Commodore Tape Drive Emulator On A Raspberry Pi

We imagine most of the people reading Hackaday have an old Raspberry Pi or two laying around. It’s somewhat less likely you’ve still got an 8-bit Commodore in working condition, but we’d wager there’s more than a few in the audience that can count themselves among both groups. So why not introduce them?

[RhinoDevel] writes in to tell us about CBM Tape Pi , an open source Commodore tape drive emulator for Raspberry Pi that needs only a handful of passive components to get wired up. Even better, the project targets the older Pis that are more likely to be languishing around in the parts bin. In the video after the break, a Commodore PET can be seen happily loading content from the original Raspberry Pi with its quaint little composite video connector.

Without any special software on the Commodore itself, the project allows the user to load and save PRGs on the Pi’s SD card, as well as traverse directories. Don’t expect stellar I/O, as [RhinoDevel] notes that no fast loader is currently implemented. Of course if you’re enough of a devotee to still be poking around a VIC-20 or C64 this far into 21st century, then we imagine you’ve got enough patience to get by.

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Simple “Computer” From The ’60s Now 3D Printed

Now is an amazing time to be involved in the hobby electronics scene. There are robots to build, cheap microcontrollers which are easy to program, and computers themselves are able to be found for very low prices. That wasn’t the case in the 1960s though, where anyone interested in “electronics” might have had a few books about ham radios or some basic circuits. If you were lucky though, you may have found a book from 1968 that outlined the construction of a digital computer made out of paperclips that [Mike Gardi] is hoping to replicate.

One of the first components that the book outlines is building an encoder, which can convert a decimal number to binary. In the original book the switches were made from paper clips and common household parts, but [Mike] is using a more reliable switch and some 3D prints to build his. The key of the build is the encoder wheel and pegs, which act as the “converter” between decimal and binary and actually performs the switching.

It’s a fairly straightforward build, but by working through the rest of the book the next steps are to build two binary encoders and hook all of them up to an ALU which will give him most of a working computer from long lost 1960s lore. He’s been featured recently for building other computers from this era as well.

Thanks to [DancesWithRobots] for the tip!

An Open Source Boating Autopilot With Some Custom Tweaks

Piloting a boat is all well and good, but can get dull when you’d rather be reclining on the deck with a cold beverage in hand. For [Timo Birnschein], this simply wouldn’t do. He began to gather parts to put together an autopilot to keep his boat on the straight and narrow.

The build is based around OpenPlotter, which uses a battery of marine-ready software to handle routing charts, autopiloting, and providing a compass heading for navigation. Naturally, it all runs on a Raspberry Pi. In combination with PyPilot, it can be used to let the vessel drive itself around a series of waypoints, allowing you to soak up the atmosphere on the water without having to constantly steer the craft.

[Timo] ran into some issues, however, with the hardware side of things. Existing implementations for motor control to drive the rudder weren’t quite cutting it, so the system was reworked to run with a robust H-bridge and some fresh Arduino code. This was combined with a custom rudder sensor built with a potentiometer and some 3D printed gears. Future work aims to double up the rudder sensors for redundancy, something we should all consider at times.

Overall, the system is starting to come together, and [Timo]’s enjoying letting his boat think for itself. He notes that it’s very important to keep an eye on the boat while operating in this condition, lest it veer off course – many a boat has been lost this way. We’re always supporters of a mature attitude towards autonomous vehicle operations!

Tidy Board Rework Uses Flex PCBs, No Wires

PCB rework for the purpose of fixing unfortunate design problems tends to involve certain things: thin wires (probably blue) to taped or glued down components, and maybe some areas of scraped-off soldermask. What are not usually involved are flexible PCBs, but [Paul Bryson] shows us exactly how flex PCBs can be used to pull off tricky rework tasks.

It all started when [Paul] had a run of expensive PCBs with a repeated error; a design mistake that occurred in several places in the board. Fixing with a bunch of flying wires leading to some glued-on components just wasn’t his idea of tidy. A more attractive fix would be to make a small PCB that could be soldered in place of several of the ICs on the board, but this idea had a few problems: the space available into which to cram a fix wasn’t always the same, and the footprints of the ICs to be replaced were too small to accommodate a PCB with castellated mounting holes as pads anyway.

It’s about then that he got a visit from the Good Idea Fairy, recalling that fab houses have recently offered “flex” PCBs at a reasonable cost. By mounting the replacement parts on a flex PCB, the board-level connection could reside on the other end of an extension. Solder one end directly to the board, and the whole flexible thing could be bent around or under on a case-by-case basis, and secured in whatever way made sense. Soldering the pads of the flex board to the pads on the PCB was a bit tricky, but easy enough to pull off reliably with a bit of practice. A bonus was that the flex PCB is transparent, so solder bridges are easy to spot. He even mocked up a solution for QFP packages that allows easy pin access.

Flex PCBs being available to hobbyists and individuals brings out fresh ideas and new twists on old ones, which is why we held a Flexible PCB Design Contest earlier this year. Repairs were definitely represented as applications, but not to the extent that [Paul] has shown. Nice work!

A Nixie Radio Clock Fit For A Victorian Mad Scientist

[Ioszelos] built a nixie clock with a dizzying array of features.

Do you ever wish that you could log in to your clock from your phone and turn off your TV? We assume that [Ioszelos] did. The clock can also play MP3s and stream radio stations. It can record the indoor temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure. Did we mention it’s an FM radio too? We’re not sure, but we wouldn’t be surprised if there was a faucet hiding somewhere on the contraption.

A team effort shared between an ESP32 and Mega 2560 run the Rube Goldberg-like show. Custom boards were spun up to provide the control and voltages needed for the nixie tubes. The clock is constructed from machined plates and 3D printed files.

It all comes together in a steampunk reminiscent assembly. The glow from the RGB leds and nixie tubes combine to make an interesting visual effect. We’ve certainly never seen a clock quite like it before.

Linux Fu: Stupid SSH Tricks

If you connect to remote computers over the Internet, it is a pretty good chance you use some form of SSH or secure shell. On Linux or Unix you’ll use the ssh command. Same goes for Linux-like environments on Windows like Cygwin or WSL. For native Windows, you might be using Putty. In its simplest form, ssh is just a terminal program that talks to a server using an encrypted connection. We think it is very hard to eavesdrop on anyone communicating with a remote computer via ssh.

There are several tricks for using ssh — some are pretty straightforward and some are things you might not think of as being in the domain of a terminal program. You probably know that ssh can copy files securely, and there are easy and hard ways to set up logging in with no password.

However, you can also mount a remote filesystem via ssh (actually, there are several ways to do that). You can use ssh to securely browse the web in your favorite browser, or even use it to tunnel specific traffic by port or even use it as a makeshift VPN. In fact, there’s so much ground to cover that this won’t be the last Linux Fu to talk about ssh. But enough setup, let’s get to the tricks.

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