2019 Hackaday Prize Hack Chat

Join us Wednesday, April 17 at noon Pacific time for the 2019 Hackaday Prize Hack Chat!

The 2019 Hackaday Prize was just announced, and this year the theme is designing for manufacturing. The hacker community has come a long, long way in the last few years in terms of the quality of projects we turn out. Things that were unthinkable just a few short years ago are now reduced to practice, and our benches and breadboards are always stuffed with the latest and greatest components and modules, all teaming up to do wondrous things. But what about the next step? Do you have what it takes to turn that mess o’ wires into a product? What skills do you need to add to your repertoire to make sure you can actually capitalize on your prototype — or more importantly, to get your ideas into someone else’s hands where they can actually do some good? That’s what the Hackaday Prize is all about this year, and we want you taking your projects to the next level!

Majenta Strongheart will be hosting the Hack Chat as we discuss:

  • The importance of designing for manufacturing;
  • What tools we have available to turn prototypes into projects;
  • How the Hackaday Prize is set up this year, and why the theme was selected; and
  • Why you should participate in the 2019 Hackaday Prize

You are, of course, encouraged to add your own questions to the discussion. You can do that by leaving a comment on the 2019 Hackaday Prize Hack Chat and we’ll put that in the queue for the Hack Chat discussion.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, April 17, at noon, Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Teardown: Nihon Kenko Magnetic Wave Tester

You never know what kind of wonders you’ll find on eBay, especially when you have a bunch of alerts configured to go off when weird electronic devices pop up. You may even find yourself bidding on something despite not being entirely sure what it is. Perhaps you’re a collector of unusual gadgets, or maybe it’s because you’ve committed to doing monthly teardowns for the hacker blog you work for. In any event, you sometimes find yourself in possession of an oddball device that requires closer inspection.

Case in point, this “Magnetic Wave Tester” from everyone’s favorite purveyor of high-end electronics, Nihon Kenko Zoushin Kenkyukai Corporation. The eBay listing said the device came from an estate sale and the seller didn’t know much about it, but with just a visual inspection we can make some educated guesses. When a strong enough magnetic field is present, the top section on the device will presumably blink or light up. As it has no obvious method of sensitivity adjustment or even a display to show specific values, it appears the unit must operate like an electromagnetic canary in a coal mine: if it goes off, assume the worst.

If you’re wondering what the possible use for such a gadget is, you’re not the only one. I wasn’t able to find much information about this device online, but the few mentions I found didn’t exactly fill me with confidence. It seems two groups of people are interested in this type of “Magnetic Wave Tester”: people who believe strong magnetic fields have some homeopathic properties, or those who think it will allow them to converse with ghosts. In both cases, these aren’t the kind of users who want to see a microtesla readout; they want a bright blinking light to show their friends.

So without further ado, let’s align our chakras, consult with the spirits, and see what your money gets you when you purchase a pocket-sized hokum detector.

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Hackaday Links: April 14, 2019

Look at this prototype Apple smartphone from 1993! For a long time, Apple has been in the phone game, with many failed attempts to combine a laptop screen with a phone. The most noteworthy attempt would be the Snow White phone designed around 1982, but this didn’t go to market. Apple tried again in 1993 with the Walt phone, and now we have someone willing to tear open a prototype. The guts are apparently a contemporary PowerBook (something along the lines of a PowerBook 140 or 170), which means you’re probably looking at a 68030 processor and between 2 and 8 Megabytes of RAM. The rest of the hardware looks fairly standard; SCSI drive and a fax/modem adapter. The software, though, is Hypercard. Here’s the video of the thing booting, and it’s an interesting look at the ‘computer appliance’ trend from the late 90s; once again, Apple was ahead of the curve.

Disregarding any of the implications of geopolitics of the time (as we do with these sorts of things), the Horten Ho 299 was a jet-powered flying wing that first flew in 1944. It’s in the Smithsonian now (and on display, at Dulles) and is a weird, strange, but incredibly interesting footnote in aviation history (because of the implications of geopolitics at the time, but again, we’re not going to get into that). Now the Horten flies again. A company unrelated to Herr Horten has recreated the one-man flying wing. It’s a real experimental aircraft now. Sure, it’s a piston-powered airplane, but if you want to fly something that looks even cooler than something Burt Rutan grew out of fiberglass, this is what you want.

For the past few months, Hackster has been running a BadgeLove contest, now the entries are closed and the winners are here. The Badge Of All Badges is a contactless/NFC badge, the blinkiest has some awesome documentation, and the best art is directly from Pokemon Yellow.

Vinyl has made a comeback, and so far we’ve been accepting of that. The album art is better when it’s bigger, and a record is more of an experience than popping in a CD or streaming some music. There’s a reason your favorite Beatles song is the B-side of Abbey Road. What’s the next frontier of high-end audio? Reel to reel, and Thorens is making a new tape machine. First off: it costs thirteen thousand dollars. It’s a quarter inch tape, and yeah, you can totally find a machine that will play quarter inch tapes for far less money.

Due to my vocation, I am awash in press releases every day. This doesn’t give me access to technology trends, far from it. It gives me access to marketing trends. Want to know about the fog, or ‘the cloud at ground level’? The first time anyone with two brain cells saw that phrase was in an unsolicited email, and it’s in my inbox. The latest trend — and I assure you this didn’t happen last year — is advertising explicit targeted towards April 20th. 4/20 is now mainstream, because marketing decided you can sell stuff to stoners. I’m looking at an email right now that starts with, “Hi Brian, With 4/20 fast approaching I thought you’d be interested….” There’s another one for vapes. This year, 4/20 has become a consumer holiday, so this year be on the lookout for the new, innovative ways you’re being sold stuff.

Ask Hackaday: Experiences With Capacitor Failure

Regular readers of Hackaday are intimately knowledgeable about old electronics, and whether it’s about that old oscilloscope sitting in the pile of other oscilloscopes, or the very rare vintage computer made in a Soviet bloc country, someone somewhere knows how to fix it. One of the biggest problems with these old electronics are capacitors. If it isn’t the battery that’s gone dead and leaked all over, it’s the caps that are either out of spec or have already exploded.

These machines can be brought back from the dead, and in recent months and years we’ve seen an uptick in the number of restomods hitting the Hackaday tip line. If you have a soldering iron and the patience to do so, any machine can be brought back from the grave.

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Hackaday Podcast Ep014: Keeping Raspberry’s SD Card Alive, We Love MRRF, And How Hot Are Flip Chips?

Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys take a look at advances in photogrammetry (building 3D models out of many photographs from a regular camera), a delay pedal that’s both aesthetically and aurally pleasing, and the power of AI to identify garden slugs. Mike interviews Scotty Allen while walking the streets and stores of the Shenzhen Electronics markets. We delve into SD card problems with Raspberry Pi, putting industrial controls on your desk, building a Geiger counter for WiFi, and the sad truth about metal 3D printing.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (61.6 MB)

Places to follow Hackaday podcasts:

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Televox: The Past’s Robot of the Future

When I read old books, I like to look for predictions of the future. Since we are living in that future, it is fun to see how they did. Case in point: I have a copy of “The New Wonder Book of Knowledge”, an anthology from 1941. This was the kind of book you wanted before there was a Wikipedia to read in your spare time. There are articles about how coal is mined, how phonographs work, and the inner workings of a beehive. Not the kind of book you’d grab to look up something specific, but a great book to read if you just want to learn something interesting. In it there are a few articles about technology that seemed ready to take us to the future. One of those is the Televox — a robot from Westinghouse poised to usher in an age of home and industrial mechanical servants. Robots in 1941? Actually, Televox came into being in 1927.

If you were writing about the future in 2001, you might have pictured city sidewalks congested with commuters riding Segways. After all, in 2001, we were told that something was about to hit the market that would “change everything.” It had a known inventor, Dean Kamen, and a significant venture capitalist behind it. While it has found a few niche markets, it isn’t the billion dollar personal transportation juggernaut that was predicted.

But technology is like that. Sometimes things seem poised for greatness and disappear — bubble memory comes to mind. Sometimes things have a few years of success and get replaced by something better. Fax machines or floppy drives, for example. The Televox was a glimpse of what was to come, but not in any way that people imagined in 1941. Continue reading “Televox: The Past’s Robot of the Future”

The $50 Ham: Checking Out the Local Repeater Scene

So far in this series, we’ve covered the absolute basics of getting on the air as a radio amateur – getting licensed, and getting a transceiver. Both have been very low-cost exercises, at least in terms of wallet impact. Passing the test is only a matter of spending the time to study and perhaps shelling out a nominal fee, and a handy-talkie transceiver for the 2-meter and 70-centimeter ham bands can be had for well under $50. If you’re playing along at home, you haven’t really invested much yet.

The total won’t go up much this week, if at all. This time we’re going to talk about what to actually do with your new privileges. The first step for most Technician-class amateur radio operators is checking out the local repeaters, most of which are set up exactly for the bands that Techs have access to. We’ll cover what exactly repeaters are, what they’re used for, and how to go about keying up for the first time to talk to your fellow hams.

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