Drive A Plasma Ball With An ATV Ignition Coil And A 555

[Discrete Electronics Guy] sends in his short tutorial on building a high voltage power supply from simple things.

The circuit is a classic, but we love the resourcefulness shown. The ignition coil comes from a three wheeler, the primary power supply is a ATX supply from a computer and the oscillator is powered by a 9V battery. We do wonder whose vehicle stopped working though.

He gives a great explanation of how the circuit works and was constructed and then moves on to build his own Plasma bulb. Despite expecting something more complicated the end result was achieved by putting a lightbulb on a stick. Fantastic. The circuitry was nearly packaged into a takeaway food container and the entire construction was called complete.

All in all it shows what someone can accomplish if they’re resourceful and understand the basics. However, it’s probably that you don’t electroBoom yourself to death if you can avoid it.

Guitar Effect Built From An Old Record Player

With little more than a gutted record player, a light bulb, and the legendary 555 timer IC, [Jacob Ellzey] has constructed this very slick optical tremolo effect for his guitar. By modulating the volume of the input signal, the device creates the wavering effect demonstrated in the video after the break.

The key is a vinyl record with large tabs cut out of it. As the record spins, these voids alternately block and unblock a small incandescent bulb. A common GL5537 photoresistor, mounted on the arm that originally held the player’s needle, picks up the varying light levels and passes that on to the electronics underneath the deck. An important note here is that different spacing and sizing of the cutouts will change the sound produced by the effect. [Jacob] has already produced a few different designs and plans on experimenting with more now that the electronics are completed.

Under the hood there’s a voltage divider and low gain amplifier connected to the photoresistor, and also a 555 timer circuit that’s driving the incandescent bulb. Once he was done fiddling with them, the circuit was moved to a neat little protoboard. A pair of potentiometers mounted through the side of the record player allow for adjusting the depth of the effect itself, as well as the output volume. Naturally, there’s also an external foot pedal that allows keying the effect on and off without taking your hands from the guitar.

As is usually the case, everything was going well on this project until the final moments, when [Jacob] found that the circuit and bulb were both browning out when powered from the same transformer. As a quick fix, he gutted a Keurig and used its transformer to drive the light bulb by itself. With independent power supplies, he was ready to rock.

Of course this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a piece of consumer electronics modified into a guitar effect, but if you’re looking for something a bit more built for purpose, there’s plenty of high-tech options to keep you busy.

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Hackaday Podcast 042: Capacitive Earthquakes, GRBL On ESP32, Solenoid Engines, And The TI-99 Space Program

Hackaday Editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys talk turkey on the latest hacks. Random numbers, art, and electronic geekery combine into an entropic masterpiece. We saw Bart Dring bring new life to a cool little multi-pen plotter from the Atari age. Researchers at UCSD built a very very very slow soft robot, and a broken retrocomputer got a good dose of the space age. A 555 is sensing earthquakes, there’s an electric motor that wants to drop into any vehicle, and did you know someone used to have to read the current time into the telephone ad nauseam?

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!

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Simple Seismic Sensor Makes Earthquake Detection Personal

When an earthquake strikes, it’s usually hard to miss. At least that’s the case with the big ones; the dozens or hundreds of little quakes that go largely unnoticed every day are interesting too, and make sense to track. That’s usually left to the professionals, with racks of sensitive equipment and a far-flung network of seismic sensors. That doesn’t mean you can’t keep track of doings below your feet yourself, with something like this DIY seismograph.

Technically, what [Alex] built is better called a “seismic detector” since it’s not calibrated in any way. It’s just a simple sensor for detecting ground vibrations, whether they be due to passing trucks or The Big One. [Alex] lives in California, wedged between the Hayward, Calaveras, and San Andreas faults in San Jose, so there is plenty of opportunity for testing his device. The business end is a simple pendulum sensor, with a heavy metal bob hanging from a long wire inside a length of plastic pipe. Positioned close to the bob is a copper plate; the bob and the plate form an air-dielectric variable capacitor that controls the frequency of a simple 555 oscillator. The frequency is measured by a PIC microcontroller and sent to a Raspberry Pi, which displays the data on a graph. You can check in on real-time seismic activity in San Jose using the link above, or check out historical quakes, like the 7.1 magnitude Ridgecrest quake in July. [Alex]’s sensor is sensitive enough to pick up recent quakes in Peru, Fiji, and Nevada, and he even has some examples of visualizing the Earth’s core using data from the sensor. How cool is that?

We’ve seen other seismic detectors before, like this piezo-based device, or even one made from toilet parts. We like the simplicity of the capacitive sensor [Alex] used, though.

DIY Clapper Lets You Pick Your Components

One thing that always means the end of the year is close is the reappearance of TV ads for “The Clapper.” After all, who needs home automation when you can clap on and clap off? While we’re partial to our usual home automation solutions, [Utsource123] shows us that building a clapper can be a fun and easy project using several similar circuits. One with a few transistors and another one with a 555 because, after all, what can’t a 555 do?

Of course, these circuits usually have a microphone. We were trying to think of how you could make a sound-sensitive element out of common parts. After all, you don’t care about the fidelity of the microphone pickup, just that it hears a loud noise. The circuits are about what you’d expect. The transistor version uses one to amplify the microphone and another to switch on the LED. You’d need a bit more to trigger a relay. The 555 uses an even simpler preamp transistor as a trigger.

While we aren’t bowled over with the idea of a clapper, we imagine these circuits aren’t far removed from the ones you buy in stores. For about $16 you also get enough switching to handle a simple AC load, though. Maybe Alexa and Google should allow making clapping a wake up word?

This is sure simpler than the last clapper clone we saw. Then there’s the deluxe DIY version.

A Capacitive Soil Sensor Hack For Lower Voltage Supplies

A frequent beginner project involves measuring soil moisture levels by measuring its resistance with a couple of electrodes. These electrodes are available ready-made as PCBs, but suffer badly from corrosion. Happily there is a solution in the form of capacitive sensor probes, and it is these that [Electrobob] is incorporating in to a home automation system. Unfortunately the commercial capacitive probes are designed to run from a 3.3 V supply and [Bob]’s project is using a pair of AA cells, so a quick hack was needed to enable them to be run from the lower voltage.

The explanation of the probe’s operation is an interesting part of the write-up, unexpectedly it uses a 555 configured as an astable oscillator. This feeds an RC low pass filter of which the capacitor is formed by the soil probe, which in turn feeds a rectifier to create a DC output. This can be measured to gain a reading of the soil moisture level.

The probe is fitted with a 3.3 V LDO regulator, which is simply bypassed. Measurements show its output to be linear, so if the supply voltage is also measured an accurate reading can be gleaned. These probes are still a slightly unknown quantity to many who might find a use for them, so it’s extremely useful to be given this insight into them.

Hackaday Podcast Ep24: Mashing Smartphone Buttons, Sound Blastering, Trash Printing, And A Ludicrous Loom

Hackaday Editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys wade through the fun hacks of the week. Looks like Google got caught ripping off song lyrics (how they got caught is the hack) and electric cars are getting artificially noisier. We look at 3D Printing directly from used plastic, and building a loom with many hundreds of 3D printed parts. The Sound Blaster 1.0 lives again thanks to some (well-explained) reverse engineered circuitry. Your smartphone is about to get a lot more buttons that work without any extra electronics, and we’ll finish things up with brass etching and downloadable nuclear reactor plans.

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 (59 MB)

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