Apollo Guidance Computer clone

[Cliff Miller] pointed out this incredible project from 2004. [John Pultorak]’s journey began in late 2000 when he decided to build a 60’s or 70’s era minicomputer. While gathering technical documentation, he found some interesting information on the Apollo Guidance Computer and felt that was the way to go. The AGC was the first integrated circuit computer ever built. Designed by MIT in 1964 it was constructed from ~5000 ICs, almost all 3-input NOR gates. [John]’s version uses late 1960’s 74LS TTL logic which gains him a 10 to 1 reduction in the number of ICs. A good thing when you have to do ~15K wirewrap connections. He also used flipflops and register chips instead of building everything from NOR gates. [John] essentially built the AGC three times: First, he coded a simulator in C++. Then, he imported the logic design into CircuitMaker to verify that it would actually work. Finally, he built the 3 by 5foot machine. He’s provided an amazing amount of documentation for anyone that wants to explore this device and the overview alone is well worth a look.

New Sparkfun designs

Sparkfun has recently released a bevy of new boards and other devices, with some very intriguing new builds among them.

The first board that caught our attention is the Wee. It is a compact Arduino compatible controller that features a small size, low voltage, and many other minimalist attributes. It is built around an ATMega 168V and uses all SMD parts.

For even tinier fun, check out the LilyPad LED. It is a LED designed to be incorporated into clothing, featuring large holes for threading, a thin and extremely small PCB and a very bright 250mcd light. It is also washable, meaning that one or many can permanently be incorporated into clothing without fear of losing them. You can see these in the turn signal jacket we covered earlier.

The last one we’ll discuss is the LiPoly Charger, a USB lithium ion battery charger. Based on the Max 1555 IC, the LiPoly can use USB bus power or a 2.1mm center positive wallwart power(it uses the more high-powered wall-wart if both are connected). It can’t charge NiMH batteries, but it is still compact, efficient, and very useful.