Restoring A Vintage CGA Card With Homebrew HASL

Right off the bat, we’ll stipulate that what [Adrian] is doing in the video below isn’t actual hot air solder leveling. But we thought the results of his card-edge connector restoration on a CGA video card from the early 80s was pretty slick, and worth keeping in mind for other applications.

The back story is that [Adrian], of “Digital Basement” YouTube fame, came across an original IBM video card from the early days of the IBM-PC. The card was unceremoniously dumped, probably due to the badly corroded pins on the card-edge bus connector. The damage appeared to be related to a leaking battery — the corrosion had that sickly look that seems to only come from the guts of batteries — leading him to try cleaning the formerly gold-plated pins. He chose naval jelly rust remover for the job; for those unfamiliar with this product, it’s mostly phosphoric acid mixed with thickeners and is used as a rust remover.

The naval jelly certainly did the trick, but left the gold-plated pins a little worse for the wear. Getting them back to their previous state wasn’t on the table, but protecting them with a thin layer of solder was easy enough. [Adrian] used liquid rosin flux and a generous layer of 60:40 solder, which was followed by removing the excess with desoldering braid. That worked great and got the pins on both sides of the board into good shape.

[Adrian] also mentioned a friend who recommended using toilet paper to wick up excess solder, but sadly he didn’t demonstrate that method. Sounds a little sketchy, but maybe we’ll give it a try. As for making this more HASL-like, maybe heating up the excess solder with an iron and blasting the excess off with some compressed air would be worth a try.

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Startup Claims It Can Boost CPU Performance By 2-100X

Although Moore’s Law has slowed at bit as chip makers reach the physical limits of transistor size, researchers are having to look to other things other than cramming more transistors on a chip to increase CPU performance. ARM is having a bit of a moment by improving the performance-per-watt of many computing platforms, but some other ideas need to come to the forefront to make any big pushes in this area. This startup called Flow Computing claims it can improve modern CPUs by a significant amount with a slight change to their standard architecture.

It hopes to make these improvements by adding a parallel processing unit, which they call the “back end” to a more-or-less standard CPU, the “front end”. These two computing units would be on the same chip, with a shared bus allowing them to communicate extremely quickly with the front end able to rapidly offload tasks to the back end that are more inclined for parallel processing. Since the front end maintains essentially the same components as a modern CPU, the startup hopes to maintain backwards compatibility with existing software while allowing developers to optimize for use of the new parallel computing unit when needed.

While we’ll take a step back and refrain from claiming this is the future of computing until we see some results and maybe a prototype or two, the idea does show some promise and is similar to some ARM computers which have multiple cores optimized for different tasks, or other computers which offload non-graphics tasks to a GPU which is more optimized for processing parallel tasks. Even the Raspberry Pi is starting to take advantage of external GPUs for tasks like these.

FLOSS Weekly Episode 787: VDO Ninja — It’s A Little Bit Hacky

This week Jonathan Bennett and Katherine Druckman chat with Steve Seguin about VDO.Ninja and Social Stream Ninja, tools for doing live WebRTC video calls, recording audio and video, wrangling comments on a bunch of platforms, and more!

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Tight Handheld CRT Asteroids Game Curses In Tuscan

How many Arduini does it take to make a tiny CRT Asteroids game? [Marco Vallegi] of MVV Blog’s answer: two. One for the game mechanics and one for the sound effects. And the result is a sweet little retro arcade machine packed tightly into a very nicely 3D printed case.

If you want to learn to curse like a Tuscan sailor, you can watch the two-part video series, embedded below, in its entirety. Otherwise, we have excerpted the good stuff out of the second video for you.

For instance, we love the old-school voice synthesis sound of the Speak and Spell. Here, playback is implemented using the Talkie library for Arduino, and [Marco] is using the BlueWizard software on a dated Macbook for recording and encoding. (We’d use the more portable Python Wizard ourselves.) Check out [Marco] tweaking the noise parameters here to get a good recording.

And since the Talkie Arduino library uses PWM on a digital output pin to create the audio, the high-frequency noise was freaking out his simple transistor amplifier. Here, [Marco] adds a feedback capacitor to cancel that high-frequency hash out.

The build needs to be quite compact, and the stacked-Arduino-with-PCB-case design is tight. And the 3D-printed case has a number of nice refinements that you might like. We especially like the use of thin veneers that cover the case all around with the build-plate’s surface texture, and the contrasting “Asteroids” logos are very nice.

All in all, this is a really fun build that’s also full of little details that might help you with your own projects. Heck, even if it just encourages you to play around with the Talkie library, it’s worth your time in our opinion. And while you’re at it, you can turn on the subtitles and pick up some vocab that’ll make your nonna roll over in her grave.

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The World’s First DIY Minicomputer Was Almost Australian

The EDUC-8, a DIY minicomputer design that came out in “Electronics Australia” magazine, was almost the world’s first in August 1974. And it would have been tied for the world’s first if inventor [Jamieson “Jim” Rowe] hadn’t held back from publishing to rework the design to expand the memory to a full 256 bytes. The price of perfectionism?

Flash forward 50 years, and [Gwyllym Suter] has taken on the job of recreating the EDUC-8 using modern PCBs, but otherwise staying true to the all-TTL design. He has all of his schematics up on the project’s GitHub, but has also sent us a number of beauty shots that we’re including below. Other than the progress of PCB tech and the very nice 3D-printed housing, they look identical. We have to admit that we love those wavy hand-drawn traces on the original, but we wouldn’t be sad about not having to solder in all those jumpers.

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Supercon 2023: Reverse Engineering Commercial Coffee Machines

There was a time when a coffee vending machine was a relatively straightforward affair, with a basic microcontroller doing not much more than the mechanical sequencer it replaced. A modern machine by contrast has 21st century computing power, with touch screens, a full-fat operating system, and a touch screen interface. At Hackaday Supercon 2023, [Kuba Tyszko] shared his adventures in the world of coffee, after reverse engineering a couple of high-end dispensing machines. Sadly he doesn’t reveal the manufacturer, but we’re sure readers will be able to fill in the gaps.

Under the hood is a PC running a Linux distro from a CF card. Surprisingly the distros in question were Slax and Lubuntu, and could quite easily be investigated. The coffee machine software was a Java app, which seems to us strangely appropriate, and it communicated to the coffee machine hardware via a serial port. It’s a tale of relatively straightforward PC reverse engineering, during which he found that the machine isn’t a coffee spy as its only communication with its mothership is an XML status report.

In a way what seems almost surprising is how relatively straightforward and ordinary this machine is. We’re used to quirky embedded platforms with everything far more locked down than this. Meanwhile if hacking vending machines is your thing, you can find a few previous stories on the topic.

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Studying The Finer Points Of 3D Printed Gears

[How to Mechatronics] on YouTube endeavored to create a comprehensive guide comparing the various factors that affect the performance of 3D printed gears. Given the numerous variables involved, this is a challenging task, but it aims to shed light on the differences. The guide focuses on three types of gears: the spur gear with straight teeth parallel to the gear axis, the helical gear with teeth at an angle, and the herringbone gear, which combines two helical gear designs. Furthermore, the guide delves into how printing factors such as infill density impact strength, and it tests various materials, including PLA, carbon fiber PLA, ABS, PETG, ASA, and nylon, to determine the best options.

The spur gear is highly efficient due to the minimal contact path when the gears are engaged. However, the sudden contact mechanism, as the teeth engage, creates a high impulse load, which can negatively affect durability and increase noise. On the other hand, helical gears have a more gradual engagement, resulting in reduced noise and smoother operation. This leads to an increased load-carrying capacity, thus improving durability and lifespan.

It’s worth noting that multiple teeth are involved in power transmission, with the gradual engagement and disengagement of the tooth being spread out over more teeth than the spur design. The downside is that there is a significant sideways force due to the inclined angle of the teeth, which must be considered in the enclosing structure and may require an additional bearing surface to handle it. Herringbone gears solve this problem by using two helical gears thrusting in opposite directions, cancelling out the force.

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