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Old Laptops, Modems, And The Hackaday Retro Edition

We haven’t been getting very many submissions of extremely old computers loading up the Hackaday Retro Edition in a while. For shame. Thankfully, [alnwlsn] is here to pick up the slack from the rest of you with his latest accomplishment, getting two old laptops on the Internet with some old telecom equipment.

The first is a Toshiba from about 1995, Pentium processor, 12 MB of RAM, and a 10 GB (!) hard drive. [aln] had a PCMICA modem sitting around, and with Windows 95 and IE 5.5, he was able to slowly connect.

Pentium class machines are okay, but the next one – a Zenith Data Systems laptop from about 1987 – is awesome. 80C88 CPU, two 720k floppy drives, and the exact amount of RAM in that quote falsely attributed to [Bill Gates]. [alnwlsn] is connecting with a 28.8k modem, but the serial port only supports up to 9600. It’s a computer so old, even the retro edition’s main page times out. The about page, though, loaded fine.

[alnwlsn] used a modem with both of these laptops, but he doesn’t have dial-up or even a landline. This forced him to make his own line simulator that requires plugging in the phone line at the right time, manually ringing a modem connected to another computer, and letting PPP take it from there. It’s a crude circuit, but it works. slow, but it works. Video below.

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The Crane Game, Oculus Style

crane We’re pretty sure the Hackaday demographic is a a person who sees a giant tower crane lifting beams and girders above a skyline and says, “that would be fun, at least until I have to go to the bathroom.” Realizing the people who own these cranes probably won’t let any regular joe off the street into the cabin, [Thomas] and [screen Name] (see, this is why we have brackets, kids) built their own miniature version with an Oculus Rift.

Instead of a crane that is hundreds of feet tall, the guys are using a much smaller version, just over a meter tall, that is remotely controlled through a computer via a serial connection. Just below the small plastic cab is a board with two wide-angle webcams. The video from these cameras are sent to the Oculus so the operator can see the boom swinging around, and the winch unwinding to pick up small objects.

The guys have also added a little bit of OpenCV to add color based object detection. This is somewhat useful, but there’s also an approximation of the distance to an object, something that would be very useful if you don’t have a three-inch tall spotter on the ground.

Video below.

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MIDI And Vintage FM Synthesis

FM

Before the days when computers could play and record audio that far surpassed the quality of CDs, sound cards were very, very cool. Most audio chips from the 80s, from the Commodore SID is pretty much a synth on a chip, but you can also find similar setups in ancient ISA sound cards. [Emilio] pulled one of these cards with an ADLIB OPL2 chip on it, and used a PIC micro to create his very own FM synthesis synth (IT, translatatron, although Google is screwing up the formatting).

The Yamaha YM3812 chip, otherwise known as the OPL2, was a fairly complete synthesizer in a very tiny package using FM synthesis for some very unique sounds. Once [Emilio] had the PIC sending commands to the sound chip, he added MIDI support, allowing him to play this vintage ‘synth on a chip’ with a keyboard instead of a tracker.

Judging from the video below, it sounds great, and that’s with [Emilio] mashing the keys for a simple demo.

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The Homebrew XBox 360 And PS3 portable

Cross

For the past few years now, [Downing] has been working on the dream of all console modders – a console made in the last ten years made portable. He’s spend a lot of time on the effort, and now thanks to a commission, he’s finally done it. Not just one console, either: this thing makes both the Xbox 360 and PS3 a handheld, battery-powered device thanks to some awesome wireless tech and a great deal of skill.

A few months ago, [Downing] and friends [Hailrazer] and [RDC] started a Kickstarter for the Cross Plane, a portable device that uses a wireless HDMI transmitter to offload the heavy and hot parts of running a game to a console, while the display and controls are kept portable. That Kickstarter didn’t see the success [Downing] was looking for, but that didn’t stop one enthusiastic supporter from commissioning a piece.

The display in the Cross Plane is a 7″ HD display, and the latency on the WHDMI transmitter is just about 1ms – basically unnoticeable. The controls on the front of the portable are wired to ‘controller packs’ that plug into the back, one for Xbox and one for PS3. The build quality is immaculate, and if you’ve ever wanted to know how to expertly finish a 3D printed part so it looks like it came off an assembly line, you should probably check out the build log.

Video walkthrough below.

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THP Entry: A Digital Large Format Camera

Click to embiggen. It's seriously worth it.

Click to embiggen. It’s seriously worth it.

After 20 or so years of development, digital cameras may soon be superior to film in almost every way, but there are a few niches where film cameras reign supreme. Large format cameras, for example, are able to produce amazing images, but short of renting one for thousands of dollars a day, you’ll probably never get your hands on one. For his entry to The Hackaday Prize, [Jimmy.c..alzen] decided to build digital large format camera, using an interesting device you don’t see used very often these days – a linear CCD.

[Jimmy]‘s camera is built around a TAOS TS1412S, a linear CCD that is able to capture a line of light 1536 pixels across. The analog values are clocked out from this chip in sequence, going straight into an Arduino Due for processing, saving, and displaying on a small screen.

Inside the camera, the sensor is on a pair of rails and driven across the focal plane with the help of a stepper motor. The effect is something like the flatbed scanner to camera conversions we’ve seen in the past, but [Jimmy] is able to adjust the exposure of the camera simply by changing the integration time of the sensor. He can also change the delay between scanning each column of pixels, making for some really cool long-exposure photography techniques; one side of an image could be captured at noon, while the other side could be from a beautiful sunset. That’s something you just can’t do otherwise without significant digital manipulation outside the camera.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.

The Raspi GameBoy For The Rest Of Us

grrl
We’ve seen quite a few casemods that stuff a Raspberry Pi into a Game Boy with all the required to turn it into a very cool portable Pi and retro gaming device. Most of these builds use a modified 20-year-old Game Boy for the enclosure, and if you have an attachment to your old green screened friend, you might not want to cut it up for a Pi project. [Noe] over at Adafruit has a solution – a 3D printed Game Boy enclosure that turns a Pi and TFT screen into a barely pocketable Raspberry Pi, with all the buttons and batteries required for taking an installation of RetroPi on the road.

The PiGRRL, as this build is called, uses the Adafruit touchscreen TFT kit for the Pi, effectively turning the Pi into a very tiny tablet. This allows for normal desktop interaction with the Pi, and it’s also small enough to fit in the smallest of enclosures.

The 3D printed enclosure is the star of the show here, allowing complete access to most of the Pi’s ports, while allowing enough space in the rest of the enclosure for a largish battery, charging circuit, and buttons taken from an SNES controller.

The end result is a very usable portable Pi that just happens to be in the perfect form factor for loading up a few ROMs and playing some classic video games. Video below.

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Hackaday Links: July 6, 2014

hackaday-links-chain

Power for your breadboards. It’s a USB connector, a 3.3V voltage regulator, and a few pins that plug into the rails of a breadboard.

“Have you seen those ‘Portable battery chargers for smartphones?’ Well the idea of the device is based on it , but the difference here is the internet part.” That’s a direct quote from this Indiegogo campaign. It’s funny because I don’t remember losing my damn mind recently. Wait. It’s $200. Yep. Yep. Definitely lost my mind there.

Putting the Internet on a USB stick not weird enough? Hair Highways. Yep, human hair. It’s just embedding human hair into resin, cutting everything up into plates, and assembling these plates into decorative objects. As a structural material, it’s probably only as strong as the resin itself, but with enough hair set in layers perpendicular to each other, it would be the same idea as fiberglass. Only made out of hair.

Tesla is building a $30,000 car and Harley is building an electric motorcycle. The marketing line for the bike will probably be something like, “living life on your own terms, 50 miles at a time”.

PixelClock? It’s a 64×64 array of red LEDs built to be a clock, and low-resolution display. It looks blindingly bright in the video, something that’s hard to do with red LEDs.