In the 1950s, computers were, for the most part, ponderous machines. But one machine offered a glimpse of the future. The Volscan was probably the first real air traffic computer designed to handle high volumes of military aircraft operations. It used a light gun that looked more like a soldering gun than a computer input device. There isn’t much data about Volscan, but it appears to have been before its time, and had arguably the first GUI on a computer system ever.
The Air Force had a problem. The new — in the 1950s — jets needed long landing approaches and timely landings since they burned more fuel at lower altitudes. According to the Air Force, they could land 40 planes in an hour, but they needed to be able to do 120 planes an hour. The Whirlwind computer had proven that computers could process radar data — although Whirlwind was getting the data over phone lines from a distance. So the Air Force’s Cambridge Research Center started working on a computerized system to land planes called Volscan, later known as AN/GSN-3.
Continue reading “The First Gui? Volscan Controls The Air” →
If you want to see inside an integrated circuit (IC), you generally have to take the die out of the package, which can be technically challenging and often destroys the device. Looking to improve the situation, [Bunnie] has been working on Infra-Red, In Situ (IRIS) inspection of silicon devices. The technique relies on the fact that newer packages expose the backside of the silicon die and that silicon is invisible to IR light. The IR reflects off the bottom metalization layer and you can get a pretty good idea of what’s going on inside the chip, under the right circumstances.
As you might expect, the resolution isn’t what you’d get from, say, a scanning electron microscope or other techniques. However, using IR is reasonably cheap and doesn’t require removal from the PCB. That means you can image exactly the part that is in the device, without removing it. Of course, you need an IR-sensitive camera, which is about any camera these days if you remove the IR filter from it. You also need an IR source which isn’t very hard to do these days, either.
Do you need the capability to peer inside your ICs? You might not. But if you do and you can live with the limitations of this method, it would be a very inexpensive way to get a glimpse behind the curtain.
If you want to try the old-fashioned way, we can help. Just don’t expect to be as good as [Ken] at doing it right away.
Continue reading “[Bunnie] Peeks Inside ICs With IR” →
In the world of proprietary protocol darkness, it’s comforting to see that the RV realm (Recreational Vehicle, also known as a motorhome) has mostly settled on RV-C, an open protocol that lets various devices and systems inside an RV talk to each other over CAN. The undeniable openness of RV-C is surprising, but we haven’t seen many hobbyists tinker with it — yet.
Now, [Randy Ubillos] sets an example — his gift to us is an ESP32 firmware called RV-Bridge and it lets you control your RV’s RV-C network from HomeKit. After all, your motorhome could benefit from home automation, too!
The RV-C network in [Randy]’s family RV already had a factory-provided front-end and an iOS app, but naturally, it had a limited set of features. Having looked around online he found that both RV-C and HomeKit had open libraries for them, and set out to join these worlds together.
Now he’s released the first revision of RV-Bridge, fully-featured enough for comfortable day-to-day use, and with a setup guide for those who want to try it out! When it comes to hardware, you’ll want an ESP32 board with CAN support — [Randy] has found a perfect board for sale, and made it even more fitting by designing a 3D printed case for RV use; as usual, files are on GitHub!
Making your stock RV more comfy through hacker methods is exactly what we expect to grace our tips line! The kinds of RV projects we’ve seen so far, are also outstandingly cool, yet of different kind – things like building your own RVs out of something not meant to be an RV, whether it’s an abandoned airliner, a school bus, or a jet engine! Oh, and if your hackerspace owns a RV, you can always convert it to something else, be it a mobile hackerspace or a spaceship simulator.