Retrotechtacular: 100 Watts 120 Volts

If you read our recent feature about the Tal-y-Llyn Railway, the world’s first preserved line, you may have taken a while to watch the short film about the railway in the early 1950s. It was the work of an American film maker, [Carson “Kit” Davidson].

His other work includes some films that might be of interest to Hackaday readers, including one filmed in 1977: “100 Watts 120 Volts”. In it, he follows the manufacture of Duro-Test 100-watt light bulbs through all the stages of their assembly as neck, filament and envelope are brought together in strangely beautiful twentieth century production machinery.

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Turn A Free Flashlight Into LED Strips

Harbor Freight is always trying to sweeten the deal by throwing in a free flashlight, or a multimeter with a CAT III rating so poorly-met it might as well be a hand grenade. We usually donate the meters to our local hackerspace, but the flashlights tend to accumulate around the shop. Aside from borrowing the occasional magnet, we’ve not found a good use for them till now.

[Ben Brandt] realized that a ultra-low cost board such as the one likely to be in a free flashlight is probably going to contain a very easily hackable single-sided board. Which is exactly the case here. Once the plastic casing is removed it’s only a quick trip to the saw until you have four fresh mini LED strips.

[Ben] uses his hacked loot to build a neat little, “Thanks For Watching,” sign. We can picture lots of places these could fit in the occasional project, and the work to break these up into parts is less than making equivalent boards with any proto technique. We love his wooden battery compartment. Video after the break.

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Candy Dispenser Riddles You This

A while ago, someone brought in a candy machine to AdaCore. Sometime after, [Fabien-Chouteau] was challenged to make it more… fun. So he decided to make it harder to receive candy — you know, to encourage knowledge growth — and discourage overeating of tasty treats.

The dispenser itself is pretty simple. It consists of a hopper containing the candies, a motor with a worm-gear for delivering said candies, and a small IR sensor that detects when you wave your hand underneath (in order to receive those sweet sweet candies).

He decided to leave the system operating as is, and only interrupt the connection to the motor feed. That way when you wave your hand underneath, you have to answer a skill testing question before you proceed…

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Philip Friedin takes us on a Deep Dive into his OSHChip

Once a month, Bay-area hackers and engineers-by-night gather in the grand office of our evil overlords (Supplyframe) and take us on an adventure in hardware. This past month, [Philip Friedin] gave us the hands-on tour of the OSHChip, a project we’ve seen floating around our pages for the last year. OSHChip might look like another open source development board, but the DIP package and all the packaged features are telltale signs that OSHChip is the offspring of a seasoned double-E. Scroll down to watch his presentation in full.

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How Low Can You Go? The World of QRP Operation

Newly minted hams like me generally find themselves asking, “What now?” after getting their tickets. Amateur radio has a lot of different sub-disciplines, ranging from volunteering for public service gigs to contesting, the closest thing the hobby has to a full-contact sport. But as I explore my options in the world of ham radio, I keep coming back to the one discipline that seems like the purest technical expression of the art and science of radio communication – low-power operation, or what’s known to hams as QRP. With QRP you can literally talk with someone across the planet on less power than it takes to run a night-light using a radio you built in an Altoids tin. Now that’s a challenge I can sink my teeth into.

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Game Boy Camera Cartridge Reversed, Photos Dumped

There’s something magical and nostalgic about extremely low resolution in this era of mega-megapixels on every cell phone. And the Game Boy’s big bulbous camera module just looks so cool. [Robson Couto] didn’t stop at simply using the camera — that’s been done before — but actually reversed the card’s protocol so that he could leave it entirely intact. As you can see from the banner image, it was a success.

A project like this doesn’t get done overnight, and [Robson] drew on a lot of his own previous work as well as the work of others. For instance, he’d already made a board that interfaces Game Boy Paks to his PC through an ATmega32 and a serial port. He’d also written software that understands the card header format on the PC side. So dumping the ROMs contents should be no problem. But of course, it was.

[Robson] could read one bank of memory, but not any of the others. It turns out that the camera pack uses a clock signal that not many other cards use. It took [Robson] some serious work — a lot of it false starts and dead ends — to get this particular part working.


If you’re into Game Boy hacking, give [Robson]’s writeup a good read. Also note that he’s got fantastic links to previous research in all of his posts. If you couldn’t care less about keeping the cartridge intact, you can simply interface the camera with a TI calculator, use the camera to transmit Morse code, or simply add a thermal printer for a low-res instant camera with style.

Thanks for the Memories: Touring the Awesome Random Access of Old

I was buying a new laptop the other day and had to make a choice between 4GB of memory and 8. I can remember how big a deal it was when a TRS-80 went from 4K (that’s .000004 GB, if you are counting) to 48K. Today just about all RAM (at least in PCs) is dynamic–it relies on tiny capacitors to hold a charge. The downside to that is that the RAM is unavailable sometimes while the capacitors get refreshed. The upside is you can inexpensively pack lots of bits into a small area. All of the common memory you plug into a PC motherboard–DDR, DDR2, SDRAM, RDRAM, and so on–are types of dynamic memory.

The other kind of common RAM you see is static. This is more or less an array of flip flops. They don’t require refreshing, but a static RAM cell is much larger than an equivalent bit of dynamic memory, so static memory is much less dense than dynamic. Static RAM lives in your PC, too, as cache memory where speed is important.

For now, at least, these two types of RAM technology dominate the market for fast random access read/write memory. Sure, there are a few new technologies that could gain wider usage. There’s also things like flash memory that are useful, but can’t displace regular RAM because of speed, durability, or complex write cycles. However, computers didn’t always use static and dynamic RAM. In fact, they are relatively newcomers to the scene. What did early computers use for fast read/write storage?

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