When it comes to driving a display, you can do all kinds of fancy tricks with microcontrollers to get an image up. Really, though, FPGAs are the weapon of choice for playing with these kinds of signals. [Ted Fried] put one to great work driving an ancient IBM 5151 MDA display, and shared his results on Hackaday.io.
The build relies on a Digilent Arty Z7-20 SOC FPGA development board, which has a beefy 600 MHz ARM processor on board. It also packs 500 MB of DRAM—more than enough for storing pixel data for an ancient display.
To drive the old display, [Ted] whipped up a state machine on the FPGA. It’s tasked with fetching display data from RAM and creating the appropriate timings for the MDA display interface. The images are stored directly in an array in C code running on the ARM core. From there, they are copied into the FPGA’s RAM for trucking out to the display. The 720×350 images are stored as 1 bit per pixel, and are created by converting the original JPEGs into single-bit bitmaps in GIMP, before final conversion into a C code array via utility of [Ted’s] own design.
If you’ve ever wanted to display your images in resplendent amber or green, then this could be the project for you. It’s also just a great way to learn about using FPGAs and interfacing with alternative display technologies. If you’ve been whipping up your own retro display hacks, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.
For hundreds of years, we have been told what Newton’s First Law of Motion supposedly says, but recently a paper published in Philosophy of Science (preprint) by [Daniel Hoek] argues that it is based on a mistranslation of the original Latin text. As noted by [Stephanie Pappas] in Scientific American, this would seem to be a rather academic matter as Newton’s Laws of Motion have been superseded by General Relativity and other theories developed over the intervening centuries. Yet even today Newton’s theories are highly relevant, as they provide very accessible approximations for predicting phenomena on Earth.
Similarly, we owe it to scientific and historical accuracy to address such matters, all of which seem to come down to an awkward translation of Isaac Newton’s original Latin text in the 1726 third edition to English by Andrew Motte in 1729. This English translation is what ended up defining for countless generations what Newton’s Laws of Motion said, along with the other chapters in his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.
Continue reading “Mistranslation Of Newton’s First Law Discovered After Nearly 300 Years”
Computing used to run on punch cards. Great stacks of cards would run middling programs, with data output onto more punched cards in turn. [Nii] has built a machine in this vein, capable of punching binary into paper tape.
The machine is run by a stepper motor, which is charged with feeding the paper tape through the machine in steady steps. A series of vertically-actuated solenoids punch holes in the paper tape as directed. The machine buzzes and clicks away like the best electromechanical computing devices of the mid-century era.
To what end, we couldn’t possibly say. One user noted the machine was punching seemingly random binary into the paper tape, and [Nii] has not provided any explanation as to the machine’s higher purpose. Regardless, whatever it is doing, it looks like it’s doing it well. Feel free to speculate in the comments.
Impressively, the petite device will be demonstrated at MF-TOKYO, the 7th Annual Metal Forming Fair in Tokyo this year. We’re sure the clickity-clack will be muchly appreciated in person. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Paper Punching Machine Looks Like Cute Piece Of Computer History Past”
There’s just something about a pocket watch that screams class compared to the barbaric act of bending your arm, or the no-fun way of looking at your phone.
But smartwatches are dumb, analog things that mostly look pretty. Or are they? [JGJMatt] proves otherwise with their stunning DIY smart pocket watch. It is essentially a cheap smart watch from Amazon stuffed into the shell of an old pocket watch, but you know it’s not quite that simple.
On the easier side of things, [JGJMatt] had to come up with a 3D-printed bracket to hold the smart watch’s guts. On the harder end of the spectrum, he ended up building the charging port into the crown, where the latch used to be.
This is a beautiful build for sure, and a great way to reuse something that might otherwise end up thrown away or melted down.
Looking for a cool alternative pocket watch that’s a little easier to build? Check out [JGJMatt]’s pocket sundial.
You can always go out and buy an RC car off the shelf. However, it’s readily achievable to print your own design that has many of the features of off-the-shelf models, as demonstrated by [Jinan].
[Jinan] set about creating a rear-wheel-drive design with a low center of gravity for good handling. Two large 5.2 Ah batteries slung low in the chassis help keep the car planted when cornering. [Jinan] also developed a double-wishbone suspension setup up front to handle bumps with ease.
With his eyes on top speed, [Jinan] needed a drivetrain that could handle sustained high RPM operation without failure. During the development process, [Jinan] spent plenty of time learning about the mathematics behind gear shapes before relying on a built-in CAD generator to do the job for him. Armed with proper gearing, he focused on making sure the driveshafts and other links wouldn’t fail at speed.
[Jinan] doesn’t shy away from diving into the engineering of his design, analyzing failures and improving on his designs along the way. It’s no surprise his design was able to reach 66 km/h (41 MPH) after his rigorous development process. It’s compelling watching, and a great way to learn something.
Continue reading “3D Printed RC Car Is Geared For Speed”
When we last left the post office, I told you all about various kinds of machinery the USPS uses to move mail around. Today I’m going to tell you about the time they thought they could automate nearly every function inside the standard post office — and no, it wasn’t anytime recently.
By 1953, the post office badly needed modernization. When Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield was appointed that year, he found the system essentially in shambles. Throughout the 1930s and 40s, the USPS had done absolutely no spending beyond the necessary, with little to no investment in the future. But Summerfield was an ideas man, and he had the notion to build a totally automated post office. One of them would be located in Providence, Rhode Island and be known as Project Turnkey — as in a turnkey operation. The other would be located in Oakland, California, and serve as a gateway to the Pacific.
Continue reading “You’ve Got Mail: Automatic For The People”
The UK bank holiday weekend at the end of August is a national holiday in which it sometimes seems the entire country ups sticks and makes for somewhere with a beach. This year though, many of them couldn’t, because the country’s NATS air traffic system went down and stranded many to grumble in the heat of a crowded terminal. At the time it was blamed on faulty flight data, but news now emerges that the data which brought down an entire country’s air traffic control may have not been faulty at all.
Armed with the official incident report and publicly available flight data, Internet sleuths theorize that the trouble was due to one particular flight: French Bee flight 731 from Los Angeles to Paris. The flight itself was unremarkable, but the data which sent the NATS computers into a tailspin came from two of its waypoints — Devil’s Lake Wisconsin and Deauville Normandy — having the same DVL identifier. Given the vast distance between the two points, the system believed it was looking at a faulty route, and refused to process it. A backup system automatically stepped in to try and reconcile the data, but it made the same determination as the primary software, so the whole system apparently ground to a halt.
It’s important to note that there was nothing wrong with the flight plan entered in by the French Bee pilots, and that early stories blaming faulty data were themselves at fault. However we are guessing that air traffic software developers worldwide are currently scrambling to check their code for this particular bug. We’re fortunate indeed that safety wasn’t compromised and only inconvenience was the major outcome.
Air traffic control doesn’t feature here too often, but we’ve previously looked at a much earlier system.
Header image: John Evans, CC BY-SA 2.0.