Hard Drive Clock is Simple and Elegant

Binary hard drive clock

[Aaron] has been wanting to build his own binary desk clock for a while now. This was his first clock project, so he decided to keep it simple and have it simply display the time. No alarms, bells, or whistles.

The electronics are relatively simple. [Aaron] decided to use on of the ATMega328 chips he had lying around that already had the Arduino boot loader burned into them. He first built his own Arduino board on a breadboard and then re-built it on a piece of protoboard as a more permanent solution. The Arduino gets the time from a real-time clock (RTC) module and then displays it using an array of blue and green LED’s. The whole thing is powered using a spare 9V wall wort power supply.

[Aaron] chose to use the DS1307 RTC module to keep time. This will ensure that the time is kept accurately over along period of time. The RTC module has its own built-in battery, which means that if [Aaron's] clock should ever lose power the clock will still remember the time. The RTC battery can theoretically last for up to ten years.

[Aaron] got creative for his clock enclosure, upcycling an old hard drive. All of the hard drive guts were removed and replaced with his own electronics. The front cover had 13 holes drilled out for the LED’s. There are six green LED’s to display the hour, and seven blue LED’s for the minute. The LED’s were wired up as common cathode. Since the hard drive cover is conductive, [Aaron] covered both sides of his circuit board with electrical tape and hot glue to prevent any short circuits. The end result is an elegant binary clock that any geek would be proud of.

Update From Wayback: AVGA Reborn as RetroWiz

retrowiz-vga-avr-gaming-system

This one has been a long time coming. We’re finally seeing an update to [Jaromir's] retro gaming platform based around and ATmega chip. The thing that was novel about it back in 2009, and continues to be to this day, is the use of VGA output (PAL) from an AVR chip rather than composite video like most offerings.

Good projects never die and recently he picked the hardware up again, spinning a mostly surface mount board and putting together a new website to feature his work. Above you can see a demo of Commander Keen 4 running on the hardware (video below). He’s also has a rather trippy Super Mario port and adapted [Albert Seward's] PacMan source for the hardware.

The chip is being clocked at 32MHz with VGA clock running at 19.6608 MHz. This gives him sixteen colors with a resolution of 192×144. He concedes that you get better resolution out of composite video, but who needs resolution for retro gaming?

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8-Bit Video Game is Best of Retro Gaming on a Shoestring Budget

toorumsquest2

[Petri] wrote in to show off the 8-bit gaming system and original platformer which he and [Antti] developed. Don’t get us wrong now, it’s impressive that the duo were able to put together what looks like a very interesting game. But we’ve seen many industry-leading video games developed with just one or two people (we’re thinking all the way back to the days of Atari). Nope, what’s most interesting to us is that the console is also their creation. We should note that the title screen was the work of their friend [Juho].

Take this with a grain of salt, as the bottom right image in the vignette obviously includes an Arduino. But isn’t it a testament to the state of open hardware and the sharing of knowledge through the Internet that this is even possible on the hobby level? And just because we call it “hobby” doesn’t mean you have to lower your expectations. This thing is full featured. Watch the clip after the break to see the ATmega328 driving a 104×80 resolution screen with a 256 color palette, while using four audio channels for the chiptunes. The thing even utilizes an original NES controller port for user input.

And for those of you who are thinking we’ve seen the same thing before, we never get tired of seeing projects where a lot of hard work has obviously paid off!

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DIY Bluetooth Home Automation

blueboard

Interested in a bit of home automation? Don’t know where to start? We just found a great Instructable on making your own bluetooth controlled relay module!

[Kyle's] been working on this for a while, and finally at his 5th iteration he’s ready to share it with the public. It’s a project you can make from scratch, and each unit will cost approximately ~$25 in components — which can control up to two outputs. He’s included an inkscape PCB layout which you can easily etch on your own using the toner transfer method. The heart of the build is an Atmega328, which helps keep the costs down — after all, it is only controlling two outputs! Then it’s just a matter of adding the components, a bit of soldering, and uploading the firmware! 

The entire design is open source, and [Kyle] would love some feedback to continue improving upon it. The write-up is quite thorough, so if you’re interested, take a look and leave him a comment!

Furbies Sing Queen at Fresher’s Faire

kent-furby

The University of Kent has their own hacker space, called  [Maker Society]. Every year the school holds an orientation for new students called the Fresher’s Faire. The [Maker Society] display at this year’s Fresher’s Faire included a group of partially clothed Furbies singing the classic Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. This isn’t our first run in with Bohemian Rhapsody and hacked hardware.

The [Maker Society] started by doing some internet research and reverse engineering a first generation Furby.  The Furby itself is a marvel of cost reduction. All the doll’s functions run from a single motor and a cam system. A limit switch tells the on-board microcontroller when the cam is at the zero position. An optical encoder keeps track of the cam as it moves. The [Society] replaced Furby’s internal microcontroller with an Atmel ATMega328. This allowed them to use the Arduino programming environment.

Many classic Animatronic systems use an audio recording for motion. Typically a stereo recorder would perform double duty. The first track would contain the audio for the animation. A second track would contain audio tones corresponding to movement of each of the degrees of freedom of the doll being animated. Because the two tracks were on the same strip of magnetic tape, the audio and movement would always be in sync. Multitrack tape record and playback systems added even more flexibility to this type of system.

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A simple Forth development board

forth

Forth is a very interesting programming language. It’s very flexible and is extremely efficient on low powered hardware, but unfortunately not very popular simply due to the fact that it’s not very popular. There were a few Forth-based microcomputers built in the 1980s, but these were largely unsuccessful.

[Leon] is a Forth aficionado and came up with his own Forth development board in the hopes of Forth making a comeback. It’s a very small and cheap board – only about $12 in parts – but it’s still extremely powerful and a fun platform for investigating Forth.

Compared to other programming languages found in 80s microcomputers, Forth is just weird. It’s a stack-based language, so instead of adding two numbers like 3 + 4, Forth uses postfix notation (or Reverse Polish Notation) so the same statement is expressed as 3 4 +. It’s a much more efficient way for computers to handle data, and some claim it’s more efficient for humans as well.

[Leon] created his own board able to be programmed in Forth, shown above, that uses an ATMega328 microcontroller. He’s using AmForth to put Forth on his system, but also extended the base AmForth install with his own floating point version. making this version of Forth at least as powerful as any 80s microcomputer or ATMega development board is today.

[Leon] put together a great demo of the capabilities of Forth and his dev board. You can check that out below.

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Humidity Activated Bathroom Fan

bathroom humidifier

[Andrea] recently moved into an apartment with a few of his friends. Unfortunately the bathroom lacks one of the most important things — A fan. Or at least a window!

Using the case of an air freshener, a simple DHT11 Humidity/Temperature sensor, an LCD, a 12V fan, and ATmel328 microcontroller, he created this handy gadget.

When the humidity in the bathroom passes the 50% threshold, an LED flashes to prompt the user to open the door. After a short delay, one of the transistors flips causing the moist air to circulate out of the room.

We’re surprised the little 12V fan is powerful enough to clear the room, but apparently it helps a lot and can clear the room in less than 20 minutes.

To see it in action, stick around after the break.

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