Citizen Scientist: Hedy Lamarr

For all the destruction and human misery unleashed during World War II, it was also a time of incredible creativity and ingenuity. In America, it was a time when everyone wanted to pitch in. Young men and women enlisted and were shipped overseas, and those left behind kept the factories running full tilt. Even Hollywood went to war, with its steady output of films that gave people a little glamour and provided an escape from the horror and loss of the war. Hollywood stars lined up to entertain troops and raise money for the war effort, and many joined up and fought too.

But one Hollywood star made an unconventional contribution to the war effort, and in the process proved that beauty and brains are not always mutually exclusive. This is the story of Hedy Lamarr, movie star and inventor.

“The Most Beautiful Woman in the World”

By the time she was 23 in 1937, Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was a genuine film star in her native Austria. She was also trapped in an unhappy marriage to a rich and powerful Austrian munitions magnate, Fritz Mandl. Hedy was miserable as a trophy wife, adorning the dining room as her husband entertained rich and powerful guests – including Mussolini and Hitler – over long dinners in one of his mansions. They dismissed her; clearly a woman so beautiful could have nothing else to offer, an empty head perched on a graceful neck. But she was far from stupid, and while her husband discussed business with the men who were building the Axis arsenal, Hedy listened and learned.

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Superbike gets Bootstrapped Instrument Refit

[Josh] got rid of the standard, factory gauges on his GSXR Super-bike and installed a custom built instrument panel which displays some additional parameters which the regular instrumentation cluster did not. He was working on converting his bike in to a Streetfighter – a stripped down, aggressive, mean machine. The staid looking gauges had to go, besides several other mods to give his bike the right look.

GSXR_03Luckily, he had the right skills and tools available to make sure this DIY hack lives up to the Streetfighter cred of his bike. The important parameter for him was to log the Air / Fuel mixture ratio so he could work on the carburation. Along the way, he seems to have gone a bit overboard with this build, but the end result is quite nice. The build centers around a Planar 160×80 EL graphic display lying in his parts bin. The display didn’t have a controller, so he used the Epson S1D13700 graphic controller to interface it with the microcontroller. An Atmel ATmega128L runs the system, and [Josh] wrote all of his code in “C”.

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Bluetooth Thermometer Minds Your Meats

The summer may have come to a close here in the USA, but any time of the year is a good time for grilling. In the colder weather, it’s a drag to have to stay near the hot grill to keep an eye on your burgers and franks. [Eric Ely] thought it would be smarter to have a meat thermometer that sent his phone the current reading via Bluetooth.

Instead of starting from scratch, [Eric] took an off the shelf electronic thermometer and removed its temperature probe (which was a thermistor). The hardware used an off the shelf Bluetooth board with a companion battery board and prototype board. If you can’t bear to cut up a good thermometer, you can get replacement probes that ought to work just as well.

In addition to the boards and the scavenged thermistor, [Eric] used a couple of resistors. One resistor is in parallel with the thermistor to improve the linearity of the device’s response curve. The second resistor forms a voltage divider that the Bluetooth board reads.

The software (using Node.js and C) is available on Github. The C program reads the temperature and pushes it out using JSON. Node.js provides a server that [Eric] can hit with his phone’s Web browser.

Sure, you can buy wireless thermometers, but what self-respecting hacker wants to carry around a store-bought box just to display meat temperature? Viewing it on your phone has much more street cred.  Of course, a real hacker isn’t going to cook on a conventional grill, either.

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Toy Television’s Dreams Come True

A couple of years ago, [Alec]’s boss brought him a souvenir from Mexico City—a small mid-century console television made of scrap wood and cardboard. It’s probably meant to be a picture frame, but [Alec] was determined to give it a better life.

As it turns out, the screen of [Alec]’s old Samsung I9000 was a perfect fit for the cabinet with room to spare. It was on its way to becoming a real (YouTube) TV once [Alec] could find a way to control it remotely. A giant new-old stock remote that’s almost bigger than the TV was just the thing. There’s enough room inside the remote for a non-LE Bluefruit module, which is what the I9000 will accept as input without complaint.

Trouble is, Bluefruit doesn’t support matrix keypads, so [Alec] used a bare ATMega328 running on the internal clock. Since the Bluefruit board provides voltage regulation, the remote was able to keep its native 9V power. [Alec] is happy with the results, though he plans to refine his button choices and maybe make a new overlay for the remote. Stay tuned for a tiny TV tour.

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New Part Day: Tiny, Tiny Bluetooth Chips

The future of tiny electronics is wearables, it seems, with companies coming out with tiny devices that are able to check your pulse, blood pressure, and temperature while relaying this data back to your phone over a Bluetooth connection. Intel has the Curie module, a small System on Chip (SoC) meant for wearables, and the STM32 inside the Fitbit is one of the smallest ARM microcontrollers you’ll ever find. Now there’s a new part available that’s smaller than anything else and has an integrated Bluetooth radio; just what you need when you need an Internet of Motes of Dust.

The Atmel BTLC1000 is a tiny SoC designed for wearables. The internals aren’t exceptional in and of themselves – it’s an ARM Cortex M0 running at 26 MHz. There’s a Bluetooth 4.1 radio inside this chip, and enough I/O, RAM, and ROM to connect to a few sensors and do a few interesting things. What makes this chip so exceptional is its size – a mere 2.262mm by 2.142mm. It’s a chip that can fit along the thickness of some PCBs.

To provide some perspective: the smallest ATtiny, the ‘tiny4/5/9/10 in an SOT23-6 package, is 2.90mm long. The smallest PICs are similarly sized, and both have a tiny amount of RAM and Flash space. The BTLC1000 is surprisingly capable, with 128kB each of RAM and ROM.

The future of wearable devices is smaller, faster and more capable devices, and with a tiny chip that can fit on the head of a pin, this is certainly an interesting chip for applications where performance can be traded for package size. If you’re ready to dive in with this chip the preliminary datasheets are now available.

Mechanical Keyboard Goes BLE

Like many programmers, [Daniel Nugent] loves his old mechanical keyboard (a WASD Code Keyboard). What he didn’t love was the cord. Sure, you can get a modern wireless keyboard, but it won’t be the same as the keyboard you’ve spent so much time with. Armed with a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) module, a rechargeable battery and some coding, he kept his keyboard but got rid of the wires.

Although he has some specific handling for the WASD, the code would very likely handle any PS/2 keyboard. The PS/2 interface is a simple synchronous serial port with a single clock and single data line. Handling it with a microcontroller isn’t very difficult.

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Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: Bendy Solar Bluetooth Tags

Last January, [DrYerzina]’s sister couldn’t find her cat. The family searched the neighborhood for two hours until the cat came out from underneath a bed, proving once again cats own humans, not the other way around. A solution to this problem would come in the form of technology, specifically as [DrYerzinia]’s entry for the Hackaday Prize, a solar-powered Bluetooth tracking device. Yes, you can go on Amazon or eBay and buy a BLE tracker, but this version comes in a handy package: it’s built of a flexible circuit board to fit just about everywhere, including on the collar of a cat.

[DrYerzina]’s Bluetooth tracker is built around an Bluetooth LE module, with a few added passives, LEDs, and other parts glued and soldered onto a double sided, flexible PCB. To this, he’s added a flexible solar cell and a flexible LiPo battery. All of this is stuffed inside an enclosure 3D printed in flexible filament.

While the Hackaday Prize is filled with wearables, [DrYerzina]’s project is at the forefront of hombrew wearable technology. Nowhere else in the prize have we seen a dedication to making a device that bends. The best part is, he’s actually building a useful device; with just 15 minutes of sunlight a day (a condition very likely for a sleeping cat), this Bluetooth tag can work for weeks.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by: