The Ridiculous GameCube Keyboard Controller Gets Modded

Believe it or not, there was a keyboard peripheral sold for the original GameCube, and it was built into the middle of a controller. Designed for the Phantasy Star Online games, it allowed players to easily communicate with others via chat. [peachewire] got their hands on one, and set about modifying it in the way only a true keyboard fanatic could.

The result is a gloriously colorful keyboard and controller set up to work with a PC. The stock membrane keyboard was removed entirely, which is possible without interfering with the gamepad hardware inside the controller shell. It was replaced with a Preonic keyboard PCB, fitted with Lubed Glorious Panda switches and those wonderful pastel DSA Vilebloom keycaps. The keyboard also features a Durock screw-in stabilizer to make sure the  space key has a nice smooth action. The controller itself received a set of colored buttons to match the theme, setting off the aesthetic. It’s still fully functional, and can be used with an adapter to play games on the attached PC.

Overall, it’s a tidy controller casemod and one hell of a conversation starter when the crew are scoping out your battlestation. The added weight might make it a little straining for long gaming sessions in controller mode, but it looks so pretty we’re sure we wouldn’t notice.

We’ve seen keyboards and Nintendo mashed up before; this Smash Bros. controller makes excellent use of high quality keyswitches. Video after the break.

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Where Are All The Cheap X86 Single Board PCs?

If we were to think of a retrocomputer, the chances are we might have something from the classic 8-bit days or maybe a game console spring to mind. It’s almost a shock to see mundane desktop PCs of the DOS and Pentium era join them, but those machines now form an important way to play DOS and Windows 95 games which are unsuited to more modern operating systems. For those who wish to play the games on appropriate hardware without a grubby beige mini-tower and a huge CRT monitor, there’s even the option to buy one of these machines new: in the form of a much more svelte Pentium-based PC104 industrial PC.

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Is That An EMP Generator In Your Pocket Or Is My Calculator Just Broken?

Ah, what fond memories we have of our misspent youth, walking around with a 9,000-volt electromagnetic pulse generator in our Levi’s 501s and zapping all the electronic devices nobody yet carried with them everywhere they went. Crazy days indeed.

We’re sure that’s not at all what [Rostislav Persion] had in mind when designing his portable EMP generator; given the different topologies and the careful measurement of results, we suspect his interest is strictly academic. There are three different designs presented, all centering around a battery-powered high-voltage power module, the Amazon listing of which optimistically lists as capable of a 400,000- to 700,000-volt output. Sadly, [Rostislav]’s unit was capable of a mere 9,000 volts, which luckily was enough to get some results.

Coupled to a spark gap, one of seven different coils — from one to 40 turns — and plus or minus some high-voltage capacitors in series or parallel, he tested each configuration’s ability to interfere with a simple pocket calculator. The best range for a reset and scramble of the calculator was only about 3″ (7.6 cm), although an LED hooked to a second coil could detect the EMP up to 16″ (41 cm) away. [Rostislav]’s finished EMP generators were housed in a number of different enclosures, one of which totally doesn’t resemble a pipe bomb and whose “RF Hazard” labels are sure not to arouse suspicions when brandished in public.

We suppose these experiments lay to rest the Hollywood hype about EMP generators, but then again, their range is pretty limited. You might want to rethink your bank heist plans if they center around one of these designs.

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Cloned Memory Module Fixes Broken Scopemeter

Finding broken test gear and fixing it up to work again is a time-honored tradition among hackers. If you’re lucky, that eBay buy will end up being DOA because of a popped fuse or a few bad capacitors, and a little work with snips and a soldering iron will earn you a nice piece of test gear and bragging rights to boot.

Some repairs, though, are in a class by themselves, like this memory module transplant for a digital scopemeter. The story began some time ago when [FeedbackLoop] picked up a small lot of broken Fluke 199C scopemeters from eBay. They were listed as “parts only”, which is never a good sign, and indeed the meters were in various states of disassembly and incompleteness.

The subject of the video below was missing several important bits, like a battery and a power connector, but most critically, its memory module. Luckily, the other meter had a good module, making reverse engineering possible. That effort started with liberating the two RAM chips and two flash chips, all of which were in BGA packages, from the PCB. From there each chip went into a memory programmer to read its image, which was then written to new chips. The chip-free board was duplicated — a non-trivial task for a six-layer PCB — and new ones ordered. After soldering on the programmed chips and a few passives, the module was plugged in, making the meter as good as new.

While we love them all, it’s clear that there are many camps of test gear collectors. You’ve got your Fluke fans, your H-P aficionados, the deep-pocketed Keithley crowd — but everyone loves Tektronix.

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Fit Your LCDs With Lenses For That Vintage CRT Look

For as big, bulky, and power-hungry as they were, CRTs were an analog joy of the early days of TV, video games, and computers. The crackling high-voltage, the occasional whiff of ozone, the whizzing electrons lancing through a vacuum to excite a phosphorescent image — by comparison, thin-film LCDs are sterile and boring.

Sadly, CRTs are getting harder to come by these days, and at the extreme ends of the size spectrum, may never have been available at all. Thankfully, if your project demands a retro CRT look, fitting your LCD with a custom lens might just do the trick. The link leads to the first article in a series by [jamhamster] on the travails of lensmaking, which even when not practiced for precision lens production can still be tricky. After going through the basics of material selection — acrylic, but not cold-formed, please; such sheets have internal stresses that tend to express themselves as cracks while grinding. The grinding method is as ingenious as it is simple: a blank is fitted to a flat arbor and ground down by spinning it against a belt sander, on the side without the platen. A little WD40 for lubrication and thermal management helped while progressing to finer grit belts, with a final treatment using plastic polish yielded a shape very reminiscent of an old CRT face. There’s a Twitter video that shows the simulated CRT.

Further installments of the series detail the optical properties of these lenses,  options for bonding them to an LCD, and tying all the steps into a coherent method. We think the results speak for themselves, and suspect that these “emulated” CRTs often draw a double-take.

Thanks to [John] for the tip.

Retrotechtacular: Discovering Aerodynamics With The Chrysler Airflow

When you think about it, for most of human history we’ve been a pretty slow bunch. At any time before about 150 years ago, if you were moving faster than a horse can run, you were probably falling to your death. And so the need to take aerodynamics into consideration is a pretty new thing.

The relative novelty of aerodynamic design struck us pretty hard when we stumbled across this mid-1930s film about getting better performance from cars. It was produced for the Chrysler Sales Corporation and featured the innovative design of the 1934 Chrysler Airflow. The film’s narration makes it clear why the carmaker would go through the trouble of completely rethinking how cars are made; despite doubling average engine horsepower over the preceding decade, cars had added only about 15% to their top speed. And while to our 21st-century eyes, the Chrysler Airflow might look like a bulked-up Volkswagen Beetle, compared to the standard automotive designs of the day, it was a huge aerodynamic leap forward. This makes sense with what else was going on in the technology world at the time — air travel — the innovations of which, such as wind tunnel testing of models, were spilling over into other areas of design. There’s also the influence of [Orville Wright], who was called in to consult on the Airflow design.

While the Airflow wasn’t exactly a huge hit with the motoring public — not that many were built, and very few remain today; [Jay Leno] is one of the few owners, because of course he is — it set standards that would influence automotive designs for the next 80 years. It’s fascinating too that something seemingly as simple as moving the engine forward and streamlining the body a bit took so long to hit upon, and yet yielded so much bang for the buck.

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Wood And Brass Drink Temperature Monitor Looks Good, Has Class

We’ve all been there. Your current project has hit a wall, or the next step will take days to complete, and you need something to do in the meantime. So you start a project that you envision will fit nicely in the gap, and then, inevitably, it doesn’t. Maybe it even takes so long that the original project gets finished first. So what? There’s nothing wrong with that, especially when the filler project turns out as well as this drink temperature monitor disguised as a circuit sculpture (video, embedded below). Just put your mug on the coaster, and the weight of it activates a hidden switch, which causes the sculpture to display its secret LEDs.

[MakeFunStuff] wanted to make something that looked less like a circuit and more like art, while building a tool that could determine the relative hotness of a beverage. Such a a useful circuit sculpture sounds like a tall order to us, but [MakeFunStuff] pulled it off with finesse and style.

The circuit is based around this Sputnik-looking standalone IR temperature sensor which, as [MakeFunStuff] aptly describes, is “a single-pixel infrared camera that picks up everything in a 90° cone starting at the sensor.”

[MakeFunStuff] paired this easy-to-use sensor with an Arduino Nano and five LEDs that show how hot a beverage is on a scale from 1 to 5. The sensor is hidden in plain sight, suspended from the top of the brass rod sculpture and blending in perfectly. We love that the LEDs are hidden behind a thin layer of carefully-drilled wood and agree that a drill press would have been much easier.

The code is set up for just about every temperature scale from Celsius to Rømer, so that solves that argument. [MakeFunStuff] went with the Kelvin scale because science. Our favorite thing about this video is that [MakeFunStuff] shared their failures and fixes as they built their way toward answering the questions of how to suspend the sensor over the drink, and how best to display the heat level while hiding the electronics. Go grab a hot cup of something and check it out after the break while you let it cool off the normie way.

We admit that we would likely zone out while waiting for the LEDs to disappear. Here’s a smart coaster that uses an ESP8266 to send a message to Discord when your beverage has reached the perfect drinking temperature.

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