Hackaday Links: November 10, 2013

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[Henryk Gasperowicz], the wizard of electrons who makes LEDs glow for no apparent reason, has put up another one of his troll physics circuits. We have no idea how he does it (he does say he’s using wireless energy transmission) so a few solution videos would be cool, [Henryk].

Altoids tins make great electronic enclosures, but how about designing your PCBs to fit mint and gum containers? Here’s a Trident USBASP, a tiny Tic Tac ISP thingy, and a Mentos USB to JTAG interface.

By the end of this week, the PS4 will be out, along with the new PS4 camera. It’s a great camera – 1280×800 at 60Hz – but unless someone develops a driver for it, it shall forever remain tethered to a PS4. Luckily, there’s a project to develop a PS4 camera driver, so if you have some USB 3.0 experience, give it a shot.

Multimeter teardowns? [David]’s got multimeter teardowns. It’s an HP 3455A, a huge bench top unit from the 80s. This is, or was, pro equipment and strange esoteric components definitely make a showing. ±0.01% resistors? Yep. Part two has some pics of the guts and a whole ton of logic.

The US Air Force Academy just moved their embedded systems course over to the MSP430. Course director [Capt Todd Branchflower] just put all the course materials online, with the notes, datasheets, and labs available on Github.

Inside The Clapper

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Hackaday readers above a certain age will probably remember the fabulously faddish products developed by Joseph Enterprises. These odd gadgets included the Ove’ Glove, VCR Co-Pilot, the Creosote Sweeping Log, and Chia Pet (Cha-Cha-Cha-Chia) as mainstays of late night commercials, but none were as popular as The Clapper, everyone’s favorite sound-activated switch from the 1980s. [Richard] put up a great virtual teardown of The Clapper, that provides a lot of insight into how this magic relay box actually works, along with some historical context for the world The Clapper was introduced to.

Sound activated switches are nothing new, but the way The Clapper did it was just slightly brilliant. Instead of listening to every sound, the mic inside the magic box sends everything through a series of filters to come up with a very narrow bandpass filter centered around 2500 Hz. This trigger is analyzed by a SGS Thompson ST6210 microcontroller ( 4MHz, ~1kB ROM, 64 bytes of RAM, and 12 I/O pins ) to listen for two repeating triggers  within 200 milliseconds. The entire system – including the source code for the MCU – can be seen in the official patent, US5493618.

The Clapper sold many millions of units at a time when a lot of homes were assuredly in a pre-microelectronics world. Yes, in 1986, a lot of TVs had microcontrollers and maybe a washer/dryer combo may have had a few thousand transistors between them. Other than that, The Clapper was many household’s introduction to the ubiquitous computing power we see today, and all with less capability than an Arduino.

Tearing down an ultrasound machine from 1963

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Vintage electronics are awesome, and old medical devices doubly so. When [Murtaugh] got his hands on an old ultrasound machine, he knew he had to tear it apart. Even if he wasn’t able to bring it back to a functional state, the components inside make for great history lesson fifty years after being manufactured.

This very primitive ultrasound machine was sold by Siemens beginning in 1963 as a, “diagnostic ultrasound unit for the quick evaluation of cerebral hemorrhage after accidents.” This is barely into the era of transistors and judging from [Murtaugh]’s teardown, nearly the entire device is made of vacuum tubes, capacitors, and resistors. The only solid state component in this piece of equipment is a bridge rectifier found in the power supply. Impressive stuff, even today.

In the end, [Murtaugh] decided this device wasn’t worth repairing. There were cracks all the way through a PCB, and he didn’t have any of the strange proprietary accessories anyway. Still, this junkyard score netted [Murtaugh] a bunch of old tubes and other components, as well as a nifty CRT that came with a wonderful ‘Made in West Germany’ label,.

Pulling the LCD screens out of a MyVu glasses display

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[John Floren] really sells us on a pair of MyVu 301 Video Glasses. He lists the features as being bulky, ugly, and uncomfortable. That’s the reason why he’s showing you how to crack open the glasses in order to steal the tiny LCD modules.

The LCD screen for each eye is mounted inside of the assembly seen above. The screen is perpendicular to the wearer’s eye, with some space in the body to facilitate the lens and reflector that enlarge the image and direct it toward the eye. After removing the display from the module [John] tried to hook it up to a camera via the driver hardware which comes with the glasses. It must have been a bit of a head scratcher that all he could get was a plain white image. This is fixed by finding the polarizing filter inside the module and laying it over the screen. This is demonstrated in the clip after the break.

We don’t know where he’s planning to go from here, but we can suggest a few different projects. This hardware could be useful in creating his own augmented reality hat. Using it as a video game controller is another thing that pops to mind. Wouldn’t it be cool to have this in the scope sight of a light gun?

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$250,000 hard drive teardown

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Have you ever seen hard drive platters this big before? Of course you haven’t, the cost of this unit is way beyond your pay grade. But now that it’s decades old we get a chance to post around inside this beast. [Dave Jones] — who we haven’t seen around these parts in far too long — takes a look inside this $250,000 storage device.

In this episode of the EEVblog [Dave] is tearing down a late 1980’s IBM hard drive. This an IBM 3390. It stores either 1.78GB or 3.78GB. These days we’d never use a mechanical drive for that little storage as flash memory is so much cheaper. But this was cutting edge for servers of the day. And that’s why you’d pay a quarter of a million dollars for the thing.

[Dave] does what he’s known for in the video after the break. He energetically pours over every aspect of the hardware discussing function and design choices as he goes.

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Tearing down the Wii U

With the release of the Wii U last weekend we knew it wouldn’t be long before we saw those glorious gut shots on the Internet. The folks at iFixit have torn down a Wii U, and the insides look somewhat promising for a potential hack to take control of the Wii U Game Pad.

The components in the Wii U console aren’t terribly surprising; a few wireless controllers, HDMI adapters, Flash memory chips, and the IBM Power CPU make up most of the interesting components. The insides of the GamePad, though, look pretty interesting. It appears the Wii U GamePad is powered by an ARM Cortex microcontroller built by STMicroelectronics, but the part numbers for the major ICs on the GamePad board are impervious to Googling.

Of course there’s still the question of how video is transmitted wirelessly from the Wii U console to the GamePad. iFixit found a Broadcom BCM4319XKUBG Wireless module that operates on normal WiFi frequencies. This module has been used in a few other pieces of video gear, most notably the Boxee Box, so there is some possibility of intercepting the video signal transmitted to the GamePad and figuring out the protocol.

The long and short of iFixit’s teardown, at least from the hacker perspective, is that all the interesting parts use hardware similar to what you’d find on any other eminently hackable device. Here’s to hoping we get an open Wii U GamePad before the year is out.

Roomba 4000 teardown ready for your Doomba build

In addition to getting a haircut, [Dino] spent his week editing an old video of him tearing down a Roomba 4000. These robots can be picked up for just a few dollars on eBay, making them one of the cheapest bodged up robotics dev platforms available.

After [Dino] goes over how to unscrew the cover and disassemble the Roomba 4000, he goes over the layout of the motherboard and takes a look at the sensors. The wheels on the Roomba are actually very neat pieces of technology with a very cool planetary gear system that is the perfect drive system for your next robot build.

There are a ton of ways to use the electronics in Roombas for a few interesting robotics projects. [Dino] built 2/3rds of a all terrain rocker bogie robot – just like the Curiosity rover – out of a Roomba, and a small two wheeled indoor robot using a Parallax Propeller. If you’re a redditor there’s always the possibility of building a Doomba, but we think [Patrick] has a better idea than a knife strapped to a vacuum cleaner.

As always, [Dino]’s vidia after the break.

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