Microchips and integrated circuits are usually treated as black boxes; a signal goes in, and a signal goes out, and everything between those two events can be predicted and accurately modeled from a datasheet. Of course, the reality is much more complex, as any picture of a decapped IC will tell you.
[Jim Conner] got his hands on a set of four ‘teaching’ microchips made by Motorola in 1992 that elucidates the complexities of integrated circuitry perfectly: instead of being clad in opaque epoxy, these chips are encased in transparent plastic.
The four transparent chips are beautiful works of engineering art, with the chip carriers, the bond wires, and the tiny square of silicon all visible to the naked eye. The educational set covers everything from resistors, n-channel and p-channel MOSFETS, diodes, and a ring oscillator circuit.
[Jim] has the chips and the datasheets, but doesn’t have the teaching materials and lab books that also came as a kit. In lieu of proper pedagogical technique, [Jim] ended up doing what any of us would: looking at it with a microscope and poking it with a multimeter and oscilloscope.
While the video below only goes over the first chip packed full of resistors, there are some interesting tidbits. One of the last experiments for this chip includes a hall effect sensor, in this case just a large, square resistor with multiple contacts around the perimeter. When a magnetic field is applied, some of the electrons are deflected, and with a careful experimental setup this magnetic field can be detected on an oscilloscope.
[Jim]’s video is a wonderful introduction to the black box of integrated circuits, but the existence of clear ICs leaves us wondering why these aren’t being made now. It’s too much to ask for Motorola to do a new run of these extremely educational chips, but why these chips are relegated to a closet in an engineering lab or the rare eBay auction is anyone’s guess.
We’ve seen a few builds from the Flite Test guys before, like a literal flying toaster, airsoft guns mounted to planes, and giving an electric plane an afterburner (that actually produced a little extra thrust). Now the Flite Test crew is gearing up for the Flite Fest, an all things remote-controlled flight convention in Malvern, Ohio during the last weekend in July. Seems like a pretty cool way to spend spend a weekend.
Unless you get one of those fancy resistor kits where every value has its own compartment in a case or plastic baggie, you’ll soon rue the day your loose resistors become disorganized. [Kirll] has an interesting solution to hundreds of loose resistors: packaging tape. If you want a resistor, just grab a pair of scissors.
Okay, these Adafruit “totally not Muppets™” are awesome. The latest video in the Circuit Playground series is titled, “C is for Capacitor“. There’s also “B is for Battery“, because when life gives you lemons, light up an LED. Here’s the coloring book.
A few years ago, a couple of people at the LA Hackerspace Crashspace put together an animated flipbook device – something between a zoetrope and the numbers in those old electromechanical clocks – and launched a kickstarter. Now they’re putting on a show, presented by Giant Robot, featuring the animated art of dozens of artists.
Vintage electronics? Yes. Vintage Soviet electronics? Here’s 140 pages of pictures, mostly of old measurement devices.
This one might be an oldie, but it’s certainly a goodie.
Way back in 2005, [David] and [Charles] needed a project for one of their engineering courses. With so many loose resistors scattered over the lab, they decided to build an automated resistor sorter (PDF warning) to separate these resistors and put resistors of the same value together in the same bin.
The electrical and programming portion of this build is relatively simple – just a PIC microcontroller reading the value of a resistor. The mechanical portion of this build is where it really shines. Resistors are sorted when they pass through small plastic tubes mounted to a wooden frame.
There are several levels of these tubes in [David] and [Charles]’ sorter that move back and forth. The process of actually sorting these resistors is a lot like going down a binary tree; at each level, the tube can go right or left with the help of a solenoid moving that level of the frame back or forth.
[David] and [Charles]’ project wasn’t entirely complete by the end of the class; to do so would require 8 levels and 128 different tubes on the bottom layer. Still, it worked as a proof of concept. We just wish there was a video of this machine in action.
Tip ‘o the hat to [Alexander] for finding this one and sending it in.
Wait, you’re using a Dremel to cut PCBs?
Cutting copper-clad board or – horrors – depanelizing PCBs is a pain if you don’t have the right tool. Over at Hub City Labs they’re using a small, cheap metal shear & break. Bonus: it can cut and bend sheet metal, so the Hub City folks can also make enclosures.
Color Codes? Yes, Color Codes.
[Joe] sent in a cool utility he whipped up called resisto.rs. Plug in a resistor value, and it’ll spit out the 4-band, 5-band, and surface mount labels for that resistor value. Pretty neat.
Parallel ports may be a dying breed, but that didn’t stop [Electroalek] from putting together a VU meter that connects to his LPT port. It’s an extremely simple design; just connect some LEDs and resistors to the pins of a parallel port, and you can easily control them via software on a computer. Playing around with an LPT port used to be common knowledge, so we’re glad to see [Electroalek]’s work here.
The power is out, but Radio Shack is still open
[Jason] is stuck in New Jersey without power and needed a way to charge his phone. He whipped up a cell phone charger using an RC car battery and an LM317 voltage regulator. It’s an easy circuit to piece together, and judging from [Jason]’s picture will hopefully keep his cell phone charged until the power comes back on.
Shooting 50 Nerf darts all at once
If [Rob]’s project log is to be believed, it looks like they’re having a lot of fun over in the Sparkfun warehouse. They decided to have a full-scale Nerf gun war for a summer intern’s last day. [Rob] came up with a DIY Nerf shotgun that shoots 50 darts across the room, just waiting to be found sometime in the next decade.
There’s a great video of [Rob] firing the single barrel (yeah, they made a trident-shaped one as well) gun at well prepared but unsuspecting coworkers. Be sure to check out the comments of this post to see Hackaday readers frothing at the mouth because PVC pipe isn’t a pressure vessel guys. You’ll all surely die.
[Josh] whipped up a shamrock themed hat by adding an outline of green LEDs to this bowler. Just remember, don’t drink and solder. Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!
Battery-powered Xmas lights can be more useful
[Karl] took a string of mostly useless battery-powered Christmas lights and found a good use for them. He replaced the stock board with a boost convert and uses the two AA batteries as a 5V power supply when mains power isn’t handy.
3D printed appliance repair
The broken plastic piece seen here keeps a dishwasher closed while running. The part couldn’t be sourced by a repairman but the best solution turned out to be printing a perfect replacement part.
Generating labels for resistor storage
[Darrell] picked up a surplus test-tube rack to use as resistor storage. It’s a great system, but his Ruby script that uses LaTeX to generate color-coded labels is a really nice touch as well.
DeLorean quadcopter build log
No, it’s not a dupe. [Alp_X] found the link to a build log for the DeLorean quadcopter that headlined our last Links post. It’s in Russian but the machine translation should help a bit.
We’re throwing money at our monitor and nothing’s happening!
Sometimes we get hacks sent into our tip line that are outrageously awesome, but apart from a YouTube video we’ve got nothing else to write about. So begins the story of the flying Back to the Future DeLorean quadrocopter. Sadly, the story ends with the video as well. (If you’ve got any info, send it in!)
Fine, we’ll throw in another cool car
Mercedes covered a car with LEDs and made the James Bond’s invisible car from Die Another Day. The Mercedes video cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce, so of course there’s camera trickery; we’re just wondering how much credit Adobe After Effects gets for this build.
Microsoft touchscreen demo might be impossible
Yes, Microsoft does care about user experience. Just take a look at this video from their applied sciences group. They did user testing with touchscreens that updated every 1 millisecond, compared to the ~100ms our phones and tablets usually update. Of course the result was a better UX, but now we’re wondering how they built a touch screen that updates every millisecond? That’s a refresh rate of 1 kHz, and we’ve got no clue how they bodged that one together. We’re probably dealing with a Microsoft Surface projector/IR camera thing here, but that doesn’t answer any questions.
Edit: [Philip Rowney] sent in a tip that it could be this TI touch screen controller that can sample above 1 kHz. The only problem is this chip uses a resistive touch screen, instead of a multitouch-enabled capacitive screen. At least that solves one problem.
And now for something that can measure 1 kHz
[Paleotechnologist] posted an excellent guide to the care and feeding of an oscilloscope. Most of our readers probably already know the ins and outs of their awesome Techtronix and HP units, but that doesn’t mean the younglings won’t have to learn sooner or later.
Good idea, except the part about saving it for spring
In a moment of serendipity, [Valentin] figured out how to use touchscreens with wool gloves. The answer: rub thermal grease into the tip of the index finger. It works, and doesn’t look to be too much of a mess. We’ll remember this for next winter.
The last one didn’t have a picture, so here’s this
[Darrell] used a little bit of LaTeX and Ruby to make colored labels for his resistor collection. We’re struck with the idea of using test tubes to organize resistors. It’s cool and makes everything look all sciencey and stuff.
If you’re anything like us, you have a closet full of old electronics, some broken, some obsolete. You can stop using those as paperweights with the help of this guide that shows you how to recycle and reuse PCB components.
The first step of the process is finding electronics you don’t mind taking apart. Next place the PCB you’ll be stripping in a vice, with the components facing away from you and the solder side facing towards you. Grip the component you want with a pair of pliers, and apply a hot soldering iron to the solder that is holding the component. The solder will melt and allow you to safely and cleanly remove the component.
This process can be applied to virtually any component on an PCB, and the author of the guide, [Patented], got a lot of components this way, including resistors, capacitors, switches, audio jacks, and much more. Don’t forget to toss any free-floating metal or plastic parts in the recycle bin when you’re done. You can feel good about the fact that nothing was wasted, you found parts for your next project, and you cleared out some space.