ProtoSynth, the prototyping synthesizer

This project isn’t really a prototype, but a tool for prototyping. [Tymkrs] came up with a unique way to build this synthesizer prototyping tool. They actually patched into the underside of the breadboards in order to keep all of the permanent bits nice and tidy.

In the clip after the break you’ll see all of the build photos that lead up to this point. After cutting out and assembling the wooden pieces for the case they grab a soldering iron and get to work. Two octaves worth of keys were pulled out of an electric keyboard. Ribbon cable is soldered onto each key’s electrical connection, with an SIL pin header as a connector. This mates with another ribbon cable with a SIL socket on one end, and an IDC connector on the other. The real trick is getting that IDC connected to the breadboard. They cut back the adhesive tape on the underside of the board and soldered a surface mount pin header onto it. This way the inputs from the keys, as well as a few 1/4″ jacks from the back of the case are always available in a tidy way on the breadboards. The video goes on to show preliminary synthesizer work on the device.

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Reliving the BBS days with a Propeller

Back before the world wide web, self-proclaimed geeks would get our compute on by dialing in to bulletin board systems. In their heyday, these BBSes were filled with interesting people and warez to fill the most capacious 10 Megabyte hard drive. In an attempt to relive the days of the Internet before the Eternal September, [Jeff Ledger] whipped up a tutorial for dialing up BBSes with an updated classic computer.

Instead of doing this tutorial with a C64 or an Apple II, [Jeff] used the Propeller powered Pocket Mini Computer he designed. This computer features 32Kb of RAM inside an eight-core Parallax Propeller along with a BASIC interpreter to run your own programs.

This Mini Computer can connect to BBS systems, but seeing as how acoustically coupled modems are rare as hen’s teeth these days, [Jeff] thought it would be a good idea to log in to the many Internet connected BBS servers using his desktop as a bridge between the Propeller and the Internet.

After [Jeff] got his Propeller computer up and running on a BBS, he was free to play Trade Wars or slay grues in one of the many MUDs still running. Not bad for a demonstration of the Internet of old, and made even better by the use of a Propeller.

Control everything in your car with the Car Kracker

If your whip is a Honda, Toyota, BMW, Chrysler, VW, or Mini made in the last decade or so, the Car Kracker is for you. This project allows you to connect directly to your car’s computer system, allowing you to display messages on your stereo, play music off an SD card, and even override factory settings like always-on daytime running lights.

The Car Kracker uses ISO 9141, an in-car communications protocol that is now mostly used in foreign (for the US) cars. The build uses a Gadget Gangster Propeller board to connect to the CD changer port and OBD-2 port in the trunk, and the diagnostic port located under the hood.

With the Car Kracker, it’s easy to connect the Aux In on your stereo to an SD card loaded with music, or even plug in an iPod for the poor souls without a 1/8″ jack. Dealer customizations such as turning the ‘door is ajar’ noise off, toggling daytime running lights, and throwing a nav warning up are also possible.

Check out the two videos after the break, and if anyone has any more info on getting this deep into a car’s computer system (a wiki, maybe?), send a link in on the tip line.

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Remote control with an XBee and a Propeller

If you’ve been playing with electronics for long enough, eventually you’ll need a nice remote control transmitter to control your RC car, airplane, or any other robotics project you have lying around. With these robotics projects comes the problem remote control, and the XBee Handheld Controller may be just the ticket to remotely control any project that comes off your workbench.

This isn’t the first remote controller we’ve seen that does just about everything, but it is the first one to include an XBee wireless transceiver to easily interface to your robotics project. The controller comes in two models, the Q4, which uses four Playstation-like joysticks, and the Q2, which uses proper remote control gimbal joysticks. Both the controllers have a slew of buttons, toggle switches, four rotary pots and a 2×20 LCD display.

After the break you can check out [Paul]‘s pitch explaining what these controllers can do and showing off a hexapod robot under the control of his Q4 controller. A very neat project, and we can’t wait to see this controller out in the field.

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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]

Hackaday Links: June 12, 2012

Amazing 3D rendering in real-time

Ah, the 90s. A much simpler time when the presenters on Bad Influence! were amazed by the 3D rendering capabilities of the SGI Onyx RealityEngine2. This giant machine cost £250,000 back in the day, an amazing sum but then again we’re getting nostalgic for old SGI hardware.

Well, Mega is taken… let’s call it Grande

[John Park] needed to put something together for last month’s Maker Faire. A comically large, fully functional Arduino was the obvious choice. If you didn’t catch the demo last month, you can grab all the files over on Thingiverse.

Is that an atomic clock in your pocket or… oh, I see.

Here’s the world’s smallest atomic clock. It’s made for military hardware, so don’t expect this thing to show up at Sparkfun anytime soon; we can’t even fathom how much this thing actually costs. Still, it’ll be awesome when this technology trickles down to consumers in 10 or 20 years.

Converting a TRS-80 keyboard to USB

[Karl] is working on an awesome project – putting a Raspberry Pi inside an old TRS-80. The first part of the project – converting a TRS-80 keyboard to USB – is already complete. We can’t wait to see this build finished.

 A DIY Propeller dev board

Last week we complained about the dearth of builds using the Parallax Propeller. A few noble tinkerers answered our call and sent in a few awesome builds using this really unique micro. [Stefan]‘s Propeller One is the latest, and looking at the schematics it should be possible to etch a single-sided board for this project. Awesome work and thanks for giving us a weekend project, [Stefan].

Talking resistor calculator speaks component values

If there’s one thing that will surely blind us, its reading resistor color bands. It doesn’t help that red looks exactly like orange, brown and black are indistinguishable, and different component manufacturers – for some reason – don’t use identical paints for coding their resistors. [Jeff] over at Gadget Gangster has been having the same problem, so he built a talking resistor calculator to speak resistor values to him.

The electronics part of the build is extremely simple with just an MCP3208 ADC providing 12 bits of resolution. The software side is where this project really shines. [Jeff] used a Gadget Gangster QuickStart board housing a Parallax Propeller. With 8 cores running in parallel the Propeller is more than enough to run [Phil Pilgrim]‘s software speech synthesizer. When a resistor is connected to the two alligator leads, the Propeller goes through a lookup table and finds a resistor value matching the number coming from the ADC. From there, it’s just sending a string of phonetic text to the speech synthesizer object.

Even though text-to-speech chips have been around for decades now, [Jeff] chose to build his speech synthesis tool with software. It may just be a testament to the power in the Propeller microcontroller, but anything that keeps us from squinting at resistor color bands is alright by us.