Modern electronics such as phone and laptop chargers are pretty versatile no matter where you find yourself in the world. Capable of running off anything from 100-250V, all you need is a socket adaptor and you’re good to go. Video game consoles of the 1990s weren’t so flexible however. [MattKC] was tired of messing around with step down transformers to run his US market N64, and decided to rectify this, building a universal adapter to run the console instead.
It’s a proper hacked build, assembled out of a jumble of old parts. An broken N64 power adapter was harvested for its case and unique DC plug, which carries 12V and 3.3V to the console. Few compact power supplies exist delivering this pair of voltages, so [MattKC] got creative. An old router was sourced for its 12V 2A supply, and was combined with a 3.3V buck converter to supply both rails. With some creative bodging and plenty of mounting tape, the supplies were crammed inside the original case and wired up to the original jack and a figure 8 cable, allowing easy socket changes in different countries without the use of ugly adapters.
Certified space-nerd and all-around retro-tech guru [Fran Blanche] has just outdone herself with a comprehensive look at how NASA ran the Mission Control “Big Boards” that provided flight data for controllers for Apollo and for the next 20 years of manned spaceflight.
We’ve got to admit, [Fran] surprised us with this one. We had always assumed that the graphs and plots displayed in front of the rows of mint-green consoles and their skinny-tie wearing engineers were video projections using eidophor projectors. And to be sure, an eidophor, the tech of which [Jenny] profiled a while back, was used on one of the screens to feed video into Mission Control, either live from the Moon or from coverage of the launch and recovery operations. But even a cursory glance at the other screens in front of “The Pit” shows projections of a crispness and clarity that was far beyond what 1960s video could achieve.
Instead, plots and diagrams were projected into the rear of the massive screens using a completely electromechanical system. Glass and metal stencils were used to project the icons, maps, and grids, building up images layer by layer. Colors for each layer were obtained by the use of dichroic filters, and icons were physically moved to achieve animations. Graphs and plots were created Etch-a-Sketch style, with a servo-controlled stylus cutting through slides made opaque with a thin layer of metal. The whole thing is wonderfully complex, completely hacky, and a great example of engineering around the limits of technology.
Hats off to [Fran] for digging into this forgotten bit of Space Race tech. Seeing something like this makes the Mission Control centers of today look downright boring by comparison.
What could be more terrifying than ghosts, goblins, or clowns? How about a shapeless pile of fright on your bedroom floor that only moves when you’re not looking at it? That’s the idea behind [Sciencish]’s nightmare robot, which is lurking after the break. The Minecraft spider outfit is just a Halloween costume.
In this case, “looking at it” equates to you shining a flashlight on it, trying to figure out what’s under the pile of clothes. But here’s the thing — it never moves when light is shining on it. It quickly figures out the direction of the light source and lies in wait. After you give up and turn out the flashlight, it spins around to where the light was and starts moving in that direction.
The brains of this operation is an Arduino Uno, four light-dependent resistors, and a little bit of trigonometry to find the direction of the light source. The robot itself uses two steppers and printed herringbone gears for locomotion. Its chassis has holes in it that accept filament or wire to make a cage that serves two purposes — it makes the robot into more of an amorphous blob under the clothes, and it helps keep clothes from getting twisted up in the wheels. Check out the demo and build video after the break, because this thing is freaky fast and completely creepy.
While we usually see a candy-dispensing machine or two every Halloween, this year has been more about remote delivery systems. Don’t just leave sandwich bags full of fun size candy bars all over your porch, build a candy cannon or a spooky slide instead.
Electric utilities across the world have been transitioning their meters from the induction analog style with a distinctive spinning disc to digital “smart” meters which aren’t as aesthetically pleasing but do have a lot of benefits for utilities and customers alike. For one, meter readers don’t need to visit each meter every month because they are all networked together and can download usage data remotely. For another, it means a lot of analog meters are now available for projects such as this clock from [Monta].
The analog meters worked by passing any electricity used through a small induction motor which spun at a rate proportional to the amount of energy passing through it. This small motor spun a set of dials via gearing in order to keep track of the energy usage in the home or business. To run the clock, [Monta] connected a stepper motor with a custom transmission to those dials for the clock face because it wasn’t possible to spin the induction motor fast enough to drive the dials. An Arduino controls that stepper motor, but can’t simply drive the system in a linear fashion because it needs to skip a large portion of the “minutes” dials every hour. A similar problem arises for the “hours” dials, but a little bit of extra code solves this problem as well.
Once the actual clock is finished, [Monta] put some finishing touches on it such as backlighting in the glass cover and a second motor to spin the induction motor wheel to make the meter look like it’s running. It’s a well-polished build that makes excellent use of some antique hardware, much like one of his other builds we’ve seen which draws its power from a Stirling engine.
[Shane] initially intended to modify his barber robot, but ended up with a complete redesign, reusing only the electronics and the large ring bearing in the base. The swiveling spindle is a rotating gantry with two sets of aluminum extrusions for vertical and horizontal motion. The gantry isn’t very rigid, but it’s good enough for pumpkin carving. Software is the most challenging part of the endeavor due to the complexity of five-axis motion and mapping 2D images onto a roughly spherical surface. Cartographers have dealt with this for a long time, so [Shane] turned to Mercator projection to solve the problem. We’re also relieved to hear that we aren’t the only ones who sometimes struggle with equation-heavy Wikipedia pages.
Since there are no perfectly spherical pumpkins, [Shane] wrote a script to probe the surface of the pumpkin with a microswitch before cutting, appropriately named “TSA.exe”. The machine is capable of carving both profiles and variable depth lithophanes, mostly of [Shane]’s long-suffering wife. She seriously deserves an award for holding onto her sense of humor.
A recent writeup by Tom Nardi about using the 6502-based NES to track satellites brought back memories of my senior project at Georgia Tech back in the early 80s. At our club station W4AQL, I had become interested in Amateur Radio satellites. It was quite a thrill to hear your signal returning from space, adjusting for Doppler as it speeds overhead, keeping the antennas pointed, all while carrying on a brief conversation with other Earth stations or copying spacecraft telemetry, usually in Morse code.
There’s just one week left until Hackaday Remoticon, our online gathering in place of our traditional in-person conference during this time of social distancing. Joining the more than 20 hands-on workshops that make up the bulk of Remoticon, we’re excited to announce the two keynote speakers who will be taking the virtual stage: Alfred Jones and Kipp Bradford.
Tickets to see these keynote talks, to watch the SMD Challenge, to see hardware demos, and to take part in the show and tell are free, so get yours today!
Head of Mechanical Engineering at Lyft’s Self-Driving Division
Alfred Jones is the Head of Mechanical Engineering at Lyft’s level 5 self-driving division. Level 5 means there are no humans involved in operating the vehicle and it is still capable of driving anywhere a human could have. What goes into modifying a vehicle for this level of self-driving? What processes does his team use to deliver safe automation? And will cars in the near future completely get rid of the driver’s seat? Alfred knows and we’ll be hanging on his every word!
CTO fo Treau
Kipp Bradford is the CTO of Treau, a company bringing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) into the information age. These systems contribute as much as 20% of global emissions each year, so even small efficiency gains stand to have a huge impact. The industry has remained nearly unchanged for decades, and Kipp is at the forefront of evolving the hidden systems found in nearly every building. Will the air conditioner of tomorrow make the one we have today look like a rotary telephone? We look forward to hearing what Kipp has to say about it.
We’re so excited to have these two phenomenal speakers who have also both been involved as expert judges in the Hackaday Prize (Alfred in 2020, Kipp in 2017 and 2018). Help us show our appreciation by packing the virtual lecture halls for their talks on Saturday, November 7th! Get your free ticket now.