2022 Hackaday Prize: Talking Clock Built With Old-School Gear

Any smartphone or laptop could be a talking clock if you wished it so. However, we think this build from [Marek Więcek] is more fun, which uses discrete vintage chips to get the job done the old fashioned way.

The work started when [Marek] was tinkering with a 65C02 CPU, giving it an EPROM, some RAM, and some logic ICs to create something akin to a modern microcontroller in functionality. It came to be known as the 6502 Retro Controller Board. Slowly, the project was expanded with various additional modules, in much the same way one might add shields to an Arduino.

In this case, [Marek] expanded the 6502-powered board with a series of 7-segment displays, along with an RTC to keep accurate time. A classic SP0256-AL2 speech synthesis chip was then added, allowing the system to not only show the time, but read it aloud, too. As a bonus, not only can it tell you the hour, minute, day, and date, but it will also read various science-fiction quotes on demand.

Like most 80s speech synths, the output is robotic and a little difficult to parse. However, that’s part of the charm that makes it different compared to the speaking virtual assistants of today.

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The project's hardware, including the ESP32 camera module, stuffed into the GoPro-intended waterproof shell. The camera portion of the ESP32 module sticks out exactly where the GoPro's camera would be. To the left, a hacked ESP32-CAM module is shown.

Hackaday Prize 2022: Solar-Harvesting ESP32 Camera Is Waterproof, Repeatable

[alberto nunez] shows off his sleek build of a solar-harvesting ESP32 camera – waterproof, somewhat energy-efficient, and able to be built by more-or-less anyone. For that, he’s chosen fairly jellybean components – an ESP32-CAM module with a matching protoboard, a small solar cell, a LiFePO4 battery, and a waterproofed GoPro shell that all of these parts neatly fit into.

A BQ25504 energy harvesting chip is used to ensure the ‘solar’ part of the project can meaningfully contribute to the project’s power budget, with energy otherwise mainly provided by the LiFePo4 battery. Since this battery’s nominal voltage is 3.2 V, it can be wired straight to ESP32’s power input and there’s no need for a regulator – thus, that one got mercilessly desoldered. [alberto] has also modded the board using a FET to gate power to the ESP32-CAM module’s camera, with all of these hacks bringing the board’s deep sleep current from 2.8 mA to 0.8 mA. Not great for a low-power device, but not terrible for something you can build so easily. Plus, it’s waterproof, dust-resistant, and quite robust!

These ESP32 camera modules are seriously nifty – we see them put to good use on the regular. Whether you need to detect motion in your Halloween project, decode your water meter readings, or perhaps merely a security camera, it’s worth having a few in your toolbox. Maybe even pick up a programming helper for these while you’re at it!

Hackaday Prize 2022: Solar Power Through Pyrolysis

We’re all familiar with solar cells, be they photovoltaic, or for heating water. But they are only the more common ways of converting the sun’s energey into usable power, and to the extended list there is now an addition courtesy of [Dennis]. He’s using the sun to drive the pyrolysis of biomass waste, releasing hydrogen fuel.

For those who aren’t familiar with the chemistry, pyrolysis refers to chemical reactions triggered by heat. In this case, when organic biomass is heated in the absence of oxygen it breaks down and releases the gaseous products of that breakdown as well as a mass of carbon. The idea behind this pyrolysis cell is that a Fresnel lens will focus the sun on a reaction chamber, providing the required heat for the reaction to occur. A test with a magnifier and a test tube proves that there’s something in it.

Of course, sharp-eyed readers will notice that this isn’t quite in the same vein as other cells which convert the Sun’s energy into a usable form, in that while it provides an input of energy for the pyrolysis the chemical energy in the resulting gas comes mostly from the original biomass. There is a silver lining to the prospect of burning gas though, in that the left-over carbon can be incorporated into the soil as biochar, an effective carbon sink.

We’ve seen a project pursuing a similar chemistry before, though not using solar energy to do it.

Hackaday Prize 2022: DIY Brushless Hand Cranked Generator

A standard part of travel kit for the 2020s is now a battery pack — a hefty lithium-ion cell with onboard electronics for USB charging, that ensures all of our devices stay topped up while we’re out of range of a socket. But what happens when there is no handy mains supply to recharge it from? Step in [Chleba], with a hand cranked generator.

There are plenty of hand cranked generators to be found online, from tiny devices intended to top up a single phone to sturdy metal boxes intended for battery charging. This one differs from those in that most use a brushed DC motor as a cheap generator, while here that function comes from a stepper motor feeding a rectifier pack and thence a DC-to-DC converter. A step-up gearbox provides the necessary shaft speed, and a neat 3D-printed case rounds everything off.

The result is about as neat a generator as you could imagine, and would certainly be of use shoved into any off-grid backpack. Meanwhile it’s not the first we’ve shown you, we’ve even see one that could start a car.

Hackaday Prize 2022: Saving The World, One Brew At A Time

OK, so maybe [satanistik] is overreaching with his project title “Save the Coffee, Save the World” but keeping an otherwise working coffee machine out of the landfill by hacking around its broken display is nonetheless a worthy pursuit. The juice must flow!

The busted display used a SSD1303 controller OLED module, for which the SSD1305Z is an almost-compatible module. Almost. The one glitch is that the screen is filled in the opposite direction by default. Digging through the manuals, there is a screen-direction bit to set, and tracing out the communication with a logic analyzer, it’s set the wrong way with every screen refresh. If only he could flip that one bit while it’s in transit. Time to man-in-the-middle!

While we certainly would have put a microcontroller in the game, [satanistik] goes old-school. A two-IC logic solution can do exactly the same thing, trading wires for code. The final iteration of the converter board is correspondingly spartan, but it does its one job.

So if you’ve got a Nivona coffee machine with a bum display, or perhaps an Agilent U1273A multimeter, or any other piece of equipment that needs a hard-to-find SSD1303 controller, now you have a ready-made solution. But if not, and you find yourself looking for a display that you can’t find, let this serve as an example to you – with a little (fun) effort, you can hack it back.

Hackaday Prize 2022: A Hefty Hoverboard Rover

Popular consumer products often become the basis of many hacker projects, and hoverboards are a good example of this. [Tanguy] is using the drivetrain from a pair of hoverboards to build a beefy little rover platform with independent suspension.

Since hoverboards were designed to move around fully grown humans, the motors have the torque to spare for this 25 kilogram (55 pound) rover. For rough terrain, each of the four motor/wheel combos is mounted to arms bolted together with 3D printed parts and thick laser-cut aluminum. Suspension is simple and consists of a couple of loops of bungee cord. The chassis uses aluminum extrusion bolted together with aluminum plates and more printed fittings.

It doesn’t look like the rover is running yet, but [Tanguy] intends to power it with an electric scooter battery and control it with his own Universal Robot Remote. He also added an E-stop to the top and a cheap indoor PTZ camera for FPV. We look forward to seeing the functional rover and how it handles terrain.

We’ve seen hoverboard motors get used in other rover projects, but also for scootersskateboards, and even a hydroelectric turbine. It’s also possible to use them as is by mounting them to existing chassis’ to create electric carts.

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Hackaday Prize 2022: An Eastern Bloc NES Clone

If Nintendo is known for anything outside of their characters and admittedly top-notch video games, it’s being merciless to fans when it comes to using their intellectual property. They take legal action against people just for showing non-Nintendo hardware emulating games of theirs, and have even attempted to shut down the competitive scene for games like Super Smash Bros. To get away from the prying eyes of the Nintendo legal team extreme measures need to be taken — like building your Nintendo console clone behind the Iron Curtain.

[Marek Więcek] grew up in just such a place, so the only way to play Famicom (a.k.a NES) games was to use a clone system like this one circulating in the Eastern Bloc at the time called the Pegasus which could get the job done with some tinkering. [Marek] recently came across CPU and GPU chips from this clone console and got to work building his own. Using perf board and wire he was able to test the chips and confirm they functioned properly, but had a problem with the video memory that took him a while to track down and fix.

After that, he has essentially a fully-functional Famicom that can play any cartridge around. While we hope that living in Eastern Europe still puts him far enough away to avoid getting hassled by Nintendo, we can never be too sure. Unless, of course, you use this device which lets you emulate SNES games legally.

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