Over the summer, you might recall seeing a homebrew 6502 game console called the GameTank grace these pages. The product of [Clyde Shaffer], the system was impressively complete, very well documented, and even had a budding library of games.
Recently, [Clyde] took to the r/electronics subreddit to show off the latest improvement to the GameTank: a revised removable cartridge. The biggest change this time around is the addition of 32 KB of battery-backed SRAM that gives games (or any other software that might be on the cartridge) some persistent storage to work with. Continue reading “DIY GameTank Game Console Gets Upgraded Cartridge” →
[Curious Scientist] tried building an integrated strain gauge on a PCB, but ran into problems. Mainly, the low resistance of the traces didn’t show enough change under strain to measure easily. Even placing a proper strain gauge on the PCB had limitations. His new design uses a bridge design to make the change in the gauges usefully large. You can see a video of the project below.
Bridging strain gauges isn’t a new idea. However, the novelty of this design is that the PCB has cantilever beams that facilitate the weighing. Standoffs mount a plate to the beams so that weight on the plate cause deformation on the beam that the strain gauges can measure.
Continue reading “PCB Gets Weighty Assignment” →
Just before the holidays, we brought you word of the Arduboy Mini — the latest in the line of open source 8-bit handheld gaming systems designed by [Kevin Bates]. He was good enough to send along a prototype version ahead of the system’s Kickstarter campaign, and we came away impressed with the possibilities it offered for customization.
Today, we’re pleased to tell you that not only did the Arduboy Mini Kickstarter cross the finish line with more than six times its original funding goal, but [Kevin] has made some pretty major changes to the design from the last time it graced these pages. The final Mini offers even more opportunities for modification and expansion, while still keeping the $29 USD price tag which made it so appealing in the first place. Continue reading “New And Improved Arduboy Mini Smashes Funding Goal” →
A “Check Engine” light on your dashboard could mean anything from a loose gas cap to a wallet-destroying repair in the offing. For [Dean Segovis], his CEL was indicating a fairly serious condition: a missing transmission. So naturally, he built this electronic transmission emulator to solve the problem.
Some explanation may be necessary here. [Dean]’s missing transmission was the result of neither theft nor accident. Rather, he replaced the failed automatic transmission on his 2003 Volkswagen EuroVan with a manual transmission. Trouble is, that left the car’s computer convinced that the many solenoids and sensors on the original transmission weren’t working, leaving him with a perfectly serviceable vehicle but an inspection-failing light on the dash.
To convince the transmission control module that a working automatic was still installed and clear the fourteen-odd diagnostic codes, [Dean] put together a block of eight common automotive relays. The relay coils approximate the resistance of the original transmission’s actuators, which convinces the TCU that everything is hunky dory. There were also a couple of speed sensors in the transmission, which he spoofed with some resistors, as well as the multi-function switch, which detects the shift lever position. All told, the emulator convinces the TCU that there’s an automatic transmission installed, which is enough for it to give the all-clear and turn off the Check Engine light on the dash.
We love hacks like this, and hats off to [Dean] for sharing it with the VW community. Apparently the issue with the EuroVan automatic transmissions is common enough that a cottage industry has developed to replace them with manuals. It’s not the only questionable aspect of VW engineering, of course, but this could help quite a few people out of a sticky situation.
Continue reading “Replace Your Automatic Transmission With A Bunch Of Relays” →
Anyone who has ever made a living writing code has probably had some version of the following drilled into their head: “Always write your code so the next person can understand it.” Every single coder has then gone on to do exactly the opposite, using cryptic variables and bizarre structures that nobody else could possibly follow. And every single coder has also forgotten the next part of that saying — “Because the next person could be you” — and gone on to curse out an often anonymous predecessor when equally inscrutable code is thrust upon them to maintain. Cognitive dissonance be damned!
It’s a tale as old as time, or at least as old as programming has existed as a profession. And by 1975, poorly written code was enough of a problem that an outfit called Edutronics put together the animated gem Critical Program Reading: Structuring an Unstructured Program. It’s apparently Part 1 of a larger series on structured programming techniques, and comes to us by way of [Alec Watson], host of Technology Connections on YouTube, by way of his second channel, the delightfully named Technology Connextras.
The film’s three minimally animated characters, each of whom could have been the villain in an episode of Scooby Doo, are tasked by a stern-sounding narrator to analyze a fragment of pseudocode that’s written in a concoction of COBOL, PL/1, and a bunch of other languages. The code is a hot mess, but our heroes muddle through it line by awful line, making it more readable by guessing at more descriptive variable names, adding structured elements, and making logical changes to improve the program’s flow. The example code is highly contrived, to be sure, but the business logic becomes much clearer as our team refactors the code and makes it far more approachable.
For as much as languages have changed since the 1970s, and with all the progress we’ve made in software engineering, the lessons presented in this film are still surprisingly relevant. We loved a lot of the little nuggets dropped along the way, like “Consistency aids understanding,” and “Use symbols in a natural way.” But we will take exception with the statement “Wrong means poor structure” — we’ve
written seen plenty of properly structured code that didn’t work worth a damn. We also enjoyed the attempt at socially engineering a less toxic work environment: “Use tact in personal criticisms.” If only they could learn that lesson over at Stack Overflow.
It’s not clear where [Alec] found this 16-mm film — we’d sure like to hear that story — but it’s a beauty and we’re glad he took the time to digitize it. We’re consistently amazed at his ability to make even the most mundane aspects of technology endlessly fascinating, and while this film may be a bit off from his normal fare, it’s still a great find. Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Critical Code Reading, 70s Style” →
What would we do without milk in modern day society? Although lactation originally evolved as a way to provide a newborn mammal with nutrients and the other essentials during the first weeks of their life, milk has for thousands of years now been a staple food in human cultures. Whether from cows, camels, sheep or other mammals, each year humans consume many liters of this mythical substance, with our galaxy’s name – the Milky Way – coming courtesy of Greek mythology and a spilled milk incident.
A major issue with mammalian milk, however, is that it is only produced by females for a certain time after giving birth, which requires for example a dairy cow to constantly go through pregnancies, which is both cumbersome and not very animal-friendly. Simultaneously, the newborn offspring cannot drink this milk, but must be provided with an alternative. For these reasons synthetic milk is becoming an increasingly more popular animal- and environmentally-friendly alternative.
For years now, companies such as US-based Perfect Day are producing milk that’s for all intents and purposes identical to cow milk, with the added advantage of being free of lactose and other problematic additions. The best part of this all? It’s all done with existing fermentation techniques.
Continue reading “The Dawn Of Synthetic Milk: When Milk Becomes More Like Beer” →
A few months ago we brought you some experiments from [Bill Meara, N2CQR], in which he investigated the use of a glue stick as the former for a permeability tuned inductor. His set-up was very much in the spirit of experimentation, and we’re very pleased to now see [Nick, M0NTV] has taken the idea and demonstrated it for the 7 MHz, or 40 meter, amateur radio band.
The result can be seen in the video below the break, and is housed in a tin enclosure that we’re guessing once contained toffees. The oscillator circuit comes courtesy of [Ashar Farhan VU2ESE] of BitX transceiver fame, but we’re most interested in the glue stick coil former which makes use of a small bracket for stability. With the glue removed, he’s mounted a ferrite ring in its glue carrier which is moved in and out of the coil. We’re guessing this could also be done with other permeability-altering materials, for example we’d follow [VU2ESE]’s lead and try a piece of brass.
The knurled glue feed knob protrudes through a hole in the tin, and we’re guessing there’s enough separation for an operator’s hand not to drag the frequency too much. All in all given that variable capacitors are now something of a rarity, it makes for a useful demonstration of a very cheap replacement. Meanwhile, you can read our notes on [N2CQR]’s work here.
Continue reading “A Practical Glue Stick Oscillator” →