Generative AI Hits The Commodore 64

Image-generating AIs are typically trained on huge arrays of GPUs and require great wads of processing power to run. Meanwhile, [Nick Bild] has managed to get something similar running on a Commodore 64. (via Tom’s Hardware).

A figure generated by [Nick]’s C64. We shall name him… “Sword Guy”!
As you might imagine, [Nick’s] AI image generator isn’t churning out 4K cyberpunk stills dripping in neon. Instead, he aimed at a smaller target, more befitting the Commodore 64 itself. His image generator creates 8×8 game sprites instead.

[Nick’s] model was trained on 100 retro-inspired sprites that he created himself. He did the training phase on a modern computer, so that the Commodore 64 didn’t have to sweat this difficult task on its feeble 6502 CPU. However, it’s more than capable of generating sprites using the model, thanks to some BASIC code that runs off of the training data. Right now, it takes the C64 about 20 minutes to run through 94 iterations to generate a decent sprite.

8×8 sprites are generally simple enough that you don’t need to be an artist to create them. Nonetheless, [Nick] has shown that modern machine learning techniques can be run on slow archaic hardware, even if there is limited utility in doing so. Video after the break.

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Think Again: Tips On Finding And Flexing Your Creativity

Technical work — including problem-solving — is creative work. In addition, creativity is more than a vague and nebulous attribute that either is or isn’t present when it’s needed. A short article by [Anthony D. Fredericks] gives some practical and useful tips on energizing and exercising one’s creativity.

Why would creative thinking be meaningful to a technical person? The author shares an anonymous observation that as children we’re taught to stay inside the lines, while as adults we are often expected to think outside the box. Certainly when it comes to technical tasks, our focus is more on logical thinking. But problem solving benefits as much from creative thinking as it does from more logical approaches.

How can one cultivate creative thinking? The main idea is that creativity is best flexed and exercised by actively looking for connections and similarities between highly dissimilar elements, rather than focusing on their differences. Some thought exercises are provided to help with this process. Like with any exercise, the more one does it, the better one becomes.

Practicing more creative thinking can help jolt new ideas and approaches to a tough problem, so give it a shot. It’s also worth keeping in mind that we all need a feeling of progress, especially during extended times of applying effort to something, so do yourself a favor and give yourself an occasional win.

FLOSS Weekly Episode 783: Teaching Embedded With The Unphone

This week Jonathan Bennett and Rob Campbell talk with Gareth Coleman and Hamish Cunningham! It’s all about the Unphone, an open source handset sporting an ESP32, color touchscreen, and LoRa radio. It’s open hardware, and used in a 3rd year university course to teach comp sci majors about hardware and embedded development.

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Designing A Quality Camera Slider Can Be Remarkably Satisfying

Camera sliders are great creative tools, letting you get smooth controlled shots that can class up any production. [Anthony Kouttron] decided to build one for an engineering class, and he ended up mighty satisfied with what he and his team accomplished.

As an engineering class project, this wasn’t a build done on a whim. Instead, [Anthony] and his fellow students spent plenty of time hashing out what they needed this thing to do, and how it should be built. An Arduino was selected as the brains of the operation, as a capable and accessible microcontroller platform. Stepper motors and a toothed belt drive were used to move the slider in a controllable fashion. The slider’s control interface was an HD44780-based character LCD, along with a thumbstick and two pushbuttons. The slider relied on steel tubes for a frame, which was heavy, but cost-effective and easy to fabricate. Much of the parts were salvaged from legendary e-waste bins on the university grounds.

The final product was stout and practical. It may not have been light, but the steel frame and strong stepper motor meant the slider could easily handle even heavy DSLR cameras. That’s something that lighter builds can struggle with.

Ultimately, it was an excellent learning experience for [Anthony] and his team. As a bonus, he got some great timelapses out of it, too. Video after the break.

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How AI Large Language Models Work, Explained Without Math

Large Language Models (LLMs ) are everywhere, but how exactly do they work under the hood? [Miguel Grinberg] provides a great explanation of the inner workings of LLMs in simple (but not simplistic) terms that eschews the low-level mathematics of how they work in favor of laying bare what it is they do.

At their heart, LLMs are prediction machines that work on tokens (small groups of letters and punctuation) and are as a result capable of great feats of human-seeming communication. Most technical-minded people understand that LLMs have no idea what they are saying, and this peek at their inner workings will make that abundantly clear.

Be sure to also review an illustrated guide to how image-generating AIs work. And if a peek under the hood of LLMs left you hungry for more low-level details, check out our coverage of training a GPT-2 LLM using pure C code.

Hackaday Supercon 2024 Call For Participation: We Want You!

We’re tremendously excited to be able to announce that the Hackaday Supercon is on for 2024, and will be taking place November 1st through the 3rd in sunny Pasadena, California. As always, Supercon is all about you, the Hackaday community. So put on your thinking caps because we’d like to hear your proposals for talks and workshops! The Call for Speakers and Call for Workshops forms are online now, and you’ve got until July 9th to get yourself signed up.

Supercon is a fantastic event to geek out with your fellow hackers, and to share the inevitable ups and downs that accompany any serious project. Like last year, we’ll be featuring both longer and shorter talks, and hope to get a great mix of both first-time presenters and Hackaday luminaries.

Honestly, just the crowd that Supercon brings together is reason enough to attend, but then you throw in the talks, the badge-hacking, the food, and the miscellaneous shenanigans … it’s an event you really don’t want to miss. And as always, presenters get in for free, get their moment in the sun, and get warm vibes from the Hackaday audience. Get yourself signed up now!

Here’s The Norwegian Tape Deck Teardown You’ve Been Waiting For

“They just don’t build ’em like they used to” is a truer statement every year. Whether your vice is CRTs, film cameras, or tape decks, you’ll know that the very best gear simply isn’t manufactured anymore. Even the day-to-day stuff from 60 years ago is often a cut above a lot of today’s equipment. [Anthony Kouttron] shows us this with his teardown of a Tandberg TCD301 from many decades ago.

The Tandberg unit is beautifully finished in wood and metal, a style of construction that’s fairly rare these days. It’s got big, chunky controls, and a certain level of heft that is out of vogue in modern electronics. Heavy used to mean good — these days, it means old. That’s not to say it’s indestructible, though. It’s full of lots of old plastic pulleys and fasteners that have aged over the decades, so it’s a little fragile inside.

Still, [Anthony] gives us a great look at the aluminium chassis and buttons and the electromechanical parts inside. It’s a rats-nest design with lots of discrete components and wires flying between boards. You couldn’t economically produce this and sell it to anyone today, but this is how it was done so many years ago.

This non-functional unit ended up being little more than a salvage job, but we’re still glad that [Anthony] gave us a look inside. Still, if you long for more cassette-themed teardowns, we’ve got the goodness you’re looking for!