Larson Scanner Namesake [Glen Larson] Passes Away

[Glen A. Larson] passed away on Friday at the age of 77. He may be most widely recognized for being a producer of the original Battlestar Galactica, Magnum, P.I. and Knight Rider television series’. But for us his association with a row of LEDs which illuminates in a back and forth pattern will always be his legacy.

When we heard about his passing we figured that we would hear about his invention of the Larson Scanner but that was not the case. A bit of research turned up a pretty interesting Wikipedia bio page. He has origins in a music group call The Four Preps and actually composed or collaborated on a number of television theme songs among other notable accomplishments. But nothing about electronics. Did this man of many hats actually invent the hardware for the Larson Scanner used as the Cylon Eye and on the front of K.I.T.T., or does it simply share his name?

Evil Mad Scientist Labs claims to have coined the term Larson Scanner. [Lenore Edman] confirmed to us that EMSL did indeed start the term which is used to name their electronics kit and directed us to [Andrew Probert] who lists effects for the TV series on his portfolio. We’ve reached out to him for more information but had not heard back at the time of publishing. We’ll update this post as details emerge. In the mean time, if you have any insight please leave it below including the source of the information.

If you are not aware, a Larson Scanner is so interesting because the pattern calls for a fading trail of LEDs. It is not simply a fully illuminated pixel moving back and forth but includes dimmed pixels after the brightest one has passed. This is an excellent programming challenge for those just getting into embedded development.

Those interested in learning more about [Gary] may find this lengthy video interview of interest. Otherwise it’s time for the collection of links to past Larson Scanner projects which we’ve covered.

[Thanks Bruce]

Trek to Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories

I’ve been a huge fan of EMSL for quite some time now, and my recent field trip proved that it has earned the name Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories for a good reason. For instance, look at the reflection in the glass near the bottom and you’ll glimpse the hearse that [Lenore] and [Windell] have sitting in front of the shop. But stop at the threshold, inside there are delights that ate up a couple of hours without me even noticing. And they thought they were going to get work done that day.

Don’t judge me by my appearance. This is late afternoon on a summer Saturday in Sunnyvale. Why does that matter? Obviously summer Saturdays in Silicon Valley always start with the Electronics Swap Meet and Engineer’s breakfast! That was a ton of fun but if you’re doing it right it’s also a bit tiring. No worries, a shot of excitement came over me as soon as I walked in that front door.

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Bring A Hack at World Maker Faire 2014

After a hard Saturday at World Maker Faire, some of the best and brightest in the Hacker/Maker community descended on The Holiday Inn for “Bring A Hack”. Created by [Jeri Ellsworth] several years ago at the Bay Area Maker Faire, Bring A Hack (BAH) is an informal gathering. Sometimes a dinner, sometimes a group getting together at a local bar, BAH is has just one rule: You have to bring a hack!

[Sophi Kravitz] has become the unofficial event organizer for BAH in New York. This year she did a bit of live hacking, as she converted her Wobble Wonder headgear from wired to wireless control.

[Chris Gammell] brought his original Bench BudEE from Contextual Electronics. He showed off a few of his board customizations, including making a TSSOP part fit on the wrong footprint.

BAH-eggbotsmall[Windell and Lenore] from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories brought a few hacks along. They picked up an old Radio Shack music player chip at the Electronics Flea Market and built it up on a breadboard. Also on display was their new EggBot Pro. The Pro is a beautifully machined version of the eggbot. Everything is built strong to withstand the sort of duty an EggBot would see at a hackerspace or public library. [Windell] was full of surprises, as he also gave everyone chunks of Sal Ammoniac, which is a great way to bring the tin back to a tired soldering iron tip. The hack was that he found his Sal Ammoniac at a local Indian grocery in the Bay Area. Check out [Windell's] blog entry for more information.

BAH-diyVRSmall[Cal Howard] brought his DIY VR goggles. [Cal] converted a Kindle Fire into an Oculus Rift style head mounted display by adding a couple of magnifying lenses, some bamboo kebab sticks to hold the lenses in place. Judicious use of cardboard and duct tape completed the project. His current hurdle is getting past the Fire’s lack of an accelerometer. [Cal] planned to spend Sunday at Maker Faire adding one of his own!

As the hour grew late, everyone started to trickle out. Tired but happy from a long day at Maker Faire, the Bring A Hacker partygoers headed back to their hotels to get some sleep before World Maker Faire’s final day.

Kraftwerk inspired LED tie

kraftwerk_inspired_led_tie

If you didn’t land the job after your last interview, it might have been because you were not wearing this sweet Kraftwerk-inspired necktie. Although our own [Caleb Kraft] insists that this recent creation by the folks over at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories is a tribute to him, [Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider] beg to differ.

The inspiration for the tie actually comes from Kraftwerk’s 1977 video for “The Robots”, in which the band wore black ties with embedded scrolling LEDs. The effect is very similar to that of a Larson Scanner, though Kraftwerk’s ties light the LEDs in a single direction and do not fade in and out.

EVMSL has released a firmware update to the Larson Scanner they sell in their shop that replicates the Kraftwerk effect, and they also put together a quick tutorial showing how you can construct your own coin cell-powered LED tie. We’re not suggesting that anyone rush out and buy their kit, as it can be replicated fairly easily – we just thought it was pretty cool.

So, if you’re looking for a retro-inspired Halloween costume, search no further – Evil Mad Scientist Labs has you covered.

Continue reading for a video demo of their tie, as well as the original video that inspired it.

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Hack together a Coffee Roaster

For most people, making coffee entails taking a couple scoops out of a can of pre-ground coffee, adding water, and pressing “Go” on the drip machine. To others coffee brewing is an artform, and want as much control over the process as possible. For those without an overflowing bank account for a home roasting machine, Evil Mad Scientist Labs have put together a general guide for throwing together a Coffee Bean Roaster and cooler (which is apparently just as important as roasting) from a low cost hot air popcorn popper. The home roasting scene is even big enough to warrant its own Wikipedia page, which also mentions using a popcorn popper as a bean roaster.

The guide includes some great simple circuit diagrams to keep in mind when hacking your own, as well as a good explanation why you shouldn’t just clip out the heating coil for cooling mode.

Bulbdial clock kit released

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories has just released a Bulbdial clock kit. This has come a long way since their first prototype, featuring three PCBs to carry the 72 charlieplexed LEDs. For accuracy they’ve included an optional header for a ChronoDot precision RTC.

With a great looking face and laser-cut acrylic case available, this may soon adorn our mantle. Time to write that letter to Santa…

Update: [Windell] of EvilMadScientist.com posted some video of the clock in action.  We’ve embedded it after the break.

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ATTiny 2313 breakout boards from EMSL

3592136552_e69c9190a1 (Custom)

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories has released the 2313 target board. A business card sized development board for working with ATTiny 2313 microprocessors. We saw them at the Maker Faire, and thought they looked familiar. You may recognize them due to their similarity to the Atmegaxx8 family board. As usual, this is released as creative commons and source files are available on their site.