A 6502 Computer, With Acres Of Breadboard And Dozens Of Chips

Imagine you’re time-warped back to 1979 and tasked with constructing a personal computer. Could you do it? [RadicalBrad] thinks he can, and his 6502-based “Super VIC” build looks like it’s off to a great retrocomputing start.

Most emulations of old hardware these days go the FPGA route, and while we respect those projects immensely, there’s something to be said for applying a highly artificial constraint at the outset of a project. [RadicalBrad] chose to design like it’s 1979, and limited his ode to the machines of his youth to the 6502 CPU and logic and RAM chips available before 1980. The computer will support NTSC video output and 4-channels of 8-bit sound. No circuit boards will be used – everything is to be assembled on solderless breadboards. So far he has 48 (!) of them ganged together, which sounds like an enormous amount of space to work with, but he still found things crowded enough that some of the DIP bodies were trimmed a bit to fit more closely on the breadboards. The SRAM posed a problem, though, in that the 512K chips he wanted were not available in DIPs. To stay faithful to the constraints, he soldered the SOJ-packaged RAM chips into 40-PIN DIP headers – all 25 chips! We can’t recall a PC of the era sporting 12 megabytes of RAM, but no matter – it’s too cool not to love.

[RadicalBrad] has his work cut out for him, and this could take years to finish. We’re keen to follow his progress and can’t wait till it boots for the first time. Until it does, we’ll just gaze upon such discrete computing wonders as this almost-as-simple-as-possible computer, or even this delightfully noisy adder for a relay computer.

Hiding Messages In Magnets

Magnets have always been fun, particularly since the super-powerful neodymium type became readily available. You can stack them up, pull them apart, or, if you really want, use them for something practical. Now [Adric] has shown us a new use for them entirely – by writing hidden messages on them.

It’s a remarkably simple hack, but ingenious all the same. [Adric] was pretty sure that the Quelab hackerspace laser wasn’t powerful enough to cut or etch a nickel-plated neodymium magnet. However, they suspected it would have just enough power to heat localised parts of the magnet above the Curie temperature, where the magnetic properties of the material break down.

Thus, the laser cutter was set up to run a few passes over some neodymium magnets. By placing a magnetic viewing film over the magnet, it’s possible to make the etched pattern visible. There was also some incidental visible marking of the magnet surface, which [Adric] thinks is due to the tape applied to the magnet before the laser processing.

For those of you operating spy rings in deep cover, you’ve now got a new way to send them secret messages. Just be sure to check in with the local postal service as to their policies regarding giant magnets in the post. Then you can contemplate whether you have the ability to sense magnetic fields.

Arduino Shield Makes Driving Nixies Easy

Nixie tubes are adored by hackers across the world for their warm glow that recalls an age of bitter nuclear standoffs and endless proxy wars. However, they’re not the easiest thing to drive, requiring high voltages that can scare microcontrollers senseless. Thankfully, it’s possible to score an Arduino shield that does the heavy lifting for you.

The HV supply is the heart of any Nixie driver.

The shield uses HV5812 drivers to handle the high-voltage side of things, a part more typically used to drive vacuum fluorescent displays. There’s also a DHT22 for temperature and humidity measurements, and a DS3231 real time clock. It’s designed to work with IN-12 and IN-15 tubes, with the part selection depending on whether you’re going for a clock build or a combined thermometer/hygrometer. There’s also an enclosure option available, consisting of two-tone laser etched parts that snap together to give a rather sleek finished look.

For those looking to spin up their own, code is available on Github and schematics are also available. You’ll have to create your own PCB of course, but there are guides that can help you along that path. If you’re looking to whip up a quick Nixie project to get your feet wet, this might just be what you need to get started. Of course, you can always go straight to hard mode, and attempt a functional Nixie watch. Video after the break.

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Pocket-Sized Deauther Could Definitely Get You In Trouble

Interfering with radio communications, whether through jamming, deauthing attacks, or other meddling, is generally considered a crime, and one that attracts significant penalties. However, studying such techniques should provide a useful edge in the electronic wars to come. In this vein, [Giorgio Filardi] has recently built a WiFi deauther the size of a credit card.

The device has a simple interface, consisting of 3 buttons and a small OLED screen. It can also be accessed remotely and controlled through a web interface. A NodeMCU ESP8266 board runs the show, using [spacehuhn]’s deauther firmware. The point-to-point construction probably won’t hold up to much rough and tumble out in the field, but it’s fine for a bench test. We’d recommend constructing an enclosure if it was to be used more regularly.

There’s plenty of functionality baked in – the device can scan for networks, perform deauth attacks, and even create spoof networks. It’s a tricky little device that serves to highlight several flaws in WiFi security that are yet to be fixed by the powers that be.

Using one of these devices for nefarious purposes will likely get you into trouble. Experimenting on your own networks can be educational, however, and goes to show that wireless networks are never quite as safe as we want them to be.

If you’re wondering as to the difference between deauthentication and jamming, here’s your primer.

Solar Circuit Sculpture Pumms the Night Away

A word of warning: Google for the definition of the word “pummer” at your own risk. Rest assured that this beautiful solar-powered circuit sculpture fits the only definition of pummer that we care to deal with.

For the unfamiliar, a pummer is a device from the BEAM style of robotics, a sort of cyborg plant that absorbs solar energy during the day and turns it into a gently pulsating light that “pumms” away the dark hours.

[Mohit Bhoite]’s take on the pummer is an extraordinary model of a satellite executed mainly in brass rod. His attention to detail on the framework boggles our minds; we could work for days on a brass rod and never achieve the straight lines and perfect corners he did. The wings support two solar cells, while the hull of the satellite holds a dead-bugged 74HC240 octal buffer/line-driver chip and all the other pumm-enabling components. A one farad supercap – mounted to look like a dish antenna – is charged during the day and a single LED beacon blinks into the night.

No schematic is provided, but there are probably enough closeup shots to reverse engineer this, which actually sounds like a fun exercise. (Or you can cheat and fetch the PDF copy of the old Make magazine article that inspired him.)

Hats off to [Mohit] for a top-notch circuit sculpture. We’ve seen similarly detailed and well-executed sculptures from him before; something tells us this won’t be the last.

Thanks to [Varun Reddy] for the tip.

WOPR: Building Hardware Worth Sharing

It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to assume that anyone reading Hackaday regularly has at least progressed to the point where they can connect an LED to a microcontroller and get it to blink without setting anything on fire. We won’t even chastise you for not doing it with a 555 timer. It’s also not a stretch to say if you can successfully put together the “Hello World” of modern electronics on a breadboard, you’re well on the way to adding a few more LEDs, some sensors, and a couple buttons to that microcontroller and producing something that might come dangerously close to a useful gadget. Hardware hacking sneaks up on you like that.

Here’s where it gets tricky: how many of us are still stuck at that point? Don’t be shy, there’s no shame in it. A large chunk of the “completed” projects that grace these pages are still on breadboards, and if we had to pass on every project that still had a full-on development board like the Arduino or Wemos D1 at its heart…well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty.

Of course, if you’re just building something as a personal project, there’s often little advantage to having a PCB spun up or building a custom enclosure. But what happens when you want to build more than one? If you’ve got an idea worth putting into production, you’ve got to approach the problem with a bit more finesse. Especially if you’re looking to turn a profit on the venture.

At the recent WOPR Summit in Atlantic City, there were a pair of presentations which dealt specifically with taking your hardware designs to the next level. Russell Handorf and Mike Kershaw hosted an epic four hour workshop called Strategies for your Projects: Concept to Prototype and El Kentaro gave a fascinating talk about his design process called Being Q: Designing Hacking Gadgets which together tackled both the practical and somewhat more philosophical aspects of building hardware for an audience larger than just yourself.

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Print Your Own Large Format Camera

Just like how vinyl records are seeing a resurgence in an era of digital streaming music, we’re also seeing a lot of people interested in another technology that is as obsolete as it is perfected. The large format camera is back as a kit, it makes huge images, and there’s an Open Source version if you want to print your own.

The Standard 4×5 is a project to build an affordable, lightweight, 3D printed large format camera. It was a Kickstarter project last year, and after a lot of work the project has now been improved with better rails, better bellows, and a lot of refinements.

As an Open Source project, this camera has all the models available, dimensioned drawings for all the metal parts, and a lot of patience required to make your own bellows. With this, you can screw a lens on take a picture, just make sure you get the focus right with some ground glass beforehand.

As for why anyone would want a large format camera, there are a few things that big cameras with tiny apertures can do that nothing else can.  Here’s the pinhole solution for the Standard 4×5 with a laser drilled hole, and with this camera you’re getting an f-stop between f/240 and f/520.