Tiny Vacuum Cleaner Sucks (In A Good Way)

Sometimes something is remarkable not for its content, but for its size. A ball of yarn isn’t exciting for example, unless it’s a giant ball of yarn. At the other end of the scale writing your name is a quotidian event, but put it on a grain of rice and that’s ten bucks at the mall. [Toby Bateson] has been making vacuum cleaners since he was 8 years old — and he looks considerably older than that now. In of itself that’s not a big deal, but his machines are tiny. In fact, he has the Guinness Book of World Records entry for the smallest vacuum cleaner. His latest exploit? A vacuum in an Altoid’s tin!

Electronically, this is just a switch, a battery, and a motor. But if you are looking for a Dremel tool project, you are in luck. Check out the video of the diminutive device, below. Besides the Altoids tin, there is a metal pipe and some bits of a cut-up soda can.

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Chiptunes In An Altoids Tin

For [Dejan]’s entry to the Musical Instrument Challenge in this year’s Hackaday Prize, he’s tapping into some of the great work that has been done over the years to bring bleeps and bloops to the masses. He’s building a drum machine, a bass synth, and an arpeggiator that fits in your pocket, in a handy form factor that fits in an Altoids tin. It’s the FATCAT Altoids Tin Mod Tracker.

This is a simple build meant to fit in an Altoids tin, so you’re not getting a whole lot of hardware here. There’s a battery, there’s a boost circuit, and there’s a single chip, an ATtiny84. This tiny little microcontroller is the heart of the box, able to provide a drum track with a kick, snare, and a closed and open high hat. There’s a bass with a simple square wave and portamento, and an arp track that can be used as a lead or arpeggiated chords. All of this is programmed in C and uploaded straight to the chip.

The ATtiny series of microcontrollers are fairly popular for various means and methods of creating square wave bleeps and bloops. We’ve seen them become a MIDI synth that fits inside a MIDI jack, and we’ve seen how much chiptune goodness you can fit in thirty two bytes of RAM. Cornell even had a spat of rickroll vandalism with a coin cell throwie built on an ATtiny85. Anything that puts more ATtiny chiptunes into the hands of more people is great in our books, and this Altoids tin synth is just the thing.

You can check out a demo of the FATCAT below.

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The 1980s Called – Asking For The Z80 Membership Card

The ’80’s and early ’90’s saw a huge proliferation of “personal” computers, spawning an army of hacker kids who would go on to hone their computing chops on 8-bit and 16-bit computers from brands such as Sinclair, Commodore, Acorn, Apple, Atari, Tandy/RadioShack and Texas Instruments. Fast forward to 2017, and Raspberry-Pi, BeagleBone and micro:bit computers reign supreme. But the old 8-bit and 16-bit computer systems can still teach us a lot.

[Lee Hart] has built the amazing Z80 Membership Card — a Z80 computer that fits in an Altoids tin. His design uses generic through hole parts mounted on a PCB with large pads, thick tracks and lots of track clearances, making assembly easy. Add to this his detailed documentation, where he weaves some amazing story telling, and it makes for a really enjoyable, nostalgic build. It makes you want to get under the hood and learn about computers all over again. The Z80 Membership Card features a Zilog Z80 microprocessor running at 4 MHz with 32k RAM and 32K EPROM, loaded with BASIC interpreter and monitor programs. A pair of 30-pin headers provide connections to power, I/O pins, data, address and control signals.

To accompany this board, he’s built a couple of companion “shield” boards. The Front Panel Card has a 16-key hex pad, 7-digit 7-segment LED display and Serial port. [Lee] has packed in a ton of features on the custom monitor ROM for the front panel card making it a versatile, two board, 8-bit system. Recently, he finished testing a third board in this series — a Serial/SD-Card/RAM shield which adds bank-switchable RAM and SD-card interface to provide “disk” storage. He’s managed to run a full CP/M-80 operating system on it using 64k of RAM. The two-board stack fits nicely in a regular Altoids tin. A fellow hacker who built the three-board sandwich found it too tall for the Altoids tin, and shared the design for a 3D printable enclosure.

[Lee] provides detailed documentation about the project on his blog with schematics, assembly instructions and code. He’s happy to answer questions from anyone who wants help building this computer. Do check out all of his other projects, a couple of which we’ve covered in the past. Check out Lee Hart’s Membership Card — a similar Altoids tin sized tribute to the 1802 CMOS chip and how he’s Anthropomorphizing Microprocessors.

Finally, we have to stress this once again — check out his Assembly Manuals [PDF, exhibit #1] — they are amazingly entertaining.

Thanks to [Matthew Kelley] who grabbed one of [Lee]’s kits and then tipped us off.

Hacklet 29 – Altoids Mint Tin Projects

Altoids – they’ve been around since King George III was on the throne. These curiously strong mints have had a storied history, a copy of which is included in every tin. They taste pretty good, but most hackers and makers are more interested in the pocket-sized tin than the mints themselves. It may have been the ham radio operators who first used Altoids tins to hold their sensitive transmitter and receiver circuits. The metal case makes a perfect electromagnetic field shield. It wasn’t long before the tins found their way into thousands of projects. This week’s Hacklet features some of the best projects with Altoids (and other mint) tins on Hackaday.io!

meeting-timerWe start with [Chad Lawson] and the Networking Group Timing Light. [Chad] has a networking meeting where each member has two minutes to introduce themselves. As is the case with most meetings, people tend to be a bit long-winded, running well beyond their allotted two minutes. The timing light contains an RGB LED which changes from green to yellow to red as a speaker’s time ticks away. The timer is reset by simply tilting the mint tin. [Chad] is hoping that the timer will serve as a gentle reminder to keep everyone on track time-wise.

 

radio2Next up is [Rjpope42] and his AM/FM Transmitter Pair. [Rjpope42] loves vintage tube radios, and wants to send his own signals to his amber glowing projects. Wiring an external audio input to a tube radio is pretty easy, but nothing beats a simple AM transmitter for convenience. Small FM transmitters are commonly available to add an MP3 player input to cars without an AUX audio in, but their AM counterparts have become rare. [Rjpope42] has built AM and FM transmitters, each of which will fit in a Mint Tin case. The AM transmitter can run on 9V or 12V, and even includes a USB power output for charging an MP3 player or phone!

da31k[John Hamann] entered Distance Analyzer 3000 in the Trinket EDC contest. While he didn’t win, it was still a great project, especially since this is [John’s] first serious Arduino project. The idea is to use a rotary encoder with a wheel to measure distances. Think of it like a mini version of a surveyor’s walking wheel. The Pro Trinket counts the pulses from the rotary encoder, then converts this to a distance in feet. We’d love to see [John] continue on the project. An ultrasonic distance sensor would be a great addition for multi-sensor distance reads!

 

ttotpFinally, we have [colonwq] with TTTOTP, a pro trinket Time based One Time Password (TOTP) generator. [colonwq] used the trinket to implement the well-known time based one time password algorithm. To implement a project like this, you need a stable time source. The ATmega328 isn’t very good at this, so [colonwq] used a Dallas DS1307 clock chip to keep track of things. The actual code is displayed on a 4 digit 7 segment display. When the button is pressed, the first half of the code is displayed. Once the button is released, the second half of the code is displayed for several seconds.

 

Need more mint? Check out our curiously awesome mint tin project list!

Hackaday.io Update and MeArm Giveaway

Hackaday.io has a few new features, including @username and #projectID. If you mention someone’s username with an @ in front of it, that user will get a notification in their stack. The same goes with mentioning a project ID with a # up front. To celebrate this, we’re giving away a pair of  special edition MeArms. All you have to do is leave a comment using the features on this project log. Huge thanks to [Jasmine] for setting all this up, and to [Ben] for letting us hijack his project for the week!

That’s it for this Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Hackaday Links: November 10, 2013

hackaday-links-chain

[Henryk Gasperowicz], the wizard of electrons who makes LEDs glow for no apparent reason, has put up another one of his troll physics circuits. We have no idea how he does it (he does say he’s using wireless energy transmission) so a few solution videos would be cool, [Henryk].

Altoids tins make great electronic enclosures, but how about designing your PCBs to fit mint and gum containers? Here’s a Trident USBASP, a tiny Tic Tac ISP thingy, and a Mentos USB to JTAG interface.

By the end of this week, the PS4 will be out, along with the new PS4 camera. It’s a great camera – 1280×800 at 60Hz – but unless someone develops a driver for it, it shall forever remain tethered to a PS4. Luckily, there’s a project to develop a PS4 camera driver, so if you have some USB 3.0 experience, give it a shot.

Multimeter teardowns? [David]’s got multimeter teardowns. It’s an HP 3455A, a huge bench top unit from the 80s. This is, or was, pro equipment and strange esoteric components definitely make a showing. ±0.01% resistors? Yep. Part two has some pics of the guts and a whole ton of logic.

The US Air Force Academy just moved their embedded systems course over to the MSP430. Course director [Capt Todd Branchflower] just put all the course materials online, with the notes, datasheets, and labs available on Github.

Altoid Tin Etching Tutorial

Eminent steampunker [Jake Von Slatt] wrote a small article on etching candy tins for The Steampunk Bible, but the limited space available in the book didn’t allow for a full exposition. To make amends for his incomplete tutorial, he posted this walk through to compliment the Bible’s article.

The process is very similar to the many tutorials we’ve seen on home-etching PCBs using the toner transfer method. Removing the paint from the Altoid tin, creating a mask, printing it on the Sunday circulars, and taking an iron to the tin is old hat for home fabbers.

Unlike PCB manufacturing, [Mr. Von Slatt] doesn’t bother with Ferric Chloride or other nasty chemicals – he does everything with electrolysis. After adding a few tablespoons of table salt to a bucket of water, [Jake] takes a DC power supply and connects the positive lead to the lid and the negative lead to the base. a bit of electrical tape around the corners of the lid keeps the metal from getting too thin.

A nice Copper finish can be applied to a finished tin by swabbing on a solution of Copper Sulfate – a common ingredient in “Root Kill” products. Of course that’s not a necessary step; you can easily enjoy and elegant Altoid tin bare metal.

LM386 Altoids Tin Amp

altoids_amp

Hacker [Dino Segovis] is back again with the fifth installment in his “Hack a Week” series. This time around he has put together a 1/2 watt audio amplifier that would make for a great weekend project. He’s a big fan of the LM386 amplifier chip because it does so much in such a small package. Since it is so versatile, he used it as the centerpiece of his Altoids tin amplifier.

Now an audio amp inside an Altoids tin isn’t exactly a new concept, but [Dino] takes the time to discuss the circuit in detail, which is great for any beginners out there who are looking for a fun and relatively easy project. After a high-speed video of the assembly process he walks us through the completed amp, then treats us to a couple of short demos.

One thing that makes his amp different than others we have seen in the past is the addition of a 1/4” guitar jack, which allows him to use his amplifier as a combo amp/distortion effect box.

It’s another job well done, so be sure to keep reading if you’d like to watch the latest Hack a Week episode in its entirety.

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