RADAR Controlled Speakers

[Scott] had a simple problem – he was tired of leaning over his work bench to change the volume on his speakers. He desired a system that would readily allow him to switch the speakers on and off from a more comfortable distance. Not one to settle for the more conventional solutions available, [Scott] whipped up a RADAR-activated switch for his speaker system.

The build relies on a surprisingly cost-effective RADAR module available off the shelf, running in the 5.8GHz spectrum. At under $10, it’s no big deal to throw one of these into a project that requires some basic distance sensing. [Scott] decided to keep things simple – instead of going with a full-fat microcontroller to control the speakers, a 74HC590 IC was used to create a latch. Each time the RADAR module senses an object in close proximity, it toggles the state of the latch. The latch then controls a transistor that switches the power for the speakers.

Overall it’s a build that combines a modern integrated RADAR module with some very simple control logic to create a functional build. Of course, there’s so much more you can do with some 74-series logic. Video after the break.

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Easy LCD control for Arduino Mega


[Andy Brown] wrote in to show off the TFT LCD adapter he’s been working on for connecting inexpensive displays to an Arduino Mega.

These TFT LCD screens can be picked up on eBay for a few dollars. But they’re more suited for 16-bit microcontrollers which operate at 3.3V levels. His adapter board, which plugs directly into the Mega’s dual-row pin header, makes it easier to control these with an 8-bit chip that is running at 5V.

There’s a couple of things that make this happen. First off, he’s included level converter chips to managed the 3.3V/5V issues. Second, he uses latch chips to translate eight pins on the Arduino Mega to sixteen pins on the display. Those chips have a latch pin which holds the output values in memory while the input pins are changed. He manages to drive the latch on just one of the chips using the chip select (CS) line called for by the LCD protocol. This means you don’t lose any extra pins.

Another way to uses the displays with Arduino is to use a smart controller for TFT screens.

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Adding an electronic lock to a DIY book safe


DIY book safes are well and good, but if you give someone enough time to peruse your book collection, the 3-inch thick “Case study on Animal Husbandry Techniques during the 14th Century” is likely to stand out among your collection of hand-bound “Twilight” fan fiction. In an attempt to teach his friend a bit about microcontrollers and circuits, [Jonathan] spent some time adding a bit more security to your run of the mill book safe.

The pair started out with the time-consuming process of gluing the book’s pages together and creating enough hollow space for both storage and the electronics. With that out of the way, they installed a latch and servo motor inside the cavity, the latter of which is controlled using an Atmega328p with the Arduino bootloader. To gain access to the goodies stashed away inside, Jonathan hooks up a small PS/2 keypad and enters a passcode. This triggers the servo motor, opening the latch.

While the latch likely only adds a nominal bit of security to the book safe, it’s a fun enough learning exercise to justify the time spent putting it together.

Continue reading to see a short video of [Jonathan’s] electronic latching book safe in action.

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512 LED cube

Get out the soldering iron and clear your schedule, it’s going to take you a while to assemble this 8x8x8 LED matrix which contains a total of 512 LEDs. We’ve looked in on a 3x3x3 cube, and [Chr], who is responsible for this one, has assembled a 4x4x4 cube before, but this one is quite a leap in complexity. It isn’t just physical assembly problems that increase with scale, you’ll need to consider a power supply too since one layer of a 3x3x3 cube would need at 90 mA, but a single layer of the cube above requires 640 mA to light all of the diodes. Multiplexing is handled per-layer, controlled by  ICs which share 8 data lines and are latched by a shift register. This means the display only requires 11 microcontroller pins for addressing. It is striking how well [Chr] explains the design process, and how cleanly he builds the driver circuits on protoboard. There’s a lot to look at and a lot to learn, not to mention the stunning results which can be seen in the video after the break.

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Breadboarding RAM

If you’ve ever wanted to dive in and take a look at how memory hardware is implemented here is a good example of how to implement some latching circuits with ether BJT or CMOS transistors. BJTs require biasing resistors which increases the complexity and power consumption when compared to CMOS. If power consumption isn’t an issue you could certainly make some really fast logic.

Most modern on chip RAM is made using SRAM because it only takes six transistors to implement(vs eight) and is pretty fast. When it comes to density DRAM can get one bit of storage by using a single transistor and capacitor(putting the capacitor underneath he transistor can save even more space). All that said, latches and flip flops are still a very useful (and common) tool when working with digital circuits.

Digital clock building


[punkky] has been documenting his adventures building digital clocks. They each use six 7-segment LED displays, but he’s been gradually changing how they are built. The first version used a CMOS BCD-to-7-sement latch on each display, which is tied to a PIC16F627a. For the next run, he added multiplexing, so he could drive all the segments using just thirteen pins. He’s posted a final schematic with code and details of how the clock timing actually works.