A nostalgic look at what a 13 year old can do with a C64

[Armin] recently pulled out his Commodore 64 and looked back on the projects he did as a kid. The surprising thing is that we’re not talking quite as far in the past as you might image. He was 13 in 2002 and the family didn’t have a PC. But more than a decade before his father had purchased a C64 and [Armin] dug into the manual to teach himself how to code. This week he connected the old hardware to his video capture card to give us a demonstration on what he accomplished.

He had seen Windows 95 at the local computer club and figured why not program a clone of the software for the machine at hand? He called it Windows 105 (because that number is higher than 95) and worked out ways to mimic programs like DOS, Corel Draw, Notepad, and some of the programs from Microsoft Office. They didn’t include all the functionality of the real thing, but the look was there.

The story does have a happy ending. [Armin’s] parents saw what he was doing and managed to pick up a PC for him to play with. Now he’s a professional programmer looking back on the formative years that got him there. We’ve embedded one of his demo videos after the break for your enjoyment.

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Building a flex sensor from component packing materials

Hacks like this one don’t help us recover from extreme pack-rat behavior. Driving home the point that one should never throw anything away [Peter] built a flex sensor from component packing material. It uses the black conductive foam in which integrated circuits are sometimes embedded for shipping. Above you can see the grey rectangle which is the sensor itself. in the background of the image, each component used in the build is labelled except for the tape.

The project starts with the foam being cut to the appropriate size and thickness. He does the same with some aluminum foil, then rips tape strips to act as the enclosure. Fine wire from some cable shielding serves as the two conductors for the sensor. He attaches each wire to an upturned piece of tape, followed by the foil, and finally the foam. When the two halves are assembled in the video after the break, [Peter] hooks up his multimeter to show the change in resistance as the sensor is bent.

We think it will take a clever calibration algorithm to get this working reliably, but it’s no more troublesome than the optical flex sensors we saw in this links post. Continue reading “Building a flex sensor from component packing materials”

Paper Craft Claw

Grab some stiff paper and get to work building your own paper claw. [Dombeef] posted the instructions to recreate the claw above because he was unsatisfied with his previous design which was flimsy and unable to pick up just about anything. This version is a bit larger and it internalizes all of the parts.

Being paper craft, you don’t need much in the way of materials or tools. A push-pin makes holes for the paperclip and wire which serve as the pivot points. Glue and some tape hold the rest of assembly together. You can see a video of the final product after the break. A shaft at the center closes the claw when pulled, and opens it when pushed to opposite way. This makes it perfect for that home-made crane game (or was that a claw game?)… as long as you’re not trying to pick up anything too heavy.

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Repair stuck iPod Nano buttons

A system is only as strong as its weakest link and [Roberto Barrios] found that on the sixth generation iPod nano the buttons are the problem. It makes sense that the buttons would be exposed to wear since they’re movable parts. The issue isn’t one of contacts or springs wearing out, but how the buttons are assembled. Each consist of a couple of parts; the tactile piece that you see and press, the electrical switch which converts that force into an electrical signal, and a shim that bridges the gap between the two.

After two months of use the iPod [Roberto] was fixing had stopped responding to presses of the Power button. It turns out that the shims are attached with double-sided tape. Inspection of the internals revealed that the shim had slid to one side and no longer made contact with the electrical system. His solution was to remove the tape and clean off the goo, then reattach the shims using “two-part metal cement”.

With the shim back in place all is well but he made sure to execute this fix on all of the buttons before reassembly.

Tape delay made from recycled cassette decks

Professional tape delay units are great fun, but often expensive. You’d think that with so many derelict cassette decks filling the world’s dumpsters someone must have figured out a way to make a cheap tape delay… not only in the interest of saving money (sometimes quality is worth paying for) but also in the interest of re-using otherwise wasted resources.

Forosdeelectronica forum user [Dano] has made just such a device from used cassette decks and miscellaneous parts (translated). First he investigated the operation of the playback, erase, and record mechanisms and broke out the tape heads. The playback head is on a plastic rail so that the delay time can be changed, while the record head is fixed. [Dano] encountered some difficulties in ensuring good quality for the recording and erasure, which is an important consideration when working with magnetic tape.

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Using videotape tape as a controller

Behold the Bodystick, an instrument built and demonstrated by [Erich Lesovsky]. It’s a bit like a string bass but instead of strings there is a strip of VHS tape. Apparently not all VHS tape will work, but if you have the right kind you can run voltage through it and then change the resistance with a touch of your finger. It seems that the hand not touching the tape needs to be touching a conductive pad, completing the circuit. The resulting resistance changes the oscillator values on a CD40106 CMOS chip. This project is a bit out there (just like [Erich’s] Mega-Tape-O-Phone), and in keeping with its peculiarity is the demo video after the break. Enjoy!

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Adding an input to an old head unit

Tape decks in cars? Yes, that used to be quite common before optical media took over road. [Nirav Patel’s] 2004 Toyota Corolla had a deck that he used with a tape adapter in order to listen to music from his iPhone. But one day something happened and, although the adapter still worked, the cassette player started making distracting noises. [Nirav] set out to quiet the noise and install an auxiliary audio input for the sound system. There were some tripping points along the way, like breaking everything and starting a small fire, but perseverance got him to his goal. Because these units are built with compatibility for things like CD changers they have a communications bus called AVC-Lan. This protocol has been sniffed out and documented, and [Nirav] even found an existing audio-input hack that he based his design around. Now he’s able to plug directly into the dash and ditch the cassette adapter.

We’ve seen [Nirav’s] work a few times before. He’s shown us a first person shooter controller and his site was a resource in our Launchpad programming with Linux post.

[via Make]