The Modular Connector and How It Got That Way

They adorn the ends of Cat5 network patch cables and the flat satin cables that come with all-in-one printers that we generally either toss in the scrap bin or throw away altogether. The blocky rectangular plugs, molded of clear plastic and holding gold-plated contacts, are known broadly as modular connectors. They and their socket counterparts have become ubiquitous components of the connected world over the last half-century or so, and unsurprisingly they had their start where so many other innovations began: from the need to manage the growth of the telephone network and reduce costs. Here’s how the modular connector got that way.

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This Boxing Bell is a Trip

[MeasuredWorkshop] wanted to know how a boxing bell mechanism worked. The best way to learn is by doing, so he jumped right in and built one! Boxing bells are a rare surviving example of the trip bell mechanism. Trip bells were used in schools and public buildings as fire alarms. They’ve since been replaced by modern electric systems.

The mechanical linkage behind the trip bell is a one-way lever. This is the arm you pull on. It has a hinged section which stays rigid when the arm is pulled down, but rotates away when the arm is released. [Measured Workshop] built the mechanics of his bell using rather basic tools. The brunt of the work was handled by an angle grinder and a drill press.

The sounder for this boxing bell came from an old school bell. The industrial grey paint was chemically stripped, and the metal cleaned up for a nice brushed finish. The metal stands out nicely against the wood board [Measured Workshop] used as a base.

The finished product looks and sounds the part – now he just has to find a boxing gym in need of a bell!

We’re really becoming fond of the “wordless workshop” style videos that have been popping up on YouTube. [Jimmy DiResta] has been doing it for years, and relative newcomers [HandToolRescue] and [Measured Workshop] are both producing some great content!

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Flexiphone Rises from the Ashes of Broken Instruments

The mechanics of an old Rhodes Piano, and a set of chromatic saucer bells rescued from a reed organ. What do these two things have to do with each other? If you’re [Measured Workshop], they are the makings of a new instrument. The Flexiphone is a transposable instrument with a piano keyboard and interchangeable sound source.

The Rhodes is a great stage instrument. Unlike a piano with strings, it uses tines mounted above the key mechanism. It is also relatively compact for an analog instrument. This made it perfect as a donor for the Flexiphone’s keyboard. [Measured Workshop] cut they mechanism down to 30 keys, just under 2 octaves. The key mechanism was also cleaned up and restored with new felt.

The sounding portion of the Flexiphone is a set of chromatic saucer bells. The bells are mounted on a felt covered threaded rod, which itself sits in a wood frame. The bell frame sits on top of the base in one of three slots. Each slot is a halftone transposed from the last. Simply moving the bells allows the player to transpose the entire instrument. The bells and their rod frame can also be completely removed and replaced with any other sound source.

The Flexiphone sounds great — sometimes. As [Measured Workshop] says, bells contain many harmonics. playing single or double notes sounds rather sweet, but chords can sometimes become a shrill assault on the ears. Still, it’s an awesome hack with plenty of potential for future mods.

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Quasimotor? A Robot Bell Ringer

In large churches that still use real bells in their bell towers, a large number of them ring bells using a method called full circle ringing. In order to get the bells to sound at exactly the right time, the bells are rung by swinging the entire bell in an almost complete 360-degree arc. This helps to mitigate the fact that often times, the bells weigh more than the person ringing the bells. However, if you don’t have access to a belfry, you can practice ringing bells using this method with your own full circle bell simulator.

The frame for the bell was built from some leftover aluminum extrusion and allows the bell to easily swing on some old skateboard bearings. The mechanism is electrically controlled, too, using a hall effect sensor and a USB adapter so that it can be interfaced with a computer running a virtual bell ringing suite. Once some timing issues are worked out, the bell is all set up and ready to practice ringing changes.

If you’re as fascinated as we are to find that there are entire software suites available to simulate bell ringing, and an entire culture built around something that most of us, perhaps, wouldn’t have given a second thought to outside of walking past a church on a Sunday, there have been a surprising number of other bell-related projects over the years. Bells have been given MIDI interfaces and robotified, and other church instruments like a pipe organ have been created almost from scratch.

Internet Doorbell Gone Full-Hipster

There are things and there are Things. Hooking up an Internet-connected doorbell that “rings” a piezo buzzer or sends a text message is OK, but it’s not classy. In all of the Internet-of-Things hubbub, too much attention is paid to the “Internet”, which is actually the easy part, and too little attention is paid to the “Things”.

[Moris Metz] is a hacker in Berlin who has a bi-weekly national radio spot. (Only in Germany!) This week, he connected the ubiquitous ESP8266 to a nice old (physical) bell for his broadcast over the weekend. (i”Translated” here.) Check out the video teaser embedded below.

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Old-school Rotary Phone gets GSM Upgrade

Sometimes, the answer to, “Why would you bother with a project like that?” is just as simple as, “Because it’s cool.” We suspect that was the motivation behind [Dirk-Jan]’s project to make portable versions of classic rotary telephones.

On style points alone, [Dirk-Jan] scores big. The mid-1950s vintage Belgian RTT model 56 phone has wonderful lines in its Bakelite case and handset and a really cool flip-up bail to carry it around, making it a great choice for a portable. The guts of the phone were replaced with a SIM900 GSM module coupled with a PIC microcontroller and an H-bridge to drive the ringer solenoids, along with a Li-ion battery and charger to keep it totally wireless – except for the original handset cord, of course. The video after the break show the phone in action both making and receiving calls; there’s something pleasing on a very basic level about the sound of a dial tone and the gentle ringing of the bell. And it may be slow, but a rotary dial has plenty of tactile appeal too.

Rotary-to-cell conversions are a popular “just because” project, like this conversion designed to allow an angry slam-down of the handset. The orange Siemens phone in that project is nice and all, but we really favor the ’50s look for a portable.

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Fire bell wakes you for work by shaving years off your life

fire-bell-alarm-clock

If you suck at getting up in the morning [Jake Lee] has a solution that will make sure you don’t get fired from your job. Unfortunately it’s going to scare the life out of you — but maybe we’re just not hard enough sleepers to appreciate the value in an alarm clock that’s so horribly loud.

At first we wondered where he got the bell but it looks like you can buy one for about fifteen bucks. We’re not saying you should hide one of these under your best friend’s bed, but the cost of the bell does put it firmly in the worth-it-as-a-prank price range. [Jake] used rigid and flexible conduit to connect the bell to a power source, and the control panel shown on the left. He uses the LED backlight of the bedside alarm clock to drive the base of a transistor, switching a relay to trigger the bell. The big button on the grey box makes the wailing stop (seriously, cut your volume before you hit 0:30 in the clip below).

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