Replicating 1970s LED Displays

In 1971, Texas Instruments released something no one else had ever seen before. The TIL305 was an alphanumeric display, powered by LEDs. Sure, the technology of the early 70s meant the LEDs weren’t very bright, and the displays were expensive, but if you want a display that’s simply classic, and relatively low-power, you won’t be able to do better than a vintage alphanumeric LED display.

As you would expect, new old stock TIL305s are still pricey, and now everybody has access to cheap PCB manufacturing capabilities and really small LEDs. The DIYTIL305 is an attempt to replicate the vintage stuff, and it looks great.

The vintage, TI-made TIL305 is a printed circuit board that clips into a DIP-14 socket. The LED array is 5×7 pixels, with an extra dot for a decimal point, set on a 0.05″ grid, and a translucent red diffuser. A PCB is easy, and with 0201 LEDs you can get the LED pitch you need. Turning a PCB into a DIP-14 only requires a few machine pin headers, and for the diffuser, this project is using laser cut cast acrylic. It’s simple if you have a pick and place machine or a steady hand, and assembly is a snap.

The final DIYTIL305 boards are being tested right now, but so far the results are great. With the right code on a microcontroller, these displays will blink through the digits 0 through 9, and the alphabet is just a little more code. Since this project is using 0201 LEDs, it also means green, white, blue, orange, and yellow displays are possible, something no one could have dreamed of in 1971.

Only 90s Kids Want Heelys Made From Pallet Wood

The kids are simply cooler than you. While you’re walking around using your feet like an animal, kids have shoes with wheels in their heels. These are called Heelys, and here’s how you make wooden clogs, with wheels in the heels, out of pallet wood. If you have to ask why, you’ll never know.

This build started off with a fairly large maple log, which would be the traditional way to build clogs. After taking this log to the bandsaw and looking inside, [Jackman] found a bit of spalting, or arguably aesthetically pleasing fungal growth. Whether the spalting would look good or not is a matter for debate, but either way [Jackman] decided to change plans and moved over to creating pallet wood clogs. A word of warning about pallet wood: you shouldn’t make anything out of wood from discarded pallets unless you know what you’re doing, and even if you do know what you’re doing there will be someone in the comments telling you that you shouldn’t use wood from discarded pallets. You can check out the comments to this article to verify this fact.

The construction of the clogs started with a few pieces of one inch stock glued up into a gigantic block, then several pieces of half inch stock resawn into quarter inch stock and laminated onto the sole of the clog. This was then shaped using a variety of tools from Arbortech; of note, we have the Turbo Plane, a wood shaping tool for a grinder that sounds more dangerous than it is, the Turbo Shaft, a plunge router or mortiser-sort-of-thing for a grinder that’s much cooler than it sounds, and the Power Chisel, something we can’t even believe exists and hold on here’s all our money.

These tools couldn’t get all the way into the toe of the clog, which meant [Jackman] had to saw down the middle and hollow everything out that way, but this did give him a nice flat surface on the inside to install the Heely wheels. This turns the clogs into something nine-year-olds simultaneously desire and don’t appreciate, because they’re kids.

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Hackaday Links: April 14, 2019

Look at this prototype Apple smartphone from 1993! For a long time, Apple has been in the phone game, with many failed attempts to combine a laptop screen with a phone. The most noteworthy attempt would be the Snow White phone designed around 1982, but this didn’t go to market. Apple tried again in 1993 with the Walt phone, and now we have someone willing to tear open a prototype. The guts are apparently a contemporary PowerBook (something along the lines of a PowerBook 140 or 170), which means you’re probably looking at a 68030 processor and between 2 and 8 Megabytes of RAM. The rest of the hardware looks fairly standard; SCSI drive and a fax/modem adapter. The software, though, is Hypercard. Here’s the video of the thing booting, and it’s an interesting look at the ‘computer appliance’ trend from the late 90s; once again, Apple was ahead of the curve.

Disregarding any of the implications of geopolitics of the time (as we do with these sorts of things), the Horten Ho 299 was a jet-powered flying wing that first flew in 1944. It’s in the Smithsonian now (and on display, at Dulles) and is a weird, strange, but incredibly interesting footnote in aviation history (because of the implications of geopolitics at the time, but again, we’re not going to get into that). Now the Horten flies again. A company unrelated to Herr Horten has recreated the one-man flying wing. It’s a real experimental aircraft now. Sure, it’s a piston-powered airplane, but if you want to fly something that looks even cooler than something Burt Rutan grew out of fiberglass, this is what you want.

For the past few months, Hackster has been running a BadgeLove contest, now the entries are closed and the winners are here. The Badge Of All Badges is a contactless/NFC badge, the blinkiest has some awesome documentation, and the best art is directly from Pokemon Yellow.

Vinyl has made a comeback, and so far we’ve been accepting of that. The album art is better when it’s bigger, and a record is more of an experience than popping in a CD or streaming some music. There’s a reason your favorite Beatles song is the B-side of Abbey Road. What’s the next frontier of high-end audio? Reel to reel, and Thorens is making a new tape machine. First off: it costs thirteen thousand dollars. It’s a quarter inch tape, and yeah, you can totally find a machine that will play quarter inch tapes for far less money.

Due to my vocation, I am awash in press releases every day. This doesn’t give me access to technology trends, far from it. It gives me access to marketing trends. Want to know about the fog, or ‘the cloud at ground level’? The first time anyone with two brain cells saw that phrase was in an unsolicited email, and it’s in my inbox. The latest trend — and I assure you this didn’t happen last year — is advertising explicit targeted towards April 20th. 4/20 is now mainstream, because marketing decided you can sell stuff to stoners. I’m looking at an email right now that starts with, “Hi Brian, With 4/20 fast approaching I thought you’d be interested….” There’s another one for vapes. This year, 4/20 has become a consumer holiday, so this year be on the lookout for the new, innovative ways you’re being sold stuff.

A Peek Inside A Typical British Residential Power Panel

No matter what field you’re in, it’s interesting and instructive to find out how others practice it. That’s especially true with electrical distribution systems, where standards and practices differ from country to country and even between regions. This tour of a typical British residential electrical panel is a great example of the different ways that the same engineering problems can be solved, and the compromises that always attend any design.

We’re used to seeing [Big Clive] tearing interesting devices to bits, but rest assured that this electrical panel remains largely intact as it gives up its secrets. Compared to the distribution panels and circuit breakers common in North American residential construction, the British consumer unit is a marvel of neatness and simplicity. True, the unit on display hasn’t been put into service yet, and things will no doubt change once an electrician is through with it, but the fact that everything is DIN rail mounted is pretty cool. [Clive] explains a few of the quirks of the panel, such as the fact that what looks like a main breaker is in fact just an isolation switch, and that there are a pair of residual current devices (RCDs), which we call ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in North America, that also don’t act as circuit breakers, despite appearances. A stout bus bar is provided to link the RCDs to adjacent circuit breakers, forming two groups that are separately protected from ground faults.

[Clive] notes with dismay that the lugs of the bus bar can actually be inserted behind the rising clamp terminal on the breaker, resulting in poor connections and overheating. Still, we wouldn’t mind some of these concepts brought to panels in North America, which we covered a bit in a discussion on circuit protection a while back.

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Building Your Own Guitar Pickup From Scrap

Pickups are a key part of an electric guitar’s sound. You can spend a king’s ransom on tracking down just the right Vintage American Original 1950s Whatevers (TM) to put in your Spudocaster, but it’s not the only way. [Keith Decent] decided to make a pickup from scratch, using only materials found lying around the workshop. (Youtube, embedded below).

To build a pickup, you’ll want some magnet wire. In this case, [Keith] harvests this from an old transformer. A pickup body is then constructed from an old wooden ruler and some machine screws. A drill is used to spin the pickup body while the wire is roughly wound on, and everything is then held together with lashings of hot glue.

It’s a grungy build with a very Mad Max vibe – with the perfect aesthetic to suit [Keith]’s junkbox guitar build. The sound is good, but difficult to rate accurately when used on a guitar with slightly imperfect intonation. We’d love to hear it installed on a well-tuned body to get a better comparison.

It goes to show you don’t need to spend money on new parts and tools to get a build started. Sometimes you can make something perfectly functional with stuff you have lying around at home. Video after the break.

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Bringing A Child’s Play Kitchen To Life

Given how many adults will go out of their way to avoid spending any extended amount of time in the kitchen, it’s pretty amazing how much children love playing in their miniature versions. Especially since they tend to be pretty simple: usually they’re little more than different sized boxes made out of MDF to represent the refrigerator, oven, and microwave. Of course, some kids are fortunate enough to have hackers and makers for parents.

[Brian Lough] wanted to get his two year old daughter her own play kitchen, but wasn’t terribly impressed with anything on the market. So he decided to start with the IKEA Duktig and add in his own personal touches to turn the stark white playset into something that would really get his daughter’s imagination going. With the liberal application of RGB LEDs and microcontrollers, her kitchen is sure to be envy of the sandbox.

Being the class act that he is, [Brian] starts his write-up acknowledging the various IKEA Duktig hacks and modifications that served as inspiration for his own build. Most of the prior art out there relates to making the microwave and oven a bit more exciting with the addition of lights and sounds, which ultimately ended up being the way he approached his daughter’s version as well.

For the oven, [Brian] decided to add some big arcade buttons over the door which would change the color of the RGB LEDs inside. He thought this association would be a good way to help his daughter learn her colors, since she’ll be able to see the oven change color when she presses the corresponding button. He also added a knob to control the intensity of the light, meant to be analogous to the temperature control in a real oven.

The modifications to the microwave are a bit more extensive, including a “timer” made out of a TM1637 LED display in a 3D printed panel complete with a buzzer to indicate when the plastic food has been thoroughly illuminated. [Brian] even made it so the LEDs in the NeoPixel ring light up in a spinning pattern to cast some shadows and simulate movement. He notes that the microwave was actually a bit overwhelming to his daughter at first, but after a couple months of getting used to the functions, she enjoys it as much as the oven.

While hacking a play kitchen might be new territory for him, [Brian] is no stranger to building awesome stuff. We’ve previously seen him put together a YouTube subscriber counter in the style of Tetris, and he even managed to create a gorgeous looking display out of shoelaces of all things.

Clock Mod Brings Super Game Boy To Competitive Arena

For one time small window between 1994 and 1998, you could play Game Boy games in color with a Super Game Boy. This was a cartridge that plugged into a Super Nintendo, and using proprietary Lock-On™ technology, you could play Game Boy games on the big screen. Inside the Super Game Boy was the guts of a real Game Boy. This was, and still is, the best way to experience everything from Kirby’s Dream Land or the Pokemon of Kanto.

Unfortunately, the Super Game Boy doesn’t exactly replicate the Game Boy experience. The crystal in the Super Game Boy means that games and sound run between 2 and 4% faster. The Super Game Boy is out for competitive speed running, and if you’re using Little Sound DJ, you’ll be out of tune with the rest of the band. The Super Game Boy doesn’t have link cable support, either.

Now, [qwertymodo] over on Tindie has the solution to the faster Super Game Boy. It’s a clock mod, but it’s not just swapping a crystal. This is a board that solders to existing pads, and still allows you to access the speed up and slow down functions available from the Commander controller from Hori. It’s a slightly impressive bit of PCB art, and certainly something that deserves notice.

This mod fixes the 2-4% speedup of the Super Game Boy, but then there’s still one feature missing: the link cable. Well, hold on to your butts, because there’s a mod for this one too. The Super Game Boy Link Port is a small little breakout board that requires fly wires to the main chip in the Super Game Boy. The installation isn’t quite as clean as the crystal hack, but if you’re fixing the clock, you might as well add the link cable port while you’re in there.

[qwertymodo] has a comparison test of the Super Game Boy running Pokemon Red, and this thing is dead on. It runs at exactly the same speed as an original Game Boy, only in color, on a TV. You can check that out below.

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