Logic analyzer capture, showing the rails constantly oscillating at a high rate

When Your Level Shifter Is Too Smart To Function

By now, 3.3V has become a comfortable and common logic level for basically anything you might be hacking. However, sometimes, you still need to interface your GPIOs with devices that are 5 V, 1.8 V, or something even less common like 2.5 V. At this point, you might stumble upon autosensing level shifters, like the TXB010x series Texas Instruments produces, and decide that they’re perfect — no need to worry about pin direction or bother with pullups. Just wire up your GPIOs and the two voltage rails you’re good to go. [Joshua0] warns us, however, that not everything is hunky dory in the automagic shifting world.

During board bring-up and multimeter probing, he found that the 1.8 V-shifted RESET signal went down to 1.0V — and its 3.3 V counterpart stayed at 2.6V. Was it a current fight between GPIOs? A faulty connection? Voltage rail instability? It got more confusing as the debugging session uncovered the shifting operating normally as soon as the test points involved were probed with the multimeter in a certain order. After re-reading the datasheet and spotting a note about reflection sensitivity, [Joshua0] realized he should try and probe the signals with a high-speed logic analyzer instead.

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M17 Digital Communications Go From Strength To Strength

The world of amateur radio is like many other fields in that there has been a move underway from analogue to digital modes. In fact, amateur radio has often led the way in digital innovation.  There’s a snag, though: many of the digital speech modes are proprietary. To address this along comes the M17 project, an effort to create an open digital communication protocol for radio amateurs. We’ve looked at them more than once in the past few years, and as they’ve come up with several pieces of new hardware it’s time for another peek.

First up is the Remote Radio Unit, described as “a comprehensive, UHF FM/M17 “repeater in a box,” optimally designed for close antenna placement, enhancing signal strength and reliability.” The repeater forms the “other half” of the UHF handheld radio chain and will be crucial to the uptake of the protocol.

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PicoNtrol Brings Modern Controllers To Atari 2600

While there’s an argument to be made that retro games should be experienced with whatever input device they were designed around, there’s no debating that modern game controllers are a lot more ergonomic and enjoyable to use than some of those early 8-bit entries.

Now, thanks to the PicoNtrol project from [Reogen], you can use the latest Xbox and PlayStation controllers with the Atari 2600 via Bluetooth. Looking a bit farther down the road the project is aiming to support the Nintendo Entertainment System, and there’s work being done to bring the Switch Pro Controller into the fold as well.

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Who’s Afraid Of A CRT?

Older consumer electronic devices follow a desirability curve in which after they fall from favour they can’t be given away. But as they become rarer, they reach a point at which everyone wants them. Then, they can’t be had for love nor money. CRT TVs are now in the first stage, they’re bulky and lower-definition than modern sets, and thus thrift stores and dumpsters still have them in reasonable numbers. To retrogamers and other enthusiasts, this can be a bonanza, and when he saw a high-end late-model JVC on the sidewalk [Chris Person] wasted no time in snapping it up. It worked, but there were a few picture issues, so he set about fixing it.

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Delays And Timers In LTSpice (no 555)

If you need a precise time, you could use a microcontroller. Of course, then all your friends will say “Could have done that with a 555!” But the 555 isn’t magic — it uses a capacitor and a comparator in different configurations to work. Want to understand what’s going on inside? [Mano Arrostita] has a video about simulating delay and timer circuits in LTSpice.

The video isn’t specifically about the 555, but it does show how the basic circuits inside a timer chip work. The idea is simple: a capacitor will charge through a resistor with an exponential curve. If you prefer, you can charge with a constant current source and get a nice linear charge.

You can watch the voltage as the capacitor charges and when it reaches a certain point, you know a certain amount of time has passed. The discharge works the same way, of course.

We like examining circuits for learning with a simulator, either LTSpice or something like Falstad. It is easier than breadboarding and encourages making changes that would be more difficult on a real breadboard. If you want a refresher on LTSpice or current sources, you can kill two birds with one stone.

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A Bend Sensor Developed With 3D Printer Filament

PhD students spend their time pursuing whatever general paths their supervisor has given them, and if they are lucky, it yields enough solid data to finally write a thesis without tearing their hair out. Sometimes along the way they result in discoveries with immediate application outside academia, and so it was for [Paul Bupe Jr.], whose work resulted in a rather elegant and simple bend sensor.

The original research came when shining light along flexible media, including a piece of transparent 3D printer filament. He noticed that when the filament was bent at a point that it was covered by a piece of electrical tape there was a reduction in transmission, and from this he was able to repeat the effect with a piece of pipe over a narrow air gap in the medium.

Putting these at regular intervals and measuring the transmission for light sent along it, he could then detect a bend. Take three filaments with  the air-gap-pipe sensors spaced to form a Gray code, and he could digitally read the location.

He appears to be developing this discovery into a product. We’re not sure which is likely to be more stress, writing up his thesis, or surviving a small start-up, so we wish him luck.

Vintage Particle Counter Is A Treasure Trove Of Classic Parts

If you need a demonstration of just how far technology has come in the last 40 years, just take a look at this teardown of a 1987 laser particle counter.

Granted, the laser-powered instrument that [Les Wright] scored off of eBay wasn’t exactly aimed at consumers. Rather, this was more likely an instrument installed in cleanrooms to make sure the particulate counts didn’t come out of range. As such, it was built like a battleship in a huge case stuffed with card after card of electronics, along with the attendant pumps and filters needed to draw in samples. But still, the fact that we can put essentially the same functionality into a device that easily fits in the palm of your hand is pretty striking.

[Les] clearly bought this instrument to harvest parts from it, and there’s a ton of other goodness inside, including multiple copies of pretty much every chip from the Z80 family. The analog section has some beautiful Teledyne TP1321 op-amps in TO-99 cans. Everything is in immaculate condition, and obsolete or not, this is an enviable haul of vintage parts, especially the helium-neon laser at its heart, which still works. [Les] promises an in-depth look at that in a follow-up video, but for now, he treats us to a little tour of the optics used to measure particulates by the amount of laser light that’s scattered.

All things considered, [Les] really made out well on this find — much better than his last purchase.

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