Steampunk iMacs With Real Turning Gears

Macs have always been favorites of case modders, with projects ranging from turning a Mac Plus into an aquarium to retrofuturistic machines that look like they came from the set of [Terry Gilliam]’s Brazil. Some of these casemods are of the steampunk variety, an aesthetic that usually means gluing gears to wood. [Valeriy] and [Cyrill] are bucking that trend with a beautiful iMac crafted from wood, brass, and leather (Russian, Google Translate)

The machine in question is a late-model, impossibly thin iMac. Unlike the old all-in-one computers with clunky CRTs, there’s not much space to dig around inside this iMac, and doing so would probably ruin the machine, anyway. Instead of a complete disassembly a wooden frame was constructed around the display, the aluminum base was covered in veneer, and the back of the iMac was covered in leather.

This is a steampunk computer, though, and that means gears. In this case, the gears and steam elements actually do something. The front of the computer is adorned with a decent replica of the drivetrain of a locomotive that spins with the help of an electric motor. There’s a USB port attached to the front, ensconced in a cylindrical enclosure that opens when a switch is flipped.

If a complete reworking of a modern iMac isn’t enough, the build also included the steampunkification of the Apple Bluetooth keyboard. That in itself is an amazing build, but to see the entire thing in action, you’ll have to check out the video below.

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Turning A Classic NES Controller Into a Bluetooth Controller

[Pietronet] is like many of us in that he enjoys playing some classic console video games from time to time. He usually plays them on his PC using a Wiimote as a controller. The Wiimote has most of the classic buttons in a comfortable configuration. Plus, it’s got Bluetooth built-in, which makes it easy to pair up to your PC. [Pietronet] decided to take it a step further, though. He managed to cram all of the guts from a Wiimote inside of the original NES controller for a more authentic feel.

The first step was to crack open the Wiimote and locate pads for each button. Once they were located, [Pietronet] used a Dremel to cut the board into a smaller size. He cut off part of the circuit board that contained the directional pad as well as the connector for the nunchuck. Next he had to solder very thin wires to each of the button pads he located earlier.

The original NES controller has a very limited number of buttons, and [Pietronet] wanted to modify the original controller as little as possible. Therefore, he attached a magnetic reed switch to the Wiimote’s sync button. This way if he ever needs to sync the Wiimote to a new console, he can do it by holding a magnet in the right place. This is a function that isn’t often used, so the inconvenience should be negligible.

The next step was to connect the buttons from the original NES controller up to the wires that were added to the Wiimote. [Pietronet] left the original circuit board mostly intact. He did have to cut a small chunk of it away in order to make room for two AAA batteries, but this didn’t affect the functionality of the controller.

The inside of the NES controller had to be cleaned out of various standoffs and plastic bits to make room for all of the extra components. The Wiimote has an LED to indicate that the controller is connected properly. [Pietronet] soldered a red SMD LED in its place on the end of two thin wires. This LED was then placed on the bottom left side of the directional pad. It’s visible through a translucent filter. This allows [Pietronet] to see when the NES controller is synced up properly.

The case fits back together and everything is held in place. The result is what looks and feels like a classic NES controller, only this one has Bluetooth connectivity and a vibration motor. Check out the video demonstration below to get an idea of what it looks like in use. Continue reading “Turning A Classic NES Controller Into a Bluetooth Controller”

A SEGA Dreamcast Controller With a Built-in Screen

[Fibbef] was hard at work on a project for a build-off competition when he accidentally fried the circuit board. Not one to give up easily, he opted to start a new project with only two days left in the competition. He managed to modify a SEGA Dreamcast controller to hold a color screen in that short amount of time.

The Dreamcast controller’s shape is somewhat conducive to this type of mod. It already has a small window to ensure the view of the visual memory card is not obstructed. Unfortunately [Fibbef’s] screen was a bit too large for this window. That meant he would have to expand the controller and the circuit board.

After taking the controller apart, he desoldered the memory card connectors. He then cut the circuit board cleanly in half vertically. He had to re-wire all of the traces back together by hand. It turned out initially that he had messed something up and accidentally fried the right half of the controller. To fix it, he cut a second controller in half and soldered the two boards together.

With some more horizontal space to work with on the PCB side of things, [Fibbef] now needed to expand the controller’s housing. He cut the controller into several pieces, making sure to keep the start button centered for aesthetics. He then used duct tape to hold popsicle sticks in place to make up for the missing pieces of the case. All of the sticks were then covered with a thick layer of ABS cement to make for a more rigid enclosure. All of this ended up being covered in Bondo, a common trick in video game console mods. It was then sanded smooth and painted with black primer to make for a surprisingly nice finish.

The screen itself still needed a way to get power and a video signal. [Fibbef] built an adapter box to take both of these signals and pass them to the controller via a single cable. The box as a USB-A connector for power input, and a composite connector for video. There’s also a USB-B connector for the output signals. [Fibbef] uses a standard printer USB cable to send power and video signals to the controller. The end result looks great and serves to make the Dreamcast slightly more portable. Check out the demo video below to see it in action. Continue reading “A SEGA Dreamcast Controller With a Built-in Screen”

Adding WiFi and SMS to an Alarm System

[Don] wanted to bring his alarm system into the modern age. He figured that making it more connected would do the trick. Specifically, he wanted his alarm system to send him an SMS message whenever the alarm was tripped.

[Don] first had to figure out a way to trigger an event when the alarm sounds. He found a screw terminal that lead to the siren. When the alarm is tripped, this screw terminal outputs 12V to enable the siren. This would be a good place to monitor for an alarm trip.

[Don] is using an Arduino nano to monitor the alarm signal. This meant that the 12V signal needed to be stepped down. He ran it through a resistor and a Zener diode to lower the voltage to something the Arduino can handle. Once the Arduino detects a signal, it uses an ESP8266 WiFi module to send an email. The address [Don] used is the email-to-SMS address which results in a text message hitting his phone over the cell network.

The Arduino also needed power. [Don] found a screw terminal on the alarm system circuit board that provided a regulated 12V output. He ran this to another power regulator board to lower the voltage to a steady 5V. This provides just the amount of juice the Arduino needs to run, and it doesn’t rely on batteries. [Don] provides a good explanation of the system in the video below. Continue reading “Adding WiFi and SMS to an Alarm System”

Original NES Guts Upgraded with RetroPie

If you have an old broken NES lying around and have no idea what to do with it, you may want to check out [snoius’s] latest project. He replaced the guts of his old NES with a Raspberry Pi. [snoius] started out by removing most of the electronics from his original NES to make room for the Pi. He left the original control panel board so he would be able to use the original power button and power LED. The NES power switch is an on/off toggle switch. [snoius] decided to just route the 5V USB power input directly through this switch. The result is a hard power switch for the tiny computer. The original power LED is wired up to the Pi’s 3.3V GPIO header through a 330 ohm resistor. Now when the Pi has power, the LED lights up.

The next step was controllers. It looks like [snoius] is using some USB SNES controller clones. He wanted to use the original NES controller ports but obviously the NES did not utilize USB. [snoius] used a saw to cut the backs off of the controller ports, leaving a flat surface. He then used a utility knife to carve out a hole in the shape of a female USB port. He mounted some ports in place and then wired the inside up to some short USB cables with male ends. These were plugged into a USB hub that is hidden inside of the NES case.

The Pi is also hooked up to a short HDMI cable and a short power cable. The loose ends of the cables are mounted to a small block of wood. Notches are cut out of the wood to better fit the cable ends. The rear of the NES has two holes cut out where the original connectors used to be in order to accommodate the new connectors.

With all of the hardware taken care of, [snoius] still needed a way to actually play his games. That’s where RetroPie saved the day. RetroPie is a Linux distribution for the Raspberry Pi that is specifically created to make it easy to play old video games. It includes emulators for many old systems including NES, SNES, SEGA Genesis, Gameboy, etc. [snoius] installed RetroPie onto an 8GB SD card and copied over all of the ROMs he could find. The end result is what appears to be an original NES at a glance, but is in fact multiple retro gaming systems in one. It also contains hundreds of video games in on board memory instead of requiring a large library of physical cartridges.

[via reddit]

Bench Power Supply Constant Current EZ-SET


Here is a nice hack you may find very useful if you have a cheaper bench power supply that supports constant current limit protection (CC mode) and the only way to set or check your max current limit is to disconnect your circuit, short the power supply outputs and then check or set your limit. Yes, what a pain! [Ian Johnson] was enduring this pain with a couple of Circuit Specialist bench power supplies and decided to do something about it. After finding a download of the circuit diagram for his CSI3003X-5 supply he was able to reverse engineer a hack that lets you press a new button and dial-in the max current setting. Your first guess is that he simply added a momentary button to short the power supply outputs, but you would be wrong. [Ian’s] solution does not require you to remove the load, plus the load can continue running while you set your current limit. He does this by switching the current display readout from using 0–3 volts off an output shunt resistor to using the 0-3 volts output from a digital potentiometer which is normally used to set the power supplies’ constant current limit anyway. So simple it’s baffling why the designers didn’t include this feature.

Granted this is a simple modification anybody can implement, however [Ian] still wasn’t happy. A comment by [Gerry Sweeney] set him on the path to eliminate the tedious multi-button pressing by implementing a 555 momentary signal to switch the circuit from current load readout to current set readout. This 2nd mod means you just start pressing your up-down CC set buttons and it momentarily switches over the display to read your chosen max current and a few moments later the display switches back to reading actual load current. Brilliant! Just like the expensive big boy toys.

[Ian] doesn’t stop with a simple one-off hack job either. He designed up a proper PCB with cabling and connectors, making an easy to install kit that’s almost a plug-in conversion kit for Circuit Specialist bench power supplies (CSI3003X-5, CSI3005X5, CSI3003X3, CSI3005XIII). It is not a 100% plug-in kit because you do have to solder 3 wires to existing circuit points for signal and ground, but the video covering that task seemed trivial.

This hack could very well work with many other power supplies on the market being Circuit Specialist is just rebadging these units. For now, only the models listed after the break are known to work with this hack. If you find others please list in the comments.

After the break we will link to all three progressive mod videos incase you want to learn how to mod your own power supply or you could just order a prebuilt kit from [Ian].

Continue reading “Bench Power Supply Constant Current EZ-SET”

Beautiful Modded NES for the 25th anniversary of Mega Man, plus bonus interview!

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing [PlatinumFungi] about this fantastic NES mod he did. This year is the 25th anniversary of the first Mega Man video game. Unhappy with the current celebratory actions of capcom, [PlatinumFungi] set out to create something he felt was worthy. He managed to pull that off pretty well.

The NES you can see in the video is fantastic looking. It has a beautiful shiny automotive finish, supplied by [Custom NES Guy] and a pixel perfect backlit Mega Man on top. Additional enhancements are stylized decals on the front of the game bay and matching labels on the sides and back. The cartridge is even illuminated while it is in place.

Check out some pictures after the break!

Continue reading “Beautiful Modded NES for the 25th anniversary of Mega Man, plus bonus interview!”