The Secret Behind The Motion Of Microsoft’s Bendy Mouse

The Surface Arc is a designed-for-travel mouse that carries flat, but curves into shape for use. It even turns on when it’s bent and shuts itself off when it’s flat. The device isn’t particularly new, but [Mr Teardown] was a bit surprised at the lack of details about what’s inside so tears it down in a video to reveal just how the mechanism works.

The mechanism somewhat resembles a beaver’s tail, and locks into place thanks to a magnetic connector at the base that holds the device’s shape.

The snap-action of the bending is accomplished with the help of a magnetic connection near the bottom end of the mouse’s “tail”, locking it into place when flexed. Interestingly, the on and off functionality does not involve magnets at all. Power control is accomplished by a little tab that physically actuates a microswitch.

There are a few interesting design bits that we weren’t expecting. For example, there is no mechanical scroll wheel. The mouse delivers similar functionality with touch sensors and a haptic feedback motor to simulate the feel and operation of a mechanical scroll wheel.

[Mr Teardown] finds the design elegant and effective, but we can’t help but notice it also seems perhaps not as optimized as it could be. There are over 70 components in all, including 23 screws (eight different kinds!), and it took [Mr Teardown] the better part of 45 minutes to re-assemble it. You can watch the entire teardown in the video embedded just under the page break; it’s a neat piece of hardware for sure.

If you’re in the mood for another mouse teardown, we have a treat for you: an ancient optical mouse from the 80s that required a special surface to work.

[via Core77]

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One Man’s Trash Is… A Rare $60,000 Historical Computer

According to Smithsonian Magazine, a salvage company in London was cleaning out a property and found an odd-looking computer device. No one knew what it was, and they couldn’t find anything with a quick online search. The devices in question were two ultra-rare Q1 computers dating from the early 1970s.

While these machines looked formidable, they contained Intel 8008 CPUs but did have built-in screens, keyboards, and printers. The two machines had a few minutes of fame at Kingston University London and are now for sale. They will probably bring about $60,000 each. Not bad for salvage junk.

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Germany’s Solar Expansion And The Negative Effects Of Electricity Overproduction

Amidst the push for more low-carbon energy, we see the demolishing of one of the pillars of electric grids: that of a careful balancing between supply and demand. This is not just a short-term affair. It also affects the construction of new power plants, investments in transmission capacity, and so on. The problem with having too much capacity is that it effectively destroys the electricity market, as suppliers need to make a profit to sustain and build generators and invest in transmission capacity. This is now the problem that Germany finds itself struggling with due to an overcapacity of variable renewable power sources (VRE) like solar and wind.

With a glut of overcapacity during windy and sunny days, this leads to prices going to zero or even negative. While this may sound positive (pun intended), it means that producers are not being paid. Worse, it means that when, for example, France buys German wind power for negative Euros via the European Electricity Exchange (EEX), it means that Germany actually pays France, instead of vice versa. The highly variable output of wind and solar also means a big increase in curtailment and redispatch measures to keep the grid stable, all of which costs money and drives up operating costs.

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How A DOS Format Blunder Revealed Some Priceless Source Code

As those of us who worked in the consumer software world back when physical media was king can attest, when a master disc has been sent for duplication and distribution there is no turning back from whatever code is in the hands of thousands of users. Usually such worries were confined to bugs or inadvertently sending out pre-release software versions, but [Lance Ewing] is here with the story of how Sierra On-Line once inadvertently released most of the source code for their game engine.

If you have some 720k floppy disk versions of the 1988 game Space Quest II, the first disk in the set appears to have nothing out of the ordinary, but a closer look reveals that the free space on the disk reported by DOS is greater than its used space. Diving in to the disk block contents with a hex editor reveals that many of the unused blocks in fact contain C code, and some further detective work allows the recovery of a not-quite complete set of source files for the company’s AGI, or adventure game interpreter. They had been left behind when the original master disk had been emptied by deleting them, rather than by formatting it afresh.

In commercial terms this would in 1988 have been something of a disaster for Sierra had it been discovered at the time, because it was the cornerstone of their success. As it was we’re told the code sat peacefully undetected until 2016, since when it has proved invaluable to those interested in computer game archaeology. Or did it? We’ll never know if a sharp-eyed competitor snagged it, and kept quiet.

Of course, these days, there are game engines that are open source. Some of them are very modern. Others… not so much.

A Look At 3D Printed Shoes: Hybrid, Fully Printed And Plain Weird

In the eternal quest to find more things to do with 3D printers, shoes have been in the spotlight for a while now. But how practical is additive manufacturing in this field really?

Adidas Ultra 4D running shoes with 3D printed midsole.
Adidas Ultra 4D running shoes with 3D printed midsole.

This is where [Joel Telling] of the 3D Printing Nerd YouTube channel puts in his two cents, with a look at a range of commercial and hobbyist ideas and products. Naturally, the first thing that likely comes to mind at the words ‘3D printed shoes’ is something akin to the plastic version of wooden clogs, or a more plastic-y version of the closed-cell resin of Crocs.

First on the list are the white & spiky Kaiju Gojira shoes from Fused Footwear, printed from TPE filament to order. TPE is softer to the touch and more flexible than TPU, but less durable. In contrast the Adidas Ultra 4D running shoes (from their 4D range) are a hybrid solution, with a standard rubber outsole, 3D printed midsole with complex structures and mostly fabric top part. Effectively a Nike Air in initial impression, perhaps.

Meanwhile ‘3D printed’ shoes ordered off Chinese store Shein turned out to be not 3D printed at all, while [Joel] seems to be really into fully 3D printed shoes from Zellerfeld, who appear to be using TPU. While it’s hard to argue about taste, the Adidas shoes might appeal to most people. Especially since they’d likely let your feet breathe much better, a fact appreciated not only by yourself, but also family members, roommates and significant others. So which of these (partially) 3D printed shoes would you pick, or do you have some other favorite?

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Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The ULN2003

The ULN2003 IC is an extremely versatile part, and with the help of [Hulk]’s deep dive, you might just get some new ideas about how to use this part in your own projects.

Each of the seven outputs works like this simplified diagram.

Inside the ULN2003 you’ll find seven high-voltage and high-current NPN Darlington pairs capable of switching inductive loads. But like most such devices there are a variety of roles it can fill. The part can be used to drive relays or motors (either brushed or stepper), it can drive LED lighting, or simply act as a signal buffer. [Hulk] provides some great examples, so be sure to check it out if you’re curious.

Each of the Darlington pairs (which act as single NPN transistors) is configured as open collector, and the usual way this is used is to switch some kind of load to ground. Since the inputs can be driven directly from 5 V digital logic, this part allows something like a microcontroller to drive a high current (or high voltage, or both) device it wouldn’t normally be able to interface with.

While the circuitry to implement each of the transistor arrays isn’t particularly complex and can be easily built by hand, a part like this is a real space saver due to how it packs everything needed in a handy package. Each output can handle 500 mA, but this can be increased by connecting in parallel.

There’s a video (embedded below) which steps through everything you’d like to know about the ULN2003. Should you find yourself wanting a much, much closer look at the inner secrets of this chip, how about a gander at the decapped die?

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BASIC Classroom Management

While we don’t see it used very often these days,┬áBASIC was fairly revolutionary in bringing computers to the masses. It was one of the first high-level languages to catch on and make computers useful for those who didn’t want to (or have time) to program them in something more complex. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t capable of getting real work done — this classroom management software built in the language illustrates its capabilities.

Written by [Mike Knox], father of [Ethan Knox] aka [norton120], for his classroom in 1987, the programs were meant to automate away many of the drudgeries of classroom work. It includes tools for generating random seating arrangements, tracking attendance, and other direct management tasks as well as tools for the teacher more directly like curving test grades, tracking grades, and other tedious tasks that normally would have been done by hand at that time. With how prevalent BASIC was at the time, this would have been a powerful tool for any educator with a standard desktop computer and a floppy disk drive.

Since most people likely don’t have an 80s-era x86 machine on hand capable of running this code, [Ethan] has also included a docker container to virtualize the environment for anyone who wants to try out his father’s old code. We’ve often revisited some of our own BASIC programming from back in the day, as our own [Tom Nardi] explored a few years ago.