Analog Camera Goes Digital

The digital camera revolution swept through the world in the early 2000s, and aside from some unique situations and a handful of artists still using film, almost everyone has switched over to digital since then. Unfortunately that means that there’s a lot of high quality film cameras in the world that are gathering dust, but with a few pieces of equipment it’s possible to convert them to digital and get some more use out of them.

[befinitiv]’s latest project handles this conversion by swapping in a Raspberry Pi Zero where the film cartridge would otherwise be inserted into the camera. The Pi is attached to a 3D-printed case which mimics the shape of the film, and also houses a Pi camera right in front of the location where the film would be exposed. By removing the Pi camera’s lens, this new setup is able to take advantage of the analog camera’s optics instead and is able to capture images of relatively decent quality.

There are some perks of using this setup as well, namely that video can be broadcast to this phone over a wireless connection to a computer via the Raspberry Pi. It’s a pretty interesting build with excellent results for a remarkably low price tag, and it would be pretty straightforward to interface the camera’s shutter and other control dials into the Raspberry Pi to further replicate the action of an old film camera. And, if you enjoy [befinitiv]’s projects of bringing old tech into the modern world, be sure to check out his 80s-era DOS laptop which is able to run a modern Linux installation.

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You Are Doomed To Learn WebAssembly

At first, Web browsers displayed HTML pages. But then people wanted those pages to do something. So we got — among other things — JavaScript. Then people wanted to do super complicated and compute-intensive things. So now we have WebAssembly. If you want to learn it, [diekmann] has a 4-part series that covers everything from getting started to porting Doom into your browser.

Paradoxically, instead of using a browser, he uses the wasm binary toolkit to run code more like a standard assembler. And wasm — what most people call WebAssembly — isn’t like most assemblers you know. Instead of labels, there are blocks that work much more like high-level language constructs such as while loops in C.

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Overdriving Vacuum Tubes And Releasing The Magic Light Within

We’ve all seen electronic components that have been coaxed into releasing their small amount of Magic Smoke, which of course is what makes the thing work in the first place. But back in the old times, parts were made of glass and metal and were much tougher — you could do almost anything to them and they wouldn’t release the Magic Smoke. It was very boring.

Unless you knew the secret of “red plating”, of course, which [David Lovett] explores in the video below. We’ve been following [David]’s work with vacuum tubes, the aforementioned essentially smokeless components that he’s putting to use to build a simple one-bit microprocessor. His circuits tend to drive tubes rather gently, but in a fun twist, he let his destructive side out for a bit and really pushed a few tubes to see what happens. And what happens is pretty dramatic — when enough electrons stream from the cathode to the anode, their collective kinetic energy heats the plate up to a cherry-red, hence the term “red plating”.

[David] selected a number of victims for his torture chamber, not all of which cooperated despite the roughly 195 volts applied to the plate. Some of the tubes, though, cooperated in spades, quickly taking on a very unhealthy glow. One tube, a 6BZ7 dual triode, really put on a show, with something getting so hot inside the tube as to warp and short together, leading to some impressive pyrotechnics. Think of it as releasing the Magic Light instead of the Magic Smoke.

Having seen how X-ray tubes work, we can’t help but wonder if [David] was getting a little bit more than he bargained for when he made this snuff film. Probably not — the energies involved with medical X-ray tubes are much higher than this — but still, it might be interesting to see what kinds of unintended emissions red-plating generates.

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Foam F-35 Learns To Hover

With cheap RC hardware, powerful motors, and high-capacity battery packs, getting something to fly has never been easier. It also helps that, whether you’re into fixed-wing craft or multirotors, there’s plenty of information and prior art floating around online that you can use to jumpstart your own build. But when it comes to homebrew vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) planes, things are a bit trickier.

Luckily for us, [Nicholas Rehm] has made all the plans and information necessary to duplicate his incredible RC F-35 available for anyone who wants to experiment with these relatively niche fliers. Even if it was a standard park flier, the build would be worth a close look thanks to the vectored thrust motors that give it phenomenal maneuverability and a top speed in the neighboorhood of 120 KPH (80 MPH). But with the flick of a switch, the plane transitions into a tricopter-like flight mode that allows it to land and takeoff vertically.

How does it work? The downward facing motor just behind the “cockpit” lifts up the front of the foam flier and tilts left and right to provide yaw control, while the two motors on the back tilt down to lift up the rear of the aircraft. Aviation buffs in the audience may recognize this as being fairly close to how the actual F-35B hovers, although on the real jet fighter, downward thrust under the wings is generated by redirected turbine exhaust rather than dedicated motors, and yaw control is provided by swiveling the engine’s nozzle rather than the front lift fan.

Getting the plane to takeoff vertically was one thing, but being able to transition from a hover into forward flight was quite another. To make this aerial transformation possible [Nicholas] actually had to write his own flight controller software, which he calls dRehmFlight. The GPLv3 code runs on the Teensy 4.0 and uses the common GY-521 MPU6050 gyroscope/accelerometer, so you don’t need to get any custom boards spun up just to give it a test drive flight. In the video below he walks through configuring the software for VTOL operation by defining how each control surface and motor is to respond to control input given the currently selected flight mode.

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that this isn’t the first time [Nicholas] has experimented with unusual flying machines. Last year we covered his RC Starship, which managed to stick the “belly flop” landing even before SpaceX managed to get the real life version down in one piece.

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DIY PECS Board Uses Pictures To Communicate

One way of communicating with autistic and non-verbal people is through the use of a Picture Exchange Communication System or PECS board, which they can use to point out what they need or want throughout the day. However, the commercial versions of these boards have their share of problems — they’re expensive, and they’re fairly rigid as far as the pictures go. [Alain Mauer] has created an open-source PECS board that is far more personalized, and has audio to boot.

The number one requisite here is sturdiness, as [Alain]’s son [Scott] has already smashed two smartphones and a tablet. [Alain] went with a laser-cut MDF enclosure that should last quite a while. Inside is an Arduino Pro Mini and a DF Player Mini that plays corresponding clips from a micro SD card whenever [Scott] presses a button on the 16-key copper foil capacitive keypad. This PECS board is smart, too — it will sound a turn-me-off reminder after a few minutes of inactivity, and issue audible low battery warnings.

So far, [Scott] is responding better to photographs of objects than to drawings. Watch him interact with the board after the break.

This is far from the first thing [Alain] has built to help [Scott]. Be sure to check out this Pi-based media player built to engage and not enrage. Continue reading “DIY PECS Board Uses Pictures To Communicate”

Recycling Will Be Key To The Electric Vehicle Future

Electric vehicles have become a mainstay in the global automotive marketplace, taking on their gasoline rivals and steadily chewing out their own slice of market share, year after year. Government mandates to end the sale of polluting internal combustion engine vehicles and subsidies on cleaner cars promise to conspire to create an electric vehicle boom.

The result should be much cleaner air, as generating electricity in even the dirtiest power plants is far cleaner and more efficient than millions of individual engines puttering about the place. However, if the electric car is to reign supreme, they’ll need to be built in ever greater numbers. To do that is going to take huge amounts of certain materials that can be expensive and sometimes in very limited supply. Thus, to help support the EV boom, recycling of these materials may come to play a very important role.

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New Video Series: Learning Antenna Basics With Karen Rucker

We don’t normally embrace the supernatural here at Hackaday, but when the topic turns to the radio frequency world, Arthur C. Clarke’s maxim about sufficiently advanced technology being akin to magic pretty much works for us. In the RF realm, the rules of electricity, at least the basic ones, don’t seem to apply, or if they do apply, it’s often with a, “Yeah, but…” caveat that’s sometimes hard to get one’s head around.

Perhaps nowhere does the RF world seem more magical than in antenna design. Sure, an antenna can be as simple as a straight piece or two of wire, but even in their simplest embodiments, antennas belie a complexity that can really be daunting to newbie and vet alike. That’s why we were happy to recently host Karen Rucker’s Introduction to Antenna Basics course as part of Hackaday U.

The class was held over a five-week period starting back in May, and we’ve just posted the edited videos for everyone to enjoy. The class is lead by Karen Rucker, an RF engineer specializing in antenna designs for spacecraft who clearly knows her business. I’ve watched the first video of the series and so far and really enjoy Karen’s style and the material she has chosen to highlight; just the bit about antenna polarization and why circular polarization makes sense for space communications was really useful. I’m keen to dig into the rest of the series playlist soon.

The 2021 session of Hackaday U may be wrapped up now, but fear not — there’s plenty of material available to look over and learn from. Head over to the course list on, pick something that strikes your fancy, and let the learning begin!

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