For those of us who have spent entire careers working with structured data, it comes as something of a surprise to be reminded that XML is now 25 years old. You probably missed the XML standard on the 10th of February 1998, but it’s almost certain that XML has touched your life in many ways even if you remain unaware of it.
The idea of one strictly compliant universal markup language to rule them all was extremely interesting in an era when the Internet was becoming the standard means to interchange information and when the walled gardens dating back to the mini- and mainframe era were being replaced with open standards-based interchange. In the electronic publishing industry, it allowed encyclopedia and dictionary-sized data sets to be defined to a standard format and easily exchanged. At a much smaller level, it promised a standard way to structure more mundane transactions. Acronyms and initialisms such as WAP, SOAP, and XHTML were designed to revolutionize the Web of the 21st century, but chances are that those are familiar only to the more grizzled developers.
In practice the one-size-fits-all approach of XML left it unwieldy, giving the likes of JSON and HTML4 the opening to be the standards we used. That’s not to say XML isn’t hiding in plain sight though, it’s the container for the SVG graphics format. Go on — tell us where else XML can be found, in the comments!
So, XML. When used to standardise large structured datasets it can sometimes be enough to bring the most hardened of developers to tears, but it remains far better than what went before. When hammered to fit into lightweight protocols though, it’s a pain in the backside and is best forgotten. It’s 25 years old, and here to stay!
It’s been a year of anniversaries, what with the 40th birthday of both the Commodore 64 and the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. But there’s another anniversary that in a sense tops them all, today marks 50 years since Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney incorporated Atari Inc, a name that will forever be synonymous with the development of the computer game industry. PC Magazine have marked the event with a retrospective, an affectionate look at the progress from Spacewar! coin-ops to the unsuccessful Jaguar console of the 1990s, and it pulls no punches over the lacklustre management that oversaw its decline in later years.
For us the high points of the Atari story were the VCS console and the ST line of computers, which probably best represent the brand’s successes in Europe where this is being written. It’s with something of a wince that we remember watching an Atari Lynx advert in a British cinema, in which the laugh came when the teenager-unaffordably high price was revealed. At least diehard Atari fans can take solace in that by then Commodore was equally being run into the ground.
In the annals of technical achievement originating from the United Kingdom there lies a forgotten success story that should have led to greater things but instead became a dead-end even before it had happened. We’re referring of course to Prospero, a British satellite that holds the honour of being the only one to have been launched on board a British-developed satellite launch platform. On the 28th of October 1971 it was launched aboard a Black Arrow rocket from the Woomera launch site in Australia and successfully entered orbit to complete its mission. When it was launched the Black Arrow program had already been canceled by the British government, with the launch proceeding only because rocket and satellite were by then already on the pad.
So the Brits became the sixth nation to develop a satellite launch capability, and promptly canned it. Prospero was a success though and remains in orbit, and was even re-activated periodically as late as the 1990s. With its fiftieth anniversary approaching in October we think it’s worth looking for to mark the occasion, and so would like to remind you of its existence and the impending anniversary. If any community can find a lost satellite, hear its call if it is still transmitting anything, and maybe even wake it up, it’s you lot. Hackaday readers never cease to amaze us with their talents, and we know that among you will be people with what it takes to find Prospero.
So if any of you fancy firing up your SDRs and pointing an antenna skywards over the next few months, we’d like to hear about your progress. It’s possible that the craft may by now be incapable of life, but if anything can be found it’s worth a try.
This weekend marked the 49th anniversary of the legendary Intel 4004 microprocessor, and to celebrate [Erturk Kocalar] combined the old and new in this intriguing Retroshield 4004 / Busicom 141-PF calculator project. We have reported on his Arduino shield project before, which lets you connect a variety of old microprocessors to an Arduino so you can experiment with these old chips with a minimum of fuss.
[Erturk] decided to use the Arduino to simulate the hardware of the Busicom 141-PF, a calculator famous for bringing us the microprocessor. In addition to the calculator, the Arduino has to simulate the Intel 4004 CPU’s supporting chips, which include ROM, RAM, and shift registers. If you want to build one of these yourself, all the design files are open source, or you can get an assembled shield from his Tindie store. In either case, you will have to provide your own 4004, which are surprisingly still available. (Tindie and Hackaday share the same parent company, Supplyframe. We’ve got nothing to do with Intel.)
We really appreciate the detailed explanation that [Erturk] provides about the inner workings of the calculator. Interfacing the emulator to the original ROM code running on the 4004 is non-trivial — take a look at the explanation of the spinning drum printer, for example. We enjoyed perusing the annotated ROM listing, as well as reading the story of the efforts which have been undertaken to prevent these historical documents from being lost forever. Be sure to check out the history of the 4004 and its inventor Federico Faggin if you’d like to delve deeper.
Here’s something really wonderful. [Dave Akerman] wrote up the results of his attempt to use a high-altitude balloon to try to re-create a famous image of NASA’s Bruce McCandless floating freely in space with the Earth in the background. [Dave] did this in celebration of the 34th anniversary of the first untethered spacewalk, even going so far as to launch on the same day as the original event in 1984. He had excellent results, with plenty of video and images recorded by his payload.
Adhering to the actual day of the spacewalk wasn’t the only hurdle [Dave] jumped to make this happen. He tracked down an old and rare “Astronaut with MMU” (Mobile Maneuvering Unit) plastic model kit made by Revell USA and proceeded to build it and arrange for it to remain in view of the cameras. Raspberry Pi Zero Ws with cameras, LoRA hardware, action cameras, and a UBlox GPS unit all make an appearance in the balloon’s payload.
Sadly, [Bruce McCandless] passed away in late 2017, but this project is a wonderful reminder of that first untethered spacewalk. Details on the build and the payload, as well as the tracking system, are covered here on [Dave]’s blog. Videos of the launch and the inevitable balloon burst are embedded below, but more is available in the summary write-up.
Hackaday is 13! We’re going through a bit of a rebellious phase. There’s hair where there wasn’t hair before. Thirteen years ago (Sept. 5, 2004), [Phil Torrone] published the first Hackaday Post. [Phil] posted a great writeup of the history of Hackaday over on the Adafruit blog — we were saved from the AOL borg because of the word ‘hack’ — and interviewed the former and current editors of your favorite DIY website. Here’s to 13 more years and to [Phil] finding a copy of the first version of the Jolly Wrencher designed in Macromedia Flash.
Hurricanes are an awesome force of nature. As we learned from Harvey a week ago, livestreamed footage from the eyewall of a hurricane is fascinating. [Jeff Piotrowski] seems to be the streamer of choice. If you’re looking for something to gawk at, here you go.
Another burn is over, and I still have no idea how they moved the fuselage of a 747 from Palmdale to the playa.
You know we’re doing this whole Hackaday Prize thing where we’re giving a ton of money to people for creating cool hardware, right? We’re almost done with that. The last round of The Hackaday Prize is going on right now. The theme is anything goes, or rather there is no theme. The goal of this round is to build cool stuff. This round ends on October 16th, and yes, we’ll have the results for the Assistive Technologies round out shortly.
[Prusa] makes a lot of printers, and that means he needs to make a lot of parts to make a lot of printers. Obviously, a PTFE-cutting robot is the solution to this problem
Hackaday.io has just turned two today and we couldn’t be more excited about how far we’ve come. What started out as a simple proof-of-concept, inspired by ye-olde idea of a “virtual hackerspace,” has truly evolved into a global playground for some of the best, brightest, and most creative minds you have ever met. It also became a home and the place to spend sleepless nights for many of us on the team, and we’re excited to share a few ideas on where we are headed going forward.
But before we do that, let’s look at some data.
We’re thrilled to report that over the last two years, Hackaday.io has grown from zero to a 121,158-member strong community, who have together created a total of 9,736 projects. To put this in context, it is more than a two-fold growth from last year’s milestone of 51,838 users / 4,365 projects. And it doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down.
Though these “vanity” metrics sure are a nice validation, the number that gets us the most excited is the fact that the 9,731 projects currently on the site have been created by a total 4,966different users. What’s even better is the fact that 949 projects are a result of collaboration between two or more people. Altogether, a total of 7,170 different users have participated in the creation of the vast body of engineering knowledge currently residing on Hackaday.io.