Wico Boss Joystick Modded To Use Cherry MX Keyboard Switches

The Wico Boss joystick was one of the better designs of the 1980s. Yours truly had one, and put it through many brutal hours of Amiga-based gameplay. [Drygol] was recently asked if he could alter some of these sticks to be even clickier than stock, and jumped at the change to do some modding.

[Drygol]’s idea was to swap out the original microswitches in the sticks for keyboard switches instead. In particular, the idea was to use the Cherry MX Blues which have a particularly nice click to them. But this wasn’t just going to be a straight swap. Instead, since the hardware was retro and preservation was desired, the modification had to be reversible.

The result was a drop-in 3D-printed bracket that holds four Cherry switches around the joystick’s central bauble. Thus, when the stick is moved, it actuates the keyboard switches with a satisfying click. A 12mm tactile switch was also installed in the base to be activated by the fire button. Then, it was a simple matter of  tidying up some of the sticks during reassembly and wiring up the original cables to the new switches.

It’s a neat way to give an old-fashioned digital joystick a new lease on life. This would be a particularly great mod for tired sticks with worn out microswitches, too. Hilarious archaic marketing video after the break. They really are whacko for Wico.

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Generative AI Now Encroaching On Music

While it might not seem like it to a novice, music turns out to be a highly mathematical endeavor with precise ratios between chords and notes as well as overall structure of rhythm and timing. This is especially true of popular music which has even more recognizable repeating patterns and trends, making it unfortunately an easy target for modern generative AI which is capable of analyzing huge amounts of data and creating arguably unique creations. This one, called Suno, does just that for better or worse.

Unlike other generative AI offerings that are currently available for creating music, this one is not only capable of generating the musical underpinnings of the song itself but can additionally create a layer of intelligible vocals as well. A deeper investigation of the technology by Rolling Stone found that the tool uses its own models to come up with the music and then offloads the text generation for the vocals to ChatGPT, finally using the generated lyrics to generate fairly convincing vocals. Like image and text generation models that have come out in the last few years, this has the potential to be significantly disruptive.

While we’re not particularly excited about living in a world where humans toil while the machines create art and not the other way around, at best we could hope for a world where real musicians use these models as tools to enhance their creativity rather than being outright substitutes, much like ChatGPT itself currently is for programmers. That might be an overly optimistic view, though, and only time will tell.

A raspberry pi-based digital readout above an old lathe

Roll Your Own DRO With An Added Twist

When using a manual machine tool such as a lathe or milling machine, there can be a lot of pressure to read the position and feed the axes at the correct rate. That’s why modern machines typically have some form of digital read-out (DRO). [Stefano Bertelli] has created a simple Raspberry Pi based DRO with an additional twist, that of a linked motor drive output.

A view of the custom RS485 interfaced DRO readout and motor controller
Realtime encoder position reading and motor control are best done with a dedicated microcontroller, ideally with a proper RTOS.

The axes that need to be monitored should be mechanically attached to a position sensor like a linear encoder or a rotary type. Using a linear sensor with a linear axis instead of a rotary encoder on the downstream dial is better. For the readout unit, [Stefano] used a WaveShare 7-inch touchscreen module with a Raspberry Pi 3 for the UI of the readout unit. The Pi has a custom-designed HAT, that performs power conditioning and provides a robust RS485 interface. Connected via that RS485 link is another custom PCB based on an STM32F411 with a few supporting power supplies and interfacing components. The job of this board is to interface to the position encoders, reading positioning pulses using interrupts. There is an additional stepper motor drive courtesy of a ULN2003 Darlington driver to allow the control of a single motorised axis. An additional motor driver module is required, which should be no surprise since driving a milling machine axis will require a fairly beefy motor. This GitHub repo contains the FreeRTOS-based firmware for this board. This motor drive has the ability to be connected to a measuring axis in a programmable way, enabling one axis to be adjusted to follow or jump in controlled steps with another. This feature can significantly simplify certain types of machining operations, as [Stefano] elaborates in the video.

Lastly, the Raspberry Pi runs a simple Python application with Kivy for the GUI. As [Stefano] explains in the video below, this makes debugging and modification quite simple.

Adding DROs to an older machine is an obvious but valuable hack. Here’s another way to do it. If that’s too much work, then you could just hack a digital readout calliper in there.

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YouTuber Builds Onewheel With Tracks Instead And It’s Not Great

The one-wheel is a triumph of modern sensor and control technology. That made it possible to sense the acceleration and position of a platform with a single wheel, and to control that single wheel to keep the platform stable and level, even in motion. [RCLifeOn] has now taken that same concept and made it more hilarious by swapping out the wheel for a track.

The original idea was to build an electric snowboard, which worked just okay. Then, it morphed into a tank-based one-wheel instead. It’s a bit silly on the face of it, because a track is more stable than a wheel. That’s because instead of balancing on a small flattened spot of a tire, it’s got a wider, flatter footprint. But that means there’s no real need for balancing control as the track is statically stable.

The 3D-printed track assembly is driven by a powerful brushless motor via a gear drive for additional torque. Riding it is difficult on 48-volt power as it easily throws [RCLifeOn] off the board with its raw torque. At 24 volts, however, it was just barely ridable with some practice. But it was ultimately pretty terrible. It was either not moving at all, or jerking so hard that it was impossible to stay on the thing.

We’d like to see this concept tried again, perhaps with a rubber track and a more refined controller. Video after the break.

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Build Yourself A Vacuum Tube VU Meter

Volume unit (VU) meters are cool — it’s an undeniable fact. For some reason, humans just dig lights that flash along with sounds. You can build a VU meter using LEDs, or bulbs if you’re trapped in 1972. Or, you could use special vacuum tubes. [mircemk] did just that in their latest VU meter project.

The 6E2 vacuum tube is the part for the job in this case. You might think a specialist tube like this is expensive, but they can be had for just a few dollars from online retailers. They were often used as tuning indicators, but here, they’re used as a responsive VU meter instead. However, instead of a single bar going up and down, you get a pair of bars that raise to meet in the middle.

[mircemk] explains all the circuitry required to drive the tubes, and how to hook them up to create a two-channel stereo VU meter. The final circuit largely relies on a transistor, a diode, some passive components, and a DC-DC boost supply to generate 250 V for the tubes.

The final result looks pretty neat, particularly as it’s built into an old-school blue project box. We’ve seen similar projects from [mircemk] before, too. Continue reading “Build Yourself A Vacuum Tube VU Meter”

Hackaday Podcast Episode 263: Better DMCA, AI Spreadsheet Play, And Home Assistants Your Way

No need to wonder what stories Hackaday Editors Elliot Williams and Al Williams were reading this week. They’ll tell you about them in this week’s podcast. The guys revisit the McDonald’s ice cream machine issue to start.   This week, DIY voice assistants and home automation took center stage. But you’ll also hear about AI chat models implemented as a spreadsheet, an old-school RC controller, and more.

How many parts does it take to make a radio? Not a crystal radio, a software-defined one. Less than you might think. Of course, you’ll also need an antenna, and you can make one from lawn chair webbing.

In the can’t miss articles, you’ll hear about the problems with the x86 architecture and how they tried to find Martian radio broadcasts in the 1920s.

Miss any this week? Check out the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, leave your comments!

Direct download in DRM-free MP3.

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a DIY smoke grenade pours out smoke from a vape pen assembly

R/C Smoke Grenade Rolls With The Changes

[Davis DeWitt] gets to do something that many of us only dream of — build cool working props for movies. This time, the director asked for a realistic smoke grenade that can roll up to a mark and stop on it every take, pouring out smoke the entire time.

The innards of a DIY remote control smoke grenade.

[Davis] decided on a hamster ball-esque design that uses a pair of motors that he can control remotely, plus the innards from a vape pen and a tiny fan to distribute the smoke. The motors spin 3D printed wheels using printed gears attached to the shafts, which drive the whole assembly forward or backward.

In order to get everything to fit inside the printed canister, [Davis] had to use the smallest components he could find, like the Seeed Xiao SAMD21 and the DRV8833 motor driver. The whole thing is powered by a pair of 18650s, which, as you might imagine, really factored into the weight distribution scheme. In this case, the batteries act as a pendulum and keep the inner assembly level and not spinning wildly inside the canister.

Finally, it was time for the smoke grenade aesthetics. After what seemed like endless sanding, priming, and masking, [Davis] had a really good-looking smoke grenade that just needed some vinyl lettering and fake wear-and-tear to be complete. Be sure to check it out in action after the break.

We don’t see a lot of grenades around here, but when we do, they’re often keyboards.

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