Propeller turned into chiptune player with a software SID

If there wasn’t reason enough to love the Parallax Propeller, now you can listen to chiptunes with your own pocket SID audio player.

This chiptune audio player uses the very unusual and very cool eight-core Parallax Propeller microcontroller. After soldering a few caps and resistors to a Propeller dev board to allow for audio out, the only thing necessary to play SID music files is a bit of code and an SD card breakout.

The key piece of code for this build would be the SIDcog object written by [Johannes Ahlebrand] this piece of code turns one of the eight cores in the Propeller into a virtual version of the classic Commodore 64 sound chip.

Since the SIDcog object only takes up one core on the eight core Propeller, it could be possible to turn this SID player into an all-inclusive chiptune audio source; the addition of an Atari POKEY or FM synthesis cog would allow for just about any conceivable chiptune sound to be carried around in a pocket.

No Hackaday post about chiptunes or SIDs would be complete without an audio demo, so you can check out the Propeller-powered SID after the break.

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EMIC2 text to speech module

This is the EMIC2 text-to-speech module. You can see from the logo on the bottom left it’s the latest gadget coming out of [Joe Grand’s] Grand Idea Studios. [Dino] tipped us off about his first experience with a prototype of the board. He’s driving it with an Arduino and the video after the break shows that the sound rendering is high quality and the words are very easy to understand. One of the things that we think is interesting is that the serial communications used to drive the board are not uni-directional. In fact, there’s a serial terminal that provides documentation on how to use the chip. Obviously this is most suited to the Arduino, which always has a PC-side terminal window available to it.

[Joe] himself shows some of the potential for the board. He gave new life to a broken toy by replacing its internals with a PIC-based circuit to drive the EMIC2. That video is also found after the break. He’s just using the demo clips, but from that you will get a good idea of the vocal modulations this device is capable of. The board rings up at $60 and is available from Parallax.

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Parallax shows love for open source: GCC + Propeller

Parallax has done something that is unthinkable for most microcontroller manufacturing companies. They’ve decided to throw their support behind an open source toolchain based on GCC. That’s right, instead of fighting to get your code compiling on a platform whose example code uses crippleware, you can actually download, compile, and start using this toolchain without code size restrictions or other unfavorable limitations.

Why does this matter? One example that comes to mind is ChibiOS and the STM32F0-Discovery board. We’ve been playing around with that board recently and found out that the Atollic 8k code-size limitation prevents you from debugging ChibiOS. So you either pony up the registration fee, or go though at least a little pain (a lot depending on your skill level) to move to an open source solution. Here that’s not going to happen because you start with a GCC option from the word ‘Go’.

So join us in a round of applause for good decisions. Bravo Parallax! This Beta test targets the P8X32A Propeller chip but we hope it’s so popular that the rest of the line gets its own support.

[Thanks Devlin via Adafruit]

Over-the-air FM radio gains Internet control

[Old bit collector] is giving up control of his radio dial to the Internet. He combined a couple of Parallax products which now allow him to tune, adjust volume, and toggle the power for an FM radio receiver.

The setup is pretty simple. An FM receiver module is mounted in the breadboard seen above which helps to break out its control pins. Those are connected to a Parallax Spinnarette web server board. It’s auxiliary I/O pins are controlled via a web interface that he set up and plans to operate with the browser on his Android phone. But as you can see after the break, any web browser works as long as you know the correct address.

This is pretty good if you’re on a quest to make everything controllable from your smart phone. But we would love to use the concept to make our own streaming radio. You’d be able to tune in to all of your local stations from anywhere in the world.

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Monitoring water levels with a Parallax Ping sensor


When you need a mechanism to detect the water level within a container or tank, you have several different options. Most people opt for a simple float or probe that sits in the water, while others use optics to sense when the water is reaching an undesired level.

This device built by [Danilo Abbasciano] uses a Parallax Ping sensor instead. If the sensor is placed at the top of a well, cistern, or other water container, it can accurately calculate the height and volume of the fluid inside. This is done by using the Ping’s readings in conjunction with a few values already known to the user, namely the dimensions of the container.

In his implementation, the readings are relayed to a simple LCD panel for easy viewing, and a small piezo speaker is used to sound an alarm when the water level reaches a predefined threshold. This sort of measuring device can be quite useful in situations where a contact-based sensor would be subject to chemicals and corrosion, or where contamination is a concern.

We don’t need to brainstorm projects; xkcd does that for us

[Randall Munroe], the guy behind our favorite web comic xkcd, gave us yet another great project idea that falls on the heels of securing our valuables and silencing loud car stereos. The xkcd forum has been talking about how to implement this, and we’d like to hear what Hack A Day readers think about this idea.

The project isn’t much different from 3D photography. [Carl Pisaturo] has done a lot of art and experimentation based on this idea that basically amounted to largish binoculars. A poster on the xkcd forum has already built this using mirrors, but we’re wondering how much the parallax can be increased with this method. Two cameras and a smart phone would also allow automatic pan and tilt that corresponds to head movement.

We’re not quite sure if this idea can be applied to astronomy. The angular resolution of the human eye is around one arc minute, every star except for the Sun has an annual parallax less than one arc second. If anyone wants to try this out with a longer baseline (From Earth to Pluto for example), we would suggest simulating this in Stellarium. Seeing the moon as a sphere would be possible with a few hundred miles between cameras, though.

Tell us how you would build this in the comments, and be sure to send in your write-up if you manage to build it. We’ll put it up right away.

Thanks to [Theon144] for sending this in.

EDIT: Because the comments are actually bearing fruit, check out the thread on the Hack A Day forums for this post: link.

Meet Radio Shack’s new Parallax lineup

It looks like Radio Shack is pretty serious about their new found commitment to their focus on the DIY, inventor, creator and geek demographics. [Ken Gracey], Parallax forum guru, put up a post on the Parallax stuff that will be sold at Radio Shack. Everything is priced, “below spousal approval level,” but no word on what those prices are.

Here’s the (probably not conclusive) list we gleaned from the pics: 2-axis joystick, gyroscope, GPS, compass and altimeter modules, an infrared sensor, 2×16 backlit LCD, BASIC stamp 2 board, and an XBee 2-pack that we assume would be priced above girlfriend approval levels.

We’re curious about how many (and in what quantity) of these items will be stocked at the East Nowheresville strip mall, and again there’s no mention of improving the selection of individual components.

At Hack A Day, we were thinking how amazing a Radio Shack ‘component vending machine’ would be. A modified pick and place machine that will dole out caps, resistors, other components, and has the potential to be competitive with online stores. Anyone feel like sending that suggestion in?