1.37″ CRT Restored by Hacklab for Miniature MAME Cabinet

For $5, [William] of Toronto’s Hacklab hackerspace got a hold of one of the smallest CRT screens ever made – about the size of a large coin. Over the course of a couple sessions – including a public hack boothside at their Mini Makerfaire – [William], [Igor], and several other members managed to connect it as a monitor directly off a Raspberry Pi. The end-goal is the world’s smallest MAME cabinet (smaller by almost half than this LCD one).

As Canada followed the US and stopped broadcasting analog back in 2011, it became quite a challenge to feed the screen a video source. They disclosed early that the easiest solution would just be an RF transmitter on the Pi and then tune the micro-set to that channel. Too easy. They wanted something elegant and challenging so they went digging into the circuitry to find a place to insert a composite video signal directly.

The real story here is their persistence at reverse engineering. The PCB was folded like a cardboard box to fit in the original case, making large portions of the circuitboard and wiring inaccessible. Even when they managed to trace the signal to what they thought was the appropriate chip (marked C80580), they could not find any information on the 30 year old chip. Noting that every other chip on the board was Panasonic and started with “AN5″, [Igor] suspected the mystery silicon was just renamed and went through every single datasheet he could find with that prefix. Combined with form factor, pin count and purpose, his sleuthing was rewarded with a guess for a match – the AN5715. His hunch was correct – using that datasheet led him to the answers they required.

Then they just had to figure out how get the composite signal the Pi outputted into something the chip would use to display the correct image. There were no shortage of challenges, failures and dead ends here either, but they had help from the rest of their membership.

Their project log is an interesting narrative through the process and in the end of course, it worked. It is displayed beautifully with a clear acrylic case and ready for a cabinet to be built.

Toronto embraces 4-letter words

This year was not the first in which the City Hall of Toronto was lit up in a unique way. However, it was the first time that the government building was used to project 4-letter words. Brainchild of [D.A. Therrien], the 4LWM represents something that he imagined for a long time. [Therrien] built the huge sign in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he displayed it over the waterfront. He was later commisioned to bring the sign to Toronto for Nuit Blanche after making some adaptations (due to weather differences). The sign is composed of 4 huge 16-segment displays. Each segment is made of many neon light modules. This configuration makes it less noticable if one such module fails. The sign is controlled below from a computer, which allows it to display text and simple animations. It’s the first in a series of installations dubbed “Beautiful Light” by [Therrien]. Despite the name, no inappropriate language was displayed on the sign.

Blinkenlights’ Stereoscope goes live in Toronto

We’re happy to present this guest post from History Hacker’s [Bre Pettis]. Today [Bre] catches up with the Blinkenlights team, who turn entire buildings into displays. Their current project is Stereoscope which goes live in Toronto, Canada today.

Earlier this week, I posted about the beginnings of the blinkenlights project. It started in 2001 in Berlin, but now Seven years later, in May 2008, blinkenlights is back. The City of Toronto asked the blinkenlights team if they would be interested in joining another Nuit Blanche (as they did in Paris in 2002). Short on time and with a lot of ambition, they decided to redesign and push the envelope on the project to make it wireless for The Toronto City Hall since there would be 960 windows split up in two towers. In the above photo, you can see Stereoscope in all its glory. Continue reading “Blinkenlights’ Stereoscope goes live in Toronto”