Before the Commodore 64, the IBM PC, and even the Apple I, most computers took input data from a type of non-magnetic storage medium that is rarely used today: the punched card. These pieces of cardstock held programs, data, and pretty much everything used to run computers in the before-time. But with all of that paper floating around, how did a programmer or user keep up with everything? Enter the punch card sorter and [Ken Shirriff[‘s eloquent explanation of how these machines operate.
Card sorters work by reading information on the punched card and shuffling the cards into a series of stacks. As [Ken] explains, the cards can be run through the machine multiple times if they need to be sorted into more groups than the machine can manage during one run, using a radix sort algorithm.
The card reader that [Ken] examines in detail uses vacuum tubes and relays to handle the logical operation to handle memory and logic operations. This particular specimen is more than half a century old, rather robust, and a perfect piece for the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.
It’s always interesting to go back and examine (mostly) obsolete technology. There are often some things that get lost in the shuffle (so to speak). Even today, punched cards live on in the automation world, where it’s still an efficient way of programming various robots and other equipment. Another place that it lives on is in voting machines in jurisdictions where physical votes must be cast. Hanging chads, anyone?
Continue reading “Punch Cards”
OCD. Sometimes things just get to you, like those pesky bags of randomly assorted candies. [Torsten] decided to build a sorting machine capable of sorting Skittles or M&Ms into separate cups by color at around 80 pieces per minute. It’s a great implementation, using an Arduino Duo. He based the code on the principles of a finite-state machine, in order to make it as quick as possible.
It works as you would expect: When a candy piece is loaded, the color is determined using an RGB sensor. A 360-degree servo is used to move the chute to the proper position, and interestingly, the system preemptively releases the candy before the chute is in position in order to maximize the speed. If you watch closely, you can see this behavior in the video (embedded after the break).
[Torsten] includes a complete bill of materials, if you’d like to try it for yourself. He also included a list of possible improvements.
Continue reading “Quick Candy Sorting Machine”
This crew of high schoolers built a sorting robot for the Smart Young Mindz challenge. We got pretty excited when hearing that it sorts plastic by its recycling code, but unfortunately this isn’t quite what it’s made out to be. The device uses an RFID code on each product to figure out where it goes. Their thinking is that at some point every product sold will have an embedded tag in it. For now this will not revolutionize the recycling industry, but the build is still impressive. We’re sure they learned a ton from all of the mechanical engineering that went into the project.
You can see the three laundry baskets that serve as the sorting bins. The white box above the bin on the right is the hopper in which a plastic container is placed. The box can then revolve around a central axis to position itself over the correct basket. The floor of the box is then retracted, dropping the refuse in the bin. Check out the video after the break for the satisfying cry of the servo motors at work.
We like seeing recycling robots, but so far most of what we’ve seen are aluminum can crushers.
Continue reading “Science fair project sorts recyclables”
Hacker [Dino Segovis] is back with yet another installment of his Hack a Week series, and it’s looking like he isn’t too worse for wear after hunkering down to face hurricane Irene.
This week, it seems that [Dino] is having some problems separating his PNP transistors from his NPNs. After Albert Einstein proves to be less than useful when it comes to sorting electronic components, [Dino] decided to build a simple transistor tester to help him tell his PNPs and NPNs apart without having to resort to looking up product data sheets.
The tester itself is relatively simple to build. As you can see in the video below, it consists of a power supply, an LED, a few resistors, a pair of known transistors, and not much else. When everything is hooked together, the NPN/PNP pair causes the LED to light up, but the circuit is broken whenever one of the transistors is removed. Inserting a new transistor into the empty spot on the breadboard immediately lets you know which sort of transistor you have inserted.
Sure you can tell transistors apart with a multimeter, but if you have a whole drawer full of loose components, this is a far more efficient option.
Continue reading “Simple transistor tester makes sorting easy”