Model Sputnik Finds its Voice After Decades of Silence

As we approach the 60th anniversary of the human race becoming a spacefaring species, Sputnik nostalgia will no doubt be on the rise. And rightly so — even though Sputnik was remarkably primitive compared to today’s satellites, its 1957 launch was an inflection point in history and a huge achievement for humanity.

The Soviets, understandably proud of their accomplishment, created a series of commemorative models of Earth’s first artificial moon as gifts to other countries. How¬†one came into possession of the Royal Society isn’t clear, but [Fran Blanche] found out about it through a circuitous route detailed in the video below, and undertook to reproduce the original electronics from the model that made the distinctive Sputnik beeps.

The Royal Society’s version of the model no longer works, but luckily it came with a schematic of the solid-state circuit used to emulate the original’s vacuum-tube guts. Intent on building the circuit as close to vintage as possible and armed with a bag of germanium transistors from the 60s, [Fran] worked through the schematic, correcting a few issues here and there, and eventually brought the voice of Sputnik back to life.

If you think we’ve covered Sputnik’s rebirth before, you may be thinking about our article on how some hams rebuilt Sputnik’s guts from a recently uncovered Soviet-era schematic. [Fran]’s project just reproduces the sound of Sputnik — no license required!

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ThingamaKIT: Make your own Thingamagoop


Bleep Labs’ Thingamagoop is a small synthesizer packed with wacky controls for generating unique sounds; you can now build an expanded version yourself with the ThingamaKit. Made “because there are not nearly enough beeping, zapping, bixxerfouping, anthropomorphic synthesizer monsters in the world,” it generates sounds of different pitches depending on the type and intensity of light hitting a photocell on the front panel. It’s most unique feature, is its LEDacle, which is something like a tentacle with an LED on the end. This can be pointed towards the photocell to modulate the sound. Output is through a 1/4″ audio jack.

Bleep Labs sells fully assembled Thingamagoops for $100, but the new DIY kit is available for half price. The kit version of the Thingamagoop has more controls, two photosensors, and two LEDacles. You can buy it with or without the case, and it doesn’t require any complex wiring. Look after the break for video of some Thingamagoops in action.

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How-To: Make a digital synthesizer

This week’s How-To comes from our newest contributor: Logan Williams.

This simple guide will show you how to build a digital synthesizer that generates and manipulates square waves. Your synthesizer will have one oscillator, which produces a variable pitch controlled by a potentiometer, as well as an LFO which modulates that pitch at a variable frequency. The part count for this project is quite low, and it can be built for under $20.

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