A bald white man stands behind a table with an Apple II, a large green PCB, and a modular purple and black development board system. Atop the Apple II is what appears to be a smaller Apple II complete with beige case and brown fake keyboard.

Mini Apple IIe Now Fully Functional

Here at Hackaday, we love living in a future with miniaturized versions of our favorite retrocomputers. [James Lewis] has given us another with his fully functional Apple IIe from the Mega II chip.

When we last checked in on the Mega IIe, it was only just booting and had a ways to go before being a fully functional Apple II. We really love the modular dev board he designed to do the extensive debugging required to make this whole thing work. Each of the boards is connected with jumper pins, which [Lewis] admits would have been better as edge connectors since he should’ve known he’d be unplugging and replugging them more than he’d like.

A set of PCBs sits on a table. There is a logic analyzer plugged into one end that looks like a grey square. Three boards stick up at right angles from the main plane which consists of a purple square PCB with the IIe ROM and MEGA chips and a black rectangular PCB with four sets of headers for PCB modules to slot into.

This modular prototyping system paid dividends late in the project when a “MEGA bug” threatened the stability of the entire system. Since it was confined to the keyboard PCB, [Lewis] was able to correct the error and, swapping for the third revision of the board, everything that had been crashing the system now ran.

There were still some issues going to the final unified PCB that nearly made him give up on the project, but perseverance paid off in the end. Combining vintage chips and multiple RP2040s isn’t for the feint of heart.

Now that you have a more conveniently-sized Apple II, why not teach it some new tricks like digital photography or ChatGPT?

Continue reading “Mini Apple IIe Now Fully Functional”

A brown, wooden picture frame with a white matte holds a slightly pixelated photo of gaming miniatures. It is sitting on a wooden table.

A Colorful Take On The E-Ink Photo Frame

Everyone loves sharing photos, and with most pictures being taken on smartphones now, digital frames are more convenient than finding a photo printer. [Wolfgang Ziegler] used an e-ink screen to create a colorful digital picture frame.

Starting with a seven color e-ink HAT he’d forgotten he had, a spare Pi Zero, and analog photo frame, he pieced the parts together into a pretty slick, sunlight readable photo frame. [Ziegler] details how he set up the frame to display new images using the Pimoroni inky library. He set a fifteen minute refresh interval since the color e-ink display takes 30 seconds to refresh to keep it from looking weird too often.

With the holidays coming up, this might make a perfect gift for family that wants to see the latest from your travels without blasting it to the whole internet. We’ve covered a few different options from a lightweight ESP8266 build, to this one that can rotate, and even issues with some of the commercial options.

A black motion system with two stepper motors. A green circuit board is fixed in a rotating cage in the center, and the entire assembly is on a white base atop a green cutting mat. Wires wind through the assembly.

Pi-lomar Puts An Observatory In Your Hands

Humans have loved looking up at the night sky for time immemorial, and that hasn’t stopped today. [MattHh] has taken this love to the next level with the Pi-lomar Miniature Observatory.

Built with a Raspberry Pi 4, a RPi Hi Quality camera, and a Pimoroni Tiny2040, this tiny observatory does a solid job of letting you observe the night sky from the comfort of your sofa (some assembly required). The current version of Pi-lomar uses a 16mm ‘telephoto’ lens and the built-in camera libraries from Raspbian Buster. This gives a field of view of approximately 21 degrees of the sky.

While small for an observatory, there are still 4 spools of 3D printing filament in the five different assemblies: the Foundation, the Platform, the Tower, the Gearboxes and the Dome. Two NEMA 17 motors are directed by the Tiny2040 to keep the motion smoother than if the RPi 4 was running them directly. The observatory isn’t waterproof, so if you make your own, don’t leave it out in the rain.

If you’re curious how we might combat the growing spectre of light pollution to better our nighttime observations, check out how blinking can help. And if you want to build a (much) larger telescope, how about using the Sun as a gravitational lens?

Continue reading “Pi-lomar Puts An Observatory In Your Hands”

A long, skeletal neck of a swan automaton sits on a table. Two men are on either side of it, lowering the swan's body back on.

Restoring The Silver Swan Automaton

It’s easier than ever to build your own robot, but humans have been building automatons since before anyone had even thought of electronics. One beautiful example is the Silver Swan, built in the 18th century.

The brainchild of [John Joseph Merlin] and silversmith [James Cox], the swan features three separate clockwork drives, appearing to swim in a moving river where it snatches fish in its motorized beak. Mark Twain said the swan had “a living grace about his movements and living intelligence in his eyes” when he saw it at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1867.

The swan has been delighting people for 250 years, and recently received some much-deserved maintenance. In the video below, you can see museum staff disassembling the swan including its 113 neck rings which protect the three different chain drives controlling its lifelike motions. Hopefully, with some maintenance, this automaton will still be going strong in 2273.

If you’d like to Bring Back the Age of Automatons, perhaps you should study this bird bath or the “Draughtsman-Writer.”

Continue reading “Restoring The Silver Swan Automaton”

A large, teardrop-shaped van with a wide, friendly face sits in a grassy field. A grey canvas pop top is opened on its top and solar panels extend from either side of its roof, making it look somewhat like a large insect with wings extended.

An Off-Grid EV Camper Van

Despite our predilection for creature comforts like electricity, it can be nice to get away from it all from time-to-time. Students from Eindhoven University of Technology developed Stella Vita to let you glamp from the power of the sun alone.

Solar-powered vehicles have been plying the highways for decades, but we’re only now getting vehicles with multiple seats that could potentially be used for transport outside of protected race conditions. While production vehicles that can charge off the sun are yet to appear in any appreciable numbers, universities are continuing to push the envelope of what’s possible in a solar car.

Stella Vita is a whale shark-esque camper van designed to be as aerodynamic as possible while still housing all the accoutrements one would want when car camping including a large bed, inductive cooktop, fridge, shower, sink, toilet, and standing room via a pop top. The 2 kW solar array expands to 4 kW when parked via two wings extending from the pop top that also function as awnings for your base camp. By keeping the car lightweight (1,700 kg or 3,700 lb) and aerodynamic, it can go about 600 km (370 mi) on a single charge with its 60 kWh battery.

While it’s still experimental, the team took Stella Vita on a road trip of 3,000 km (1,900 mi) to the south of Spain and were able to get there with only a couple charging stops to account for technical difficulties. A full charge on solar alone takes 2-3 days, which we can see being a convenient amount of time to stop in one spot for your outdoor adventures before heading home or to your next destination.

If you want to build a slightly smaller off-grid camper that’s fueled by coffee instead, you might want to check out this bike camper or this other example.

Continue reading “An Off-Grid EV Camper Van”

An ebike motor with the controller cover removed. A number of wires and connectors take up most of the space in the cavity.

Open Brain Surgery For EBikes And EScooters

Personal Electric Vehicles (PEVs) all contain the same basic set of parts: a motor, a battery, a motor controller, some sensors, and a display to parse the information. This simplicity allowed [casainho] to develop a custom controller setup for their own PEVs.

Built around the venerable VESC motor controller, [casainho]’s addition is the EBike/EScooter board that interfaces the existing motor of a device to the controller. Their ESP32-powered CircuitPython solution takes the sensor output of a given bike or scooter (throttle, cadence, or torque) and translates it into the inputs the controller uses to set the motor power.

They’ve also designed an ESP32-based display to interface the rest of the system to the user while riding. Since it also runs CircuitPython, it’s easy to reconfigure the functions of the three button device to display whatever you’d like as well as change various drive modes of your system. I know I’d love to see my own ebikes have a different mode for riding on road versus on shared paths since not getting run over by cars and not harassing pedestrians aren’t going to have the same power profile.

If you want to find more ways to join the PEV revolution, check out this wild omni-wheeled bike or this solar car built from two separate e-bikes. If that doesn’t suit your fancy, how about an off-label use for an e-bike battery to power your laptop off grid?

A woman with a black vest and pink shirt with curly hair stands behind a podium in front of a projected presentation. She is speaking and has her hands moving in a vague guesture.

Supercon 2022: Carrie Sundra Discusses Manufacturing On A Shoestring Budget

Making hardware is hard. This is doubly true when you’re developing a niche hardware device that might have a total production run in the hundreds of units instead of something mass market. [Carrie Sundra] has been through the process several times, and has bestowed her wisdom on how not to screw it up.

The internet is strewn with the remains of unfulfilled crowdfunding campaigns for tantalizing devices that seemed so simple when they showed of the prototype. How does one get something from the workbench into the world without losing their life savings and reputation?

[Sundra] walks us through her process for product development that has seen several products successfully launch without an army of pitchfork-wielding fiber crafters line up at her door. One of the first concepts she stresses is that you should design your products around the mantra, “Once it leaves your shop IT SHOULD NEVER COME BACK.” If you design for user-serviceability from the beginning, you can eliminate most warranty returns and probably make it easier to manufacture your widget to boot. Continue reading “Supercon 2022: Carrie Sundra Discusses Manufacturing On A Shoestring Budget”