We feel bad when we see a retrocomputer project and think, “Hey! That’s not that old.” But, usually, when we think about it, it really is. Take the Penkesu. It looks like one of the little organizer computers that were popular — ok — a long time ago.
Inside is a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W, a 7.9 inch 400×1280 screen and a 48-key mechanical keyboard. Unsurprisingly, the case is mostly 3D printed, but it does use Gameboy Advance SP hinges.
A research center in Spain has been working on ways to solve recent supply chain issues. One of these issues is a shortage of materials to make magnets. Their answer? Recycle ferrite residue by treating it and mixing it with ABS for 3D printing.
The mixing of ferrite with a polymer isn’t the key though, instead the trick is in the processing. The team collected strontium ferrite waste and ground it to a powder. Heating to the point of calcination (about 1000C) creates a superior material with a 350% increase in coercitivity and a 25% increase in remanence over the original waste material.
[Electronoobs] built a coil gun and the obvious question is: how fast is the projectile? To answer it, he built a chronograph suitable for timing a bullet. The principle is straightforward. A laser and a light sensor would mark the entry and exit of the projectile over a known distance. As it turns out, there are some issues to resolve.
For one thing, a laser is too narrow and might miss the projectile. The first attempt to rectify this used mirrors, but the loss was too great — we suspect he was using a second surface mirror. The final answer was to use an array of detectors and removed the laser’s collimation lens to cover a wider area.
[Alfredo Cortellini] was perusing an antique shop in Bologna, and came across a nice example of a late 1950s timepiece, in the shape of a Solari Cifra 5 slave clock, but as the shop owner warned, it could never tell the time by itself. That sounded like a challenge, and the resulting hack is a nice, respectful tweak of the internals to bring it into the modern era. Since the clock requires a single pulse-per-minute in order to track time, the simplest track often followed is to open the back, set the correct time manually by poking the appropriate levers, and then let an external circuit take over clocking it. [Alfredo] wanted autonomy, and came up with a solution to make the thing fully adjust itself automatically.
Electronics-wise, initial prototyping was performed with a Nucleo 32 dev board and a pile of modules, before moving to a custom PCB designed in Altium Designer. An STM32G031 runs the show, with a few push buttons and a SSD1306 OLED display forming the UI.
Using some strategically-placed magnets and hall effect sensors, the status of the internal mechanism could be determined. Minute advancements were effected by driving the clock’s 24V electromagnet with a DRV8871 motor driver IC, the power supply for which was generated from the USB supply via a TPS61041 boost converter. In order to synchronise the mechanism with the electronics, the unit could have been driven to advance a minute at a time, but since every hour would need sixty pulses, this could take a while given the limited speed at which that could be done reliably. The solution was to sneak in a crafty MG996R high-torque servo motor, which pushes on the hour-advancement lever, allowing the unit to be zeroed much faster. Sensing of the zero-hour position was done by monitoring the date-advance mechanism, that is not used in this model of clock. Once zeroed, the clock could then be advanced to the correct time and kept current. Firmware source, utililising FreeRTOS can be found on the project GItHub, with schematics and Fusion360 files on the Hackaday.IO project linked above.
If you were thinking you’ve seen these Solari soft-flap displays here before, you’d be quite correct, but if you’re not so much interested in marking the passage of time, but bending such devices to your other indication whims, we’ve got you covered also.
It may sound like a pop band, but μ-WAAM is actually a 3D printing technique for making small metal parts from the NOVA University Lisbon. Of course, WAAM stands for wire arc additive manufacturing, a well-known technique for 3D printing in metal. The difference? The new technique uses 250 μm wire stock instead of the 1mm or thicker wires used in conventional WAAM.
The thinner feed wire allows μ-WAAM to create fine details like thin walls that would be difficult to replicate with traditional methods. Typically, for fine structures, printers use fused metal powder. This is good for fine details, but typically slower and has higher waste than wire-based systems.
With 2022 off to a good start, it is about time to let go of all those New Year’s resolutions that didn’t quite work out. The scale’s needle didn’t reverse, our nails are still bitten, and we are still binge-watching Breaking Bad instead of reading the classics. But, of course, there’s always the future where we just know we’re going to stick to our resolutions. Besides, the future will be replete with fat-eating nanobots, 3D printed nails every morning, and a pill you can take that will make you remember reading Ulysses.
Predicting the future is fraught with peril, which is why launching a new company or product is so risky. However, there have been a few prognosticators that have made some impressive forecasts. For example, in 1922 popular (if not critically acclaimed) author W. L. George wrote a piece for The New York Herald titled “What the World Will be Like In a Hundred Years.” Since May will see that piece’s 100th anniversary, let’s see how he did.
It was just this year that Sega left the arcade business for good. A company synonymous with coin-op games for over a half century completely walked away from selling experiences you can only get on location. No more Outrun or Virtua Fighter machines, because arcades these days tend to resemble The House of the Dead. Arcades still exist to a degree, it’s just that headlines like that serve only as a reminder of an era gone by. Which is what makes raw footage like the video [Jon] posted of an Aladdin’s Castle arcade from the 1980s so compelling.
The raw VHS footage starts with a sweep around the location’s pinball machines and arcade cabinets. There’s an extended shot of a rare TX-1 tri-monitor sitdown cabinet. The racing game was the first of its kind to feature force feedback in the steering wheel, so it’s no wonder it received the focus. The arcade’s lighting tech was also a point of pride as it allowed for programmable lighting cues. A far cry from the flickering fluorescent tubes no doubt in use elsewhere. Eventually the employee filming takes us to the back room where it the owner has made it abundantly clear that they are not a fan of Mondays, judging by the amount of Garfield merchandise.
Bally’s Aladdin’s Castle was a chain of arcades and had nearly 400 locations across the US at its height in the mid 1980s (at least according to their brochure seen above). Those neon red letters were a mainstay of American shopping malls throughout the decade. Namco, the Pac-Man people, acquired Aladdin’s Castle in 1993 and the brand faded away soon after. Although there is a lone location in Quincy, IL that is still open for business today.