Solar-Cell Laser Communication System

Forget the soup cans connected by a piece of string. There’s now a way to communicate wirelessly that doesn’t rely on a physical connection… or radio. It’s a communications platform that uses lasers to send data, and it’s done in a way that virtually anyone could build.

This method for sending information isn’t exactly new, but this project is one of the best we’ve seen that makes it doable for the average tinkerer. A standard microphone and audio amplifier are used to send the signals to the transmitter, which is just a typical garden-variety laser that anyone could find for a few dollars. A few LEDs prevent the laser from receiving too much power, and a solar cell at the receiving end decodes the message and outputs it through another amplifier and a speaker.

Of course you will need line-of-sight to get this communications system up and running, but as long as you have that taken care of the sky’s the limit. You can find incredibly powerful lasers lying around if you want to try to increase the communication distance, and there are surprisingly few restrictions on purchasing others that are 1W or higher. You could easily increase the range, but be careful not to set your receiving station (or any animals, plants, buildings, etc) on fire!

Continue reading “Solar-Cell Laser Communication System”

Solid Plywood Enclosure iPod Speaker Dock

Portable Media Players are great for listening to music on the go. At home though, using headphones may not be the most convenient or comfortable option. [decpower] didn’t have a stereo to connect his iPod to. Since he didn’t want to shell out a bunch of money to buy one, he decided to build his own iPod dock and powered speaker combo.

Laminated iPod Dock Speaker The case is made out of plywood: many, many layers of plywood. Each layer of plywood was cut out using a laser cutter. Unlike most speaker cabinets that have a distinct boxy enclosure, this unit is mostly solid with cutouts in each layer only where voids were designed to be. [decpower] tried to replicate the Bose Wave Radio internal sound passages. Up top a dock slot complete with a 30-pin connector makes connecting an iPod super simple.

Unfortunately, [decpower] doesn’t say what he’s using for an amplifier or where his speakers came from. He does indicate that there is an internal battery for powering the setup and it appears there is a volume knob out back. Regardless, the final project looks pretty good and [decpower] deserves some kudos for the unique construction method.

Get Blown Away by the Boominator

You have a greater chance of squeezing 5 amps through a 2N2222 than you do remembering the 1980s and not thinking about the legendary ‘boom box’. They could be seen perched on the shoulders of rockers and rappers alike – many sporting the Members Only or red leather jackets. The boom boxes visual characteristics can best be described as a rectangular box with two very large speakers on each end. It is no accident that The Boominator shares these features.

[Jesse van der Zouw] did a good job of showing how he created The Boominator. It has not two, but four 10 inch woofers that delivers 360 degrees of awesomeness at 115dB. The on board battery can sustain it for up to twenty hours, and the project is topped off with some blue LED rings the encircle each speaker.

We’ve seen boom boxes here before, but this is the first with some nice LED accents. Be sure to check out this build and let us know what you might have done differently.


DIY Speaker Build

There is something refreshing about a neat, portable audio hack – especially one than involves making a DIY Speaker Box from scratch. [Dave] had some time to spare and his ShapeOko was lying idle and hankering for some attention. He needed a small speaker that he could place outside when entertaining guests. After some quick homework, he zeroed in on the speakers he would use.

Using some online resources , he did some basic math to figure out the box size and shape, but then eventually threw caution to the wind and went ahead with the design he had in mind. Most speaker box builds use some form of wood or MDF. [Dave] had 9mm thick ABS sheets lying around and decided to use them instead. He used an interesting technique for putting the box together. The front and rear panels had slots milled in to them to follow the shape of the side panels. The two side panels had strategically cut slots half way through the thickness of the ABS to make it easier to heat bend them. He then used a heat gun to bend the side panels to fit them to the slots on the front and back panels. In the end, we’re guessing he used just four pieces of ABS to build a complex shape. Since the HiVi B3N speakers are full range, he also built a 1st order crossover to make sure the highs were diverted to the tweeters. All in all, a neat, clean build.

Converting Morse Code to Text with Arduino

Morse code used to be widely used around the globe. Before voice transmissions were possible over radio, Morse code was all the rage. Nowadays, it’s been replaced with more sophisticated technologies that allow us to transmit voice, or data much faster and more efficiently. You don’t even need to know Morse code to get an amateur radio license any more. That doesn’t mean that Morse code is dead, though. There are still plenty of hobbyists out there practicing for the fun of it.

[Dan] decided to take a shortcut and use some modern technology to make it easier to translate Morse code back into readable text. His project log is a good example of the natural progression we all make when we are learning something new. He started out with an Arduino and a simple microphone. He wrote a basic sketch to read the input from the microphone and output the perceived volume over a Serial monitor as a series of asterisks. The more asterisks, the louder the signal. He calibrated the system so that a quiet room would read zero.

He found that while this worked, the Arduino was so fast that it detected very short pulses that the human ear could not detect. This would throw off his readings and needed to be smoothed out. If you are familiar with button debouncing then you get the idea. He ended up just averaging a few samples at a time, which worked out nicely.

The next iteration of the software added the ability to detect each legitimate beep from the Morse code signal. He cleared away anything too short. The result was a series of long and short chains of asterisks, representing long or short beeps. The third iteration translated these chains into dots and dashes. This version could also detect longer pauses between words to make things more readable.

Finally, [Dan] added a sort of lookup table to translate the dots and dashes back into ASCII characters. Now he can rest easy while the Arduino does all of the hard work. If you’re wondering why anyone would want to learn Morse code these days, it’s still a very simple way for humans to communicate long distances without the aid of a computer.

Turning an Ordinary Pen into a Covert Radio Receiver

[Ben Krasnow’s] latest project will be good for anyone who wants a complicated way to cheat on a test. He’s managed to squeeze a tiny FM radio receiver into a ballpoint pen. He also built his own bone conduction microphone to make covert listening possible. The FM radio receiver is nothing too special. It’s just an off the shelf receiver that is small enough to fit into a fatter pen. The real trick is to figure out a way to listen to the radio in a way that others won’t notice. That’s where the bone conduction microphone comes in.

A normal speaker will vibrate, changing the air pressure around us. When those changes reach our ear drums, we hear sound. A bone conduction mic takes another approach. This type of microphone must be pressed up against a bone in your skull, in this case the teeth. The speaker then vibrates against the jaw and radiates up to the cochlea in the ear. The result is a speaker that is extremely quiet unless it is pressed against your face.

Building the bone conduction mic was pretty simple. [Ben] started with a typical disk-shaped piezoelectric transducer. These devices expand and contract when an alternating current is passed through them at a high enough voltage. He cut the disk into a rectangular shape so that it would fit inside of the clicker on the ballpoint pen. He then encased it in a cylinder of epoxy.

The transducer requires a much higher voltage audio signal than the litter radio normally puts out. To remedy this problem, [Ben] wired up a small impedance matching transformer to increase the voltage. With everything in place, all [Ben] has to do to listen to the radio is chew on the end of his pen. While this technology might help a cheater pass an exam, [Ben] also notes that a less nefarious use of this technology might be to place the speaker inside of the mouthpiece of a CamelBak. This would allow a hiker to listen to music without blocking out the surrounding noise. Continue reading “Turning an Ordinary Pen into a Covert Radio Receiver”

Annoy Your Enemies with the Hassler Circuit

[Craig] recently built himself a version of the “hassler” circuit as a sort of homage to Bob Widlar. If you haven’t heard of Bob Widlar, he was a key person involved in making analog IC’s a reality. We’ve actually covered the topic in-depth in the past. The hassler circuit is a simple but ingenious office prank. The idea is that the circuit emits a very high frequency tone, but only when the noise level in the room reaches a certain threshold. If your coworkers become too noisy, they will suddenly notice a ringing in their ears. When they stop talking to identify the source, the noise goes away. The desired result is to get your coworkers to shut the hell up.

[Craig] couldn’t find any published schematics for the original circuit, but he managed to build his own version with discrete components and IC’s. Sound first enters the circuit via a small electret microphone. The signal is then amplified, half-wave rectified, and run through a low pass filter. The gain from the microphone is configurable via a trim pot. A capacitor converts the output into a flat DC voltage.

The signal then gets passed to a relaxation oscillator circuit. This circuit creates a signal whose output duty cycle is dependent on the input voltage. The higher the input voltage, the longer the duty cycle, and the lower the frequency. The resulting signal is sent to a small speaker for output. The speaker is also controlled by a Schmitt trigger. This prevents the speaker from being powered until the voltage reaches a certain threshold, thus saving energy. The whole circuit is soldered together dead bug style and mounted to a copper clad board.

When the room is quiet, the input voltage is low. The output frequency is high enough that it is out of the range of human hearing. As the room slowly gets louder, the voltage increases and the output frequency lowers. Eventually it reaches the outer limits of human hearing and people in the room take notice. The video below walks step by step through the circuit. Continue reading “Annoy Your Enemies with the Hassler Circuit”