Documenting Real Hidden Messages In Music

During the 1980s, a moral panic swept across the landscape with the mistaken belief that there were Satanic messages hidden in various games, books, and music that at any moment would corrupt the youth of the era and destroy society as we knew it. While completely unfounded, it turns out that there actually were some hidden messages in vinyl records of the time although they’d corrupt children in a different way, largely by getting them interested in computer science. [Dandu] has taken to collecting these historic artifacts, preserving the music and the software on various hidden recordings.

While it was possible to record only programs or other data to vinyl, much in the same way that cassette tapes can be used as a storage medium, [Dandu]’s research focuses mostly on records, tapes, and CDs which had data included alongside music. This includes not only messages or images, but often entire computer programs. In some cases these programs were meant to be used with the accompanying music, as was the case for The Other Side Of Heaven by Kissing The Pink with a program for the BBC Micro. Plenty of other contemporary machines are represented here too including the ZX Spectrum, Atari, Apple II, and the Commodore 64. The documentation extends through the CD era and even into modern music platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

The process of extraction and recovery is detailed for each discovery, making it a comprehensive resource for retro computing enthusiasts stretching from the 80s to now. There are likely a few hidden pieces of data out there hidden in various antique storage media that [Dandu] hasn’t found yet, either. You could even make your own records with hidden programs provided you have some musical and programming talents, and a laser engraver for the record itself.

Complex Organic Chemistry In Sulfuric Acid And Life On Venus

Finding extraterrestrial life in any form would be truly one of the largest discoveries in humankind’s history, yet after decades of scouring the surface of Mars and investigating other bodies like asteroids, we still have found no evidence. While we generally assume that we’re looking for carbon-based lifeforms in a water-rich environment like Jupiter’s moon Europa, what if complex organic chemistry would be just as happy with sulfuric acid (H2SO4) as solvent rather than dihydrogen monoxide (H2O)? This is the premise behind a range of recent studies, with a newly published research article in Astrobiology by [Maxwell D. Seager] and colleagues lending credence to this idea.

Previous studies have shown that organic chemistry in concentrated sulfuric acid is possible, and that nucleic acid bases – including adenosine, cytosine, guanine, thymine and uracil which form DNA – are also stable in this environment, which is similar to that of the Venusian clouds at an altitude where air pressure is roughly one atmosphere. In this new article, twenty amino acids were exposed to the concentrations of sulfuric acid usually found on Venus, at 98% and 81%, with the rest being water. Of these, 11 were unchanged after 4 weeks, 9 were reactive on their side chains, much like they would have been in pure water. Only tryptophan ended up being unstable, but as the researchers note, not all amino acids are stable in water either.

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Are Minimills Worth It?

These days, the bar for home-built projects is high. With 3D printers, CNC, and cheap service providers, you can’t get away with building circuits in a shoe box or an old Tupperware container. While most people now have access to additive manufacturing gear, traditional subtractive equipment is still a bit less common. [Someone Should Make That] had thought about buying a “minimill” but he had read that they were not worth it. Like a lot of us, he decided to do it anyway. The pros and cons are in the video you can watch below.

During setup, he covered a few rumors he’d heard about these type of mills, including they are noisy, have poor tolerances, and can’t work steel. Some of these turned out to be true, and some were not.

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AxxSolder 3.0 Now Takes USB Power Delivery

If you’re big into the soldering iron scene, you’ve probably heard of the AxxSolder project. Now, it’s been updated with a whole host of nifty new features. It’s AxxSolder 3.0!

If you’re not intimately familiar with AxxSolder, it’s an open-source iron design based around the popular JBC soldering iron tips. Relying on the STM32G431CBT6 to run the show, it comes in two versions—a lightweight portable design, and a desktop version based around the JBC ADS soldering iron stand. So far, so familiar.

The new 3.0 version adds new functionality, however. Where the previous model ran off any old DC power source from 9 to 26 volts, the new version can run off a USB Power Delivery supply. Thus, you can grab any old USB-PD device, like a laptop charger, and run your iron off that.

The new version also uses a larger color TFT screen with some buttons added on as an improved user interface. Thermal performance is improved, and it’s additionally capable of measuring the current draw by the tip, so you can monitor the performance of the iron in great detail.

We’ve featured the AxxSolder project previously, too, along with some other great soldering iron projects. If you reckon you’ve just designed the hottest new soldering tool yourself, let us know about it!

The Cryotron Remembered

[Sean Haas] is a “dangerous freelance historian,” and his recent talk at the Vintage Computer Festival in Southern California covers the cryotron — a strange detour on the road to computers circa 1956. The NSA wanted a computer to break codes, but in 1956, there wasn’t much to pick from, especially since they wanted a very fast computer.

As you might expect from the name, a cryotron depends on superconductivity. The original device was a tantalum wire wrapped with a niobium wire coil. When the device is soaked in liquid helium, both wires become superconducting. The tantalum wire can carry way more current in that state unless the niobium coil generates a magnetic field, which kills the wire’s superconductivity. On the plus side, you have a relay-like switch that works with no moving parts. On the negative side, you need liquid helium.

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

Keebin’ With Kristina: The One With The Pickle Pi

Image by [jefmer] via Hackaday.IO
The unstoppable [jefmer] wrote in to alert me to Pickle Pi, their latest Keebin’-friendly creation. Why “Pickle Pi”? Well, the Pi part should be obvious, but the rest comes from the Gherkin 30% ortholinear keyboard [jefmer] built with Gateron Yellows and, unfortunately, second-choice XDA keycaps, as the first batch were stolen off of the porch.

If you’re wondering where the rest of the keys are, they are accessible by holding various keys rather than tapping them. Shift is Shift when tapped held, but becomes Enter when tapped. [jefmer] wrote out their entire project description on the thing in order to break in the Gherkin.

The brains of this acrylic sandwich tablet is a Pi Zero 2, with a Pro Micro for the keyboard controller. Although programs like Ghostwriter and Thonny work fine, Chromium is “painfully slow” due to the RAM limitations of the Pi Zero 2. On the upside, battery life is 7-8 hours depending on usage. Even so, [jefmer] might replace it with a Pi 4 — the current battery pack won’t support a Pi 5.
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Dodge, The Weird Tripod Robot

[hannu_hell] created Dodge as a “novel design of tripod.” It’s a small robotic device quite unlike anything else we’ve seen of late. It’s intended to be a self-mobile camera platform that can move itself around to capture footage as needed.

Dodge is essentially a two-legged robot with a large flat “foot” in the center. When stationary, it rests on this flat foot. When it needs to move, it can raise this center foot and rest on its two outside legs. If Dodge needs to move, it can crab back and forth in a line with these two legs. If it wants to turn, it can return to resting on its center foot, and pivot about its central axis. It can thus rotate itself and use its two outer legs to move further as needed.

Dodge does all this while carrying an ESP32 Cam module. The idea is that it’s a small mobile tripod platform with a live camera feed. It reminds us of various small monitoring robots from cartoons and anime.

Ultimately, it’s an interesting take on robot locomotion. Rather than walking with two legs or four legs and dynamic stability, it takes full advantage of static stability instead.

We’ve seen some wild roboticized camera rigs over the years. Video after the break.

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