The motherboard of a Mattel Aquarius, with a small daughterboard mounted on top

Adding Composite Video To The Mattel Aquarius

In the home computer market of the 1980s, there were several winners that are still household names four decades later: the Commodore 64, the Apple II and the Sinclair Spectrum, to name a few. But where there are winners, there are bound to be losers as well – the Mattel Aquarius being a good example. A price war between the bigger players, combined with a rather poor hardware design, meant that the Aquarius was discontinued just a few months after its introduction in 1983. However, this makes it exactly the type of obscure machine that [Leaded Solder] likes to tinker with, so he was happy to finally get his hands on a neat specimen listed on eBay. He wrote an interesting blog post detailing his efforts to connect this old beast to a modern TV.

The main issue with the Aquarius is that it only has an RF video output, which results in a rather poor rendition of its already very limited graphics capabilities. Luckily, there is a fix available in the form of a composite A/V adapter that’s an almost plug-and-play upgrade. The only thing you need to do, as [Leaded Solder] illustrates in his blog post, is open up the computer, desolder the RF modulator and solder the A/V adapter in its place. Getting to that point was a bit tricky due to heavy EMI shields that were fixed in place with lots of solder, requiring liberal use of a desoldering iron. Continue reading “Adding Composite Video To The Mattel Aquarius”

Linux Fu: Build A Better Ls

Ask someone to name all the things they can find in a room. Only a few will mention air. Ask a Linux command line user about programs they use and they may well forget to mention ls. Like air, it is seemingly invisible since it is so everpresent. But is it the best it can be? Sure, you can use environment variables and aliases to make it work a little nicer, but, in fact, it is much the same ls we have used for decades. But there have always been moves to make better ls programs. One of them, exa, was recently deprecated in favor of one of its forks, eza.

One thing we liked about eza is that it is a single file. No strange installation. No multiple files to coordinate. Put it on your path, and you are done. So installation is easy, but why should you install it?

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A rotary subwoofer made out of a speaker coil, a medium-size fan an a grey wooden box to stand on.

Tear Apart Your House For $200 With This Rotary Subwoofer

Many movies and songs use a lot of of bass to make it feel more real to the viewer or listener. Because of this, subwoofers are common in high-quality audio setups, often costing a substantial part of the budget. [Daniel Fajkis] takes the subwoofer to it’s logical extreme by building a rotary subwoofer on a $200 budget.

The principle of a rotary subwoofer is that a normal subwoofer physically moves the air, and so does a fan. If you could make a fan oscillate the air instead of only pushing it, you could turn it into such a subwoofer, which is exactly what [Daniel] did. [Daniel] mounts a large electric motor on the case of an ex-subwoofer to spin the fan. Then, he uses the rotor linkage of a model helicopter and a modified subwoofer speaker to pitch the fan blades, spinning around to create a truly impressive gust of air oscillating at as low as 1 Hz.

The video, after the break, is well made with some good humor, including the legendary quote: “It’s gonna tear apart my household, there’s no way we’re surviving this one.”
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Homebrew Linear Actuators Improved

[Harrison Low] published some 3D-printed linear actuators, which generated a lot of interest. He got a lot of advice from people on the Internet, and he took it to heart. The result: an improved version that you can see in the video below.

The original design used carbon fiber and Kevlar and was quite stiff. The actuators could move very fast, which was important to [Harrison]. However, they were also prone to wear and had issues with the force required to assemble them. He also wanted the design to be more modular to facilitate repair. The new design removes the bowden tubes, and the resulting actuator is both easier to assemble and easier to service.

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An array of 2D barcodes stored on a ceramic medium. Each 2D barcode is 25 micrometers wide.

Cerabyte: One Terabyte Per Square Centimeter

Most of us will at one point have run out of storage and either had to buy a larger driver or delete some of those precious files. This problem can happen to data centers, too, with the ever-increasing amount of data stored on servers across the world. [Cerabyte] aims to fix this, with their ceramic-based media promising 1 TB/cm² of areal density.

To put into perspective just how much better this density is, we can compare it against SSDs and hard drives. At the time of writing, the densest SSD (NAND flash storage) is claimed to be 0.1825 TB/cm² and the densest hard drive is claimed to be 0.1705 TB/cm², which means 5.48 times and 5.87 times more dense respectively. The density improvement doesn’t end there — both an SSD and a single HDD platter might be a couple millimeters tall, while a [Cerabyte] layer claims to be merely 50 atoms tall.

[Cerabyte] aims to create 10 PB (10,000 TB) and later 1 EB (1,000,000 TB) racks with their technology, a feat difficult to achieve with mere hard drives. The ceramic-based media is written to using lasers and read from with a microscope, though throughput is limited to a “mere” 1 GB/s, which means filling that one rack could take as long as 110 days. Despite the relatively slow access times, we think this new storage technology is impressive, assuming [Cerabyte] succeeds.

Do you need so much storage that even [Cerabyte] can’t satisfy your needs? Simply use YouTube as infinite storage!

Will RadioShack Return?

We suspect that if you want to write a blockbuster movie or novel, the wrong approach is to go to a studio or publisher and say, “I have this totally new idea that is like nothing you’ve ever seen before…” Even Star Trek was pitched to the network as “Wagon Train to the stars.” People with big money tend to want to bet on things that have succeeded before, which is why so many movies are either remakes or Star Trek XXII: The Search for 4 PM Dinner Specials. Maybe that’s what the El Salvador-based Unicomer Group had in mind when they bought one of our favorite brands, RadioShack. They are reportedly planning a major comeback for the beleaguered brand both online and in the physical world.

In all fairness, the Shack may be better in our memories than in our realities. It was handy to stop off and pick up a coax connector, even if it cost three times the going rate for one. There was a time when RadioShack offered reasonable parts for projects, and it seems like near the end, they tried to hit that target again, but for many years, you could not find the typical parts for a modern project there anyway. However, Unicomer isn’t just a random group of investors.

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Hackaday Podcast 235: Licorice For Lasers, Manual Motors, And Reading Resistors

Name one other podcast where you can hear about heavy 3D-printed drones, DIY semiconductors, and using licorice to block laser beams. Throw in homebrew relays, a better mouse trap, and logic analyzers, and you’ll certainly be talking about Elliot Williams and Al Williams on Hackaday Podcast 235.

There’s also contest news, thermoforming, and something that looks a little like 3D-printed Velcro. Elliot and Al also have their semi-annual argument about Vi vs. Emacs. Spoiler alert: they decided they both suck.

Missed any of their picks? Check out the links below, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Download it yourself. You can even play it backwards if you like.

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