Restoring A 45 Year Old Video Game

When we say vintage video game, some of you may think of the likes of Lemmings, Mario or maybe even Donkey Kong but the game that [Vintage Apparatus] restored is slightly older and much more minimalist, using an LED matrix and some 7-segment displays rather than this newfangled color CRT thing.

The front and back covers, buttons and screws of the game on the workbench.
The game is disassembled before cleaning.

[Vintage Apparatus] starts by removing the battery and cover from the 1977 Mattel electronics (American) football game, which uses rather uncommon 2mm triangular screws. To his and our surprise, the circuit board and its beautiful array of LEDs seem to be in excellent condition, so he moves on to cleaning the case itself.

The case, on the other hand, is a bit dirty on the outside, so [Vintage Apparatus] takes out the buttons and starts cleaning with the back cover a Q-tip. After a bit of scrubbing and some extra care to avoid removing any stickers, he moves on to the considerably dirtier and somewhat scratched front case. After some wrestling with the creases and speaker grill of the front cover, the outside of the front case looks nice and clean. Finally, he puts back the buttons and circuit board in the front cover before adding closing it all up with the back cover and screwing it back together.

The game, which immediately comes to life and was actually made by the Mattel calculator division, is a sort of evasion game where the player is a bright dot that can move forward, up or down. The player avoids the dimmer dots, the “tacklers”, in order to run as far as possible as fast as possible. When one of the tacklers tackles the player, the amount of downs is increased and the fifth down means game over. After either scoring or getting downed one too many times, the field is flipped and it’s now player 2’s turn.

Video after the break.
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The McDonald’s Ice Cream Machine Saga And Calls For Right To Repair

The inside of a Taylor C709 ice cream machine, as seen from the back with the cover on the electronics removed. (Credit: iFixit)
The inside of a Taylor C709 ice cream machine, as seen from the back with the cover over the electronics removed. (Credit: iFixit)

Raising a likely somewhat contentious topic, iFixit and Public Knowledge have challenged the manufacturer behind McDonald’s ice cream machines to make them easy to diagnose and repair. This is a subject that’s probably familiar to anyone who is vaguely familiar with US news and the importance of ice cream at McDonald’s locations to the point that a live tracker was set up so that furtive customers can catch a glimpse at said tracker before finding themselves staring in dismay at an ‘Out of Order’ sign on one of these Taylor ice cream machines.

The story is more complex than just a machine being “broken”, however. The maintenance contracts are lucrative, the instruction manual is long, and the error codes are cryptic. When you add to that the complexity of cleaning and maintaining the machines, it’s tempting to just claim the machine is out of order. These Taylor machines (the C602 and the C709 from the iFixit video) are a bit more complex than your usual ice cream maker in that they also have a pasteurization element that’s supposed to keep already poured mix safe to use the next day.

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All-Mechanical Coil Winder Is A Scrap-Bin Delight

If there’s something more tedious than winding coils, we’re not sure what it is — possibly rolling and wrapping coins; that’s really a bother. But luckily, just like there are mechanical ways to count coins, there are tools to make coil production a little less of a chore, but perhaps none that have as much charm as this all-mechanical coil winder.

We’d say that [Ralph (VK3ZZC)]’s amazing invention firmly falls under the “contraption” category, without a hint of the term being used as a pejorative. The rig was based on the MoReCo Coilmaster, a machine that was once commercially available at a fairly steep price, according to [Ralph], and still seems to command a premium even today. Never being able to afford an original, [Ralph] spun up his own from scrap metal and tooling no more sophisticated than a drill press. It’s a riot of brass and steel, with a hand crank that drives the main winding shaft while powering a cam that guides the wire along the long axis of the coil form. Cams can be changed out for different winding patterns, and various chucks adapt to hold different coil forms to the winding shaft.

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3D Printing RC Car Tires To Go Fast

There’s a bit of a high-speed arms race in the RC world on YouTube these days. [Michael Rectin] is in on the action, and he’s been exploring how to 3D print a decent set of tires to help his RC car reach higher speeds mph.

His first efforts involved experiments with TPU. The tires looked okay, but had very little traction. He later moved on to VarioShore TPU, a filament capable of delivering various properties depending on the printing method. Printing for the softest, and thus grippiest, possible tires, [Michael] whipped up some sporty looking boots for his wheels.

His tires improved over  off-road RC tires in one major way. His design didn’t suffer significant ballooning as the rotational velocity increased. However, the VarioShore material lacked grip compared to off-the-shelf rubber RC tires designed for high-speed use. The commercially-available tires also offered a smoother ride.

[Michael] also demonstrated some neat tricks for high-speed RC driving. He used a modified flight controller to correct the car’s steering in response to perturbations, and put in a scaling method that reduces steering inputs at higher speed. That didn’t entirely stop the carnage though, with some incidents seeing wheels thrown off in big tumbling crashes.

Electric-powered RC cars can go darn quick these days, but you might want to consider jet power if you want to break records. Video after the break.

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AI Assistant Translates Your Every Request For The Command Line

If you don’t live on the command line, it can be easy to forget the exact syntax of commands. It often leaves you running to the “/?” or “–help” switches, or else a quick Google search to find the proper incantations. Shell-AI is a machine-learning assistant that could change all that by helping you find the proper command for the job, right on the command line!

Shell-AI accepts natural-language inputs — simply type in “shai” followed by what you’re trying to do. It will then take in your request, run it through an OpenAI language model like GPT-3.5-Turbo, and then present you with three (or more) potential commands. You can then select which command to use and get on with your day.

As demonstrated, it’s more than capable of following commands like “download a random image” or “show only image files ls.” And, hilariously, it responds to the request “do something crazy” with just one suggestion: “rm -rf”. That seems rather fitting.

We wouldn’t blindly follow any commands coming out of a large language model, of course. But, if you know what you’re doing, it could prove a useful little tool to ease your regular duties on the command line.

3D Printed Engine Gets Carburetor

3D printed materials have come a long way in the last decade or so as printers have become more and more mainstream. Printers can use all kinds of different plastics with varying physical characteristics, and there are even printers now for other materials like concrete and metal. But even staying within the realm of the plastic printer can do a lot of jobs you might not expect. [Camden Bowen] recently 3D printed a single-piston engine which nearly worked, and is back with some improvements to it thanks to a small carburetor.

The carburetor itself isn’t 3D printed (although not from lack of trying) — it’s on loan from a weed eater, and is helping to solve a problem with the fuel-air mixture of his original design. Switching from butane to a liquid fuel also solved some problems as well, and using starter fluid also helped to kick off the ignition. Although it ran for a short period of time over several starts, the valve train suffered some damage with the exhaust valves melting in place to the head. This is actually a problem common to any internal combustion engine like this, especially if the fuel-air mixture is too lean, there’s incomplete combustion, the valves aren’t adjusted properly, or any number of other problems. In this case it seems to have been caused by improper engine timing.

It’s actually noteworthy though that the intake valves weren’t burned, meaning that if the engine can be tuned to allow for complete combustion before the exhaust gasses leave the combustion chamber, the plastic 3D printed head and valve train will likely survive much longer operational periods. We’ll certainly look forward to the next iteration of this engine build to see if that’s the case. If 3D printed piston engines aren’t your speed, though, take a look at this jet engine which uses a 3D printed compressor.

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Converting Wind To Electricity Or: The Doubly-Fed Induction Generator

Humanity has been harvesting energy from the wind for centuries. The practice goes back at least to 8th century Persia where the first known historical records of windmills came, but likely extends even further back than that. Compared to the vast history of using wind energy directly to do things like mill grain, pump water, saw wood, or produce fabrics, the production of electricity is still relatively new. Despite that, there are some intriguing ways of using wind to produce electricity. Due to the unpredictable nature of wind from moment to moment, using it to turn a large grid-tied generator is not as straightforward as it might seem. Let’s take a look at four types of wind turbine configurations and how each deal with sudden changes in wind speeds. Continue reading “Converting Wind To Electricity Or: The Doubly-Fed Induction Generator”