EDSAC Lives In MiSTer

There’s a lot of argument over which was the first modern computer to be built. There’s room for debate, but EDSAC — the work of Dr. Maurice Wilkes — certainly was among the first. While we’ve seen simulators before, [hrvach’s] FPGA-based simulator for the MiSTer platform has a lot going for it. Check out the video, below.

So much of what we take for granted today was first developed on the EDSAC. For example, the “Wheeler jump” (named after graduate student David Wheeler) was the origin of the idea of a subroutine.

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DIY Neuralyzer From Scrap Parts

Cosplay and prop making are near and dear to our hearts here at Hackaday. That’s why whenever we see sci-fi tech brought to life, we can’t help but pay close attention. Enter [How to make’s] DIY Neuralyzer, from the Men-in-Black franchise. Unfortunately, this won’t wipe your memories as the real-life Neuralyzer would, but it will make for a cool prop at your next cosplay event.

What makes this project worth sharing is its use of very simple home tools and a bit of scrap metal, some PVC, a single LED, a switch, and maybe a few more miscellaneous bits. The base of the design is composed of two pieces of hollow, rod-shaped scrap metal and a single spring that mechanizes the entire setup.

The video is a few months old at this point. It took a recent post on Reddit to send this across our feed, but we’re glad we came across it.

Great project [How to make]! May we suggest a few more LEDs?

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High Voltage Experiment Pipes Power With Water

The idea of transferring energy with water isn’t exactly new. In fact, it’s downright ancient. Running water has been tapped to power our contrivances since folks were getting excited about that new library they were opening up over in Alexandria. But what if there was a way to deliver power with water that wasn’t kinetic, and instead relied on the electrical properties of the planet’s favorite libation?

That’s exactly what [Jay Bowles] set out to explore with his latest experiment. Since water (we know, not pure water) conducts electricity, it stands to reason that it could be used as a stand-in for traditional copper wiring. Why would you want to do such a thing? Because unlike wires, water can easily morph into whatever shape may be required, and can be moved around and controlled with nothing more complex than ball valves.

To test this concept, [Jay] put together a water distribution system out of simple acrylic tubing. A reservoir was attached to one of his high voltage generators, and copper caps were placed at the end of the tubes to serve as direct attachment points for devices.

But thanks to capacitive coupling, the fluorescent lights he uses don’t actually need to be physically connected to light up. As demonstrated in the video after the break, the lights surrounding the system can be independently controlled just by turning their respective valves on and off; all without any physical contact being made.

Of course, compared to traditional wiring there are plenty of downsides to this idea. Copper wires don’t tend to freeze in the winter and spring a leak, nor do they build up bubbles of explosive hydrogen gas. So it’s safe to say the wiring in your house probably won’t ever be replaced with a tube of charged water. But [Jay] does have some interesting ideas of how this technique could be used in non-traditional ways. For example, he describes how outdoor lighting could be powered by the energy radiating from a small stream.

Even if the practical applications of this technique are somewhat limited, there’s no question that it’s a fascinating idea. Believing that he’s the first person to ever demonstrate power transmission under these specific circumstances, he’s decided to call the concept “Bowles Transmission”. We’d love to see somebody use this principle in one of their projects, and we’re willing to bet so would [Jay].

As with his recent ozone sterilization experiments, we imagine this idea is going to be met with some debate. But that’s sort of the point. [Jay] doesn’t claim to have all the answers, and hopes these videos get people thinking and talking. As they say, nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

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Laundry Monitor Won’t Generate Static With Roommates

Laundry. It’s one of life’s inescapable cycles, but at least we have machines now. The downside of this innovation is that since we no longer monitor every step — the rock-beating, the river-rinsing, the line-hanging and -retrieving — the pain of laundry has evolved into the monotony of monitoring the robots’ work.

[Adam] shares his wash-bots with roommates, and they aren’t close enough to combine their lights and darks and turn it into a group activity. They needed an easy way to tell when the machines are done running, and whose stuff is even in there in the first place, so [Adam] built a laundry machine monitor that uses current sensing to detect when the machines are done running and sends a text to the appropriate person.

Each machine has a little Hall effect-sensing module that’s carefully zip-tied around its power cable. The signal from these three-wire boards goes high when the machine is running and low when it’s not. At the beginning of the load, the launderer simply presses their assigned button on the control box, and the ESP32 inside takes care of the rest.

Getting a text when your drawers are clean is about as private as it gets. Clean underwear, don’t care? Put it on a scrolling marquee.

Purdue Meta-AR-App Allows Instructors And Students To Build Their Own AR Learning Content

Augmented reality (AR) in the classroom has garnered a bit of interest over the years, but given the increased need for remote and virtual learning these days, it might be worth taking a closer look at what AR can offer. Purdue University’s C Design Lab thinks they’ve found a solution in their Meta-AR platform. The program allows an instructor to monitor each student’s work in real-time without being in the same classroom as the student. Not only that, but the platform allows students to collaborate in real-time with each other giving each other tips and feedback while also being able to interact with each other’s work, no matter where they may be physically located.

What we find really cool is the real-time feedback the software provides to the students. The system can sense what the students are touching and can help students in their given task, providing real-time feedback on what they are doing, how things should fit together, and what type of outcomes the students can expect given their trajectory. It also appears the system isn’t limited to AR markers but provides a very expansive toolbox for instructors and students to build on. C Design Lab is doing quite a bit of user feedback studies, continually incorporating input from students to further the platform. That’s definitely critical to ensuring the system is user-friendly.

We can easily see how something like this might scale to an industrial setting for training people how to use complex machinery, to a medical school to help prepare students to do surgery or to help develop molecular diagnostics tools. Check out the other learning tools C Design Lab is developing.

Electric Vehicles Continue The Same Wasteful Mistakes That Limit Longevity

A while back, I sat in the newish electric car that was the pride and joy of a friend of mine, and had what was at the time an odd experience. Instead of getting in, turning the key, and driving off, the car instead had to boot up.

The feeling was of a piece of software rather than a piece of hardware, and there was a tangible wait before the start button could be pressed. It was a miracle of technology that could travel smoothly and quietly for all but the longest journeys I could possibly throw at it on relative pennies-worth of electricity, but I hated it. As a technologist and car enthusiast, I should be all over these types of motor vehicles. I live for new technology and I lust after its latest incarnations in many fields including automobiles.

I want my next car to have an electric motor, I want it to push the boundaries of what is capable with a battery and I want it to be an automotive tour de force. The switch to electric cars represents an opportunity like no other to deliver a new type of car that doesn’t carry the baggage of what has gone before, but in that car I saw a future in which they were going badly astray.

I don’t want my next vehicle to be a car like my friend’s one, and to understand why that is the case it’s worth going back a few decades to the cars my parents drove back when when jumpers were goalposts, and the home computer was just a gleam in the eye of a few long-haired outsiders in California.

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Hackaday Podcast 067: Winking Out Of IoT, Seas Of LEDs, Stuffing PCBs, And Vectrex Is Awesome

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams explore the coolest hacks of the past 168 hours. The big news this week: will Wink customers pony up $5 a month to turn their lights on and off? There’s a new open source design for a pick and place machine. You may not have a Vectrex gaming console, but there’s a scratch-built board that can turn you oscilloscope into one. And you just can’t miss this LED sign technology that programs every pixel using projection mapping.

Direct download (~60 MB)

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