Fixing A BASIC Calculator

HPThe early days of modern computing were downright weird, and the HP 9830B is a strange one indeed: it’s a gigantic calculator, running BASIC, on a CPU implemented over a dozen cards using discrete logic. In 2014 dollars, this calculator cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000. [Mattis] runs a retrocomputer museum and recently acquired one of these ancient machines, and the walkthrough of what it took to get this old machine running is a great read.

There were several things wrong with this old computer when it arrived: the keyboard had both missing key caps and broken switches. The switches were made by Cherry, but no one at Cherry – or any of the mechanical keyboard forums around the Internet – have ever seen these switches. Luckily, the key cap connector isn’t that complex, and a little bit of bent wire brings the switches back up to spec. The key caps were replaced from a few collectors around the globe.

Getting as far as booting the machine, [Mattis] found some weirdness when using this old calculator: the result of 2+2 was 8.4444444, and 3+1 was 6.4444444. Simply pressing the number 0 and pressing execute resulted in 2 being displayed. With a little bit of guesswork, [Mattis] figured this was a problem with the ALU, and inspecting the ROM on that board proved to be correct: the first 128 nibbles of the ROM were what they were supposed to be, and the last 128 nibbles were the OR of the last half. A strange error, but something that could be fixed with a new replacement ROM.

After hunting down errors with the printer and the disk drive, [Mattis] eventually got this old calculator working again. For such an astonishingly complex piece of equipment, the errors were relatively easy to hunt down, once [Mattis] had the schematics for everything. You can’t say that about many machines only 10 years younger than this old calculator, but then again, they didn’t cost as much as a house.

Finding And Repairing Microscopes From The Trash

scope We’re not quite sure where [Andy] hangs out, but he recently found a pile of broken microscopes in a dumpster. They’re old and obsolete microscopes made for biological specimens and not inspecting surface mount devices and electronic components, but the quality of the optics is outstanding and hey, free microscope.

There was a problem with these old scopes – the bulb used to illuminate specimens was made out of pure unobtainium, meaning [Andy] would have to rig up his own fix. The easiest way to do that? Some LEDs made for car headlights, of course.

The maker of these scopes did produce a few for export to be used in rural areas all across the globe. These models had a 12 Volt input to allow the use of a car battery to light the bulb. A LED headlight also runs off 12 Volts, so it was easy for [Andy] to choose a light source for this repair.

A little bit of dremeling later, and [Andy] had the new bulb in place. An off the shelf PWM controller can vary the brightness of the LED, controlled with the original Bakelite knob. The completed scope can easily inspect human hairs, the dust mites, blood cells, and just about anything down to the limits of optical microscopy. Future plans for this microscope might include another project on hackaday.io, a stage automator that will allow the imaging of huge fields at very high magnification – not bad for something pulled out of the trash.

Dodgy Hotel, Beer and A WWII Era Tube Receiver

bc-22e ww2 reciever operating in a hotel

In the luxurious accommodations provided by Motel 8 and armed only with a few tools and a six pack – a pair of amateur radio enthusiasts attempted the repair of an old WWII era BC-224E receiver. They picked up the boat anchor antique receiver, which was in unknown condition, from a flea market while in town for the Dayton Hamvention, brought it back to their hotel and got to work.

The BC-224E came in two parts – the receiver and the power supply. The speaker for the system, which is actually located in the power supply, is driven by a large inductor.  Apparently when the receiver was constructed, the permanent magnets of the day were not powerful enough to drive a speaker.

Fortunately, the receiver also came with some schematics, allowing [Gregory] and his fellow radio enthusiast to reverse engineer the power supply. After a few tweaks and cap swaps, they crossed their fingers and plugged it in. Stay tuned to see what happened next.

Continue reading “Dodgy Hotel, Beer and A WWII Era Tube Receiver”

Hair Thin Wires Save a 3DS from the Landfill

Broken Nintendo 3DS

[Anton] recently acquired a broken Nintendo 3DS. When the power button was pressed, the device would start booting up only to shut back down after flashing a blue light and making a popping sound. It turns out this problem is pretty common with the 3DS.

[Anton] could have tossed this device into the landfill, but where’s the fun in that?  Instead, he cracked the device open like any self-respecting hacker would. It didn’t take him long to discover two broken flex ribbon cables. [Anton] could have then searched for replacement cables, but his inner hacker told him he could repair this himself. He carefully scraped the insulation off of the broken traces and then soldered on some hair thin wires to bridge the gap.

All that was left to do was to glue the wires securely in place and feed them back through the hinges. This project is a great example of how a little determination and know-how can keep a useful device from the landfill. If you attempt this repair yourself, you may find this 3DS teardown to be a helpful reference. What devices have you been able to save from an untimely demise?

3 Cheap Hood/Hatchback/Topper Mods to Save Your Noggin

Gas Lift Fixes by Briansmobile1

This is a mod more than a hack but any time you can alter original equipment to maintain its usability is a win-win scenario for you and the environment. Everyone has or knows somebody that has a vehicle and most vehicles nowadays have some type of hatchback or hood where the support solution is gas filled struts. Inevitably these gas filled struts fail with age and the failure is accelerated in hotter or colder climates. If you ever had to replace these items you know they can cost a minimum of $20 to as much as $60 a piece. Most vehicles require two, four or even eight of these costly little devices.

[Brian] from Briansmobile1 YouTube channel documented three simple and low cost solutions. We all probably know of the vice clamp solution but that is cumbersome and still an expensive solution which is not always very handy or fast. Another solution is to cut a piece of rubber hose in a kind of special way so it is easy to put on and take off the shaft and dangles from a string so it’s always available. The best solution was to use a hitch pin also connected to a string or wire. To make the hitch pin work you have to grind a couple of notches on either side of the lift shaft at just the right spot so the pin can be snapped on and prevent the shaft from retracting at your selected height.

We are sure these solutions will come in handy at some time in most everyone’s driving career. Just after the break we will link to all three of [Brian’s] handy videos on gas strut fix solutions. And if you do your own automotive repair we can definitely recommend [Brian’s] channel of over 600 vehicle repair and maintenance videos which normally come with a dose of philosophy and humor.

Continue reading “3 Cheap Hood/Hatchback/Topper Mods to Save Your Noggin”

3D Printed Zipper Saves the Day!

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[Amr] recently built a 3D printer and came across his first practical application for it — his jacket’s zipper broke!

What we like about this project is [Amr] goes through the entire design process to finished product in his video. He starts by showing us the failed zipper, explaining where and why it failed, and then identifies the design features he needs to keep in order to make a functional replacement. To help accomplish this he checks out the Wikipedia article on zippers which shows an excellent animation of what happens inside of the zipper.

Now confident in his knowledge of all things zipper, he begins to model his replacement using SolidWorks, which is an industry standard among 3D CAD packages — for more information on how to use SolidWorks, we’ve been covering it in our 3D Printering articles! Continue reading “3D Printed Zipper Saves the Day!”

Hacking Dell Laptop Charger Identification

If you’ve ever had a laptop charger die, you know that they can be expensive to replace. Many laptops require you to use a ‘genuine’ charger, and refuse to boot when a knock off model is used. Genuine chargers communicate with the laptop and give information such as the power, current, and voltage ratings of the device. While this is a good safety measure, ensuring that a compatible charger is used, it also allows the manufacturers to increase the price of their chargers.

[Xuan] built a device that spoofs this identification information for Dell chargers. In the four-part series (1, 2, 3, 4), the details of reverse engineering the communications and building the spoofer are covered.

Dell uses the 1-Wire protocol to communicate with the charger, and [Xuan] sniffed the communication using a MSP430. After reading the data and verifying the CRC, it could be examined to find the fields that specify power, voltage, and current.

Next, a custom PCB was made with two Dell DC jacks and an MSP430. This passes power through the board, but uses the MSP430 to send fake data to the computer. The demo shows off a 90 W adapter pretending to run at 65 W. With this working, you could power the laptop from any supply that can meet the requirements for current and voltage.