Today, most of what we think of as a computer uses digital technology. But that wasn’t always the case. From slide rules to mechanical fire solution computers to electronic analog computers, there have been plenty of computers that don’t work on 1s and 0s, but on analog quantities such as angle or voltage. [Ken Shirriff] is working to restore an analog computer from around 1969 provided by [CuriousMarc]. He’ll probably write a few posts, but this month’s one focuses on the op-amps.
For an electronic analog computer, the op-amp was the main processing element. You could feed multiple voltages in to do addition, and gain works for multiplication. If you add a capacitor, you can do integration. But there’s a problem.
Continue reading “Secrets From A 1969 Analog Computer”
We’ve all heard the complaints from oldsters: “Cars used to be so simple that all you needed to fix them was a couple of wrenches and a rag. Now, you need a computer science degree to even pop the hood!” It’s true to some extent, but such complexity is the cost of progress in the name of safety and efficiency. And now it seems this complexity is coming way down-market, with this traction control system for a Power Wheels Lamborghini.
While not exactly an entry-level model from the Power Wheels line of toddler transportation, the pint-sized Lamborghini Aventador [Jason] bought for his son had a few issues. Straight from the factory, its 6-volt drivetrain was a little anemic, with little of the neck-snapping acceleration characteristic of an electric drive. [Jason] opted to replace the existing 6-volt drive with a 12-volt motor and battery while keeping the original 6-volt controller in place. The resulting rat’s nest of relays was unsightly but sufficient to see a four-fold increase in top speed.
With all that raw power sent to only one wheel, though, the Lambo was prone to spinouts. [Jason] countered this with a traction control system using optical encoders on each of the rear wheels. A NodeMCU senses speed differences between the wheels and controls the motor through an H-bridge to limit slipping. As a bonus, a smartphone app can connect to the Node for in-flight telemetry. Check out the build and the car being put through its paces by the young [Mr. Steal Your Girl] in the video below.
The Power Wheels platform is infinitely hackable – from repairs to restorations to enhancements of questionable sanity, it seems like there’s nothing you can’t do with these little electric vehicles.
Continue reading “Traction Control Gets More Power To The Road For Tot-Sized Lamborghini”
One of my first jobs as a freshly minted graduate engineer involved the maintenance of a set of analogue chart recorders. They were museum pieces by the early 1990s: a motorized roll of graph paper across which a pen would traverse in proportion to the voltage on the input terminals. Inside was a simple servo, with a differential amplifier comparing the feedback via a potentiometer from the mechanism with the amplified input.
The recorders dated from the early 1960s, and internally their electronics were from the germanium transistor era: many Mullard OC-series devices, black-painted glass tubes with a red dot, and, unexpectedly, a large electromagnet connected to the 50 Hz AC supply with a reed switch through its middle, something completely new to an overconfident youngster who thought she knew everything.
What I’d stumbled upon was a chopper amplifier, a slightly ungainly and long superseded solution to the problem of DC amplification from the days before ubiquitous integrated circuit op-amps. We have become so used to DC amplifiers that just work, that we have forgotten that there was a time when such devices were an impossibility. The close matching of properties between devices on the same wafer allowed integrated circuit op-amps to achieve stable DC amplification in a way that the best attempts at the same circuits with discrete transistors had failed, but before they happened some desperate measures were called for. Continue reading “Chopper And Chopper-Stabilised Amplifiers, What Are They All About Then?”
If you are a lover of motorcycling, you’ll probably fit into one or other of the distinct groups of riders. Maybe you’re a sportsbike lover always trying to get your knee down, a supermotard who gets their knee down without trying, a trailie rider for whom tarmac is an annoyance between real rides, or a classic bike enthusiast who spends more time in the workshop than riding.
[Xavier Morales] is none of these, for he cruises the roads of his native Catalonia on a Harley-Davidson Sportster. If you’re familiar with Harleys only from popular culture, or you’re a sportsbike rider who derides them for anachronistic handling and brakes, it’s worth taking a look at a modern Harley from a technical standpoint. Despite styling and brand ethos that evokes another era with the trademark large V-twin engine that looks to the untrained eye the same as it did decades ago, today’s Harley is a very modern machine, and much more capable than the sneering sportsbiker would give it credit for.
There is one area though in which [Xavier]’s Harley was sorely lacking. Its single instrument was a speedometer, it had no rev counter. You might think this would be less of an issue with the lower-revving Harley engine than it would be with a Japanese sportsbike that exists in a hail of revs, but it was annoying enough to him that he built his own tachometer. His write-up of the project is both lengthy and fascinating, and well worth a read.
The Sportster’s data bus follows an established but obsolete standard, SAE J1850 VPW. Since driver chips for this bus are out of production, he had to create his own using a transistor and a couple of resistors. Once he has the data he feeds it to a PIC 18F2553 which in turn runs a display driver chip controlling a brace of 7-segment LEDs. There are also a set of LEDs to indicate gear changes. The whole is installed in a 3D-printed housing alongside the original speedometer, behind the glass from another dial. As a result it looks as though the bike was always meant to be a two-clock design, with a professional appearance.
If you’d like to see it in action, he’s posted a few videos, and we’ve put one below the break. The beautiful Catalan scenery and the mountain twisties look very inviting.
Continue reading “A Digital Tacho For A Harley”
The bike above may look like a pristine Yamaha prototype, but it’s actually the work of [Julian Farnam], a motorcycle hacker of the highest level. We caught his Yamaha A-N-D FFE 350 on OddBike, and you can read [Julian’s] own description of the bike on his Slideshare link.
The FFE 350 started life as a Yamaha 1990’s RZ350 two-stroke racer. From there, [Julian] gave it his own Forkless Front End (FFE) treatment. Gone is the front fork, which while common in motorcycle and bicycle design, has some problems. Fore-aft flex is one – two thin tubes will never make for a rigid front end. Changing geometry is another issue. Since forks are angled forward, the front wheel moves up and to the rear as the shocks compress. This changes the motorcycle’s trail, as well.
Forkless designs may not have these issues, but they bring in a set of their own. A forkless design must have linkages and bellcranks which are often the source of slop and vibration. [Julian’s] design uses two sets of linkages in tension. The tension between the two linkages removes most of the slop and provides that directly connected feel riders associate with forks.
The FFE 350 wasn’t just a garage queen either – it laid down some serious laps at local tracks in Southern California. Unfortunately, the forkless design was too radical to catch on as a commercial venture, and the FFE has spent the last few years in storage. [Julian] is hard at work bringing it back to its 1998 glory, as can be seen on his restoration thread over on the Custom Fighters forum.
This week’s Hacklet focuses on two wheeled thunder! By that we mean some of the motorcycle and scooter projects on Hackaday.io.
We’re going to ease into this Hacklet with [greg duck’s] Honda Sky Restoration. Greg is giving a neglected 15-year-old scooter some love, with hopes of bringing it back to its former glory. The scooter has a pair of stuck brakes, a hole rusted into its frame, a stuck clutch, and a deceased battery, among other issues. [Greg] already stripped the body panels off and got the rear brake freed up. There is still quite a bit of work to do, so we’re sure [Greg] will be burning the midnight 2 stroke oil to complete his scooter.
Next up is [Anders Johansson’s] jaw dropping Gas turbine Land Racing Motorcycle. [Anders] built his own gas turbine engine, as well as a motorcycle to go around it. The engine is based upon a Garrett TV94, and directly powers the rear wheel through a turboshaft and gearbox. [Anders] has already taken the bike out for a spin, and he reports it “Pulled like a train” at only half throttle. His final destination is the Bonneville salt flats, where he hops to break the 349km/h class record. If it looks a bit familiar that’s because this one did have its own feature last month.
[GearheadRed] is taking a safer approach with FireCoates, a motorcycle jacket with built-in brake and turn signal indicators. [GearheadRed] realized that EL wire or LED strip wouldn’t stand up to the kind of flexing the jacket would take. He found his solution in flexible light pipes. Lit by an LED on each end, the light pipes glow bright enough to be seen at night. [GearheadRed] doesn’t like to be tied down, so he made his jacket wireless. A pair of bluetooth radios send serial data for turn and brake signals generated by an Arduino nano on [Red’s] bike. Nice work [Red]!
[Johnny] rounds out this week’s Hacklet with his $1000 Future Tech Cafe Racer From Scratch. We’re not quite sure if [Johnny] is for real, but his project logs are entertaining enough that we’re going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Down to his last $1000, [Johnny] plans to turn his old Honda xr650 into a modern cafe racer. The new bike will have electric start, an obsolete Motorola Android phone as its dashboard, and a 700cc hi-comp Single cylinder engine at its heart. [Johnny] was last seen wandering the streets of his city looking for a welder, so if you see him, tell him we need an update on the bike!
That’s it for this week. If you liked this installment check out the archives. We’ll see you next week on The Hacklet – bringing you the Best of Hackaday.io!