Elegant Drum Machine from Teensy

Playing the drums is pretty hard, especially for the uncoordinated. Doing four things at the same time, all while keeping an even tempo, isn’t reasonable for most of us. Rather than hiring a drummer for your band who is well versed in this art, though, you might opt instead to outsource this job to a machine instead. It’s cheaper and also less likely to result in spontaneous combustion.

This drum machine is actually a MIDI Euclidean sequencer. Euclidean rhythms are interesting in their own regard, but the basics are that a common denominator between two beats is found in order to automatically generate complicated beats. This particular unit is running on a Teensy 3.5 and consists of four RGB rotary encoders, an SSD1306 LCD, four momentary buttons, and four 16 LED Neopixel rings. Setting each of the dials increases the number of beats for that particular channel, and it can be configured for an almost limitless combination of beats and patterns.

To really get a feel of what’s going on here, it’s worth it to check out the video after the break. MIDI is also a fascinating standard, beyond the fact that it’s one of the few remaining standards created in the 80s that still enjoys active use, it can also be used to build all kinds of interesting instruments like one that whacks wine glasses with mallets or custom synthesizers.

Thanks to [baldpower] for the tip!

Continue reading “Elegant Drum Machine from Teensy”

Superdeep Borehole Samples Create Non-boring Music

In the 1970s, the Soviet Union decided to dig a hole for science. Not just any hole, the Kola Superdeep Borehole reached a depth of over 12 kilometers, the deepest at the time and the second deepest today by just a few meters. Since this was one of the few holes dug this deep that wasn’t being drilled for oil, the project was eventually abandoned. [Dmitry] was able to find some core samples from the project though, and he headed up to the ruins of the scientific site with his latest project which produces musical sounds from the core samples.

The musical instrument uses punched tape, found at the borehole site, as a sort of “seed” for generating the sounds. Around the outside of the device are five miniature drilling rigs, each holding a piece of a core sample from the hole. The instrument uses the punched tape in order to control the drilling rigs, and the sound that is created is processed by the instrument and amplified, which creates some interesting and rather spooky sounds. The whole thing is controlled by an Arduino Mega.

Not only does the project make interesting sounds from a historically and scientifically significant research station and its findings, but the project has a unique and clean design that really fits its environment at the abandoned facility. The other interesting thing about this project is that, if you want to make the trek, anyone can go explore the building and see the hole for themselves. If you’re wondering about the tools that could be used to make a hole like this, take a look at this boring project.

Continue reading “Superdeep Borehole Samples Create Non-boring Music”

Redeem Your Irresponsible 90s Self

If you were a youth in the 90s, odds are good that you were a part of the virtual pet fad and had your very own beeping Tamagotchi to take care of, much to the chagrin of your parents. Without the appropriate amout of attention each day, the pets could become sick or die, and the only way to prevent this was to sneak the toy into class and hope it didn’t make too much noise. A more responsible solution to this problem would have been to build something to take care of your virtual pet for you.

An art installation in Moscow is using an Arduino to take care of five Tamagotchis simultaneously in a virtal farm of sorts. The system is directly wired to all five toys to simulate button presses, and behaves ideally to make sure all the digital animals are properly cared for. Although no source code is provided, it seems to have some sort of machine learning capability in order to best care for all five pets at the same time. The system also prints out the statuses on a thermal printer, so you can check up on the history of all of the animals.

The popularity of these toys leads to a lot of in-depth investigation of what really goes on inside them, and a lot of other modifications to the original units and to the software. You can get a complete ROM dump of one, build a giant one, or even take care of an infinite number of them. Who would have thought a passing fad would have so much hackability?

Continue reading “Redeem Your Irresponsible 90s Self”

The Math That Makes Computers Go, Built On a Tiny PCB

A computer is, at its core, just a bunch of transistors wired together. Once you have enough transistors on a board, though, one of the first layers of abstraction that arises is the Arithmetic Logic Unit. The ALU takes in two sets of data, performs a chosen math function, and outputs one data set as the result. It really is the core of what makes computers compute.

An ALU is built into modern processors, but that wasn’t always how it was done. If you’re looking to build a recreation of an early computer you may need a standalone, and that’s why [roelh] designed an ALU that fits in a square inch piece of circuit board using five multiplexer chips and two XOR chips.

One of the commonly used components for this purpose, the 74LS181 ALU, is not in production anymore. [roelh’s] ALU is intended to be a small footprint replacement of sorts, and can perform seven functions: ADD, SUB, XOR, XNOR, AND, OR, A, B, and NOT A. The small footprint for the design is a constraint of our recent contest: Return of the Square Inch Project. Of course, this meant extra design challenges, such as needing to move the carry in and carry out lines to a separate header because there wasn’t enough space on one edge.

Exploring the theory behind an ALU isn’t just for people building retrocomputers. It is integral to gaining an intuitive understanding of how all computers work. Everyone should consider looking under the hood by walking through the nand2tetris course which uses simulation to build from a NAND gate all the way up to a functioning computer based on The Elements of Computing Science textbook.

If you’re a homebrew computer builder, it might be worthwhile to use one of these ALUs rather than designing your own. Of course, if building components from scratch is your thing we definitely understand that motivation as well.

Popup Notification Dinosaur

There’s a lot going on our virtual spaces, and anyone with a smart phone can attest to this fact. There are pop-up notifications for everything you can imagine, and sometimes it’s possible for the one really important notification to get lost in a sea of minutiae. To really make sure you don’t miss that one important notification, you can offload that task to your own personal dinosaur.

The 3D-printed dinosaur has a rack-and-pinion gear set that allows it to extend upwards when commanded. It also has a set of LEDs for eyes that turn on when it pops up. The two servos and LEDs are controlled by a small Arduino in the base of the dinosaur. This Arduino can be programmed to activate the dinosaur whenver you like, for an email from a specific person, a reply to a comment on Reddit, or an incoming phone call to name a few examples. Be sure to check out the video below the break.

With this dinosaur on your desk, it’s not likely you’ll miss its activation. If you’d like something that has the same function but with less movement and more lights, there’s also a notification 3D cube made out of LEDs that’s sure to catch your eye as well. Continue reading “Popup Notification Dinosaur”

3D Printing, Halloween Style

The wonders of 3D printing don’t stop coming. Whether it’s printing tools on the International Space Station, printing houses out of concrete, or just making spare parts for a child’s toy, there’s virtually nothing you can’t get done with the right 3D printer, including spicing up your Halloween decorations.

Not only is this pumpkin a great-looking decoration for the season on its own, but it can also transform into a rather unsettling spider as well for a little bit of traditional Halloween surprise. The print is seven parts, which all snap into place and fold together with a set of ball-and-socket joints. While it doesn’t have any automatic opening and closing from a set of servos, perhaps we will see someone come up with a motion-activated pumpkin spider transformer that will shock all the trick-or-treaters at the end of this month.

It’s not too late to get one for yourself, either. The files are available on Thingiverse or through the project site. And we’ve seen plenty of other Halloween hacks and projects throughout the years too if you’re looking for other ideas, like the recent candy machine game, a rather surprising flying human head, or this terrifying robot.

Flamethrower Gets Update, Retains Some Sketchiness

Part of what makes flamethrowers fun is their inherent danger. This is what makes a lot of things fun, though, from snowboarding to skydiving to motorcycle riding. As with all of these sensible hobbies, though, it’s important to take as much unnecessary risk out of the activity as possible to make sure you’re around as long as possible to enjoy your chosen activity. With that in mind, [Stephen] decided to make some improvements on his classic wrist-mounted flamethrower.

To start, he ditched the heavy lead-acid battery that powered the contraption in favor of a smaller 5 V battery. In fact, the entire build is much more compact and efficient. He was also able to use the same battery to run a tiny taser that acts as an ignition source for the flamethrower’s fuel. The fuel itself is butane, and the modified flamethrower is able to launch flames much further than the original due to improvements in the fuel delivery system. These improvements also include “Finding a way to prevent butane droplets from lighting and landing on [his] hand” which seems like a necessary feature as well.

The entire build now is very well refined and professional-looking, which is also a major improvement from the first version. It’s also worth watching the video after the break as well, which includes a minor run-in with the New York City fire marshal. And, it still retains some of the danger and all of the fun of the original builds which is something we always like to see.

Continue reading “Flamethrower Gets Update, Retains Some Sketchiness”