The First Real Palmtop

Back before COVID-19, I was walking through the airport towards the gate when suddenly I remembered a document I wanted to read on the flight but had forgotten to bring along. No worry, I paused for a bit on the concourse, reached into my pocket and proceeded to download the document from the Internet. Once comfortably seated on the plane, I relaxed and began reading. Afterwards, I did a little programming in C on a shareware program I was developing.

Today this would be an ordinary if not boring recollection, except for one thing: this happened in the 1990s, and what I pulled out of my pocket was a fully functional MS-DOS computer:

Introducing the HP-200LX, the first real palmtop computer. I used one of these daily up until the mid-2000s, and still have an operational one in my desk drawer. Let’s step back in time and see how this powerful pocket computer began its life. Continue reading “The First Real Palmtop”

Did ET Finally Call Us?

An Australian radio telescope picked up unusual signals back in 2019 and thinks they originated from Proxima Centauri, a scant 4.3 light years from our blue marble. Researchers caution that it almost certainly is a signal of human or natural origin and that more analysis will probably show it didn’t come from Proxima Centauri. But they can’t yet explain it.

The research is from the Breakthrough Listen project, a decade-long SETI project. The 980 MHz BLC-1 signal, as it’s called, meets the tests that identify the signal as interesting. It has a narrow bandwidth, it drifts in frequency consistent with a signal moving away or towards the Earth, and it disappears when the radio telescope points elsewhere.

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We Bet You’ve Never Seen A Pink Denture Synth

At one end of the synthesizer world, there stands commercial instruments designed for the ultimate in sound quality and performance, tailored to the needs of professional musicians. On the other, there are weird, wacky prototypes and artistic builds that aim to challenge our conception of what a synth should be. The VOC-25 by [Love Hultén] falls firmly in the latter category.

The synth is built around the Axoloti Core, a microcontroller board set up for audio experimentation. Packing stereo DACs and ADCs, and MIDI input and output, it’s the perfect base for such a project. Loaded up with vocal samples, it’s played by a keyboard in a fairly typical sense. Where things get interesting is the panel containing 25 sets of plastic teeth. The teeth open and close when the user plays the corresponding note, thanks to a solenoid. Along with the clacking sound of the machinery and pearly whites themselves, it adds quite a creepy vibe to the piece.

With its clean pastel enclosure, we can imagine this piece as the star of an avant-garde filmclip, or merely something to terrify children at a Maker Faire. It’s a fun build, to be sure. We’ve seen some other great experimental synths over the years, too – this 48 Game Boy build comes to mind. Video after the break.

Continue reading “We Bet You’ve Never Seen A Pink Denture Synth”