Resistor substitution box

[Vincent] on the EEVblog forums had an idea for an inexpensive resistor substitution decade box.

The build uses cheap decimal thumbwheel switches he bought on eBay. Each switch is wired up with resistors for each digit, and each switch is wired up in series. The result is a small, easy to read resistor box with a range of 1 Ω to 10 MΩ.

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Dabbling with CPLD generated VGA signals

It seems like all the cool kids are leaving the 8-bit hobby microcontrollers in the parts bin and playing with more advanced parts like Complex Programmable Logic Devices. [Chris] is no exception to the trend, and set out to generate his own VGA signal using one of the beefy semiconductors.

It seems that he’s using the acronyms CPDL and FPGA interchangeable in his post but according to the parts list this setup uses an Altera EPM7128SLC84-7N CPLD. In order to generate the VGA signal he needed a way to convert the digital signals from the chip into the analog values called for in the video standard. He chose to build a Digital Analog Converter for the RGB color values using a resistor network which he calculated using PSpice. The other piece in the puzzle is a 25.175 MHz oscillator to clock the CPLD. As you can see after the break, his wire-wrapped prototype works exactly as designed. The example code generates the rainbow bars seen above, or a bouncing box demo reminiscent of a DVD player screen saver.

Want to know more about programming CPLDs? We did a tutorial on the subject a while back.

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Analog computer does math

This analog computer can multiply, divide, square numbers, and find square roots. It has a maximum result of ten billion with an average precision of 2-3%. [Miroslav’s] build recreates something he saw in a Popular Electronics magazine. It uses a resistor network made up of three potentiometers with a digital multimeter is an integral part of the machine. To multiply a number you set the needles on the first two knobs to the numbers on which you are operating. To find the result turn the third knob until the multimeter has been zeroed out and read the value that knob is pointing to. It seems much more simple than some of the discrete logic computers we’ve seen, yet it’s just as interesting.

Hot resistors used for color-changing clock face

[Sprite_TM] built a full clock display using thermochromic paint. This picks up where he left off with his paint-based 7-segment display prototype. He never really saw that design through to a finished project, but he recently came across the leftover paint and decided to do something with it. Instead of making thin traces on a PCB he’s heating up resistors mounted on protoboard. Each resistor has been coated with the black/light grey paint after getting a rough sanding on the tops of the packages. Run around 500mW through a segment and they heat up enough to change the paint to light grey. Once shut off, the segments gradually fade over the next 60 seconds.

Patching into Android music control

Here’s a look at the TRRS cable that Android phones use. [Rich Kappmeier] want to control the music player on his Nexus One while driving. It’s not necessarily a safe endeavor if you’re staring at the screen and poking away with one hand while trying to stay in your lane. A little bit of research helped him figure out how the hardware in a headphone controller worked and he decided to incorporate that into a connector cable for the car.

The control signals rely on a specific resistance between the TRRS function ring and ground. Once he worked out the chart above and targeted the correct resistance values he built a rocker switch for Fast Forward and Reverse, as well as a Play/Pause button into the connector cable. You should be able to use this for more than just music control. Take a look at our Android Development tutorial and see what else you can come up with.

[Thanks Alastair]

Typewriter as I/O; lets you play Zork

Okay, for many the fact that this typewriter plays Zork on paper instead of a CRT is the fascinating part of this hack. But we love the implementation that makes the keys of the device an input and output.

The electric typewriter has been fitted with a solenoid for each key (wow, that’s a lot of work). In the image above you can see they are housed on plywood platforms behind the typewriter and connect using a piece of mono-filament fishing line. This flexible connection means the solenoids have no adverse effect when you want to do the typing instead of the Arduino which drives the solenoids. [Johnathan M. Guberman] took advantage of this, adding a resistor for each key. When depressed the key completes a circuit with the resistor, acting as the input. In this way, you can play Zork with a piece of paper as the monitor, typing for the input, and watching the typewriter magically pound out responses. See it happen after the break.

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Building a discrete digital-analog-converter

Want to take back control of how your digital audio files become sound? One thing you can do is to build your own digital to analog converter. This one is made from discrete components, centered around a resistive ladder. Yes, there are a couple of integrated circuits in there which are used for demultiplexing the incoming signal but the magic happens in that R-2R network. The project is an interesting read and makes a point of looking at the issues raised when trying to precision match resistors. Apparently it can be done with 0.1% components if you have a lot of them and a multimeter that can measure down to seven decimal places.

[Thanks Bigbob]