Commodore 64 and Nintendo Make Beautiful Music Together with SYNCART

Cyncart

[Dan] has been hard at work developing CYNCART to get his Commodore 64 and original NES to play together. We’ve seen [Dan's] handiwork before, and it’s pretty clear that he is serious about his chip tunes.

This project starts with something called a Cynthcart. The Cynthcart is a Commodore 64 cartridge that allows you to control the computer’s SID chip directly. In effect, it turns your Commodore 64 into a synthesizer. [Dan] realized that the Commodore’s user port sends out simple eight bit values, which happens to match perfectly with the NES’ controller ports. In theory, he should be able to get these two systems communicating with each other.

[Dan] first modified the Cynthcart to send data out of the user port on the Commodore. This data gets sent directly to the NES’ 4021 shift register chip in the second player controller port. The NES runs a program to turn this data into sound on the NES’ audio chip. The first player controller can then be used to modify some other sound settings on the NES. Musical notes are played on the Commodore’s keyboard. This setup can also be used to play music on both systems at the same time. Be sure to watch the video of the system in action below.

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The Hacklet #7 – MIDI

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This week’s Hacklet is all about Hackaday.io projects which use MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface for the uninitiated. MIDI was designed from the ground up as an open communications standard for musical instruments. Nearly every major instrument company participated in the design of the standard. MIDI was first demonstrated in January of 1983, with the communications standard document following in August. Hackers, makers, and musicians immediately ran with it, using MIDI to do things the designers never dreamed of.

SAMSUNG[Robert's] 9×9 Pixel Muon Detector/Hodoscope  is a great example of this. [Robert] is using 18 Geiger Muller Tubes to detect cosmic particles, specifically muons. The tubes are stacked in two rows which allows him to use coincidence detection. Rather than just plot some graphs or calculate impact probabilities, [Robert] hacked a Korg Nanokey 2 MIDI controller to output MIDI over USB messages corresponding to the detected muons. Check out his video to see a sample of the music of the universe!

 

diyMPCNext up is [Michele's] DIY MPC style MIDI controller. [Michele] needed a simple low-cost drum controller that wouldn’t wake his neighbors. He loved Akai MPC controllers, so he rolled his own. [Michele] investigated force sensitive resistors but found they were very expensive. At a cost of $8 USD each, his resistors alone would be nearly the cost of a low-end MPC!  [Michele] created his own sensitive pads using a sandwich of copper tape and 3M Velostat conductive sheets. An HCF4067 routes all the analog lines to a single pin of Teensy 3.0, which then converts the analog resistor outputs to MIDI messages.

pic-midi-1vo[Johan] loves his analog synths, and wanted them to be able to talk MIDI too. He built MIDI2VC, a circuit which converts MIDI to 1V/Octave (similar to  CV/Gate). 1V/Octave is an analog control system used in some early synthesizers, as well as many modern analog creations. Pitches are assigned voltages, and as the name implies, each octave is 1 volt. A4 on the keyboard is represented by 4 volts, while A5 is 5 volts. [Johan] used a Microchip PIC16LF1823 to receive and convert the MIDI signals. The PIC outputs I2C data to an MCP4725 DAC which drives the analog side of the house.

eldanceLong before DMX512 came on the scene, hackers were controlling lights via MIDI. [Artis] continues this with El Dance, a wireless system for controlling electroluminescent wire worn by dancers. Similar in function to  [Akiba's] EL wire system, [Artis] took a lower cost route and used the venerable NRF24L01 radio module. He added an antenna which gives the modules a range of about 30 meters. The computer running the dance routine’s music sees the transmitter side of the link as a MIDI instrument. Standard note on and off commands activate the EL wire strings.

midi-vibeOur final hack comes from [Jen] who built a MIDI Vibrator Inductor Synth. [Jen] performs in an experimental music band called My Wife, with instruments as varied as violins and sewing machines. [Jen] must be a fan of Van Halen’s Poundcake as she’s using a similar technique, with a MIDI twist. An Arduino converts MIDI notes to analog values, which are sent to a motor controller board. The motor controller uses PWM to drive a vibrator motor at the frequency of the note being played. Like all DC motors, the vibrator puts out a ton of electromagnetic noise, which is easily picked up by [Jen's] electric bass.

That’s it for this week’s Hacklet! Tune in next week for more projects from Hackday.io!

 

ServoBender, The Electronic Pedal Steel

Servo

You’ve most certainly heard a pedal steel guitar before, most likely in any ‘old’ country song, or more specifically, any country song that doesn’t include the word ‘truck’ in its lyrics. Pedal steels are strange devices, looking somewhat like a 10-string guitar with levers that change the pitch of individual strings. Historically, there have been some attempts to put a detuning mechanism for individual strings in normal electric guitars, but these are somewhat rare and weird. [Gr4yhound] just nailed it. He’s come up with the perfect device to emulate a pedal steel in a real guitar, and it sounds really, really good.

The imgur album for this project goes over the construction of the ServoBender in a bit more detail than the video. Basically, four servos are mounted to a metal plate below the bridge. Each servo has a spring and cam system constructed out of 3D printed parts. The detuning is controlled by an Arduino and a few sustain pedals retrofitted with hall effect sensors. Simple, really, but the effect is astonishing.

[Gra4hound]‘s contraption is actually very similar to a B-Bender where a guitarist pushes on the neck to raise the pitch of the B string. This setup, though, is completely electronic, infinitely adjustable, and can be expanded to all six strings. Very, very cool, and it makes us wonder what could be done with one of those freaky robot guitars, a soldering iron, and a bit of code.

Video below, because you should watch it again.

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VU Meter Record Player Lights it Up

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[Michaël Duerinckx] was given a turntable for his last birthday from his fiancée — since then he’s started collecting records like nobodies business. But about a month ago he started itching to do an electronics project — he decided to upgrade his record player to include a VU Meter!

As he began designing he soon realized he didn’t have all the tools he needed to do this project right — a perfect excuse to go check out his local makerspace, SoMakeIt!

He started prototyping the VU Meter on a breadboard, and opened up the record player – it was like this thing was made to be hacked. Two free connections off the power supply to power his circuit, bingo! [Read more...]

Smart Skateboard Box Adds Sound Effects to Your Tricks

Skateboard Sound Effects

 

Here’s a rather interesting project aimed at making music — using skateboards. It’s called SkateHack, and it’s an open source project that mixes customized hardware, electronics and skating.

They’ve been at work on two different projects, both of which utilize piezoelectric sensors and contact microphones. The first, built in Sweden back in July 2012, is called the Augmented Ramp, which transforms a skateboard half-pipe into a musical instrument. The piezoelectric sensors and contact microphones convert vibrations from the ramp intro digital triggers which are then processed by software to create music. The result is a unique medley which changes with every trick.

The second project is called the Bauxite, which is made much the same, but designed to be easily built by anyone. It’s a skateboard trick box which also transforms grinding and tricks into cool sound effects and music. They call it a skateboard-powered-music-sampler — which in all reality, it is.

For more info check out the videos after the break.

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DIY Headphone Tube Amp Builds On Existing Design

DIY Tube Headphone Amp

[Simon] wrote in to tell us about a headphone tube amp that he just built. It is based on schematics at diyaudioprojects.com that were actually featured on Hackaday in the past. [Simon's] design adds an on board regulated power supply and a volume control for the input. Effort was made to keep the PCB single sided to facilitate making this at home.

DIY Tube Headphone AmpThe 12AU7 is popular due to its ruggedness and tolerance for low operational voltages. This amp design uses a plate voltage of 12, although the 12AU7 can handle up to about 330.  Since the 12AU7 is of the Twin Triode variety, one tube can be used to amplify both a left and right audio channel.

The case for the amplifier is laser cut plywood. The top piece is kerfed so that it can bend around the radii of the front and rear panels. The top also has a hole cut in it to allow the tube to peek out through.The pieces look nice but, unfortunately, he doesn’t show the case and amp in an assembled state.

If you’re interested in building one of these, [Simon] made all of the Eagle and Case files available. The total cost of the project was £25, about $43 US. To learn more about how tube amplifiers work, check out this Retrotechtacular from earlier in the year.

Laser Piano Worthy Of The Band ‘Wyld Stallyns’

Laser Piano uses Arduino

[Robi] and [Kathy] from elecfreaks have put together a how-to article about a Laser Piano they just built. Instead of keys, the user breaks beams of laser light to trigger the sounds.

Several laser pointer diodes are wired in parallel and mounted in a box, cardboard in this case. The laser diodes are aimed at photocells that reside on the other side of the box. Each photocellis connected to a digital input pin on an Arduino. When the Arduino senses a state change from one of the photocell, meaning the beam of light has been interrupted, it plays the appropriate wave file stored on an external JQ6500 sound module.

[Robi] admits that there are some improvements to be made, specifically the trigger response time and the piano sounding too monotonous. If you have any ideas, please leave them in the comments section.

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