Hackaday Links: August 11, 2013

While we’re not much for fashion hacks, we’re reasonably impressed with [Karolina]‘s faux Chanel bag made of chips. Apparently a grid of black squares is one of Chanel’s trademark looks, and a thousand or so QFP chips makes for a reasonable substitution.

News of the death of our retro edition has been greatly exaggerated. [Brandon] got an old Apple IIe up on the Internet and loaded up our retro edition, so we’re sort of obliged to mention him. He’s using a Super Serial Card connected to an OS X box running lynx. With getty running, he can shoot the output of lynx over to the Apple. Awesome.

Take an old Yamaha organ, convert the keyboard to MIDI, throw in a few Arduinos, thousands of LEDs, and a handful of bubble machines. What you end up with is the bubble organ, as seen at the Bass Coast Festival last weekend. If you want a hands on, you can also check it out at the Rifflandia festival in BC, Canada this September.

Some guy over on reddit created the smallest Arduino in the world. We’re looking at a rank amateur here, though. I’ve been working on this little guy for the last 18 months and have even created an open source cloud based github design for the production model. It’s less than half the size of a Digispark, and also Internet of Things 3D interactive education buzzword buzzword.

[Moogle] found an old Super 8 camera at an estate sale. No big deal right? Well, this one is clear, and it uses light-sensitive film. Your guess is as good as ours on this one, but if you know what’s up, drop a note in the comments.

One day [John] decided he would put a PC inside an old G3 iMac. After a year, it’s finally done. He took out the CRT and replaced it with a 15″ Dell monitor. The G3 was discarded for an AMD, and the internal speakers and slot-load CD drive still work. It’s a really, really cool piece of work.

Custom made MIDI recorder for an 8 year old girl

recorder

[KDM] over at The Controller Project forums let us know about a cool project he’s been working on: a MIDI recorder for an 8-year-old girl born with two digits per hand.

The recorder – a simple woodwind instrument usually made of plastic – is a staple of grade school music classes the world over. It’s an excellent introduction to the performing arts, but for those with two fingers per hand, the fingering is a little difficult.

[KDM] contacted a manufacturer of these instruments and they were kind enough to send over a half-dozen for his experimentations. He drilled out these recorders on a lathe and started work on a simple circuit to turn this recorder into a MIDI instrument. A simple PIC micro and a few buttons were used, with a DIN 5 port on the horn of the instrument.

The build works, but we’re thinking with a small electronic wind sensor, this instrument could easily become a full-fledged MIDI wind controller that could be easily and cheaply reproduced for other budding musicians with special needs.

Oh, one more thing. We’d like to give a big shout out to the giant dork who started The Controller Project. A lot of Hackaday readers know how to work a microcontroller and a soldering iron, so how about heading over to their forums and doing some good with your skills?

Building a hard drive scratch controller

hard-disk-scratch-controller

If you’re reading this blog then chances are you have a dead hard drive hanging out somewhere in your house. Here’s a weekend project that will put it back into use. [Andreas] took on the popular project which combines a hard drive and optical mouse to build a scratch controller.

The gist of the build is that you use an optical mouse sensor to track the movement of the platter. But [Andreas] made things harder on himself by not using the USB capability of the mouse and mapping it in software for his needs. Instead he plucked the sensor from the mouse, reading it using an Arduino. After much trial and error with the best way to coat the underside of the platter to play nicely with the sensor he managed to get it up and running. The controller issues commands using the MIDI protocol, forming a strong foundation for future upgrades which could lead to a full-blown DJ console hack.

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Making a real instrument out of a Kaoss pad and ribbon controllers

swinger

MIDI guitars have been around since the 80s, and nearly without exception they are designed as direct, one-to-one copies of their acoustic and electric brethren. [Michael] has been working on turning this convention on its head with the Misa Tri-Bass, a MIDI guitar designed to be the perfect guitar-shaped synthesizer interface.

The tri-bass doesn’t produce any sound itself; instead, it’s a polyphonic MIDI controller with three channels controlled by three ribbon controllers on the neck. The body contains a huge touch screen divided into four MIDI channels, essentially turning this guitar into an instrument designed for electronic music first, and not an acoustic instrument kludged into filling an electronic role.

Unlike a whole lot of other digital guitar-shaped MIDI controllers, the tri-bass is actually made out of wood. Yes, the neck is made out of maple (inlaid with the three ribbon controllers, of course), and the body comes directly from a tree, with the styling inspired by a forgotten retro-modern design. It’s an impressive piece of kit, and we can’t wait to see [Michael]‘s handiwork in the hands of digital guitarists the world over.

You can check out a video of [Michael] rockin out below.

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Touch control for every key on the keyboard

keys

Of all the musical instruments out there, the keyboard is among the worst for changing the pitch and timbre of individual notes. Wind and stringed instruments can do this easily in the hands of a skilled player, but outside the wheel and joystick controls of a few electronic keyboards, tickling the ivories means the only thing you can really change about how something sounds is the volume.

TouchKeys wants to put an end to this severe lack of dynamics available on keyboard instruments. Basically, it turns every single key on a keyboard into a multi-touch sensor, allowing any keyboardist to change the pitch, filter, timbre, or any other parameter of their instrument simply by moving their finger around on a key.

TouchKeys works by overlaying all the keys on a keyboard with circuit boards that plug into a module hidden under the hood. These boards are studded with capacitive sensing points, allowing a computer to recognize where the player is touching each key, and modifying filters or volume for each key independently.

The TouchKeys Kickstarter is offering a kit to equip a 25-key keyboard with these sensors for about $550. A hefty price tag, but hopefully we’ll see this tech in real production keyboards in the future.

The perils of cheap MIDI adapters

MIDI

[Arvydas] recently bought a Rock Band 3 Wii keyboard thinking it would be an excellent and very inexpensive (£9.99) MIDI controller. The keyboard has a proper DIN-5 MIDI out port, so theoretically the only thing needed to plug this into a computer is a USB to MIDI adapter. Unlike the keyboard, the MIDI adapter was a cheap piece of Chinese cruft, but given some ingenuity and a handful of components, he was able to get everything working.

The 30-year-old MIDI specification includes a few schematics on how to properly connect MIDI devices together. The most important part of these schematics is an optoisolater on the MIDI in, a valuable addition considering early MIDI keyboards cost thousands of dollars. It seems [Arvydas]‘ MIDI to USB adapter didn’t include this vital component, instead replacing it with a simple resistor. Anything to keep costs down, right?

To get the MIDI adapter working, [Arvydas] headed over to Maplin and bought an optioisolator, With everything wired up on a breadboard, he got it to work and eventually transplanted the circuit to the adapter’s PCB.

It’s a great piece of work to get this MIDI adapter functioning, especially since it’s doubtful the cheap adapter would have worked with any MIDI device.

Tearing apart an organ and making a MIDI keyboard

pedul

What do you do if you’re in a band and have an old, dead organ lying around? Build a MIDI foot controller, of course.

After dispensing of the old organ guts, [Mark] mounted the pedals in a handsome road case and started working on the electronics. His first inclination was to mount an Arduino Pro Mini on a piece of stripboard, but after that failed decided to learn Eagle and fabricate a PCB. each key of the organ pedals are connected to a switch read by the Arduino which sends data to a Korg Microsampler over MIDI.

The swell pedal from the organ was also reused, but because the old incandescent light in the pedal was toast, this was replaced with an LED. It still works, allowing [Mark] to do volume swells on his new, fancy, MIDI foot controller.

You can check out a video of the controller below.

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