A Mobile Phone From 1985

It might seem quaint through the lends of history we have the luxury of looking through, but in the mid 1980s it was a major symbol of status to be able to communicate on-the-go. Car phones and pagers were cutting-edge devices of the time, and even though there were some mobile cellular telephones, they were behemoths compared to anything we would recognize as a cell phone today. It wasn’t until 1985 that a cell phone was able to fit in a pocket, and that first device wasn’t just revolutionary because of its size. It made a number of technological advancements that were extremely impressive for its time, and [Janus Cycle] takes us through some of those in this teardown video.

The Technophone came to us from Great Britain by way of a former Ericsson engineer named Nils Mårtensson. It was able to achieve its relatively small stature using a surface-mount PCB, which was a cutting-edge manufacturing process for the time. Not only did it use surface-mount components and boards, but the PCB itself has 12 layers and two sides and hosts two custom Technophone chips. The phone is relatively modular as well, with the screen, battery pack, and other components capable of easily disconnecting from the main board. Continue reading “A Mobile Phone From 1985”

Vehicle-to-Grid Made Easy

As electric cars continue to see increased adoption, one associated technology that was touted long ago that still hasn’t seen widespread adoption is vehicle-to-grid or vehicle-to-home. Since most cars are parked most of the time, this would allow the cars to perform load-levelling for the grid or even act as emergency generators on an individual basis when needed. While this hasn’t panned out for a variety of reasons, it is still possible to use an EV battery for use off-grid or as part of a grid tie solar system, and now you can do it without needing to disassemble the battery packs at all.

Normally when attempting to use a scrapped EV battery for another use, the cells would be removed from the OEM pack and reorganized to a specific voltage. This build, however, eliminates the need to modify the packs at all. A LilyGO ESP32 is used to convert the CAN bus messages from the battery pack to the Modbus communications protocol used by the inverters, in this case a Fronius Gen24, so the inverter and battery can coordinate energy delivery from one to the other automatically. With the hard part out of the way, the only other requirements are to connect a high voltage DC cable from the battery pack to the inverter.

[Dala], the creator of this project, has taken other steps to ensure safety as well that we’d recommend anyone attempting to recreate this build pays close attention to, as these battery packs contain an extremely large amount of energy. The system itself supports battery packs from Nissan Leafs as well as the Tesla Model 3, which can usually be found for comparably low prices. Building battery energy storage systems to make up for the lack of commercially-available vehicle-to-home systems isn’t the only use for an old EV battery, though. For example, it’s possible to use Leaf batteries to triple the range of other EVs like [Muxsan] did with this Nissan van.

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The IKEA OBEGRÄNSAD is a pixel-style LED wall lamp that comes with a few baked-in animations, and [ph1p] improved it immensely with an ESP32 board and new firmware. The new controller provides all kinds of great new abilities, including new modes and animations, WiFi control, and the ability to send your own images or drawings to the panel. All it takes is desoldering the original controller and swapping in a programmed ESP32.

Hacking in a new controller provides a whole new range of capabilities.

Sadly, opening the unit up is a bit of a pain. It seems the back panel is attached with rivets rather than screws, but it will yield to a little bit of prying force.

The good news is that once the back panel is off, the inside of the OBEGRÄNSAD is very hackable. All the parts and connectors are easily accessible from where they are, and a nicely-labeled pin header makes a convenient attachment point for the new ESP32 board. There’s no need to disassemble any further once the back is off, and that’s always nice.

Going a bit smaller, we’ve also seen an IKEA LED nightlight greatly improved by a little hacking, and there are plenty more IKEA hacks where that came from.

The Voltaic Pile: Building The First Battery

In the technologically-underpinned modern world, most of us interact with a battery of some sort every day. Whether that’s the starter battery in a car, the lithium battery in a phone, or even just the coin cell battery in a wrist watch, batteries underpin a lot of what makes society possible now. Not so in the early 1800s when chemists and physicists were first building and experimenting with batteries. And those batteries were enormous, non-rechargable, and fairly fragile to boot. Not something suited for powering much of anything, but if you want to explore what it would have been like to use one of these devices, follow along with [Christopher]’s build of a voltaic pile. Continue reading “The Voltaic Pile: Building The First Battery”

Hackaday Prize 2023: Hearing Sirens When Drivers Can’t

[Jan Říha]’s PionEar device is a wonderful entry to the Assistive Tech portion of the 2023 Hackaday Prize. It’s a small unit intended to perch within view of the driver in a vehicle, and it has one job: flash a light whenever a siren is detected. It is intended to provide drivers with a better awareness of emergency vehicles, because they are so often heard well before they are seen, and their presence disrupts the usual flow of the road. [Jan] learned that there was a positive response in the Deaf and hard of hearing communities to a device like this; roads get safer when one has early warning.

Deaf and hard of hearing folks are perfectly capable of driving. After all, not being able to hear is not a barrier to obeying the rules of the road. Even so, for some drivers it can improve awareness of their surroundings, which translates to greater safety. For the hearing impaired, higher frequencies tend to experience the most attenuation, and this can include high-pitched sirens.

The PionEar leverages embedded machine learning to identify sirens, which is a fantastic application of the technology. Machine learning, after all, is a way to solve the kinds of problems that humans are not good at figuring out how to write a program to solve. Singling out the presence of a siren in live environmental audio definitely qualifies.

We also like the clever way that [Jan] embedded an LED light guide into the 3D-printed enclosure: by making a channel and pouring in a small amount of white resin intended for 3D printers. Cure the resin with a UV light, and one is left with an awfully good light guide that doubles as a diffuser. You can see it all in action in a short video, just under the page break.

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New Drug Has Potential As Dirty Bomb Antidote

It perhaps goes without saying that one nuclear bomb can really ruin your day. The same is true for non-nuclear dirty bombs, which just use conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material over a wide area. Either way, the debris scattered by any type of radiation weapon has the potential to result in thousands or perhaps millions of injuries, for which modern medicine offers little in the way of relief.

HOPO 14-1, aka 3,4,3-Li(1,2-HOPO). The four hydroxypyridinone groups do the work of coordinating radioactive ions and making them soluble so they can be eliminated in urine.

But maybe not for long. A Phase 1 clinical trial is currently underway to see if an oral drug is able to scour radioactive elements from the human body. The investigational compound is called HOPO 14-1, a chelating agent that has a high affinity for metals in the actinide series, which includes plutonium, uranium, thorium, and cerium curium. Chelating agents, which are molecules that contain a multitude of electron donor sites, are able to bind to positively charged metal ions and make the soluble in aqueous solutions. Chelators are important in food and pharmaceutical processing — read the ingredients list on just about anything from a can of soda to a bottle of shampoo and you’re likely to see EDTA, or ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, which binds to any metal ions that make it into the product, particularly iron ions that come from the stainless steel plumbing used in processing equipment.

The compound under evaluation, HOPO 14-1, is a powerful chelator of metal ions. Its structure is inspired by natural chelators produced by bacteria and fungi, called siderophores, which help the microorganisms accumulate iron. Its mechanism of action is to sequester the radioactive ions and make them soluble enough to be passed out of the body in the urine, rather than to have the radioactive elements carried around the body and incorporated into the bones and other tissues where they can cause radiation damage for years.

HOPO 14-1 has a number of potential benefits over the current frontline chelator for plutonium and uranium toxicity, DTPA or diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid. Where DTPA needs to be injected intravenously to be effective, HOPO 14-1 can be made into a pill, making stockpiling and administering the drug easier. If, of course, it passes Phase 1 safety trials and survives later trials to determine efficacy.

3D Model Subscriptions Are Coming, But Who’s Buying?

We’ve all been there before — you need some 3D printable design that you figure must be common enough that somebody has already designed it, so you point your browser to Thingiverse or Printables, and in a few minutes you’ve got STL in hand and are ready to slice and print. If the design worked for you, perhaps you’ll go back and post an image of your print and leave a word of thanks to the designer.

Afterwards, you’ll probably never give that person a second thought for the rest of your life. Within a day or two, there’s a good chance you won’t even remember their username. It’s why most of the model sharing sites will present you with a list of your recently downloaded models when you want to upload a picture of your print, otherwise there’s a good chance you wouldn’t be able to find the thing.

Now if you really liked the model, you might go as far as following the designer. But even then, there would likely be some extenuating circumstances. After all, even the most expertly designed widget is still just a widget, and the chances of that person creating another one that you’d also happen to need seems exceedingly slim. Most of the interactions on these model sharing sites are like two ships passing in the night; it so happened that you and the creator had similar enough needs that you could both use the same printable object, but there’s no telling if you’ll ever cross paths with them again.

Which is why the recent announcements, dropped just hours from each other, that both Thangs and Printables would be rolling out paid subscription services seems so odd. Both sites claim that not only is there a demand for a service that would allow users to pay designers monthly for their designs, but that existing services such as Patreon are unable to meet the unique challenges involved.

Both sites say they have the solution, and can help creators turn their passion for 3D design into a regular revenue stream — as long as they get their piece of the action, that is.

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