Speech synthesizing valentine from 1991

Internals

Back in 1991, a young [Backwoods Engineer] and his new wife went to a Valentines day get together. One of the conditions of the shindig was having the guys make – not buy – a Valentines day card. Go big or go home, he though, and after a few days he had a talking Valentines day card that would become one of his wife’s most treasured possessions.

The early 90s were a different time; in case you haven’t yet been made to feel very old yet today, 1991 is closer to 1970 than 2013 is to 1991. Likewise, the circuitry inside this heartfelt talking token of appreciation bears more resemblance to something from a 1970s electronics magazine than an Arduino project of today.

The project is powered by an old Intel MCS-48 microcontroller attached to one of the old speech synthesis chips Radio Shack used to sell. These are, in turn, connected to a programmable logic chip and a masked ROM that translates English words into phonemes for the speech synthesizer.

The entire device is constructed on a hacked up piece of perf board and a few wire wrap sockets; sturdy construction, even if the battery compartment has been replaced a few times.

As for what the talking valentine says? “”OK!  Hello, I am a Talking Valentine Card.  “Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing” and in this case also needs batteries!” You can check that out after the break.

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Old school LED light show

programmable_lightshow

Building LED arrays that can display all sorts of different patterns is pretty easy these days. Hook up an Arduino, do some charlieplexing, and off you go. When [Viktor] was younger he didn’t have all those fancy schmancy microcontrollers and circuit simulation software you kids have these days. In fact, last we heard, he had to walk to school uphill both ways – in the snow.

That didn’t stop him from building this gem of a project back in 1987. His LED chaser/light show does not use any microcontrollers at all, rather it relies on an EPROM to store predefined display programs. A series of switches are installed on the front of the flasher, allowing him to easily switch between the programs, and a pot is mounted to the front of the device to control the speed of the LEDs.

His light show is pretty slick, even for a project built over 20 years ago. Sometimes you just can’t beat a good, old-school hack.

Continue reading for a video demonstration of [Viktor's] programmable light show.

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iTalkman Refrigerated Franken-phone

italkman_frankenphone

[Jani] over at MetkuMods was commissioned to build a prize for an on-air contest held by MTV3 in Finland. Well known for some of his previous work, he was a natural choice for this project. The only stipulation for the build was that it contain three specific items: a Mobira mobile phone, an Apple iPhone, and a refrigerator. For those of you who don’t know, a Mobira Talkman is an old-school “mobile” phone built by Nokia in the 80’s that weighed in at 11 pounds, and was far from convenient to use. In this case however, the size of the phone is an advantage since he was able to gut it and use the frame to make up the body of the refrigerated compartment. He sacrificed a soft-side portable heater/cooler bag, removing the built-in peltier cooler and associated components, later grafting them onto his Talkman case.

The next task was to add the iPhone to the Talkman. Rather than have the old handset sit there uselessly, [Jani] decided to mount a small Bluetooth hands-free module inside the handset, allowing it to answer calls, adjust the volume, and change music tracks on the iPhone. The iPhone was put in a hard plastic case, then mounted to the Talkman handset where the keypad and display used to reside.

All in all, the iTalkman is a pretty cool looking device, though we wouldn’t want to be tasked with lugging that thing around all day!