The early Cold War years may have been suffused with existential dread thanks to the never-ending threat of nuclear obliteration, but at least it did have a great look. Think cars with a ton of chrome, sheet steel toys with razor-sharp edges, and pretty much the entire look of the Fallout franchise. And now you can add in this boat anchor of an electromechanical Nixie clock, too.
If [Teti]’s project looks familiar, perhaps it’s because the build was meant as an homage to the test equipment of yore, particularly some of the sturdier offerings from Hewlett-Packard. But this isn’t some thrift store find that has been repurposed; rather, the entire thing, from the electronics to the enclosure, is scratch built. The clock circuit is based on 4000-series CMOS chips and the display uses six IN-1 Nixies. Instead of transistors to drive the tubes, [Teti] chose to use relays, which in the video below prove to be satisfyingly clicky and relaxing. Not relaxing in any way is the obnoxious alarm, which would be enough to rouse a mission control officer dozing in his bunker. [Teti] has a blog with more details on the build, the gem of which is information on how he had the front panel so beautifully made.
We can’t say enough about the fit and finish of this one, as well as the functionality. What’s even more impressive is that this was reportedly [Teti]’s first project like this. It really puts us in mind of some of the great 6502 retrocomputer builds we’ve been seeing lately.
Between the mini bike and the nearby woods, [HowToLou] has a lot for the rest of us to be envious of. Unfortunately, the terrain on the dirt path is too bumpy and uneven for a nice ride. But rather than spend hundreds to buy or rent an official grader box, [Lou] looked at his riding mower and said, I can do that myself (YouTube, embedded below).
This grader box is made from a heavy-duty oak pallet, plus a piece of particle board to complete the rocks box. [Lou] hooks up tow straps to the hooks and drags it behind the riding mower a few times to get the path nice and even. The line of lag bolts busts up the bumps, and the boards smooth out the surface under the weight of several large rocks. We think the result looks great, and doubt that [Lou] could have done any better with a fancy grader box. Check it out in action after the break.
The Van de Graaff generator is a staple of science museums, to the point that even if the average person might not know its name, there’s an excellent chance they’ll be familiar with the “metal ball that makes your hair stand up” description. That’s partly because they’re a fairly safe way to show off high voltages, but also because they’re surprisingly cheap and easy to build.
In his latest Plasma Channel video [Jay Bowles] builds a large Van de Graaff generator that wouldn’t look out of place in a museum or university, which he estimates is producing up to 500,000 volts. It can easily throw impressive looking (and sounding) sparks 10 inches or more, and as you can see in the video below, is more than capable of pulling off those classic science museum tricks.
It’s really quite amazing to see just how little it takes to generate these kinds of voltages with a Van de Graaff. In fact there’s nothing inside that you’d immediately equate with high voltage, the only electronic component in the generator’s base beyond the battery pack is a motor speed controller. While everything else might look suspiciously like magic, our own [Steven Dufresne] wrote up a properly scientific explanation of how it all works.
In this particular case, the motor spins a nylon pulley in the base of the generator, which is connected to a Teflon pulley in the top by way of a neoprene rubber belt. Combs made from fine metal mesh placed close to the belt at the top and bottom allow the Van de Graaff to build up a static charge in the sphere. Incidentally, it sounds like sourcing the large metal sphere was the most difficult part of this whole build, as it took [Jay] several hours to modify the garden gazing ball to fit atop the acrylic tube that serves as the machine’s core.
We’re blessed to have such a great community at Hackaday. Our tipline often overfloweth with all manner of projects and builds of all stripes. We see it all here, from beginners just starting out with their first Arduino to diehard hackers executing daringly complex builds in their downtime, and everything in between.
If you’re sitting there in the grandstands, watching in awe, you might wonder what it takes to grace these hallowed black pages. In life, nothing is guaranteed, but I’ve been specially authorised to share with you a few tips that can maximise your chances of seeing your project on Hackaday.
[Tom] likes to build little helicopters and decided to build one that runs on compressed air. (Video, embedded below.) Turns out it was a little harder than he thought. Originally, he was trying for a compressed air quadcopter. He’d already worked with an air turbine, but putting on a vehicle that can lift itself into the air turns out to have a lot of hidden gotchas.
[Tom] went through a lot of design considerations to arrive at the helicopter design. He considered counter-rotating props, but there were a host of problems involved. He finally settled on a single prob with a tail rotor that resides on the far end of a long boom to allow the resulting lever arm to reduce the work required of the tail rotor.
In the movies, everything is modular. Some big gun fell off the spaceship when it crashed? Good thing you can just pick it up and fire it as-is (looking at you, Guardians of the Galaxy 2). Hyperdrive dead? No problem, because in the Star Wars universe you can just drop a new one in and be on your way.
Of course, things just aren’t that simple in the real world. Most systems, be they spaceships or cell phones, are enormously complicated and contain hundreds or thousands of interconnected parts. If the camera in my Samsung phone breaks, I can’t exactly steal the one from my girlfriend’s iPhone. They’re simply not interchangeable because the systems were designed differently. Even if we had the same phone and the cameras were interchangeable, they wouldn’t be easy to swap. We’d have to crack open the phones and carefully perform the switch. Speaking of switches, the Nintendo Switch is a good counterexample here. Joycon break? Just buy a new one and pop it on.
What if more products were like the Nintendo Switch? Is its modularity just the tip of the iceberg?
What’s the fastest way to master console stuff like screen or emacs? Force yourself to use it exclusively, of course. But maybe you’d be tempted to cheat with a desktop. We know we would be. In that case, you ought to build a console-only cyberdeck like this sweet little thing by [a8skh4].
This cyberdeck serves another purpose as well — the keyboard layout is Miryoku, so [a8ksh4] can get more practice with that at the same time. Fortunately, the layout is built for emacs.
Inside is a Raspberry Pi 4 and what looks to be an Arduino handling the keyboard input. The Paper Pi spotlights a 4.2″ e-ink screen between a split thumb keyboard that’s made of soft, silent, tactile switches.
Since they’re SMD, [a8ksh4] made clever use of header pins to get them to work with protoboard. As much as we love the keyboard, it would be awesome to see a few switches on the shoulders or even the back that make use of the rest of the fingers. Check out more build pictures in the gallery.