A Look At A 1960s Tube-Based Magnavox Concert Grand Console Stereo

Back in presumably the early 1960s, [David]’s grandfather bought a console stereo featuring a record player, AM/FM radio and a rather astounding stereo speaker system that would be more than enough to cover a small concert hall. Having inherited this piece of auditory art after his grandfather’s passing, [David] has given the console stereo a prominent place in his living room, which is where we start the tour in a new video on the [Usagi Electric] YouTube channel.

Plentiful I/O on this 1960s vintage piece of Magnavox audio equipment.

Being a 1950s-vintage design that got produced into the 1960s in a variety of models, the Magnavox Concert Grand is an all-tube affair, with the only presence of semiconductors being the three transistors found in the ‘Phantom’ remote control. [David] unfortunately does not posses this remote control, although the receiver module is present in the unit. It appears to be similar to the 1960 1ST800F in possession by [electra225] over at the Classic HiFi Care forum, which can provide 50 Watt per channel, yet as noted in the forum post, the 44 tubes alone draw about 250 Watt, with [electra225] recording 377 Watt total with everything cranked up. Clearly a high power bill was a price one had to pay for having high-end audio back in that era.

After [David] takes his unit apart – made very easy due to the modular construction – he goes through the basic circuitry of the power supply, the amplifiers and even has a peek at the circuitry of the remote control which appears to use basic frequency modulation to transfer the intended action to the receiver. All of this is made quite easy as full schematics are available for the entire system, as was standard back in those days. Interesting is also the I/O module, which features an MPX section, for demodulating stereo FM which wasn’t standardized yet at the time. Finally, tape drive connectors are available, which would have been likely a reel-to-reel unit for maximum HiFi enjoyment.

With the only broken thing in [David]’s unit being the snapped wire on the tuner of the radio module (ironically caused by the disassembly), all that was changed before reassembly was a good clean, after which the console stereo was put back and tested. Reflecting an era when HiFi equipment was supposed to blend in with other furniture, it will likely continue to do service for [David] as the world’s fanciest TV soundbar for the foreseeable future.

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Vintage Computer Festival Southern California

The Vintage Computer Festival is coming to sunny Southern California in February 2024. That’s right, bring your Commodores, your Tandys,  your PDP-11s, and Altairs. The world of retrocomputing will be open to vendors, visitors, and exhibitors at The Hotel Fera Events Center in Orange, California on February 17th and 18th, 2024.

If you’re thinking there already is a VCF out west, you’d be right. VCF West was held in August at the Computer History Museum. The CHM is in Mountain View, California. That puts it nearly at the epicenter of the microcomputer revolution of the ’70s and ’80s.

Southern California still had plenty of computer enthusiasts though. For the non-geographically inclined amongst us, SoCal is nearly 6 hours from Mountain View by car.  We’re sure we’ll see many familiar faces at SoCal, along with plenty of new ones.

The Vintage Computer Federation holds several events across the country each year. You might have heard some music from VCF Midwest 2023 back in September. Hackaday was also out in force at VCF East this year, where our own [Bil Herd] moderated a panel of vintage computer YouTubers including [Usagi Electric], [Adrian’s Digital Basement], and [FranLab].

Low-Cost Electret Microphone Preamplifiers

Before the invention of microelectromechanical system (MEMS) microphones, almost all microphones in cell phones and other electronics were a type of condenser microphone called the electret microphone. The fact that this type of microphone is cheap and easy enough to place into consumer electronics doesn’t mean they’re all low quality, though. Electret microphones can have a number of qualities that make them desirable for use recording speech or music, so if you have a struggling artist friend like [fvfilippetti] has who needs an inexpensive way to bring one to life, take a look at this electret microphone pre-amp.

The main goal of the project is to enhance the performance of these microphones specifically in high sound pressure level (SPL) scenarios. In these situations issues of saturation and distortion often occur. The preampl design incorporates feedback loops and an AD797 opamp to reduce distortion, increase gain, and maintain low noise levels. It also includes an output voltage limiter using diodes to protect against input overload and can adjust gain. The circuit’s topology is designed to minimize distortion, particularly in these high SPL situations.

Real-world testing of the preamp confirms its ability to handle high SPL and deliver low distortion, making it a cost-effective solution for improving the performance of electret microphones like these. If you want to go even deeper into the weeds of designing and building electret microphones and their supporting circuitry, take a look at this build which discusses some other design considerations for these types of devices.

Bone-Shaking Haunted Mirror Uses Stable Diffusion

We once thought that the best houses on Halloween were the ones that gave out full-size candy bars. While that’s still true, these days we’d rather see a cool display of some kind on the porch. Although some might consider this a trick, gaze into [Tim]’s mirror and you’ll be treated to a spooky version of yourself.

Here’s how it works: At the heart of this build is a webcam, OpenCV, and a computer that’s running the Stable Diffusion AI image generator. The image is shown on a monitor that sits behind 2-way mirrored glass.

We really like the frame that [Tim] built for this. Unable to find something both suitable and affordable, they built one out of wood molding and aged it appropriately.

We also like the ping pong ball vanity globe lights and the lighting effect itself. Not only is it spooky, it lets the viewer know that something is happening in the background. All the code and the schematic are available if you’d like to give this a go.

There are many takes on the spooky mirror out there. Here’s one that uses a terrifying 3D print.

2023 Halloween Hackfest: A Spooky Muscle-Brain Interface

What could be better than a Halloween decoration? Something more perennial, or even something that could also be found in a classroom or lab. Something like [Markus Bindhammer]’s spooky muscle-brain interface. It was inspired by a series called “Tales From the Loop” in which a character’s muscle electrical activity is measured in preparation to adjust his prosthetic hand.

Essentially, it does what you think it does: attach the sensors to your muscles, move them around, and watch the brain light up. [Markus] started with a children’s learning kit that involves molding the brain and discs out of red rubbery goop, the vertebrae out of plaster, and then assembling the whole thing.

Instead, [Markus] molded the brain and vertebrae in two-part silicone for durability, and used two-component colored epoxy for the discs.

As the inspiring series is set in the 80s (we assume the brown, dingy 80s and not the fun, neon 80s), [Markus] gave the enclosure/stand an appropriate color scheme. Inside that box there’s an Arduino Pro Micro, a Grove EMG detector, and a mini step-up converter module. And of course, under the brain, there’s a NeoPixel ring. Don’t miss the build and demo video after the break.

There are a ton of things you can do with blinkenlights for Halloween. How about a light-up candy slide, or a bucket that seems them coming?

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Illustrated Kristina with an IBM Model M keyboard floating between her hands.

Keebin’ With Kristina: The One With The Tile-Based Macropad

Prolific Hackaday.io member [Michael Gardi] has hit upon the biggest problem with making reprogrammable macro pads — the legend situation. What do you do when the whole point is that the keys can so easily be changed?

There are a couple of options: blank keycaps and memorization, re-legendable keycaps, and little screens instead of keycaps. Surely there has to be another way, and [Michael] has discovered one: a tile-based system of descriptors.

As you can see, the labels are removable 3D-printed tiles that swap out with ease thanks to tiny magnets. But these aren’t just tidy labels. Inserting a new label automatically changes the macro! Each tile holds a “simple numeric value” which maps it to a macro when inserted and detected by a Hall effect sensor. I can’t wait to hear these tiles click in action during a demo video, which I can only hope is forthcoming.

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Satellite Hunting Hack Chat

Rescheduled — note new date!

Join us on Wednesday, October 18 at noon Pacific for the Satellite Hunting Hack Chat with Scott Tilley!

From the very first beeps of Sputnik, space has primarily been the domain of nations. It makes sense — for the most part, it takes the resources of a nation to get anything of appreciable size up out of the gravity well we all live in, but more importantly, space is the highest of high ground, and the high ground has always been a place of advantage to occupy. And so a lot of the hardware we’ve sent upstairs in the last 70 years has been in the national interest of this or that country.

join-hack-chatA lot of these satellites are — or were, at least — top secret stuff, with classified payloads, poorly characterized orbits, and unknown communications protocols. This can make tracking them from the ground a challenge, but one that’s worth undertaking. Scott Tilley has been hunting for satellites for years, writing about his exploits on the Riddles in the Sky blog and sometimes being featured on Hackaday. After recently putting his skills to work listening in on a solar observation satellite as its orbit takes it close to Earth again, we asked him to stop by the Hack Chat to share what he’s learned about hunting for satellites, both long-lost and intentionally hidden. Join us as we take a virtual trip into orbit to find out just what’s going on up there.

Our Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, October 18 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.