Manufacturing New Connectors For The Apollo Guidance Computer

The fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission – the flight that first took man to the surface of the moon — is coming up. By the time this post is published, some YouTube channel will invariably be running a real-time-but-delayed-fifty-years live stream of all the mission events, culminating on the wee hours of July 20th where we wait hours for someone to figure out how to open the door.

[CuriousMarc] and space hardware collector [Jimmie Loocke] have a different type of anniversary in mind. They have an Apollo Guidance Computer sitting on a bed in a motel room, and they’re going to get it up and running by July 20th. That’s the plan, at least. This is no easy feat: the Apollo Guidance Computer looks like two 19-inch, 1U rack units, with no standardized connectors to talk to any other hardware. They’ve just figured out the hardest part of this build by making their own NASA-spec contacts. They can now connect external hardware to the AGC, probably for the first time in decades.

As it stands now, there are external ports on the gigantic bricks of aluminum enclosure that comprise the two AGC modules. These ports are just female pin headers, completely unlike any standard that can be found today. However, the folks at Samtec managed to build the male versions of these pin headers for this project. These pins fit the female sockets on one end, and are standard, square-shaped wire wrapped headers on the other. They are mounted in a milled plastic block, and after everything is wired up, [Marc] and [Jimmie] had a direct electrical connection to the Apollo Guidance Computer. The machine lives again.

There’s still a lot of work to do to get these bricks of computer up and running for the 20th, but this is fantastic progress. Already they’re single-stepping the AGC and running the P63 program that landed on the moon. Check out the video below.

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Adobe Neural Net Detects Photoshop Shenanigans

Photoshop can take a bad picture and make it look better. But it can also take a picture of you smiling and make it into a picture of your frowning. Altering images and video can of course be benign, but it can also have nefarious purposes. Adobe teamed up with researchers at Berkeley to see if they could teach a computer to detect a very specific type of photo manipulation. As it turns out, they could.

Using a Photoshop feature called face-aware liquify, slightly more than half of the people tested could tell which picture was the original and which was retouched to alter the facial expression. However, after sufficient training, Adobe’s neural network could solve the puzzle correctly 99% of the time.

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Morse Code Catches Google Swiping Lyrics

We think of Morse code in terms of dots and dashes, but really it’s a kind of binary code. Those symbols might as well be 0s and 1s or any other pair of characters. That attribute is exactly what led to a sting operation a music lyric site called pulled on Google. At issue was a case of song lyrics that had allegedly been stolen by the search giant.

Song lyric sites — just like Google — depend on page views to make revenue. The problem is that in a Google search the lyrics appear on the search page, so there is no longer much incentive to continue to the song lyric site. That’s free enterprise for you, right? It is, but there was a problem. It appears that Google — or, according to Google, one of their partners — was simply copying’s lyrics. How does Genius know the song lyrics were copied? According to news reports in the Wall Street Journal and other sources, they used Morse code.

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Making A Digital Clock A Little More Intuitive

Digital clocks are extremely useful and generally considered pretty easy to read. However, they can sometimes have rather arcane interfaces for setting the time and alarms. For [Michael Wessel], he noted that in the 1980s he had to routinely help his grandparents set their clocks for this very reason. That inspired his most recent project – a digital clock that’s intuitive to use.

Many digital clocks work in the same way, in which a digit of the time is set, before another button is pressed to cycle to the next digit. This can get confusing, so [Michael] went a different way. Instead, each digit can be cycled through using its own button, which can make things easier. It’s not readily apparent how one chooses to set the time, date, or alarm, but it’s an interesting take on how to create such an interface.

The clock relies on an Arduino Mega to run the show, with an RTC for timekeeping and a temperature sensor to boot. There’s also a sound sensor, which allows the alarms to be shut off with the clap of a hand or by shouting “STOP” at the alarm. Overall, it’s a tidy build with that hacker-favourite seven-segment aesthetic. Of course, you can take that very concept to its extremes, too. Video after the break.

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Tiny Tank Inspects Your Crawlspace

If you’ve got some drone or FPV part lying around, this is the build for you. It’s a remote controlled tank, with a camera and video transmitter, that’s only 65 mm x 40 mm x 30 mm in size. Why on Earth would you ever build something so small? You can look around in your crawlspace, I guess. Any way you look at, this thing is tiny.

The tank has traditional tank skid steering through two brushless motors. The battery is one cell, as that’s just about the largest battery you can put in a vehicle so small, and the camera is just off-the-shelf quadcopter stuff set into a 3D printed enclosure. There are a few LEDs for lights. Other than that, it’s just so tiny and so cute.

The builder behind this tank, [honnnest], put up a video going through the build and demonstrating what kind of video you can expect from a tank this small. It’s a bit fast for a tank, and that’s not even considering the scale effects, but if the chassis is 3D printed, you can always print a few reduction gears, too.

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Before Computers: Notched Card Databases

It is hard to remember that practical computers haven’t been around for even a century, yet. Modern computers have been around an even shorter period. Yet somehow people computed tables, kept ledgers, and even wrote books without any help from computers at all. Sometimes they just used brute force but sometimes they used little tricks that we’ve almost forgotten. For example, only a few of us remember how to use slide rules, but they helped send people to the moon. But what did database management look like in, say, 1925? You might think it was nothing but a filing cabinet and someone who knew how to find things in it. But there was actually a better system that had fairly wide use.

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New Contest: Connected World

We’re on the lookout for the most interesting connected projects, things that communicate wirelessly to do something clever. Show us your creations and you can win the Connected World contest.

Chances are you’ve already been automating the world around you with wireless connections. This could be as simple as WiFi, or as convoluted as systems separated by miles yet connected via line-of-site laser communications. It could be 433 MHz wireless modules, or Bluetooth steering wheel control for your miniature robot. We’d really like to see a washing machine with a satellite uplink but we’d better be careful what we wish for.

We’ll pick the top 20 entries based on your creativity, execution, functionality, and how well you tell the backstory. Each will receive a free PCB coupon for up to $50 from OSH Park. Additionally, we’ll award the title of Best Project, Best Aesthetic, Best Documentation, and Best Media to four entries and give each a $100 Tindie gift card.

Don’t delay, put your project up on and use the dropdown box on the left sidebar to enter it in the Connected World contest.