Belgrade Badge Hacks

We’re still coming off the Hackaday Belgrade conference right now. If you were there, you know it was the greatest hardware conference ever. If you weren’t there, you missed out. Sorry. (Make sure you get in on the Hackaday Superconference in November.)

One of the many highlights of the Belgrade conference was, of course, the badge. The 2018 Hackaday Belgrade Badge is a masterpiece of hardware with a 55-key keyboard, RGB TFT LED, speaker, and a BASIC interpreter.

This badge is a masterpiece of electronic design by Voja Antonic. Just to take one small example from the design, check out the placement of the buttons. Think the slightly rotated buttons that make up the keyboard is only a stylistic choice? It’s not; by carefully rotating each button, the legs of each switch can fit in between each other. It’s brilliant.

Starting hardware this good, adding amazing software by Jaromir Sukuba to bring it to life, and distributing a badge to each hacker through the door is the perfect recipe for some amazing hacks. What were the best badge hacking tricks we saw at the 2018 Hackaday Belgrade conference? Check out the video of the badge hacking ceremonies and then join us below for a few of our favorites.

Demoscene!

After decades, the demoscene has been elevated to an art. This is the community built around pushing pixels, blitting blitters, and generally squeezing every last bit of performance out of a computer system, for the sole purpose of making really cool graphics and awesome music.

The Hackaday Belgrade badge has an enormous display with full color, so it only makes sense there would be a few demoscene entries to our badge hacking competition. One of the best comes from [kory.io], who made a demo featuring high-resolution images and real-time rendered plasma effects along with pre-rendered animation.

Of course, this requires a video, so dig into this spectacular demo posted to Kory’s Twitter feed.

A Modem!

[bosko]’s ‘modem’ for the Belgrade Badge
The 2018 Belgrade Badge is designed to be a wearable version of a home computer. With the inclusion of an expansion header, it’s begging to have more hardware connected. The badge has a full BASIC interpreter, and the TX and RX lines of a serial port are just sitting there. What could this possibly mean?

For [bosko], home computers meant connecting to the world through BBSes. Is that even possible with this badge? Of course it is, all you need is a modem.

Since acoustic couplers don’t fit smartphones, [bosko]’s ‘modem’ is actually a NodeMCU board with an ESP8266. Yes, it’s a WiFi to serial port adapter, pieced together out of three dollars worth of hardware and a few jumper leads. The code running on the badge is extremely simple, and basically just pushes bytes to the serial port. For the modem, [bosko] is just using the AT command set found in every ESP.

[bosko] did manage to connect his modem to a network, and even managed to pull up a BBS on the badge. It’s slow, yes, but really, what did you expect.

It’s a great proof of concept, and given that WiFi to serial adapters literally only cost two dollars, we can’t wait to see what else this badge can do. Is it possible to write a browser? We have just the website for that, and another one of the hacks shown during the badge hacking ceremony did manage to load up our retro page!

Shoot My Valentine

When you think of multiplayer games, Fortnite is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Actually, it’s probably not, but throwing the word ‘Fortnite’ into any post really helps out with SEO. Multiplayer games have been around for decades, but in the olden days they were a pain to configure. Does anyone remember IPX? Yeah, exactly.

With a home computer on a badge and a convenient serial port, it’s entirely possible to write a multiplayer game using a null modem cable made out of Dupont connectors. That’s exactly what [kramarb] did with his badge hack, Shoot My Valentine and the results are way more fun that might first think.

The game is extremely simple — it’s just a spaceship from Space Invaders shooting pixels up the screen. Two badges can play this game, and each badge tries to kill the other player by sending bullets over the serial port.

This is brilliant. It’s a real multiplayer game played over a serial port, all coded in just a few hours at the Hackaday Belgrade conference. Going further, it wouldn’t be too hard to make this game run wirelessly, possibly using a few IR LEDs. It would be amazing, and probably almost as reliable as the multiplayer on those old DOS games.

This Isn’t the End of our Retrocomputer Badge

The 2018 Hackaday Belgrade badge was a smashing success, and the best example yet we’ve had for what can be done with electronic conference badges. We’re planning a gigantic conference this November, the fourth annual Hackaday Superconference. The badge for the Supercon? All we can say now is that it will be based heavily on the best of the Belgrade badge. First, though, we need to buy the entire world’s supply of one particular brand of tact switches — there were over 20,000 of them in the room at Belgrade!

What does this mean? It means more opportunities to hack this badge. It might just be possible to add a floppy drive to this badge, and we want to see you try. We know it’s possible to get this badge on the Internet, and we want to see where people can take that. The entire purpose of this badge is to do something really fun with it during the three days of the con, and we can’t wait to see the other astonishing badge hacks that will be developed around this platform.

5 thoughts on “Belgrade Badge Hacks

  1. I wonder if one of these could be built into one of those “Rii i8” mini keyboards that are roughly this form factor. The buttons would be one of those rubber keypads instead of clicky keys.

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