Old 6809 Computer Lives Again On Breadboards

Among old CPUs, the 6809 never got as much attention as some of its cousins. The Radio Shack CoCo used it and so did a construction article in Wireless World Magazine. Now [Dave] has reconstructed that computer on breadboards and it looks great. The files are on GitHub and there is even a series of videos about the machine. You can watch the first one below.

You can even read the original articles in the January 1981 Wireless World where the board used a 6802. The upgrade to a 6809 appears in the July 1981 issue. The magazine promised you could build the system for £100. Besides the 6809 there were only a few chips. A PROM, two RAM chips, A 6821 PIA, and a 74LS138 decoder for address selection. An MC1413 transistor array also allowed for a 7-segment display and a keypad along with a 7442 BCD decoder.

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Taking Pokémon On A Walk

Emulating old computers or video game systems isn’t always about recreating childhood nostalgia or playing classics on hardware that doesn’t exist anymore. A lot of the time it can be an excellent way to learn about the mechanics of programming a video game. Plenty of older titles have available source code that anyone can pour over and modify, and one of those is Pokémon Emerald. This was the first Pokémon game that [Inkbox] played, and he added a few modern features to it with this custom ROM file.

The first thing to add to this game was the ability to have one’s Pokémon follow their character around in the overworld map. This is common in later games, but wasn’t yet a feature when Emerald and Ruby first came out. [Inkbox] needed to import sprites from later games into the Emerald game file, convert their color palettes to match the game’s palette, and then get to work on the mechanics. After everything was finished, the Pokémon not only follow the player around the map but are animated, enter and exit their Pokéballs, and even jump off ledges in a believable, 32-bit way.

One of the great things about older games like these is that they’ve been around long enough to have source code or decompiled code available, they often have plenty of documentation, and the platforms they operate on are well-known by now as well. Pokémon Emerald is not alone in this regard; in fact, there is a huge Game Boy Advance homebrew scene that is not too difficult to get involved in.

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$1 POV Display Goes Round And Round

You don’t need much to do a persistence of vision display. A few LEDs and a processor is all it really takes. [B45i] made a simple PC board with five LEDs and an ATtiny CPU. There’s a battery and it connects to a fan to spin around.

While the project is pretty simple, we liked two aspects of it. First, he provides very detailed explanations about how to use an Arduino to program the Tiny using the Arduino IDE.

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An M1 Mac mini sits next to a white Wii on a wooden table. In the background are various Edison-style LED light fixtures with an incadescent-like light profile.

This Wii Has An Apple M1 Inside

The conveniently tiny logic board of the M1 Mac mini has lead to it giving the Mini ITX format a run for its money in case mods. The latest example of this is [Luke Miani]’s M1 Wii. (Youtube via 9to5Mac)

[Miani] chose the Wii as a new enclosure for this Mac mini given its similar form factor and the convenient set of doors in the top to maintain access to the computer’s I/O, something he wasn’t able to do with one of his previous M1 casemods. The completed build is a great stealth way to have a Mac mini in your entertainment center. [Miani] even spends the last several minutes of the video showing the M1 Wii running Wii, GameCube, and PS2 games to really bring it full circle.

A Microsoft Surface power brick was spliced into the original Wii power cable since the Wii PSU didn’t have enough wattage to supply the Mac mini without significant throttling. On the inside, the power runs through a buck converter before making its way to the logic board. While the Mini’s original fan was too big to fit inside the Wii enclosure, a small 12V fan was able to keep performance similar to OEM and much higher than running the M1 fanless without a heat spreader.

If you’d like to see some more M1 casemods, check out this Lampshade iMac or the Mac Mini Mini.

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DIY SpaceNavigator Brings The Freedom

[Pepijn de Vos] wanted a 6DOF HID. You know, a 6 Degrees Of Freedom Hardware Interface Device. Those are the fancy controllers for navigating in 3D space, for uses like Computer Aided Design, or Kerbal Space Program. And while we can’t speak to [Pepijn]’s KSP addiction, we do know that the commercially available controllers are prohibitively expensive. It takes some serious CAD work to justify the expenditure. [Pepijn] falls somewhere in-between, and while he couldn’t justify the expense, he does have the chops to design and 3D print his own.

Marvelously, he’s shared the design files for SpaceFox, linked above. It’s 6 spring-loaded potentiometers, supporting a floating printed Big Knob. The pots feed into an Arduino Pro Micro, which calculates the knob’s position on the fly and feeds in into the connected computer. On the computer side, the project uses the spacenavd driver to interface with various applications.

SpaceFox V1 is essentially a proof of concept, just asking for someone to come along and knock off the rough edges. [Pepijn] even includes a wishlist of improvements, but with the caveat that he’s satisfied with his working model. If this project really gets your 6DOF juices flowing, maybe try making an improved version, and share the improvements. And let us know about it!

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Retrotechtacular: Programming By Card

The recent Supercon 6 badge, if you haven’t seen it, was an old-fashioned type computer with a blinky light front panel. It was reminiscent of an Altair 8800, a PDP-11, or DG Nova. However, even back in the day, only a few people really programmed a computer with switches. Typically, you might use the switches to toggle in a first-level bootloader that would then load a better bootloader from some kind of storage like magnetic or paper tape. Most people didn’t really use the switches.

What most people did do, however, was punch cards.  Technically, Hollerith cards, although we mostly just called them cards, punched cards, or IBM cards. There were a lot of different machines you could use to punch cards, but none were as popular, I would guess, as the IBM 029. Certainly, the models in the series were overwhelmingly what people used to punch cards.

For the uninitiated, a card was about the size of an old-fashioned dollar bill — the ones in style when Herman Hollerith invented them. The card was made of material not quite as thick as a standard file folder and was divided into 80 columns and 12 rows. Later cards had more columns, but those never really caught on to the same scale as the classic 80-column card. Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Programming By Card”

Detecting Radiation For Fun And Profit

It used to be that every well-stocked doomsday bunker had a Geiger counter. These days, you don’t have to have a big tube-based meter. You can inexpensively get a compact digital instrument to handle your radiation detection needs. [DiodeGoneWild] reviews and tears down such a unit from FNIRSI. The case looks like several other similar instruments we’ve seen lately, so presumably, someone is mass-producing these handheld meter cases. You can see the video, below. The meter reads the absolute radioactivity and can also measure cumulative exposure.

After measuring a few common radioactive items, we get to the teardown. Inside, of course, is an ordinary tube. A few screws reveal a typical rechargeable battery, a fairly simple PCB with a microcontroller and battery backup for the real-time clock. A lot of the board is involved in multiplying voltage up to the several hundred volts required for the Geiger tube.

The other side of the PCB has only buttons, a vibration motor, and, of course, the LCD. We don’t know how you might test the relative accuracy other than comparing it to a known-good meter. The bare tube was, of course, more sensitive without the plastic cover, but that could be calibrated out, too.

A Geiger counter doesn’t have to have a lot of parts. Either way, a surprising number of things will set them off.

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