We love a good multitool. There’s something seductive about knowing that if, for some reason, you need to saw down a tree on a moment’s notice, you have a tiny saw in your pocket. We also like electronic versions of the multitool: gadgets that serve a lot of purposes as you develop and debug hardware. One of the most polished-looking ones we’ve seen is [Phillip Schuster’s] Little Helper.
The open source gadget looks like an iPod (if an iPod had header pins sticking out of it). It has basic analog I/O capability, can generate PWM pulses, sniff I2C traffic, and do lots of other features. It is open source, so you can always add more capabilities if you need them.
Even if you don’t care about the Little Helper’s functionality, it is a great study in making a device that looks like an iPod with a similar interface. There have been plenty of similar designs floating around for a long time. For example, the SuperProbe uses a PIC and an LED display to make a multifunction probe (you can see one built on a prototype board in the video below). The TIQ was another similar device (which led to a lot of naughty spawn puns around here). Microchip used to publish an Application Note (AN689) about a similar device known as the Engineer’s Assistant, although you’ll have to search for an alternate source for it today and would probably have to work to use more current components.