There’s nothing quite like vintage hardware, and the way it looks and works is something that can be worth celebrating. [Old Tech. New Spec] did that with his loving modification of a 1964 Dansette portable radio, bringing it into the modern era by giving it the ability to play Internet radio stations while keeping all the original controls and appearance. As he says, you’d hardly know it has been modified unless you turned it on.
A real centerpiece of this conversion is that the inner part of the tuning dial has been replaced with a full color LCD display that shows, among other things, the logo of whatever Internet radio station is currently playing. The combination of LCD and convex lens looks fantastic, and blends beautifully into the aesthetic.
Inside the device is a Raspberry Pi, some simple Python scripts, and a Pirate Audio board. Together, they handle the job of audio streaming and output, displaying album art, and accepting inputs for playback controls. A large power bank ensures the result remains portable, and as usual with vintage hardware, there’s no worry about fitting everything inside. Watch it in action in the video embedded below. (And if the name of the audio board got you excited, but you’re disappointed to discover there’s no actual pirate broadcasting happening? Well, the Raspberry Pi can do that, too.)
For a while now, Mac Pro towers have had the nickname “cheese grater” because of their superficial resemblance to this kitchen appliance. Apple has only been a company since the 70s, though, and is much newer than one of its historic rivals, IBM. In fact, IBM is old enough to have made actual cheese-related computers as far back as the 1910s, and [Hand Tool Rescue] recently obtained one of these antique machines for a complete restoration.
The tool arrived to the restoration workshop in a state so poor that it was difficult to tell what many of the parts on the machine did except for the large cleaver at the top. The build starts with a teardown to its individual parts, cleaning and restoring them to their original luster, machining new ones where needed, and then putting it all back together. The real mystery of this build was what the levers on the underside of the machine were supposed to do, but after the refurbishment it was discovered that these are the way that portions the cheese wheel would be accurately sized and priced before a cut was made.
By placing a section of a wheel of cheese on the machine and inputting its original weight with one of the levers, the second lever is adjusted to the weight of cheese that the customer requested, which rotates the wheel of cheese to the correct position before a cut is made. To us who are spoiled with a world full of electronic devices, a mechanical computer like this seems almost magical, especially with how accurate it is, but if your business in the 1910s involved cheese, this would have been quite normal. In fact, it would be 50 more years before IBM created the machines that they’re more commonly known for.
Hats off to [Paul Brooking] as he shows off his homemade mass spectrometer in two recent videos you can see below. The first video demonstrates that the device works. The second video shows details about how it was made.
It’s not a good starter project, requiring quite a bit of sophisticated gear including two-stage vacuum pumps, Peltier cold plates, and ion sources, but if you aren’t familiar with mass spectrometers the basic idea is simple enough. You take a sample and bombard it with electrons. This creates a stream of ions of the component parts of the sample. Ions of heavy elements, obviously, weigh more than ions of lighter elements. A magnetic field deflects the ions, and the lighter ones are deflected more than the heavier ones. By detecting ions at a certain spot in the deflected beam, you can determine the relative amount of ions at a certain mass.
If you’ve got old family photos on slides there’s an excellent chance you’ve considered digitizing them at one point or another, but perhaps didn’t know the best way of going about it. In that case, this 3D printed adapter designed by [Rostislav Persion] that lets you photograph slides with a standard DSLR may be exactly what you were waiting for.
The idea is simple enough, you place the slide inside the adapter, get your focus right, and snap a picture. But of course, you’ve also got to provide some illumination. In this case, the camera is mounted on a tripod and pointed at an appropriate light source. Once you’ve experimented a bit and got the image backlit the way you want it, you can lock everything in place and easily power through a stack of vintage family memories in no time.
For such a straightforward concept, we really appreciate the little details in the execution. For example, rather than just sliding a 3D printed cylinder over the DSLR’s lens, [Rostislav] came up with a foam-padded “shim” that’s strong enough to hold the adapter on without marring anything. The two-part slide spacer that features a bit of springiness to hold everything tight is also a very nice touch.
This platform, which is called Kinetic Soul, uses Posenet computer vision to track a dancer’s movements. Posenet detects the dancer’s joints and creates a point map to determine what body parts are moving where, and at what speed. Then the system translates and transmits the movements to the 32 pins on the surface, creating a touchable picture of what’s going on. Each 3D-printed pin is controlled with a solenoid, all of which are driven by a single Arduino.
We think it’s interesting that Kinetic Soul can speak to the user in two different languages. The first is more about the overall flow of a dance, and the second delves into the deconstructed details. Both methods allow for dances to be enjoyed in real time, or via video recording. So how does one deconstruct dance? [Shi Yun] turned to Laban Movement Analysis, which breaks up human locomotion into four broad categories: the body in relation to itself, the effort expended to move, the shapes assumed, and the space used.
[Shi Yun] has been user-testing their ideas at dance workshops for the visually impaired throughout the entire process — this is how they arrived at having two haptic languages instead of one. They plan to continue getting input as they work to fortify the prototype, improve the touch experience, and refine the haptic languages. Check out the brief demonstration video after the break.
It seems that few features of a consumer electronic product will generate as much rancour as a mobile phone charger socket. For those of us with Android phones, the world has slowly been moving over the last few years from micro-USB to USB-C, while iPhone users regard their Lightning connector as the ultimate in connectivity. Get a set of different phone owners together and this can become a full-on feud, as micro-USB owners complain that nobody has a handy charging cable any more, USB-C owners become smug bores, and Apple owners do what they’ve always done and pretend that Steve Jobs invented USB. Throwing a flaming torch into this incendiary mix is the European Union, which is proposing to mandate the use of USB-C on all phones sold in its 27 member nations with the aim of reducing considerably the quantity of e-waste generated.
Minor annoyances over having to carry an extra micro-USB cable for an oddball device aside, we can’t find any reason not to applaud this move, because USB-C is a connector born of several decades of USB evolution and brings with it not only the reversible plug but also the enhanced power delivery standards that enable fast charging no matter whose USB-PD charger you are using. Mandating USB-C will put an end to needlessly overpriced proprietary cables, and bring eventual unity to a fractured world. Continue reading “Showdown Time For Non-Standard Chargers In Europe”→
The spooky season is upon us, and with it the race to come up with the geekiest way to scare the kids. Motion-activated jump-scare setups are always a crowd-pleaser, but kind of a cheap thrill in our opinion. So if you’re looking for something different for your Halloween scare-floor, you might consider “spirit writing” with ultrasound.
The idea that [Dan Beaven] has here is a variation on the ultrasonic levitation projects we’ve seen so many of over the last couple of years. While watching bits of styrofoam suspended in midair by the standing waves generated by carefully phased arrays of ultrasonic transducers is cool, [Dan] looks set to take the concept to the next level. Very much still a prototype, the setup has a 256-transducer matrix suspended above a dark surface. Baking powder is sprinkled over the writing surface to stand in for dust, which is easily disturbed by the sound waves reflecting off the hard surface. The array can be controlled to make it look like an unseen hand is tracing out a design in the dust, and the effect is pretty convincing. We’d have chosen “REDRUM” rather than a pentagram, but different strokes.
[Dan] obviously has a long way to go before this is ready for the big night, but the proof-of-concept is sound. While we wait for the finished product, we’ll just file this away as a technique that might have other applications. SMD components are pretty small and light, after all — perhaps an ultrasonic pick-and-place? In which case, sonic tweezers might be just the thing.