Giving MIDI Organs MIDI Drawbars

This goes back to Bach: if you want to change the sound an organ makes, you have to pull on some drawbars. This design didn’t change for 300 years, and in the 20th century with the advent of ‘tonewheel’ organs, you still had small bars to pull to change what sounds came out of the organ. While this was a simple solution for air-powered organs of the 1700s, when it comes to MIDI, rotary pots are a lot less expensive than linear pots. Given the lack of drawbar MIDI controllers, [Stefano] decided to build his own. It has nine drawbars and eight buttons, all connected to MIDI.

The interesting electromechanical part of this build, the drawbars themselves, are ripped from a Hammond organ. Don’t worry, plenty of these were made and only a handful actually sound good. To that, [Stefano] added a few pushbuttons soldered onto a piece of perfboard, and everything is wired up to a Teensy LC, the microcontroller platform that’s becoming the standard for everything from MIDI controllers to computer keyboards. MIDI over DIN and MIDI over USB are supported, and all the buttons and drawbars are individually programmable. You can even do that through SysEx messages, because that’s how things were done back in the day.

While there are a few MIDI-controlled organs that still use drawbars — the double manual Nord comes to mind imminently — this is a great solution to putting drawbars into anything that speaks MIDI, VSTs included.

Analysing National Budgets With File System Tools

Understanding a national budget can be difficult, with political interests and distorted talking points obscuring the truth. There’s no substitute for diving into the hard data yourself, but it can be difficult to know where to start. [D. Scott Williamson] wanted to do just that, and took an unconventional path – using file system tools to analyse the 2019 US budget.

The basic idea is simple. A file is created for every line item on the budget, and this file is filled with a $ for every million dollars that item costs. These files are sorted into folders for the relevant bureaus and agencies responsible, creating a Fiscal File System representation of the entire budget. The file system can then be analysed with standard tools to get a look at the overall make up of the budget – in this case, WinDirStat does a particularly good job.

It’s a novel way to go about budget analysis, and fills a gap in the market now that Time Plots aren’t producing their Death and Taxes infographics anymore. Pre-cooked file systems covering budgets back to 1977 are available for your perusal, should you need to investigate how things have changed over time.

Unsurprisingly, we haven’t covered the national budget before, but we’re always down to talk file systems.

Random Word Pairings Mark The Time On This Unusual Clock

Gosh, the fun we had when digital calculators became affordable enough that mere grade school students could bring one to class. The discovery that the numbers could be construed as the letters of various dirty words when viewed upside down was the source of endless mirth. They were simpler times.

This four-letter-word “clock” aims to recreate that whimsical time a bit, except with full control over the seven-segment displays and no need to look at it upside down. This descends from a word clock [WhiskeyTangoHotel] made previously and relies on a library of over 1000 four-letter words that can be reasonably displayed using seven-segment displays, most of them SFW but some mildly not. A PICAXE is used to select two of the four-letter words to display every second or so, making this a clock only by the loosest of definitions. Word selection is pseudorandom, seeded by noise from a floating ADC pin, but some of the word pairings in the video below seem to belie a non-random sense of humor. As is, there are over a million pairings possible; it might be fun to add in the full set of two- and three-letter words as well and see what sort of merriment ensues.

While we like the Back to the Future vibe here, we’ve seen some other really nice word clocks lately. There was the one that used PCBs as the mask for the characters, and then a rear-projection word clock that really looks great.

Continue reading “Random Word Pairings Mark The Time On This Unusual Clock”

Flexible PCB Contest Round Up

The 2019 Hackaday Prize, which was announced last week, is very much on everyone’s mind, so much so that we’ve already gotten a great response with a lot of really promising early entries. As much as we love that, the Prize isn’t the only show in town, and we’d be remiss to not call attention to our other ongoing contest: The Flexible PCB Contest.

The idea of the Flexible PCB Contest is simple: design something that needs a flexible PCB. That’s it. Whether it’s a wearable, a sensor, or a mechanism that needs to transmit power and control between two or more moving elements, if a flexible PCB solves a problem, we want to know about it.

We’ve teamed up with Digi-Key for this contest, and 60 winners will receive free fabrication of three copies of their flexible PCB design, manufactured through the expertise of OSH Park. And here’s the beauty part: all you need is an idea! No prototype is necessary. Just come up with an idea and let us know about it. Maybe you have a full schematic, or just a simple Fritzing project. Heck, even a block diagram will do. Whatever your idea is for a flexible PCB project, we want to see it.

To get the creative juices going, here’s a look at a few of the current entries

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Flexible PCB Contest goes through May 29, so you’ve got plenty of time to get an idea together.

Undertale Pinball Machine Is A Work Of Art

Undertale came out in 2015 and took the world by storm. With a heartwrenching story, compelling characters and a soulful soundtrack, it won legions of fans and became an indie gaming legend. Years later,  [Gornkleschnitzer] decided to begin a pinball machine build, and it became a tribute of epic proportions.

No expense was spared on getting the artwork professionally printed, and the results speak for themselves.

Yes, we’re talking about a living, clacking, and breathing Undertale pinball build. [Gornkleschnitzer] demonstrates not only a deep knowledge of the source content, but also a mastery of pinball construction. The build began with a design in Virtual Pinball, which allowed the basic design to be dialled in. This allows things like trick shots and other features to be tested before cutting real parts. With the design roughed out, the real work starts. Full sets of cabinet and playfield decals were professionally printed, flashers installed, and subway tunnels lasercut in steel. All manner of flippers, slingshots and ball troughs were installed, tested, and tweaked in the pursuit of perfection.

The attention to detail is where this machine really shines. The artwork is stunning, and the game is complete with the original soundtrack, including the death theme. There’s even hidden gems like the Tem Shop and bonuses galore to be had.

It’s a stunning pinball machine, and one we’re dying to play for ourselves. If you’re keen to get your feet wet, why not consider starting with a cardboard build? Video after the break. Continue reading “Undertale Pinball Machine Is A Work Of Art”

Nanoparticles Make Mega Difference For “Unweldable” Aluminum

Though much of it is hidden from view, welding is a vital part of society. It’s the glue that holds together the framework of the cars we drive, the buildings we occupy, the appliances we use, and the heavy machinery that keeps us moving forward. Every year, the tireless search continues for stronger and lighter materials to streamline our journey into the future of transportation and space exploration.

Some of these futuristic materials have been around for decades, but the technology needed to weld them lagged behind. A group of researchers at UCLA’s Samueli School of Engineering recently found the key to unlocking the weldability of aluminium alloy 7075, which was developed in the 1940s. By adding titanium carbide nanoparticles to the mix, they were able to create a bond that proved to be stronger than the pieces themselves.

Continue reading “Nanoparticles Make Mega Difference For “Unweldable” Aluminum”

2019 Hackaday Prize Hack Chat

Join us Wednesday, April 17 at noon Pacific time for the 2019 Hackaday Prize Hack Chat!

The 2019 Hackaday Prize was just announced, and this year the theme is designing for manufacturing. The hacker community has come a long, long way in the last few years in terms of the quality of projects we turn out. Things that were unthinkable just a few short years ago are now reduced to practice, and our benches and breadboards are always stuffed with the latest and greatest components and modules, all teaming up to do wondrous things. But what about the next step? Do you have what it takes to turn that mess o’ wires into a product? What skills do you need to add to your repertoire to make sure you can actually capitalize on your prototype — or more importantly, to get your ideas into someone else’s hands where they can actually do some good? That’s what the Hackaday Prize is all about this year, and we want you taking your projects to the next level!

Majenta Strongheart will be hosting the Hack Chat as we discuss:

  • The importance of designing for manufacturing;
  • What tools we have available to turn prototypes into projects;
  • How the Hackaday Prize is set up this year, and why the theme was selected; and
  • Why you should participate in the 2019 Hackaday Prize

You are, of course, encouraged to add your own questions to the discussion. You can do that by leaving a comment on the 2019 Hackaday Prize Hack Chat and we’ll put that in the queue for the Hack Chat discussion.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, April 17, at noon, Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.