A papercraft resistor calculator from Adafruit

The Adafruit blog just posted a neat papercraft resistor calculator. If you haven’t yet learned the horribly offensive mnemonic for resistor color codes, now’s your chance to have a cheap and portable resistor value reference.

This papercraft resistor calculator is the latest in the family of Circuit Playground tools that include a fabulous electronic reference app we reviewed some months ago. Instead of an Android or iOS device, the papercraft resistor calculator runs on its own mechanical computer; a series of four printed disks and some paper fasteners.

If you’d like to print out your own resistor calculator, Adafruit put up the PDF on GitHub and posted the Illustrator file on Thingiverse for easy editing. It’s not the old-school cool of a slide rule, but we could easily see this resistor calculator being useful if you’re ever lucky enough to teach electronics to children. At least then you won’t have to share that offensive mnemonic.

Antique Electromechanical Calculating Machines

electromechanical calculator Hamann 505

The decision to use electronics for our calculating machines has long been decided.  However, that doesn’t mean that mechanical engineers didn’t put up a valiant, if ultimately futile, fight. [Dvice.com] has an interesting article comparing the calculating technology of the 1960s, such as the [Haman 505], to today’s iPad.

This comparison and pictures were made possible by [Mark Glusker]‘s excellent collection.  These models can be divided into two categories, rotary calculators, and printing calculators. According to [Mark]‘s site, the printing calculators stayed on the market a few years after the rotary calculators, which were off the market by 1970.

Although we may never see machines like these made again, anyone even a little bit mechanically inclined would be hard pressed not to be inspired by this collection. Be sure to check out the video of a [Madas 20BTG] calculator after the break to see what one of the rotary models looks like in action! [Read more...]

“Counting box” also saves calculators from small children

[Nathan]‘s son really loves numbers and counting, and one of his favorite things to do is add 1 to a calculator over and over again. Being the awesome dad that he is, [Nathan] built his son a counting box that has a 10-digit rotary switch and two arcade buttons to add and subtract.

One goal of the project was to have the counting box retain memory of the display while being powered off. The easiest way to do this is to write the display data to the ATmega’s EEPROM. This EEPROM is only rated for 100,000 write cycles (although in practice it’s much higher), so [Nathan] included a 24LC256 in a little spasm of over-engineering. All the electronics are laid out on perf board, and the case is constructed from bamboo that was laser cut by Ponoko. The quality of the case itself is fairly remarkable – we’re really impressed with the finish and the magnetic battery access door.

From experience, we know that playing with an HP-15C eventually leads to a broken calculator and having our Nintendo taken away. We’re really happy for [Nathan]‘s son, and wish we had our own counting box at his age.

Gigantic ball-manipulating binary computer

The folks at Evil Mad Scientist Labs just put up a post on the giant mechanical binary computer they brought to last month’s Maker Faire.

As a faithful reproduction of the Digi-Comp II from the 1960s, every operation is powered by balls falling onto levers. Unlike the original, the larger version is powered by billiard balls instead of half-inch marbles. The Digi-Comp II is able to count, add, subtract, multiply, divide, get the 1s or 2s complement and zero all of it’s bits. With a 7-bit accumulator, the Digi-Comp II is able to calculate anything where the result is less than 127, so we wouldn’t recommend doing your taxes on it. In the demo video, it took the Digi-Comp II about two minutes and twenty seconds to multiply 3 by 13. We’re not going to venture a guess on the equivalent seconds per cycle for an electronic calculator, but it’s an impressive build

The Digi-Comp II is a great way to show the process of binary arithmetic in a computer and we were wondering why there aren’t any educational toys like the Digi-Comp II out today. A site linked from the build page tells us there will be kits available this summer, we’re hoping the kit doesn’t fill the bed of a pickup truck.

Check out the video after the break for the multiplication demo.

[Read more...]

Minimalistic 555 Adding Machine

How many 555 timers does it take to add up two 10 digit numbers? [Alan's] 555 Adding Machine does it with 102 of them, he designed the machine as an extreme entry to the 555 contest and the original plan was to make it even more complicated. This machine uses the 555’s to implement a nine decade accumulator and multiplexer, all inputs are managed by an old school dial from a rotary phone which apparently provide nicely timed outputs. Addition and subtraction are achieved using 9s compliment arithmetic which he discusses in the video after the break, for anyone who wants to brush up on 9s compliment or 555 theory.

Alan’s website has some nice pictures (We’re particularly impressed by all that minimalistic soldering) including schematics, and a very nice 33 minute video in which he discusses in detail how the machine works and even offers some history on the Pascaline, which is mechanical calculator that works on similar principles.

[Read more...]

Relay Calculator

Calculators are a handy tool to have around in just about every application. We often take them for granted today, but even when I was a kid they were still sort of expensive devices that you put thought into buying. Illustrating just how far we have come is this awesome Relay Calculator brought to us by [Team 619].

Featuring an optical slider input system, the user can select any two 4 bit numbers and can add or subtract them. Logic is carried out by a couple handfuls of relays setup to be AND, OR, or XOR gates, which are then linked together to build adders.

Output is in binary as well, in the form of lights, though we cant really tell if those are some form of tubes or if they are just rods lit on end. Either way if you require a lot of nibble math and want a conversation starter this suits the bill quite niceley. Otherwise you can keep hooking up more and more relays and maybe one day make your own relay computer.

Join us after the break for a quick video!

[Read more...]

Analog computer does math

This analog computer can multiply, divide, square numbers, and find square roots. It has a maximum result of ten billion with an average precision of 2-3%. [Miroslav's] build recreates something he saw in a Popular Electronics magazine. It uses a resistor network made up of three potentiometers with a digital multimeter is an integral part of the machine. To multiply a number you set the needles on the first two knobs to the numbers on which you are operating. To find the result turn the third knob until the multimeter has been zeroed out and read the value that knob is pointing to. It seems much more simple than some of the discrete logic computers we’ve seen, yet it’s just as interesting.


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