What Will You Do With An Extra 1.2 Gigahertz?

While our collective minds have been turned towards the global pandemic it’s refreshing to hear that in some quarters life has continued, and events that would have made the news in more normal times have continued to take place while they have been replaced in coverage by more urgent considerations.

In the last few weeks there has been a piece of routine American bureaucracy that flew under the radar but which will have a significant effect on global technology; the United States’ Federal Communication Commission first proposed, then ratified, the allocation of an extra 1200 MHz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band to ISM usage. This allocation process is likely to be repeated by other regions worldwide, freeing up another significant piece of spectrum for unlicensed usage.

In practice this means that there will be a whole new set of WiFi channels created, and we’ll all have a little more spectrum to play around with, so it’s worth examining in a little more detail. Continue reading “What Will You Do With An Extra 1.2 Gigahertz?”

21st Century Cheating: WiFi In A Calculator

Obviously, we would never endorse cheating on an exam, but sometimes a device is just too tempting to be left untouched. For [Neutrino], it was an old Casio calculator that happened to have a perfectly sized solar panel to fit a 128×32 OLED as replacement. But since the display won’t do much on its own, he decided to connect it to an ESP8266 and mount it all inside the calculator’s housing, turning it into a spy-worthy, internet-connected cheating device, including a stealthy user interface controlled by magnets instead of physical buttons. (Video, embedded below.)

Editor’s Update: Please read our follow-up coverage to the copyright claims made against this project. The video linked above and embedded below are unavailable due to these claims, despite widespread belief that this project does not violate copyright. For now, the original video is available via the Internet Archive.

To achieve the latter, [Neutrino] added two Hall effect sensors and a reed switch inside each end of the calculator. Placing a magnet — possibly hidden in a pen cap — near the reed switch will turn the display on, and placing another magnet near the Hall-effect sensors will navigate through the display’s interface, supporting two inputs with long, short, and multi-tap gestures each. To obtain information through WiFi, the ESP8266 connects to Firebase as backend, allowing to set up predefined content to fetch, as well as a possibility to communicate with your partner(s) in crime through a simple chat program.

As the main idea was to keep visible modifications to a minimum, one shortcoming is that charging the additional battery that powers the whole system would require an additional, external charging circuit. But [Neutrino] had a solution for that as well, and simply exposed two wires to the back, which could easily be mistaken for random solder splatters. And well, of course, requiring WiFi might also be tricky in some situations, so maybe you might want to consider a mobile network upgrade for yourself.

Continue reading “21st Century Cheating: WiFi In A Calculator”

Drumming A Beat On A Hundred-Year-Old Typewriter

We have seen a fair share of unusual items being turned into musical instruments. Luckily, with a little bit of hacking it is possible to turn almost anything into a MIDI controller. [William Sun Petrus] just converted a 1920s typewriter into a drum machine and delivers a hell of a live performance on it.

The build is rather simple, all [William Sun Petrus] needed was an Arduino Mega and lots of wires to convert a hundred-year-old Remington typewriter into a MIDI controller. Whenever a key is pressed the hammer hits a metal plate at the center of the typewriter and closes the contact between one of the Arduino’s IO pins and the 5 V rail like a regular push button. The Arduino code is based on the MIDI library sending commands to a PC which is running Hairless MIDI and Ableton. As sort of a gimmick, [William Sun Petrus] included an LCD screen which shows a line from Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss every time a key is pressed.

Interestingly, the latency due to the hammer’s travel time does not disturb [William Sun Petrus’] live play. To calm the skeptics in the comments he also released an unedited version of the video to prove that the performance is real and an instructional video on how to play his beat note by note.

Other unusual MIDI controllers include a bandoneon accordion or this English concertina.

Video after the break.

Continue reading “Drumming A Beat On A Hundred-Year-Old Typewriter”