555s For Your Mouse And R/C Airplane

[lenny] decided to build a 555-based auto-firing mouse based on a 555 after seeing a similar PIC-based project we posted earlier. Lenny’s version is self-contained in one mouse without requiring a second mouse to act as the rapid-fire button. It uses only a handful of components, costs less than $5 to build, and doesn’t require any programming.

But then, [wfdudley] shakes things up a bit. He added a 4022 counter IC and some diodes to act as logical “OR” gates in order to create a unique blinking pattern (short-short-long) for the lights on a friend’s RC airplane. While this project involves more components, it’s definitely a trickier problem to solve with a 555 timer IC. We love seeing people choosing simplicity in design over popular off-the-shelf microcontroller frameworks as these two have done.

Don’t forget, the 555 Design Contest is still going strong, and you’ve got the entire month of February to submit your awesome designs. We wanted to highlight two of the more clever 555-based hacks that we’ve had in our backlog for a while, though.

18 thoughts on “555s For Your Mouse And R/C Airplane

  1. I’m not sure I would agree with the statement that a 555 timer based solution is ‘simpler’ than something like an 8-pin PIC12F which can often do far more with far less external components. Cheaper yes (only just though), but simpler? Not really (unless you consider some simple C code to be complicated).

    On the other hand it can be fun to see what you can achieve without resorting to a microcontroller :)

  2. While I LOVE old-skool stuff like this, a 8 pin pic can do so much more with less. the plane blinker would have been better designed with a 8 pin pic and enable the internal OSC. The blink pattern would have been brain dead easy to do for even a newbie to PIC’s and in ASM.

  3. @walt – the rapid-fire could have been done with a PIC12F683 programmed with a few lines of C requiring no external components apart from the switch to activate it.

    What’s your definition of ‘practical’ in this case exactly?

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t use a 555 timer to do the job either if that’s what you have to hand, so I mean no disrespect to either project, but the observation remains valid.

  4. This debate whether a 555 is simpler than a 8 pin PIC is pretty silly. Look at a block diagram of a PIC versus a 555. The later is definitely simpler. Which would you rather recreate with discrete parts?

  5. @lackluster: That’s the wrong argument, broseph. The mcu is a more complicated device,but the implementation of a certain function using an mcu is usually vastly simpler than doing so with discrete components.

  6. I have a feeling that if you understand the basic operation of 555’s and know the basic aspects of analog circuits you could probably figure out some basic C.

    Though in defense of 555’s, I don’t have a programmer and most of the stuff I’ve seen people put together is PC based and I’m on a Mac.

    I’m sure that if I had everything I could do it easily but with a box of components and solder literally on my desk right now I think a 555 solution would be “easier.”

    I think ease is really a matter of what you have on hand and not the intrinsic nature of what you are doing.

    On a snarky side note I think it’s ironic how people bitch about Arduino’s all the time on here saying things like “You can just use a 555 for that.”

  7. As stated in my article, the reason for this instead of a PIC is because the “customer” wanted to be able to copy the circuit, and he doesn’t know squat about programming a PIC, even if I give him the first one to copy. Solder, on the other hand, he knows. I also thought that this project had value as an educational example. I’ve got decades of experience programming embedded systems, but a micro didn’t solve the customer’s problem.

  8. I needed one for work once, a retarded program required you to click ‘ok’ a few thousand times.

    I used a 555, dead bug style and hot-glued onto the mouse case. The 555 requires a couple of resistors as part of its timing, so if you use a pot there, drill a hole in the bottom of the mouse, you get a way to control the click speed.

    Mine had a toggle switch rather than a push button, and also turned off the red LED used for tracking motion so if it was bumped it the pointer wouldn’t move off the ‘Ok’ button.

    People forget 555’s are practically bullet-proof (wonder why it’s getting hot and then discover the power if backwards – still worked!), can source a lot of current and have a wide voltage range – 3v-18v (I think). There’s a reason they’re still popular after 40 years.

  9. Haha I wondered when the rest of the internet would catch on. I did this 555 trick ages ago, and I setup a switch to change buttons. Simple, easy hack, and I have yet to be banned from any servers.

    Here’s an old video, no sound because my camera can’t take audio.

  10. I cant believe we have people against 555 and wanting PIC now. Didn’t we do the PIC was over kill for auto fire, you should use a 555 timer, like a month ago? Both work. Both are cheap. Hack with what you have.

    I’ve done the 555 timer mouse twice since its smaller then the PIC16F84 chips i have laying around.

    If you are going to do a uC, use something with USB. add small hub inside mouse. Change speed and fire paterns though software. Until then please HAD no more turbo mice, it’s been done. ;)

  11. I agree that with the mouse either one works, but for the RC airplane it makes MUCH more sense to go with a lighter payload. Hence the mcu makes more sense here just from a practicality standpoint.

    And seriously guys, programming is not a big deal. A programmer that will work with pc, linux, and mac can be built for under $10 for the AVR chips (which when you don’t buy in bulk are the same price as a 555 anyway…) and the tool chain (AVR-GCC) is free. — Not that your client would need to be able to use avr-gcc, just give him the binary, and the schematic for the flasher, AVR-DUDE and he’s set. No need for any external resistors or capacitors.

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