reality projects list! Did I miss your project? Don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. If you’re on the left coast of the USA, check out SOCAL Virtual Reality Conference and Expo. Hackaday is a sponsor. The event happens on July 12 at the University of California Irvine.

That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Typewriter Types, Plays Music

[Chris Gregg] had a dream. He wanted to convert use a typewriter as a printer. Sure this has been done before, but [Chris] wanted to create his own version. He picked up a 60’s era Smith Corona electric typewriter, with the hopes of driving its key switches with a computer. You can imagine his surprise when he discovered the keys were not electric switches at all, but a complex mechanical system which triggered a clutch to strike the actual paper. Realizing this was not going to be a simple wiring job, [Chris] set the project aside, where it remained for several years.

A conversation with [Bruce Molay], a coworker at Tufts University reignited [Chris’] interest in project. [Bruce] suggested using solenoids to press the keys. [Chris] dove in, and quickly had 48 solenoids on hand. The first problem was mounting the solenoids on the keys. [Chris’] roommate happens to be [Derek Seabury], president of Artisan’s Asylum Hackerspace. [Derek] created an acrylic frame which holds the solenoids and fits directly over the typewriter’s keyboard. This meant that no modifications needed to be made to the typewriter itself. Simply lift off the solenoid array and you’re ready to rock like it’s 1965.

The next step was driving all those solenoids. For that, Chris worked with [Kate Wasynczuk], one of his students at Tufts. [Chris] designed a board using Texas Instruments  TPIC6A595 shift registers. The TIPC “power logic” series work like regular 74 series logic, but have seriously beefy outputs. These chips can handle up to 50 volts and 1.5 amps pulsed output current – plenty for [Chris’] 24 volt solenoids. [Chris] taught himself schematic entry and PCB layout in Eagle. After only two tries, he had a working board from OSHPark.

An Arduino Uno converts serial over USB output to a bit stream ready to clock into the shift registers. On the computer side, [Chris] wrote up a basic CUPS driver which allows him to print from his Macbook. The perfect demo for this project turned out to be musical. Click past the break to see The Smith Corona perform “The Typewriter Symphony”, by Leroy Anderson. This may be the first time this particular piece of music has been performed with actual words being typed, rather than random keys.

Continue reading “Typewriter Types, Plays Music”

Hacklet 53 – Quick Tool Hacks

They say necessity is the mother of invention. Have you ever been right in the middle of a project, when you realize that you could hack up a simple tool which would make your current task easier? Maybe it’s a coil winder, or a device to hold .100 headers straight in their holes. Faster than you can say “Arabian Nights”, you’re working on a project within a project. It might not be pretty, but it gets the job done. This week’s Hacklet is all about quick tool hacks – little projects that help out around the shop or hackerspace.

lampieWe start with [theonetruestickman] and Magnificent Magnifier LED Coversion. [theonetruestickman] picked up an articulated magnifier lamp at Goodwill for $4. These lamps are a staple of benches everywhere. The only problem was the switch and fluorescent tube were both failing. [theonetruestickman] didn’t feel bad for the lamp though. He pulled out the tube, ballast, and starter, replacing them with LEDs. He used 12 V 3 watt LED modules to replace the tube. Three modules provided plenty of light. An old wall wart donated its transformer to the effort. Since these LED modules are happy running on AC, no bridge rectifier was necessary. The modernized lamp is now happily serving on [theonetruestickman’s] workbench.

toolNext up is [Kwisatz] with Pick Up tool hack. [Kwisatz] is a person of few words. This whole project consists of just two words. Specifically, “syringe” and “spring”. Thankfully [Kwisatz] has provided several pictures to show us exactly what they’ve created. If you’ve ever used one of those cheap pickup tools from China, you know [Kwisatz’s] pain. The tiny piece of surgical tube inside the tool creates a feeble vacuum. These tools only hold parts for a few seconds before the vacuum decays enough to drop the part. [Kwisatz] kept the tip of the tool, but replaced the body with a syringe. A spring is used to create just the right amount of vacuum to hold parts on while they are being placed.

fume[Dylan Bleier] made his shop air a bit safer to breathe with a simple fume extractor for $20. Solder and flux create some nasty smoke when heated. Generally that smoke wafts directly into the face of the hacker peeking at the 0402 resistor they are trying to solder. A bit of smoke once in a while might not be so bad, but over the years, the effects add up. [Dylan] used two 120V AC bathroom fans, some metal ducting, plywood, and a bit of time to make this fume extractor. [Dylan] is the first to say it’s not UL, CE, or ROHS compliant, but it does get the job done. He even added a screen to keep bugs from flying in from the outdoor exhaust port.

helix[ftregan] needed to wind a helical coil for an antenna, so he built Helix Winder. Helices are essentially springs, so that should be easy, right? Turns out that making a nice uniform helix is not the easiest thing in the world. The helix winder is a jig which makes winding these special coils much easier. Holes are drilled at a specific angle in a wooden block. The wire is fed through that block and rolled onto an aluminum tube. Rotating the block on the tube forces the wire into the helix shape. The only downside is that each winder is only good for once dimension of helix.

I’ve noticed that some of these quick hacks don’t get as much love as they deserve over on hackaday.io. So if you notice a cool hack like this, drop a comment and give the project a skull. If you want to see more of these hacks, check out our new quick tool hacks list! See a project I might have missed? Don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Caption CERN Contest – I’ve Got My Eye On You

As week 20 of the Caption CERN Contest comes to a close, we can say that this scientist may have been a bit sleepy from all his hard work, but all our caption writers certainly were not! Thank’s to everyone who stayed up late and entered.

Whiteboards and their associated dry erase markers have become a staple in every office, school, and home. It’s getting hard to remember that everyone used blackboards not so long ago. High energy physics,and flammable dust probably are not a good mix. Let’s hope our sleeping scientist cleaned the erasers outdoors after he woke up.

The Funnies:

  • “A weekend at CERNies”- [Rob]
  • “After bitten by the Schrödinger’s cat, Doc Brown acquired the most useful power of a cat – being able to sleep anywhere, any time.” – [K.C. Lee]
  • “CERN’s infamous “wind tunnel” experiments” – [Rollyn01]

This week’s winner is [MechaTweak] with “During the great blackboard shortage of ’66, scientists went to great lengths to protect their unfinished work from premature erasure”. [MechaTweak] describes himself as a “Mild mannered design engineer by day, father of four crazy kids by night.” With all those kids running around, he’s going to enjoy having a Stickvise from The Hackaday Store. You can bet he’ll be using the Stickvise to solder up some boards for Shower water saver, his entry in the 2015 Hackaday Prize.

Week 21

cern-21-smThese two CERN scientists are looking through some kind of optical apparatus. There is a plano-convex lens mounted on an adjustable arm. The scientists appear to be looking through a window while adjusting some controls.

Is this some kind of physics experiment? Could it be research into psychomotor acuity? Maybe the dark-haired scientist is just getting her yearly CERN eye exam? You tell us!

This week’s prize is the ever poular Teensy 3.1 from The Hackaday Store.  Add your humorous caption as a comment to this project log. Make sure you’re commenting on the contest log, not on the contest itself.

As always, if you actually have information about the image or the people in it, let CERN know on theoriginal image discussion page.

Good Luck!