Hackaday Podcast 109: Cars That Suck, A Synth Packed With 555s, X-ray Letter Reading, And Pecking At A PS/2 Keyboard

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams riff on the week’s most interesting hacks. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect piece of art than an original Pong circuit board mounted in a shadow box and playable along with some tasty FPGA tricks to capture the original look of the screen. You could make a synth with a 555 timer, but what about using 20 of them for perfect polyphony? We ogle an old video showing off a clever toothed-disc CNC machine for cutting pastry with a water jet. And the episode wouldn’t be complete without looking at the strange tech that goes into making a fan car.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

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7 thoughts on “Hackaday Podcast 109: Cars That Suck, A Synth Packed With 555s, X-ray Letter Reading, And Pecking At A PS/2 Keyboard

  1. I heard “…start bit, stop bit, and a parody bit…”

    But yeah, I remember back in the day when you were writing a game in BASIC, you would use the INKEY$ function to read the keyboard buffer every iteration of your main loop, and it would have a positive byte value for a key press and a negative value for a key lift, which you would use to keep a table of all keys that were pressed simultaneously. Unlike USB keyboards, you could press EVERY key of the keyboard simultaneously. Doesn’t work with modern hardware.

    Kids these days don’t even know how you would have up to four people playing a game split-screen on the same keyboard, shoulder to shoulder.

    Regarding the fan car and why they were banned:

    The movable aerodynamic feature was about the need to have a movable skirt to keep a tight seal around the car. They couldn’t have made it like the soft billowing skirts of a hovercraft, since it was negative pressure underneath the car, so they had to make a rigid lip that just skimmed the surface. They had to make it move up and down with the suspension system, or else it would have hit the ground and torn away.

      1. Well, it was an aerodynamic feature, and it was movable.

        Another example of the same “cheat” was the Lotus 78 ‘wing car’ which had sliding rubber skirts that enhanced the ground effect by sealing the underbody of the car to the road. Then other teams made cars with rear spoilers that open up into slats to reduce drag and gain more top speed… etc. etc. until the cars were starting to resemble low-flying airplanes and the ONLY thing that kept them to the road was the wings.

        This created issues with the cars going faster than the drivers could react and cornering with enormous G forces and hoping the car doesn’t just flip over when the aerodynamics fail. This was the crazy years of F1 when some of the drivers needed psychological counseling after a race because of the absolute ridiculous stress they went through. You had to be going fast enough all the time for the aerodynamics to work – like an F1 version of the so-called “coffin corner”.

      2. Censorship strikes again.

        It was Lotus who came up with the movable skirt idea to make a ground effect car that sucks itself to the road, and Brabham one-upped them by adding the fans for the same point. Both had the effect of increasing cornering speeds to the point that the drivers could no longer manage it – the car had become faster than the driver – so the FIA banned the moving skirts by the general rule of “no movable aerodynamic features”.

    1. Cool. That’s more of a spirograph: it’s got a circle spinning on the end of the rotating arm. (Well, the big arm only goes a few degrees instead of spinning a whole circle, but the math will be the same…)

      There needs to be a museum of oddball CNC machines. And I’ll apply for the curator position. :)

      Actually, the Smithsonian used to have a hall of “Arts and Science” where they had many of the big machines that were brought in to the Patent Office as exemplars. (You used to have to actually have a working model of the device to get a patent — don’t get me started.) It was awesome! Then the roof started leaking sometime in the early 2000s and I have no idea what they did with the collection. But it was inspiring to walk through if you like machines and machine tools.

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