God’s own keyboard, now with Bluetooth

For decades a thunderous roar rose from the bowels of IBM keyboards like the animus of angry and forgotten gods. These keyboards have fallen silent of late, due only to incompatibility with newer hardware. Now, Model Ms have been given a reprieve from landfills or recycling centers because of the work of [wulax] of geekhack and his Model M Bluetooth controller board.

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Who knew Thinkpad batteries require a jump start?

Lithium battery packs reaching the end of their life usually have a lot of kick left in them. That’s because they’re made up of multiple cells and it only takes the failure of one to bork the entire battery. One of the most interesting examples we’ve heard of this is in the Toyota Prius, but that’s a story for another time. In this case, [Mika] wanted to resurrect the battery from his IBM Thinkpad T40. He identified the offending cell and replaced it, but couldn’t get any juice out of the battery after the repair.

He was measuring 0V on the output, but could measure the cells instead of the control circuitry and was getting over 11V. Clearly, the control circuit wasn’t allowing an output. We completely understand the concept here (think about that really bad press about exploding laptop batteries). It seems there’s a lockout mechanism when the control circuit loses power. [Mika] managed to get past this by shorting voltage into the control circuit, a method he likes in the video after the break to jump starting a car.

We’ve seen similar cell replacement for power tools, like a Dremel or a Makita drill.

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The origin of CTRL-ALT-DELETE

You may not have ever thought about it, but the far-too-often-used keyboard combination of Control + Alt + Delete had to have been brought into existence by some random coder at some point in technological history. But wait, it wasn’t just a random coder. The keystroke combo is attributed to [David Bradley]. He was one of the original designers of the IBM Personal Computer. You can even hear his own recount of the story in the video after the break.

He came up with the idea after growing weary of waiting for the Power-On Self Test (POST) routine to finish during each reboot of his software testing regiment. We remember the old days of slow hardware and can understand his frustration at the lost time. He decided to throw in a shortcut that allowed the software to reboot without power cycling the hardware. The original implementation used CTRL-ALT-ESC, but was later changed so that one frustrated keyboard mash couldn’t accidentally reboot the system.

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Making punch card programming a snap

About thirty years ago [H. P. Friedrichs] pulled off a hack that greatly improved the process of programming with punch cards. At the time, his school had just two IBM 029 keypunch machines. One of them is shown in the upper right and it uses a keyboard to choose which parts of each card should be punched out. This was time-consuming, and one misplaced keystroke could ruin the card that you were working on. Since you had to sit at the machine and type in your source code these machines were almost always in use.

But wait, the school acquired a dozen of the TRS-80 computers seen in the lower left. They were meant to be used when teaching BASIC, but [HPF] hatched a plan to put them to task for punch card generation. He built his own interface hardware that connected to the expansion port of the new hardware. Using his custom interface a student could create a virtual card deck that could be rearranged and revised to correct mistakes in the source code. The hardware then allows the virtual deck to be dumped in to the punching machine. This broke the bottleneck caused by students sitting at the punch card terminal.

We think that [HPF] sent in this project after seeing the antiquated hardware from that 1970’s calculator. These hacks of yore are a blast to revisit so don’t be afraid to tip us off if you know of a juicy one.

Gaming on an IBM XT using an NES controller

[Frode] felt that using the keyboard for gaming on his old IBM XT computer was simply too noisy. He came up with a much quieter way to game by building an XT adapter for an original NES controller. If you haven’t explored the communication protocol used by the NES peripherals this is a great way to learn. Inside you’ll find a CMOS shift register that captures button states when it receives a latch signal. With that in mind [Frode] came up with a circuit to gather the bits from the controller, and generate input commands using the XT keyboard protocol without using a microcontroller. All of this is explained in the demo after the break.

Most of the NES controller hacks we see permanently alter the hardware. It’s nice to see one used without cracking it open.

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Twitter remote control

twitter_remote

We’ve already brought you a homemade Twitter-enabled washing machine, and toilet, but now a new innovation is being brought to the table by a bigger player. IBM is working on a tweeting television remote, which would allow the user to inform the world what they are watching. Although unfiltered reporting could create awkward situations, the combination of America’s love for television and Twitter is sure to yield interesting results. They also mentioned that it could be configured to report to other sites, such as Facebook or joost. Any ideas why IBM would have in such a patent are welcome in the comments. More info can be found here and here.

TIME’s Best Inventions of 2008

tesla

Attempting to put our past behind us as quickly as possible, TIME has released what they feel are the best inventions of 2008. While there’s some pretty wishy-washy lab-only stuff on the list, we’re glad to see a lot of cool hardware made the cut. Some of our favorites are: The Tesla roadster proving electric cars can be fun. IBM breaking the petaflop barrier with LANL’s Roadrunner. The Large Hadron Collider for getting everyone scared about physics all over again. Have a look at the list for many other tech highlights from this year.