The Hunt For Alien Radio Signals Began Sooner Than You Think

Every 26 months, Earth and Mars come tantalizingly close by virtue of their relative orbits. The closest they’ve been in recent memory was a mere 55.7 million kilometers, a proximity not seen in 60,000 years when it happened in 2003.

However, we’ve been playing close attention to Mars for longer than that. All the way back in 1924, astronomers and scientists were contemplating another close fly by from the red planet. With radio then being the hot new technology on the block, the question was raised—should we be listening for transmissions from fellows over on Mars?

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Commodore CHESSmate Replica Runs On The ESP32

The Commodore CHESSmate chess computer might not be terribly well known, but that doesn’t make it any less worthy of being reproduced. If anything it is more important, as it gives more people an opportunity to use one of these devices, yet beyond a purely emulated experience the real user interface is harder to experience.

Internals of the reproduction Commodore ChessMate (Credit: Michael Gardi)

This is where [Michael Gardi]’s modernized replica provides a highly accessible version, consisting of a custom PCB with an ESP32 as the brains of the system. Although decidedly overkill next to the 6502 in the original CHESSmate, it makes the project far easier for others to assemble as it contains few components that shouldn’t be readily available.

The ESP32 is mounted on a small daughterboard which plugs into the main PCB with the buttons, LEDs and indicators. The whole stack is then inserted into the 3D printed reproduction case. These 3D models along with the ESP32 port of the CHESSmate firmware can be found in the GitHub repository, along with a minimalist frame and a ‘CHESSmate Lite’ version as alternative enclosure options for those who somehow don’t appreciate the delightful 1980s aesthetics.

We covered the Commodore CHESSmate last year, including a highly faithful reproduction built by [Hans Otten], which [Michael] read the day after meeting [Peter Jennings], the author of MicroChess (which the CHESSmate uses internally) at an event at York University. Taking this as a sign, he set to work on this particular project.

We’re not sure if there’s really a cosmic force directing [Michael] towards his next project, but if there is, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank it for doing a fantastic job so far.

Arduino Gear Shift Indicator Finds ‘Em So You Won’t Grind ‘Em

Now, it’s been a shamefully long time since we’ve driven a car with a manual transmission, but as we recall it was pretty straightforward. It certainly didn’t require a lot of help with the shifting pattern, at least not enough to require a technical solution to know what gear you’re in. But then again, we suspect that’s not really the point of [upir]’s latest build.

Oh sure, it’s pretty cool to display your current gear selection on a little LCD screen using an Arduino. And [upir] promises a follow-up project where the display goes inside the shifter knob, which will be really cool. But if you take a look at the video below, you’ll see that the real value of this project is the stepwise approach he takes to create this project. [upir] spends most of the time in the video below simulating the hardware and the code of the project in Wokwi, which lets him make changes and tune the design up before committing anything to actual hardware.

That turned out to be particularly useful with this build since he chose to use analog Hall sensors to detect the shift lever position and didn’t know exactly how that would work. Wokwi let him quickly build a virtual prototype for one sensor (using a potentiometer as a stand-in, since the simulator lacked a Hall sensor model), then quickly expand to the four sensors needed to detect all six gear positions.

By the time his simulation was complete, the code was almost entirely written. [upir] also walks us through his toolchains for both designing the graphics and laying out the PCB, a non-trivial task given the odd layout. We particularly enjoyed the tip on making smooth curved traces around the oval cutout for the shift lever in the board.

The video below is on the longish side, but it’s chock full of great little tips. Check out some more of [upir]’s work, like his pimped-out potentiometer or his custom animations on 16×2 LCDs.

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