Back in the day, just about everything that used a battery had a hatch or a hutch that you could open to pull it out and replace it if need be. Whether it was a radio, a cordless phone, or a cellphone, it was a cinch to swap out a battery.
These days, many devices hide their batteries, deep beneath tamper-proof stickers and warnings that state there are “no user serviceable components inside.” The EU wants to change all that, though, and has voted to mandate that everything from cellphones to e-bikes must have easily replaceable batteries, with the legislation coming into effect as soon as 2024.
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If there’s one thing that amateur radio operators are good at, it’s turning just about anything into an antenna. And hams have a long history of portable operations, too, where they drag a (sometimes) minimalist setup of gear into the woods and set up shop to bag some contacts. Getting the two together, as with this field-portable antenna made from a tape measure, is a double win in any ham’s book.
For [Paul (OM0ET)], this build seems motivated mainly by the portability aspect, and less by the “will it antenna?” challenge. In keeping with that, he chose a 50-meter steel tape measure as the basis of the build. This isn’t one of those retractable tape measures, mind you — just a long strip of flexible metal on a wind-up spool in a plastic case. His idea was to use the tape as the radiator for an end-fed halfwave, or EFHW, antenna, a multiband design that’s a popular option for hams operating from the 80-m band down to the 10-m band. EFHW antennas require an impedance-matching transformer, a miniature version of which [Paul] built and tucked within the tape measure case, along with a BNC connector to connect to the radio and a flying lead to connect to the tape.
Since a half-wave antenna is half the length of the target wavelength, [Paul] cut off the last ten meters of the tape to save a little weight. He also scratched off the coating on the tape at about the 40-meter mark, to make good contact with the alligator clip on the flying lead. The first video below details the build, while the second video shows the antenna under test in the field, where it met all of the initial criteria of portability and ease of deployment.
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Utter the words “7-segment display” amongst hackers and you’ll typically get people envisaging the usual LED and LCD versions that we all come across in our daily lives. However, mechanical versions do exist, and [ord] has assembled a couple of designs of their very own.
The first uses what appears to be two LEGO motors to drive individual segments of the display. Each segment consists of a pair of yellow axles thrust up through a black grid to represent parts of the number, as well as a minus sign as needed. [ord] demonstrates it by using it to display angle data from a tilt sensor inside a LEGO Powered Up controller brick. Further photos on Flickr show the drive system from underneath.
The second design relies upon a drum-like mechanism that seems to only be capable of displaying numbers sequentially. It works in a manner not dissimilar to that of a player piano. The required movements to display each number are programmed into sequences with Technic pins sticking out of beams in a drum assembly driven by either a hand crank or motor. It’s again demonstrated by [ord] using it to display angular data.
While it’s unlikely we’ll see LEGO displays used as angle of attack meters in light aircraft, you could do so if you wanted a cheap and unreliable device that is likely to fall to pieces if unduly jostled. In any case, it’s not the first time we’ve seen LEGO 7-segment displays, but it’s always great to see a new creative take on an existing concept. We’d love to see such a design implemented into a fancy clock, or perhaps even a news ticker running on a 16-segment version. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Building 7-Segment Displays With LEGO”