Peek Behind The Curtains: Conference Badge Design

In the before-times, back when we could have in-person Hackaday Supercons, there was always the problem of the badge. Making a few hundred small electronic thingies, for a smart but broad range of hackers, is tricky. We always want it to do something all on its own, but also ideally to allow enough free range that the motivated badge hacker can make it into something exquisite. Add in the fact that some attendees are hardware types and some are software types, and toss in a price constraint too. Oh, and it has to look good. Tough problem.

Here’s one extreme solution: the badge at the first Supercon. Faced with essentially zero budget and a tight time constraint, the Hackaday team punted — and produced a prototype board, but had tons of parts on hand for everyone to draw from. And the Hackaday crowd delivered. This was the badge that demonstrates what happens if you leave everything open.

Contrast with the 2018 Belgrade and Supercon badges, which were essentially the same except for color. Here, the hardware interface was limited to a 9-pin header, but the badge itself was a fully functional microcomputer, complete with keyboard and screen. Most of the hacks were written in the native BASIC, though a few hearty souls played around with the alternative CP/M system. This was our most software badge.

Our last in-person badge, the 2019 Supercon badge, was free rein for both hardware and software hackers. The whole thing was based on an FPGA, with completely custom gateware written by Sprite_tm running RISC-V, but based loosely on the Z80 architecture. This was probably also the badge with the highest hurdle to hackers, but you all came through with inventive hardware add-ons, but also a team that came through with a custom Linux OS running on this never-before-seen virtual environment, enabled by a hardware SDRAM cartridge hack.

And finally, even before the global supply crisis, even a tight-knit conference like ours could stock-out the world’s supply of a given component. The untold story of the 2016 Belgrade badge is that Voja Antonic bought out the world’s supply of Kingbright 8×8 common-cathode LED matrixes, and had to redesign the board in the last minute to incorporate the common-anode parts too. (Or was it vice-versa?) Lesson learned, the 2016 Supercon badge traded out the LED modules for discrete LEDs. Not gonna stock out on red LEDs.

So that’s a long-winded introduction to Thomas Flummer’s unofficial Remoticon 2 badges. With the parts crisis and a virtual conference, you’re on your own to source the badge. Splitting the freedom vs. in-built functionality problem like Samson, he’s got two boards — one a breadboard and the other fully populated. And like all his badges, they both look great. If you manage to get one made by Remoticon next week, be sure to show it off in the Bring-a-Hack. And if you don’t get it in time, bring it by in person to the 2022 Supercon!

Hackaday Podcast 031: Holonomic Drives, Badges Of DEF CON, We Don’t Do On-Chip Debugging, And Small Run Manufacturing Snafus

Mike Szczys and Kerry Scharfglass recorded this week’s podcast live from DEF CON. Among the many topics of discussion, we explore some of the more interesting ways to move a robot. From BB-8 to Holonomic Drives, Kerry’s hoping to have a proof of concept in time for Supercon. Are you using On-Chip Debugging with your projects? Neither are we, but maybe we should. The same goes for dynamic memory allocation; but when you have overpowered micros such as the chip on the Teensy 4.0, why do you need to? We close this week’s show with a few interviews with badge makers who rolled out a few hundred of their design and encountered manufacturing problems along the way. It wouldn’t be engineering without problems to solve.

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!

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 (60 MB or so.)

Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 031: Holonomic Drives, Badges Of DEF CON, We Don’t Do On-Chip Debugging, And Small Run Manufacturing Snafus”

The Multi Pass Def Con Indie Badge Has A European Flavour

It has been fascinating to watch the rise of the #BadgeLife community in North America, and a little sad when viewed from a European perspective that their creative vibrancy has not quite fully made it across the Atlantic. It’s pleasing therefore to report on something traveling in the opposite direction. We’ve found a #BadgeLife creation that’s as American as they come, but which hides a bit of European flavor under its shell.

The DC27 Multi Pass is a Def Con indie badge themed as a prop from the film The Fifth Element. That is not its only trick though, because under the hood it runs the ESP32-based, the badge software platform created by the team from the Netherlands who brought us the SHA 2017 and Hacker Hotel 2019 badges. Like those two it sports an e-ink screen and a set of touch buttons, which they’ve very neatly incorporated into the Multi Pass design. The ecosystem brings with it a fully-functional and stable hackable badge platform with MicroPython apps and an app library (We won’t call it a store, it’s all free!) referred to as the hatchery. There is even a Hackaday logo nickname, should you have one of these badges and wish to identify yourself as a reader.

The launch of a new #BadgeLife badge is always cool, but with the best will in the world it is not in itself news. Where this one does, however, get interesting is that it proves that is a viable route to getting full event badge functionality into an indie badge without the heartache of creating a software platform. It also serves as a fascinating perspective on why the USA has spawned its artistic badge scene while Europe has less diversity. The whole Def Con experience is extremely expensive, while European hacker camps are relatively not so. There is no need for a European hacker to finance their trip to EMF Camp by selling badges, so for many people, the impetus to create finds its outlet in other directions. It would be nice to think that European badge scene will in time evolve as far as the US one, but meanwhile, it’s good to see the Netherlands community supplying their platform to what we think will be a very interesting Def Con indie badge.

Hands-on: Hacker Hotel 2019 Badge Packs ESP32, E-Ink, And A Shared Heritage

When you go to a hacker conference, you always hope there’s going to be a hardware badge. This is an interactive piece of custom electronics that gets you in the door while also delighting and entertaining during the con (and hopefully far beyond it).

Hot off the presses then is the Hacker Hotel badge, from the comfortable weekend hacker camp of that name in a Netherlands hotel. As we have already noted, this badge comes from the same team that created the SHA2017 hacker camp’s offering, and shares that badge’s display, ESP32 processor, battery, and firmware. The evolution of that firmware into the platform is an exciting development in its own right, but in the context of this badge it lends a very familiar feel to the interface for those attendees who were also at the 2017 event.

Continue reading “Hands-on: Hacker Hotel 2019 Badge Packs ESP32, E-Ink, And A Shared Heritage”

All The Badges Of DEF CON 26 (vol 4)

From a cockroach filled with LEDs, to an impressively dense 576 RGB LED display, and even a hunk of carpet, our final installment of the unofficial hardware badges at DEF CON 26 are beyond impressive. I tried to see every badge and speak to every badge maker this year. So far we’ve covered a ton of badges in volume 1, volume 2, and volume 3 of this series, and now it’s time to finish up!

If I didn’t get a chance to cover your badge in these articles, we still want to hear about it. What everyone wants is to dig into the details of these gorgeous examples of unique hardware. So post a project page for you badge on, and make sure you get on the Conference Badges list that has been growing by leaps and bounds.

Continue reading “All The Badges Of DEF CON 26 (vol 4)”

All The Badges Of DEF CON 26 (vol 3)

I tried my best to see every badge and speak with every badge maker at DEF CON 26. One thing’s for sure, seeing them all was absolutely impossible this year, but I came close. Check out the great badges shown off in volume 1 and in volume 2 of this series. The game is afoot, and if you are headed to a hacker conference there’s never been a better time to build your own hardware badge — whether you build 5 or 500!

All right, let’s look at the badges!

Continue reading “All The Badges Of DEF CON 26 (vol 3)”

All The Badges Of DEF CON 26 (vol 2)

There were so many amazing unofficial badges at DEF CON this year that I can’t possibly cover them all in one shot. I tried to see every badge and speak with every badge maker — like a hardware safari. Join me after the jump for about fourteen more badges that I saw at DEF CON 26!

If you missed the first batch, check those badges out too — there’s even a Badgelife Documentary that you need to add to your watch list. Okay, let’s dig in.

Continue reading “All The Badges Of DEF CON 26 (vol 2)”