Bringing modern protocols and techniques to vintage computers is a favorite pastime for hackers, and over the years we’ve seen some absolutely incredible hardware and software projects designed specifically to do what most people would consider impossible. They’re very rarely practical projects, of course. But that’s never really the point.
Today we present another excellent entry into this niche avenue of hacking: Renderific, a tool to render SVGs on 8-bit Atari computers by [Kevin Savetz]. The MIT licensed program is written in Turbo-BASIC XL and allows computers such the 1200XL and 800XL to not only render the image on screen but output it to an attached plotter. There are a few niggling issues with some files, and apparently the plotter draws the image upside-down for some reason, but on the whole we can now add “SVG Rendering” to the list of things you can do with a nearly 40-year-old computer.
Of course, those who are familiar with these 1980’s machines might wonder how their limited CPUs can possibly cope with such a task. Well, that’s where the impracticality comes in. According to [Kevin], you can be in for quite a wait depending on the complexity of the image. In his tests, some SVGs took up to 45 minutes to fully render on the screen, so you might want to have a snack handy.
If you’re interested in lending a hand with the project, it sounds as though [Kevin] could use some assistance in figuring out why the Atari 1020 plotter doesn’t like the output of his program. There’s also a few SVG functions and forms of Bézier curves that need some work if you’ve got your Turbo-BASIC XL programming books handy.
Even though the majority of the Earth is covered in water, a surprising number of people around the world don’t have easy access to clean drinking water. The oceans of course are full of salt, and it is difficult to filter that salt out. Researchers at the University of Manchester have found a way to improve a graphene-based filter mechanism that could help convert sea water to potable water.
Pure graphene can do the job, but it is difficult to manufacture in commercial quantities. In addition, the membrane requires the creation of tiny holes, further complicating the production. The new method uses graphene oxide, which is very simple to make and deploy.
The process of making a lens with a CNC machine begins by surfacing a waste board and taping an 8mm sheet of cast acrylic down with double-stick tape. The lens is then cut out with an 8mm endmill, removed from the stock material, and wet sanded to remove the tool marks. Wet sanding begins at 400 grit and progresses to 2000 grit, after which the lens is polished with a polishing compound meant for high-gloss car finishes. This was done by hand, but in this instance there’s no shame in using a real buffing wheel.
Several other lenses are demonstrated, including a cylindrical convex lens, but these are only planoconvex lenses, or lenses that are flat on one side. Biconvex lenses can be constructed by gluing two planoconvex lenses back to back, which is done with an acrylic glue, in this case Acrifix adhesive. The result is remarkable: with a lot — and we mean a lot — of sanding and polishing, you can make an acrylic lens on a cheap hobby CNC machine. The trick is just a very small stepover on your CNC path.
There are a few more videos planned in this series, including one on using Fusion 360 on defining the shape of the lens to have the right focal length. We can’t wait to see that.
We have to admit that our first thought on seeing a Frankenlathe made from old engine blocks was that it was a set piece from a movie like The Road Warrior. And when you think about it, the ability to cobble together such a machine tool would probably make you pretty handy to have around in an apocalypse.
Sadly, surviving the zombie mutant biker uprising seemed not to be the incentive for [Paul Kuphaldt]’s version of the [Pat Delany] “Multimachine”. He seemed to be in it for the money, or more precisely from the lack of it. He was shooting for a zero-dollar build, and although he doesn’t state how close he came, we’re going to guess it was pretty close. The trick is to find big castings for the bed and headstock – Mopar slant 6 blocks in this case. The blocks are already precision machined dead flat and square, and the cylinder bores provide ample opportunities for stitching the castings together. The drivetrain comes from a 3-speed manual transmission, a 3/4-ton Chevy truck axle donated the spindle, and a V8 cylinder head was used for the cross slide. The tailstock seems to be the only non-automotive part on the machine.
We’d love to see a video of it in action, but there are ample pictures on [Paul]’s website to suggest that the heavy castings really make a difference in keeping vibration down. Don’t get us wrong – we love cast aluminum Gingery lathes too. But there’s something substantial about this build that makes us feel like a trip to the boneyard.
Lasercutters are amazingly versatile tools that can help you build all manner of complicated structures if you can break them down into a series of planar parts. [David] had spotted artworks at the Smithsonian which caught his eye, using planar shapes with interesting repeating patterns. Wanting to make similar works himself, he set out to create software to help make it possible.
The result of [David]’s work is the Polygonia Design Suite. It’s a tool that aims to make creating geometric patterns for lasercutting easy and simple. The web interface designer has a wide variety of options for drawing shapes and patterns, and the frame size can also be controlled. [David] demonstrates these features with all manner of creations. The project’s Instagram page features basic rectangular panels with inset cubic and triangular motifs, all the way up to an ornate octahedron built from many panels held together with 3D printed clips.
If you’re in the mood to create some geometric lasercut artworks, check out the tool online. The first 3 exports are free, with a variety of subscription models available for heavy users. We fully expect to see an explosion in fancy lasercut homewares at the weekend markets in years to come.
Super glue, or cyanoacrylate as it is formally known, is one heck of a useful adhesive. Developed in the 20th century as a result of a program to create plastic gun sights, it is loved for its ability to bond all manner of materials quickly and effectively. Wood, metal, a wide variety of plastics — super glue will stick ’em all together in a flash.
It’s also particularly good at sticking to human skin, and therein lies a problem. It’s bad enough when it gets on your fingers. What happens when you get super glue in your eyes?
Today, we’ll answer that. First, with the story of how I caught an eyeful of glue. Following that, I’ll share some general tips for when you find yourself in a sticky situation.
Catch up on the past week of hacks with Hackaday Editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys. “AI on the Edge” is the buzzword of choice lately, with hardware offerings from BeagleBone and Google to satiate your thirst. We take on spotty data from Tesla, driving around on four bouncy-houses, reverse engineering a keytar, unearthing a gem of a dinosaur computer, and MIPI DSI display hacking. There are tips for getting better at commenting code, and making your computer do your algebra homework.
Links for all discussed on the show are found below. As always, join in the comments as we’ll be watching those as we work on next week’s episode!