555 Teardown and Analysis

If you are even remotely interested in electronics, chances are the number ‘555’ is immediately recognizable. It is, after all, one of the most popular IC’s ever built, with billions of units sold to date. Designed way back in 1970 by Hans Camenzind, it is still widely available and frequently used for various applications. [Ken Shirriff] does a teardown and analysis of a 555 and gives us a look at the internal structure of this oldie.

A metal can package allowed him to just chop off the top and get access to the die, which was way safer and easier than to etch out the black epoxy of a DIP package. He starts by giving us a quick run down on how the chip works, showing us the two comparators, the output flip-flop and the capacitor discharge circuitry that make up most of the chip. He then puts the die under a metallurgical microscope, and starts identifying the various sections of the chip. Combining pictures of individual elements with cross-sectional diagrams, he identifies the construction of the transistors and resistors, the use of a current mirror to replace bulky resistors, and the differential pair that makes up the comparators.

He wraps it up by providing an interactive map of the die and the schematic, where you can click on various parts and the corresponding component is highlighted along with an explanation of what it does. There’s some interesting trivia about how a redesigned, improved version – the ZSCT1555 – couldn’t survive the popularity and success of the 555. He wraps it up with a useful list of notes and references. While de-capping blog posts are interesting on their own, [Ken] does a great job by giving us a detailed look at the internals.

Thanks [Vikas] for sending in this tip.

Party Ready Mini LED Volume Tower

Audio LED Light Tower

There are many very cool visual effects for music, but the best are the kind you build yourself. [Ben’s] mini LED volume towers adds some nice bling to your music.

[Ben] was inspired to created this project when he saw a variety of awesome stereo LED towers on YouTube (also referred to as VU meters). We have even featured a few VU meters, one very recently. [Ben] goes over every detail, including how to test your circuit (a very important part of any project). The schematic is deceptively simple. It is based on the LM3914 display driver IC, a simple chained comparator circuit is used to control the volume bar display. All you really need is a 3D printer to make the base, and you can build this awesome tower.

See the completed towers in action after the break. What next? It would be cool to see a larger tower that displays frequency magnitude!

Continue reading “Party Ready Mini LED Volume Tower”

Halloween Links: October 30th, 2013

hackaday-links-chain

Happy Halloween from everyone at Hackaday! To help you enjoy the holiday here are a few festive links:

[Mike Kohn] whipped up a set of motion tracking eyeballs to make his decor extra creepy.

There’s not much to this jet-pack costume but the results are pretty amusing.

The eyes on [Tim Butler’s] skeleton prop don’t follow you around the room, but they do use a PIR sensor to light up the skull.

Speaking of skulls, [Tom] is using some real skulls as decorations. He also added lights where the eyeballs should be, but he is using a photoresistor and comparator to turn on some LEDs.

[Clark] built a Mecha Robot Warrior costume for his son. With all of those LED strips we think he’ll be pretty safe when crossing the street!

And finally, [Jesse] added a lot to his prop in order to produce a Sinister Joker. That’s Joker-as-in-cards and not as in Batman. It’s got an IR distance sensor as a trigger, with a motor to move the wrist, lights for the eyes, and a sound shield to give it a disturbing voice.

Netbook comparator

netbooks

Our recent netbook post got a huge response. They are almost unanimously loved. A few dissenting opinions were present though. A few people mentioned that until this generation arrived, they were buying used subnotebooks for exactly the same reasons.

If you’re in the market for a new machine, Obsessable’s netbook comparator has all of the current models broken down by feature.