A Walk-In Broadcast Transmitter

[Mr. Carlson] likes electronics gear. Mostly old gear. The grayer the case, the greener the phosphors, and the more hammertone, the better. That’s why we’re not surprised to see him with a mammoth AM radio station transmitter in his shop. That it’s a transmitter that you can walk into while it’s energized was a bit of a surprise, though.

As radio station transmitters go, [Mr. Carlson]’s Gates BC-250-GY broadcast transmitter is actually pretty small, especially for 1940s-vintage gear. It has a 250 watt output and was used as a nighttime transmitter; AM stations are typically required to operate at reduced power when the ionosphere is favorable for skip on the medium frequency bands. Stations often use separate day and night transmitters rather than just dialing back the daytime flamethrower; this allows plenty of time for maintenance with no interruptions to programming.

If you enjoy old broadcast gear, the tour of this transmitter, which has been rebuilt for use in the ham bands, will be a real treat. Feast your eyes on those lovely old bakelite knobs and the Simpson and Westinghouse meters, and picture a broadcast engineer in white short sleeves and skinny tie making notations on a clipboard. The transmitter is just as lovely on the inside — once the plate power supply is shut down, of course, lest [Mr. Carlson] quickly become [the former late Mr. Carlson] upon stepping inside. Honestly, there aren’t that many components inside, but what’s there is big – huge transformer, giant potato slicer variable caps, wirewound resistors the size of paper towel tubes, and five enormous, glowing vacuum tubes.

It’s a pretty neat bit of broadcasting history, and it’s a treat to see it so lovingly restored. [Mr. Carlson] teases us with other, yet larger daytime transmitters he has yet to restore, and we can’t wait for that tour. Until then, perhaps we can just review [Mr. Crosley]’s giant Cincinnati transmitter from the 1920s and wait patiently.

Continue reading “A Walk-In Broadcast Transmitter”

Flux Capacitor Prop With Christopher Lloyd’s Stamp Of Approval

We love our props here at Hackaday, and whenever we come across a piece from the Back To The Future fandom, it’s hard to resist showcasing it. In this case, [Xyster101] is showing of his build of Doc Brown’s Flux Capacitor.

[Xyster101] opted for a plywood case — much more economical than the $125 it would have cost him for a proper electrical box. Inside, there’s some clever workarounds to make this look as close as possible to the original. Acrylic rods and spheres were shaped and glued together to replicate the trinity of glass tubes, 3/4″ plywood cut by a hole saw mimicked the solenoids, steel rods were sanded down for the trio of points in the centre of the device and the spark plug wires and banana connectors aren’t functional, but complete the look. Including paint, soldering and copious use of hot glue to hold everything in place, the build phase took about thirty hours.

The LEDs have multiple modes, controlled by DIP switches hidden under a pipe on the side of the box. There’s also motion sensor on the bottom of the case that triggers the LEDs to flicker when you walk by. And, if you want to take your time-travel to-go, there’s a nine volt plug to let you show it off wherever — or whenever — you’re traveling to. Check out the build video after the break.

Continue reading “Flux Capacitor Prop With Christopher Lloyd’s Stamp Of Approval”

VCF: Popular Electronics And Southwest Technical Products Corporation

Hackaday owes a lot to the hobbyist electronics magazines of yesteryear. Back in the day, Popular Electronics and Radio-Electronics would publish projects and articles about DIY electronics – more or less the same editorial purview we hold today. Some of these projects would become full-fledged products, and you need only look at the Altair for what can happen at this confluence of publishing and engineering.

One of the more popular companies to come out of these hobbyist trade magazines was SWTPC, or Southwest Technical Products Corporation. This was the company that brought one of the first microcomputers to the masses with the SWTPC 6800. This wasn’t just a homebrew microcomputer company – there were Nixie clocks, test gear, and stereo preamplifiers – all things that could easily find a place on the pages of Hackaday today.

This year at the Vintage Computer Festival East, [Michael Holley] brought out the test gear he’s been collecting for the past few decades. These are machines that wouldn’t be out of place on any DIY electronics blog today. This is by all accounts the pre-history of the maker movement.

Continue reading “VCF: Popular Electronics And Southwest Technical Products Corporation”

IOT Startup Bricks Customers Garage Door Intentionally

Internet of Things startup Garadget remotely bricked an unhappy customer’s WiFi garage door for giving a bad Amazon review and being rude to company reps. Garadget device owner [Robert Martin] found out the hard way how quickly the device can turn a door into a wall. After leaving a negative Amazon review, and starting a thread on Garadget’s support forum complaining the device didn’t work with his iPhone, Martin was banned from the forum until December 27, 2019 for his choice of words and was told his comments and bad Amazon review had convinced Garadget staff to ban his device from their servers.

The response was not what you would expect a community-funded startup. “Technically there is no bricking, though,” the rep replied. “No changes are made to the hardware or the firmware of the device, just denied use of company servers.” Tell that to [Robert] who can’t get into his garage.

This caused some discontent amoung other customers wondering if it was just a matter of time before more paying customers are subjected to this outlandish treatment. The Register asked Garadget’s founder [Denis Grisak] about the situation, his response is quoted below.

 It was a Bad PR Move, Martin has now had his server connection restored, and the IOT upstart has posted a public statement on the matter.– Garadget

This whole debacle brings us to the conclusion that the IoT boom has a lot of issues ahead that need to be straightened out especially when it comes to ethics and security. It’s bad enough to have to deal with the vagaries of IoT Security and companies who shut down their products because they’re just not making enough money. Now we have to worry about using “cloud” services because the people who own the little fluffy computers could just be jerks.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Modular Instrumentation For Aircraft

Parts, tools, and components for aviation and aerospace are sold in ‘Aviation Monetary Units’ (AMU). Right now, the conversion factor from USD to AMU is about 1000 to 1. This stuff is expensive, but there is a small portion of the flying community that prides itself on not breaking the bank every time something needs to be replaced. Theses are often the microlight, ultralight, and experimental aircraft enthusiasts. Steam gauges are becoming obsolete and expensive to repair, and you’re not going to throw a 15 AMU Garmin G500 in an ultralight that only costs 10 AMU.

To solve this problem, [Rene] is turning to sensors, displays, and microcontrollers that are cheap and readily available to build modular aviation instruments.

As with all aviation gear, the first question that springs to mind is, ‘what will the FAA think about this?’. [Rene] is in South Africa, so the answer is, ‘nothing’. If a few American pilots decide to build one of these, that’ll fly too; these are instruments designed for non-type-certified aircraft. That’s not to say there are no rules for what goes into these aircraft, but the paperwork is much easier.

Right now, the design goals for [Rene]’s instruments is under 0.1 AMU per module, robust, RF shielded, with engine monitoring, fuel management, heading, air and ground speed, altitude, attitude, and all the other gauges that make flying easy. He’s using a CAN bus for all of these modules, and in the process slowly dragging the state of the art of ultralight aviation into the 1990s. It’s fantastic work, and we can’t wait to see some of these modules in the air.

World Create Day: the Hackaday Event in Your Town

It’s official, World Create Day is on April 22nd. Get together with hackers in your area and create something! This is best way to meet all the Hackaday readers in your area, and a great excuse to carve out a few hours of your busy life to have fun working on a project.

These are really easy to organize, but we can’t do it without you. Sign up now to host a meetup in your town!

The Hackaday community around the world will meetup and spend time building together on Saturday, April 22nd. If you’re like us you have a long list of projects you want to do ‘some day’, this is the day. Pack up your current build (or grab gear to start a new one), get together with some old and new friends, and hack on your projects with each other.

It’s traditional to block out a bit of time at the end for lightning talks to show off the builds each of you has been working on. Don’t forget to take pictures and post the story of your World Create Day meetup. We enjoyed getting a great look at many of last year’s meetups this way and want to expand the builds we feature on the front page this year.

Meetup Organizers Wanted

Fill out this form to let us know you want to host a meetup.

This is the second year of World Create Day. Last year we saw meetups in 64 cities. Many of those will happen again this year, but we also need you to organize an event in your area. We’ll help you get things set up and put your event up on the big map so others in your area will plan to join in. Do it now, if we get your shipping info early we’ll send you stickers and other swag to hand out at your gathering.

Build Something that Matters

The core of World Create Day is to stop making excuses and just build something. Since you’re already getting together with other people consider forming a team to enter the 2017 Hackaday Prize. Currently we’re in the idea phase: Design Your Concept means tackling a problem and planning a build to solve it. When you get a bunch of creative people together in one place, great ideas begin to flow. Seize the moment by turning that creativity into an entry for the Hackaday Prize and see where it takes you!

Friday Hack Chat: Breaking Security with Samy Kamkar

[Samy Kamkar] is a hardware hacker extraordinaire. This week, he’s joining us on Hackaday.io for this week’s Hack Chat.

Every week, we find someone interesting that makes or breaks the electronic paraphernalia all around us. We sit them down, and get them to spill the beans on how this stuff works, and how we can get our tools and toys to work for everyone. This is the Hack Chat, and it’s happening this Friday, April 7, at noon PDT (20:0 UTC).

Over the years, [Samy] has demonstrated some incredible skills and brought us some incredible hacks. He defeated chip and pin security on a debit card with a coil of wire, exploited locked computers with a USB gadget, and has more skills than the entire DEF CON CFP review board combined. If you want to know about security, [Samy] is the guy you want to talk to.

Here’s How To Take Part:

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging.

Log into Hackaday.io, visit that page, and look for the ‘Join this Project’ Button. Once you’re part of the project, the button will change to ‘Team Messaging’, which takes you directly to the Hack Chat.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Upcoming Hack Chats

We’ve got a lot on the table when it comes to our Hack Chats. On April 14th we’ll be talking custom silicon with SiFive and on April 21st, we’re going to be talking magnets with Nanomagnetics. Making magnets, collecting magnets, playing with magnets, it’ll all be over on the Hack Chat.