The first order of business was to open the machine up and inspect the internals. Visible corrosion gets cleaned up with oxalic acid, old electrolytic capacitors are replaced as a matter of course, and any corroded traces get careful repair. Removing corrosion from sockets requires desoldering the part for cleaning then re-soldering, so this whole process can be a lot of work. Fortunately, vintage hardware was often designed with hand-assembly in mind, so parts tend to be accessible for servicing with decent visibility in the process. The keyboard was entirely disassembled and de-yellowed, yielding an eye-poppingly attractive result.
Once the computer itself was working properly, it was time for a few modern upgrades. One was to give the machine an adapter to use a CF card in place of an internal IDE hard drive, and [drygol] did a great job of using a 3D-printed piece to make the CF2IDE adapter look like a factory offering. The internal floppy drive was also replaced with a GOTEK floppy emulator (also with a 3D-printed adapter) for another modern upgrade.
The fully refurbished and upgraded machine looks slick, so watch the Acorn Archimedes A3020 show off what it can do in the video (embedded below), and maybe feel a bit of nostalgia.
Sometimes we do things because “that’s the way we’ve always done them.” Screws, for example, had slotted heads in the 1500s and slotted heads are notoriously bad, but despite Robertson in 1907 and Phillips in the 1930s, it took decades for slotted screw heads to become uncommon and they still lurk in a few areas. Many Linux tools we use every day are direct descendants from Unix tools that have been around for almost half a century. We’ve looked at a few more modern alternatives before, and [ibraheemdev] has a GitHub collection of many such tools that’s worth checking out.
Of course, modern doesn’t always mean better. However, the tools in the list do have great features including things that were uncommon in the old days such as the use of color, text-based graphics, and things like git integration.
[James Sharman] has built an impressive 8-bit homebrew computer. Based on TTL logic chips, it has a pipelined design which makes it capable of Commodore-level computing, but [James] hasn’t quite finished everything yet. While it is currently built on its own custom PCB, it has a limiting LCD display which isn’t up to the standards of the rest of the build. To resolve this issue, he decided to implement VGA from scratch.
This isn’t a bit-bang VGA implementation, either. He plans for full resolution (640×480) which will push the limits of his hardware. He also sets goals of a 24-bit DAC which will allow for millions of colors, the ability to use sprites, and hardware scrolling. Since he’s doing all of this from scratch, the plan is to keep it as simple as possible and make gradual improvements to the build as he goes. To that end, the first iteration uses a single latching chip with some other passive components. After adding some code to the CPU to support the new video style, [James] is able to display an image on his monitor.
While the image of the parrot he’s displaying isn’t exactly perfect yet, it’s a great start for his build and he does plan to make improvements to it in future videos. We’d say he’s well on his way to reproducing a full 8-bit retrocomputer. Although VGA is long outdated for modern computers, the standard is straightforward to implement and limited versions can even be done with very small microcontrollers.
Smart watches are pretty common today, but how many people do you know with a smart hat? [Oliver] built Wilson which he bills as “the IoT hat.” We wonder if the name was inspired by the Home Improvement character of the same name who only appeared as a hat above the fence line. You can see a video of the project, below.
The project is pretty straightforward for hardware. An LED strip, an Arduino, and a Bluetooth module. Oh. And a hat. The software, as you might expect, is a bit more complex. It allows you to display SMS messages to your hat.
Update 6/23/21: Many people have called this out as fake. When viewed at 1/4 speed, you can see the logos in the YouTube video are always full-off or full-on and never caught mid way through a scanned frame. The images may be projected from off-camera to the left, rather than by the diode behind the screen. It’s a neat idea, but on closer review the demo provided smells a bit fishy so we’ve added a “Real or Fake” tag and updated the title. Update #2: [Kanti Sharma] wrote into the tipsline apologizing for the faked video, saying that he tried to get it to work but couldn’t and then “used a phone and a lens to fake the laser”. Thanks for fessing up to this one.
There are some times when an awesome project comes into your feed, but a language barrier intervenes as you try to follow its creator’s description. [Kanti Sharma]’s laser display appears to be a fantastic piece of work, but YouTube’s automatic translations in the video below make so little sense as to leave us Anglophones none the wiser as to what he’s saying. The principle comes across without need for translation though: he’s taken a laser diode module and is using it to create a vector scan by mounting it in the middle of a set of coils driven through beefy FETs by an Arduino. It’s an electromagnetic take on the same principle used in a CRT vector displays such as the famous Vectrex console, with the beam of electrons replaced with laser light.
It’s a technique not unlike what’s been used for years in the lighting industry, in which much larger laser displays are created with mirrors mounted on galvanometers. There must be a physical limit at which the weight of the laser slows down the movement, but if the video is to be believed it’s certainly capable of displaying graphics on a screen.
As much as I’d like to devote an article to each and every bit of keyboard-related what-have-you that I come across in my travels through the intertubes, there just aren’t enough hours. And after all, this isn’t Clack-a-Day. To that end, I gained editorial approval to bring you a periodic round-up of news and other tidbits on the keyboard and keyboard accessories front, and here we are. So let’s get to it!
There was a time when electronics was very much a hobby that existed in the macroscopic world. Vacuum tubes, wire-wound resistors, and big capacitors were all mounted on terminal strips and mounted in a heavy chassis or enclosure, and interfacing with everything from components to tools was more an exercise in gross motor skills than fine. Even as we started to shrink components down to silicon chips, the packages we put them in were still large enough to handle and see easily. It’s only comparatively recently that everything has started to push the ludicrous end of the scale, with components and processes suitable only for microscopic manipulation, but that’s pretty much where we are now, and things are only likely to get smaller as time goes on.
Zach is pretty comfortable working in and around the microscopic realm, and he’ll stop by the Hack Chat to share what he’s been up to down there. We’ll talk about all the cool stuff going on in Zach’s lab, and see what else he has in store for us.
Our Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, June 23 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.
Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.