Hackaday Links: June 26, 2016

Solar Freaking Roadways. What is it? It’s technology that replaces all roadways with a smooth sheet of glass and solar panels. You know how asphalt is soooo easy to repair and soooooo cheap? Yes, this is the exact opposite of that. They’re coming to freaking Missouri. A parking lot for the Route 66 Welcome Center in Conway, MO will be paved with the solar freaking roadways that netted $2 Million in an Indiegogo campaign two years ago.

There is a National Potato Expo. As far as I can tell, this is a trade show for potatoes and potato-related paraphernalia. As with all trade shows you need a great demo, in this case one involving potatoes. How about a phone charging station powered by potatoes? It’s a bunch of potatoes, copper pipe, galvanized nails (neat design, btw), and a USB socket. Yes, it works, but not well.

The travelling hacker box is a USPS flat rate box filled to the brim with random bits and bobs of electronics, shipped back and forth between dozens of electron enthusiasts. It’s making one last trip around the US, and now the travelling hacker box needs destinations from Idaho to Michigan. Idaho, of course, is a fictional state created in 2004 for Napoleon Dynamite, but that still leaves Montana, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the UP. If you live in one of these states, there’s a travelling hacker box with your name on it. Request to join the project and PM me on hackaday.io.

It’s election year in the US, and that means half of the population hates one candidate, half of the population hates another candidate, and half of the population will vote. Don’t think about that for too long. Here’s an Arduino doing something topical with Twitter.

Hotends for 3D printers are getting more and more robust, but thermistors are fiddly little things. E3D just came up with the solution. It’s a standard, modular temperature ‘cartridge’ that fits in E3D’s heater blocks. You can already change out the heater cartridge on a 3D printer for a higher wattage model, and now you can change out a thermistor for a thermocouple just as easily. E3D sells their stuff in GBP, so considering recent events it might be a good time to pick up a new hotend for that Monoprice 3D printer you picked up

The 8-Bit Generation recently released their documentary The Commodore Warschronicling the stupendous rise and meteoric fall of Commodore. Now they’re working on the Atari version and they’re funding it with a Kickstarter. Rumor has it Hackaday’s own [Bil Herd] has been asked to narrate.

Here’s another Hackaday Retro Edition success story @KetturiFox pulled up the Hackaday Retro Edition on a Texas Instruments TravelMate 5000 laptop. That’s a relatively modern laptop with a 75MHz Pentium, PCMCIA slots, and a nub mouse.

Hackaday Links: June 12, 2016

The Navy is doing some crazy stuff out in China Lake. They were planning to test something out that could potentially make GPS unusable from San Diego to Las Vegas to San Francisco. Those plans were cancelled for ‘internal’ reasons. They will be testing something in Indiana shortly, though. What are they doing? Who knows. That’s what idle speculation in the comments section is for.

3D Hubs, the distributed ‘3D printing service’ thing, now has 30,000 machines distributed around the globe. They also put together the definitive guide to 3D printing recently. For just about everyone reading this, a ‘introduction to 3D printing’ is old news, but this is a very good guide for telling your weird aunt what you’re building in the basement. Forward this one to your family on Facebook.

This one is amazing. Over on Hackaday.io, [Arsenijs] is working on a Raspberry Pi project. It uses a Raspberry Pi, and several accessories and components to make this Raspberry Pi project work. This Raspberry Pi project is already getting far more than the usual number of likes and follows, making this one of the most interesting Raspberry Pi projects in recent memory.

Moog is re-releasing the Minimoog, the original Moog synth from 1970. That’s cool, but what about a DIY Minimoog? That’s what [Scott Rider] is doing with the Crowminius Analog Music Synthesizer on Kickstarter. It’s an analog synth that’s more or less a Minimoog with MIDI, and one of the Kickstarter rewards is a bare PCB.

The future is dancing robots, so here’s a servo-driven Stewart platform that is sure to bring on the robot apocalypse.

What do you do when you need to get your Hackaday fix, but all you have is a laptop from 1995 and a dial-up modem? The Hackaday Retro Edition, of course. That’s a bunch of retro Hackaday posts, posted five at a time, with all the CSS and JavaScript cruft stripped. We’re always interested to see the old machines that are pulling the retro edition down, and [djnikochan] has the latest entry. He found a Thinkpad 380ED from 1997 at the Goodwill store for $15. The RAM was upgraded with a 64MB SIMM, giving this machine a total of 80MB. The Hackaday Retro Edition is viewable with IE 5.5 over a trusty PCMICA WiFi card. Awesome job, and we love to see old iron rendering the retro edition. Send some pics in if you get your old battlestation to load it.

Hackaday Links: December 13, 2015

So you’ve been rocking a tin foil hat for years now, and people have finally gotten used to your attire and claims that fluoridated water is a government mind control experiment. This holiday, how about something a little more stylish? Yes, it’s a Kickstarter for the World’s First Signal Proof Headwear. This fashionable beanie or cap protects you from harmful electromagnetic rays. Next time you shoot an eighteen minute long YouTube video of a wheezing rant about chemtrails, look fashionable with Shield – the world’s first stylish signal proof hat.

That last tip came to us from a Crowdfunding marketing agency. That means money was exchanged for the purposes of marketing a modern tin foil hat.

[Mike] has an old IBM 5155, the ‘luggable’ computer with design cues taken from the first Compaq. With an Ethernet adapter and a little inspiration, He was able to get this old computer to load the Hackaday retro edition.

[gyrovague] has a Chromecast that’s a bit janky. When it comes to electronics, strangeness means heat. The solution? A heat sink for the Chromecast. You don’t even need a proper heat sink for this one – just epoxy a big ‘ol transformer to the aluminum plate in the Chromecast.

This year, Keysight gave away a pile of test and measurement gear to the i3Detroit hackerspace. Keysight is doing it again, with a grand prize of around $60,000. Entries close on the 15th. Protip: you, personally, don’t want to win this for tax reasons. A non-profit does.

The Internet recently caught wind of a satellite modem being sold by Sparkfun. It’s $250 for the module, with a $12/month line rental, and each 340 byte message costs $0.18 to receive. Yes, it’s cool, and yes, it’s expensive. If you ever need to send a message from the north pole, there you go.

Need to remove the waterproof coating from LED strips? Don’t use a knife, use a Dremel and a wire brush.

Hackaday Retro Edition: Androids And Amigas

Tiny ARM boards are everywhere, and if the Raspberry Pi is any indication, they’re mostly used for emulating old consoles and computers. With only a $30 single board computer, it’s easy to emulate an SNES, Apple II, C64, or any of the other piece of classic 80s or 90s hardware.

Understandably, there will eventually be a few projects and products that hope to capitalize on this retro trend. Few of them will go through the rigamarole of actually licensing the relevant IP. The Armiga is one of these projects. It’s an emulated Amiga 500 with 1MB of RAM packaged in what looks like a 3.5″ external floppy drive.

Inside this tiny little box is a dual core ARM for Amiga emulation. For the most part, this is just a basic Android system, but the real selling point of this system is the Armiga Project software. This is a full emulator and game browser that also includes a legal (!) copy of Kickstart 1.3. The ‘upscale’ version of the Armiga also includes a floppy disk controller and drive, should you ever want to dump all those old floppies sitting around in your attic.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about the Armiga. It was a crowdfunding campaign a year ago that was unsuccessful for reasons we can’t comprehend. The creators of the Armiga have forged on, and now these tiny little boxes of guru meditation have started shipping. The Beta units have sold out and there’s a waiting list for more.

Retro Edition: The LAN Before Time

Ethernet has been around since the mid-70s, but if you think it was always Cat5 and 10BaseT, you’d be sorely mistaken. The first ethernet was built with coaxial cable, vampire taps, AUI adapters, and a whole bunch of other network hardware that will make wizened networking veterans cringe. [Matt] had heard about these weird physical layers back when he started building networks in 1997, but he had never seen one. Now it’s an ancient and forgotten footnote in the history of computer networking. Is it possible to build a Thicknet in this modern era? It turns out, yes, it’s possible. It’s not easy, though.

The network [Matt] is building is a true 10Base5, or Thicknet, network. The backbone of this network is a coaxial cable 9.5mm in diameter. [Matt] discovered that while the common belief that Thicknet used RG-8/U cable. This appears to be incorrect, as the connectors for this cable – vampire taps that pierced the insulation and shield of the cable – are designed for cable manufactured by Belden, part number 9880.

[Matt] assembled the cable, vampire taps, AUI cables, and even found a few ISA NICs that would still work with a reasonably modern computer. He even went so far as to build a USB Ethernet adapter with an AUI interface. This impossibly retro device uses a standard USB to 10BaseT Ethernet adapter, with a chip designed to convert 10BaseT to AUI hacked onto a circuit board. That in itself is an incredible piece of engineering, with a handful of power supplies to get the correct 2.5, 3.3, 5, and 12 Volts to the right places.

As far as exercises in computing history go, [Matt] is at the top of his game. In the process of building it, he also figured out why no one uses Thicknet anymore; once it’s in place, you can’t change it, the cable is big, bulky, and the connectors are terrible. Still, it’s an amazing example of how far we’ve come.

Hackaday Retro Edition: The RadioShack Roomba

A few years ago, Roombas — everyone’s favorite robotic trash can — graced the pages of Hackaday with reverence. There was nothing this little robot couldn’t do, save for going up stairs. Roomba hacks have died off since then, and these little trash cans have been swallowed up by dumpsters. It’s all very sad, really.

[Mike] has had one of these Roombas around for a while, sitting in a closet, waiting for someone to make use of it. He recently dug it out, looked it over, and watched the LEDs light up after troubleshooting a problem with the batteries. Then the problem was how to control it.

He had wanted to connect it to a VIC-20, but the handy serial port on the Roomba only accepted baud rates between 19.2k and 57.6k. The VIC-20, with the ancient 6522 VIA, could only bitbang a serial port up to 2400bps. Then the idea hit him. In his closet of ancient technology, [Mike] had a Tandy 102, a slightly upgraded TRS-80 Model 100 that could easily drive a serial port at 19.2k.

When it comes to a mobile retro robotics platform, [Mike] couldn’t have found a better computer. The Tandy 102 has a display, a BASIC interpreter, enough RAM to run a Roomba, and is powered by a few AA batteries. He did need a little bit of level conversion for the serial port, but a MAX232 took care of that easily.

With everything put together, [Mike] had a robot and a computer that is at least as good as the old Heathkit HERO robot. You can check out a video of the Tandy bot below.

Continue reading “Hackaday Retro Edition: The RadioShack Roomba”

Hackaday Retro Edition: TRS Wiki

1977 was a special year for computing history; this year saw the release of the 8085 following the release of the Z80 a year before. Three companies would launch their first true production computers in 1977: Apple released the Apple II, Commodore the PET 2001, and Tandy / Radio Shack the TRS-80 Model I. These were all incredibly limited machines, but at least one of them can still be used to browse Wikipedia.

[Pete]’s TRSWiki is a Wikipedia client for the TRS-80 Model I that is able to look up millions of articles in only uppercase characters, and low resolution (128×48) graphics. It’s doing this over Ethernet with a very cool Model I System Expander (MISE) that brings the lowly Trash-80 into the modern era.

The MISE is capable of booting from CF cards, driving an SVGA display and connecting to 10/100 Ethernet. Connecting to the Internet over Ethernet is one thing, but requesting and loading a web page is another thing entirely. There’s not much chance of large images or gigantic walls of text fitting in the TRS-80’s RAM, so [Pete] is using a proxy server on an Amazon Web Services box. This proxy is written in Java, but the code running on the TRS-80 is written entirely in Z80 assembly; not bad for [Pete]’s first project in Z80 assembly.


vt100normal The Hackaday Retro Edition is our celebration of old computers doing something modern, in most cases loading the old, no CSS or Javascript version of our site.

If you have an old computer you’d like featured, just load up the retro site, snap some pictures, have them developed, and send them in.