We know, we know. A lot of you don’t like projects that consist of gutting a vintage computer (or anything else, for that matter) and replacing its internals with modern electronics. But can you really look at the clunky Compaq LTE 286 laptop that [Dmitry Brant] hacked a Raspberry Pi into and honestly say it’s a machine worthy of historical preservation? The 30+ year old laptop had all the design cues of a saltine cracker, and the performance to match. At least now with a Pi under the hood, you can play some newer games on the thing.
Besides, [Dmitry] says the machine was damaged beyond the point of economical repair anyway. The only stock hardware that’s left beyond the case itself is the keyboard, which he was able to get talking USB thanks to a Teensy microcontroller. It’s not immediately clear if any attempt has been made to get the switches above the keyboard working, but we imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to tie them into some spare GPIO pins on the MCU for a bit of added authenticity.
The bottom half of the machine was cleared out to the point of it literally being a husk of its former self, which gave him plenty of room to hold the Pi 3B and the HDMI driver board that controls the new 9-inch TFT display. Speaking of which, the new panel was a close enough match to the original’s aspect ratio that only minor bezel modifications were required to get it to fit. The modern LCD makes for a massive improvement over the original, without looking too conspicuous.
While there’s still plenty of available space inside the Compaq, [Dmitry] has opted not to include an onboard battery at this time. Instead, power is provided to the Pi and associated hardware through a bulkhead mount USB connector on the side of the machine. It looks like it wouldn’t be too much trouble to add support for an off-the-shelf USB battery bank, as we recently saw with a particularly well engineered retro-futuristic folding cyberdeck, but far from us to tell a hacker what they should do with their bespoke computer.
With the web of undersea cables lacing the continents together now, it’s hard to imagine that it wasn’t until 1956 that the first transatlantic telephone cable was laid. Sure, there were telegraph cables under the Atlantic starting as early as the late 1800s, but getting your voice across the ocean on copper was a long time coming. So what was the discerning 1930s gentleman of business to do when only a voice call would do? He’d have used a radiotelephone, probably at an outrageous expense, which as this video on the receiving end of the New York to London radio connection shows, was probably entirely justified.
The video details the shortwave radiotelephone system that linked New York and London in the 1930s. It starts with a brief but thorough explanation of ionospheric refraction, and how that atmospheric phenomenon makes it possible to communicate over vast distances. It also offers a great explanation on the problems inherent with radio connections, like multipath interference and the dependency on the solar cycle for usable skip. To overcome these issues, the Cooling Radio Station was built, and its construction is the main thrust of the video.
Despite great progress over the past century, more than a billion people still don’t have access to clean drinking water today. Much of the water on Earth’s surface is polluted, but it’s not always easy to tell a dirty stream from a clean one. Professional kit for water analysis can be expensive, which is why [kutluhan_aktar] decided to design a portable, internet-connected water pollution monitor.
There is no single parameter that determines the quality of a water sample, so the pollution monitor has no less than five different sensors. These can determine the oxidation-reduction potential (a chemical indicator), the pH (acidity), total dissolved solids (mainly salts), turbidity (suspended particles) and temperature. To combine all these numbers into a simple “yes/maybe/no” indicator, [kutluhan] trained a neural network with data gathered from a large number of places around his hometown.
This neural network runs on an Arduino MKR GSM 1400 module. While not a typical platform for AI applications, the neural network runs just fine on it thanks to the Neuton framework, a software plaform designed to run machine learning applications on microcontroller systems like the Arduino. It also has a GSM/3G modem, allowing it to report the measured water quality to a central database.
All of this is housed in a 3D-printed enclosure that makes the whole setup easy to carry and operate in any location. Collecting data across a wide area should help to locate sources of pollution, and hopefully contribute to an improvement in water quality for everyone. Here at Hackaday we love citizen science initiatives like this: previously we’ve featured projects to measure things as varied as air quality and ocean waves.
If you’re looking to add a little more sci-fi authenticity to your gaming setup, you could do much worse than this functional control lever replica that [ZapWizard] has entered into the Hackaday.io Sci-Fi Contest.
Taking inspiration from Disney’s The Mandalorian, this functional prop is almost identical to the throttle seen on the bridge of the Razor Crest gunship, piloted by the television show’s eponymous bounty hunter. The electronic heart of this build is relatively straightforward – a Trinket M0 measures the resistance of an ultra-thin potentiometer, and masquerades as a typical one-axis USB throttle.
The mechanical components and aesthetically pleasing housing is where this project really shines. Helical 3D printed gears smooth out the movement of the solid aluminum throttle shaft, and a simple detent mechanism ‘catches’ the throttle at the middle point. The ballast and baseplate are cut from stainless steel, giving the throttle considerable heft, aiding in its stability on a tabletop (it’s also possible to secure it down using screws or powerful magnets). The throttle case is 3D printed and covered in aluminum foil tape, which is then chemically blackened and aged for that well-loved appearance.
Of course, the most iconic part of this build is the spherical knob, which screws onto the aluminum shaft for Grogu’s convenience. [ZapWizard] put in an order for one over at Custom 3D Stuff, and it absolutely ties the entire build together.
Restoring a vintage radio receiver has the potential to be a fun weekend project, but it pays to know what you’re up against. Especially in the case of vacuum tube electronics, running down gremlins in the circuits isn’t always a straightforward process (also, please mind the high voltage that is present in old vacuum tube equipment). [Mr Carlson] has a knack for getting old radios humming once again, and his repair of a 1960s General Electric barn find radio receiver is a thorough masterclass in vintage electronics servicing.
Seriously, if you’ve got a spare ninety minutes, the video (after the break) is a thorough and unabridged start-to-finish diagnosis and repair of a vintage radio, and an absolute must for anyone interested in doing the same. This barn find radio was certainly showing its age, and it wasn’t long before in-circuit testing found an open filament in one of several vacuum tubes, but the radio was still stubbornly silent. Further testing revealed that the IF transformers were out of spec, requiring servicing and alignment. After fine tuning both the IF and RF sections of the radio, things were definitely looking (and sounding) better.
Fine tuning the various components in the radio went a long way to living up to its “long range” claims, and by the end of the video, it’s almost impossible to find dead air on the AM dial of this radio. If you’ve never had to make fine adjustments to a receiver, especially of this vintage, this video has all the details you’ll need. With the board exposed, [Mr Carlson] also took care of some preventative maintenance, including replacing the original filter capacitor with newer components, as well as replacing the mains safety capacitor with an even safer modern alternative.
This year’s Hackaday Prize is off to a roaring start. And that’s fantastic, because this year’s challenge is a particularly important one: reducing mankind’s footprint on the earth through better energy collection, better resource use, and keeping what we’ve already got running a little bit longer. Not only is this going to be the central challenge for the next century, but it’s also a playground for hackers like us.
The first phase, Planet-Friendly Power, is in full swing, and we saw some entries on the first day! Were they cheating? Did they have inside information? Nope! Tons of hackers are working on energy efficient ways to drive their projects all along. If your Raspberry Pi data-logger can run on the fuel of the sun, it’s not only better for the world, but it’s a project that you don’t have to remember to change the batteries on.
We’ve got a challenge on recycling, one on reverse engineering stuff to keep it out of the landfill, and one on environmental monitoring and communications infrastructure. These are all great hacker topics, and showcase how folks like us can do our small parts to keep the world running without running it into the ground.
So all of you out there making mesh networks, optimizing solar projects, hacking open closed IoT networks to keep them from obsolescence, or building plastic-sorting robots, this is your chance to get some money and some recognition for your good work.
Thanks again to our Supplyframe overlords for consistently backing and believing in the purpose of the Hackaday Prize, and also to DigiKey who’s been a sponsor of the Prize many years running! Without them, we wouldn’t be able pull this off.
Hack the planet! (Non-ironically, and literally. And get money for doing it.) Hooray for the Hackaday Prize!
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There are plenty of gaming laptops on the market these days, but none quite fit the requirements of one [ParticularlyPippin]. Thus, they set out on building their own portable computer, ending up with a rig in a briefcase with a decidedly cyberpunk feel.
The design relies on desktop components, with the idea being to make a machine with better upgradability than a typical laptop. The briefcase itself is a nice deep-shell unit, and was given a wooden baseboard to hold all the components. It was then provided with standoffs and mountings for a Mini-ITX motherboard, as well as all the necessary add-ons like fans and storage. As in many odd-form-factor builds, a PCI-E riser cable comes in handy to hook up the GPU.
As for the user interface, a USB portable monitor is paired with a mechanical keyboard for the appropriate amount of clackity-clack when hacking out in the field. The icing on the cake, however, are the RGB strip backlights controlled via MSI’s software that really make the final result pop.
It’s a tidy portable build and one that hopefully provides [ParticularlyPippin] with the necessary grunt for their work wherever they can tote a briefcase. It’s not the first homebrew luggable we’ve seen, and it won’t be the last; there’s simply something compelling about the briefcase form factor. If you’re cooking up your own in the home lab, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.