In 2020 when we carry an all-purpose computer and data terminal able to store our every thought and deed on a global computer network, it’s easy to forget that once upon a time we were excited by the simpler things. Take the camcorder for example, back in the 1990s the idea of a complete video recording solution that captured moving images on tape cartridges and fit in the palm of your hand was a very big deal indeed, and camcorders as we called them in those innocent times were a prized posession. Now they’re a $0.50 find a Goodwill, which is how [Dustin] picked up the RCA camcoder he’s converting into something altogether more modern. He’s gutted it and upgraded it by removing the analogue innards and retaining only the case and lens assembly to put around a Raspberry Pi and associated HQ camera module.
Opening the camcorder up reveals a ton of miniaturised analogue circuitry, but once the original assemblies are removed it’s relatively straightforward to put the Pi camera on the rear of the lens unit. There’s plenty of space for the Pi in the box, and he’s putting a touchscreen on the outside.
Sadly the camcorder’s original tiny CRT is no longer working, else that would have been the ultimate retro viewfinder. Still we hope to see some tinkering on that part of the project since those little CRTS make for delightful hacks. The project is very much a work in progress, but should serve that these once ubiquitous devices are now in the realm of the throwaway.
This isn’t the first such conversion we’ve seen with a Raspberry Pi, the original camera module is a handy fit to an 8mm movie camera.
We’re lucky to live in an age of rapid technological advancement, lucky in more ways than one because as well as receiving a constant supply of new things, we have the benefit of the older tech that once we lusted over, at knock-down prices. [Luke Baker] spent his youth as a skateboarder, and the cameras of desire in that community were the high-end MiniDV models. They may not have high definition but their output has a Millennial aesthetic that captures the period, so he’s brought one into the 2020s by adding a digital SD card recorder designed for a multirotor to it.
On the face of it this is a pretty straightforward job of coupling an off-the-shelf recorder to a battery and the camera’s analogue output terminals. But the resulting spaghetti on what is supposed to be a portable device is hardly attractive, so he’s created an all-in-one 3D-printed enclosure that is attached to the camera’s handle with a set of cable ties. It’s shaped to fit the recorder and has a sliding lid over the battery compartment, and he’s added a handy on-off switch. Whether or not he takes it to the skate park in a bid to roll back the decades, as you can see int he video below the break it’s a well-executed piece of work that should serve to remind that there’s still life in some of this easily-available old tech if you’re prepared for a bit of lateral thinking.
This isn’t the first vintage video hack we’ve seen, back in 2016 we were treated to the grainy period feel of a vintage 8mm camera through the eye of a Raspberry Pi.
Continue reading “That Retro Video Look, Without The Tapes” →
With the benefit of decades of advances in miniaturization, looking back at the devices of yore can be entertaining. Take camcorders; did we really walk around with these massive devices resting on our shoulders just to record the family trip to Disneyworld? We did, but even if those days are long gone, the hardware remains for the picking in closets and at thrift stores.
Those camcorders can be turned into cool things such as this CRT-based virtual reality headset. [Andy West] removed the viewfinders from a pair of defunct Panasonic camcorders from slightly after the “Reggievision” era, leaving their housings and optics as intact as possible. He reverse-engineered the connections and hooked up the composite video inputs to HDMI-to-composite converters, which connect to the dual HDMI ports on a Raspberry Pi 4. An LM303DLHC accelerometer provides head tracking, and everything is mounted to a bodged headset designed to use a phone for VR. The final build is surprisingly neat for the number of thick cables and large components used, and it bears a passing resemblance to one of those targeting helmets attack helicopter pilots use.
The software is an amalgam of whatever works – Three.js for browser-based 3D animation, some off-the-shelf drivers for the accelerometers, and Python and shell scripts to glue it all together. The video below shows the build and a demo; we don’t get the benefit of seeing what [Andy] is seeing in glorious monochrome SD, but he seems suitably impressed. As are we.
We’ve seen an uptick in projects using CRT viewfinders lately, including this tiny vector display. Time to scour those thrift stores before all the old camcorders are snapped up.
Continue reading “A Pair Of CRTs Drive This Virtual Reality Headset” →
Despite all the progress video game graphics have made, it is safe to say that we won’t see any decline in oldschool 8-bit games any time soon. For some it’s about nostalgia, for others it’s just a great and simple-enough first step into game development itself. For [gocivici] it was a bit of both when he built this camcorder style, one-button gaming console.
With a Raspberry Pi Zero running PICO-8 at its core, [gocivici] salvaged the viewfinder of an old camcorder for the display, and that way turned it into a whole other kind of handheld console. For full ergonomic handling, one single, thumb-operated push button serves as only control option. This of course makes it a bit challenging to re-use existing games that would require more input options, so he and some friends decided to just write a suitable game on their own with the hopes that others might follow.
Unfortunately we don’t see a lot of projects using these old camcorder viewfinders, and considering modern LCD and OLED options it’s not really that surprising, but there’s just something intriguing about these tiny CRTs. So in case you want to see more of them, have a look at this tiny Atari display, and the DIY night vision monocle from a few years back. And to keep your eyes safe and sound, [gocivici] got you covered as well.
Continue reading “Thumbs Up For This CRT Handheld Gaming Console” →
This stunning piece of art is [Emily Velasco’s] take on the Atari Punk Console. It’s a freeform circuit that synthesizes sound using 555 timers. The circuit has been around for a long time, but her fabrication is completely new and simply incredible!
This isn’t [Emily’s] first rodeo. She previously built the mini CRT sculpture project seen to the left in the image above. Its centerpiece is a tiny CRT from an old video camera viewfinder, and it is fairly common for the driver circuit to understand composite video. And unlike CRTs, small video cameras with composite video output are easily available today for not much money. Together they bring a piece of 1980s-era video equipment into the modern selfie age. The cubic frame holding everything together is also the ground plane, but its main purpose is to give us an unimpeded view. We can admire the detail on this CRT and its accompanying circuitry representing 1982 state of the art in miniaturized consumer electronics. (And yes, high voltage components are safely insulated. Just don’t poke your finger under anything.)
With the experience gained from building that electrically simple brass frame, [Emily] then stepped up the difficulty for her follow-up project. It started with a sound synthesizer circuit built around a pair of 555 timers, popularized in the 1980s and nicknamed the Atari Punk Console. Since APC is a popular circuit found in several other Hackaday-featured projects, [Emily] decided she needed to add something else to stand out. Thus in addition to building her circuit in three-dimensional brass, two photocells were incorporated to give it rudimentary vision into its environment. Stimulus for this now light-sensitive APC were provided in the form of a RGB LED. One with a self-contained circuit to cycle through various colors and blinking patterns.
These two projects neatly bookend the range of roles brass rods can take in your own creations. From a simple frame that stays out of the way to being the central nervous system. While our Circuit Sculpture Contest judges may put emphasis the latter, both are equally valid ways to present something that is aesthetic in addition to being functional. Brass, copper, and wood are a refreshing change of pace from our standard materials of 3D-printed plastic and FR4 PCB. Go forth and explore what you can do!
Continue reading “Freeforming The Atari Punk Console” →
A high-resolution LCD or OLED screen is a commodity component that we can buy on a little breakout board and plug into our microcontrollers without spending more than a dollar or two. We can buy them in sizes ranging from sub-postage-stamp to desktop TV if our budgets stretch that far, and they are easy to drive in every sense of the word. It is not so long ago though that a high-resolution LCD, even a small one, was a seriously expensive component. In consumer electronic devices such as camcorders engineers went to great lengths to avoid those costs, and [12voltvids] recently took a look at one of them.
Inside the viewfinder of a miniaturized Sony camcorder is a CRT. It’s fairly mundane in the scheme of CRTs, in that it’s a monochrome device with no unexpected features. Except that is, for one thing. It’s tiny, with only a 0.5″ inch screen size. Everything else is the same as your vintage full-sized TV, it has an electron gun and a deflection and focusing coil pack, but the entire device has been miniaturized to the point at which the coil pack is larger than the screen it is driving. On the accompanying PCB are all the support circuits, including a tiny flyback transformer and a single IC – a Rohm BA7149 electronic viewfinder driver that is as near as possible an entire CRT TV on a chip. That’s it, the whole device runs from a single 5 volt supply.
He doesn’t give the date of the camcorder, but given that it looks as though it uses 8mm cassette tapes and has a curved miniaturized design rather than the angular black exteriors that were fashionable earlier we’d guess it to be from some time around the year 2000. To give it some context, at the time one of the hottest pieces of consumer electronics would have been a Diamond Rio MP3 player, and if your desktop PC had the first of the AMD Athlon processors you probably considered it to be about the fastest you could hope to own. The surprise then is that Sony still considered it more economical even at that point to use the CRT and associated circuitry than a tiny LCD. Either way we’d agree with him that it’s a keeper, a fascinating curio for any electronics enthusiast. If we see an old camcorder going for not a lot, we’ll certainly give it a second look after this.
Continue reading “A Look At The Smallest Magnetic Deflection CRT Ever Made” →
As we read [Adam]’s writeup for an extremely tiny video game system through coke bottle glasses, we’re reminded of the countless times we were told that sitting, ‘too close to the Nintendo’ would ruin our eyes. We’ll happily dismiss any article from a medical journal that says there was any truth to that statement, but [Adam]’s tiny video game system will most certainly hurt your eyes.
A few years ago, Atari sold keychain-sized joysticks that contained classics such as Pong, Breakout, Centipede, and Asteroids. [Adam] apparently ran into a cache of these cool classic baubles and immediately thought of turning them into a stand-alone video game system.
For the display, [Adam] used a CRT module from an old Sony Handicam. These modules had the right connections – power, ground, and composite video input – to connect directly to the Atari keychain games. The result is a video game that’s even smaller than a postage stamp. The picture above shows the tiny CRT next to a 25mm postage stamp; it’s small by any measure.