The 2024 Business Card Challenge Starts Now

If you want to make circuits for a living, what better way to impress a future employer than to hand them a piece of your work to take home? But even if you’re just hacking for fun, you can still turn your calling into your calling card.

We are inviting you to submit your coolest business card hacks for us all to admire, and the top three entries will win a $150 DigiKey shopping spree.  If your work can fit on a business card, create a project page for it over on Hackaday.io and enter it in the 2024 Business Card Contest. Share your tiny hacks!

To enter, create a project for your hacked business card over at Hackaday IO, and then enter it into the 2024 Business Card Challenge by selecting the pulldown on the left. It’s that easy.

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Video Poker Takes Your Money In 10 Lines Of BASIC

It wasn’t easy, but [D. Scott Williamson] succeeded in implementing Jacks or Better Video Poker in 10 lines of BASIC, complete with flashing light and sound! Each round, one places a bet then plays a hand of 5-card draw, hoping to end up with Jacks or better.

This program is [Scott]’s entry into the 2024 BASIC 10 Liner Contest, which at this writing has concluded submissions and expects to announce results on April 6th 2024. Contestants may choose any 8-bit computer system BASIC, and must implement their program within ten lines of code (classically limited to 80 characters per line, but there are different categories with different constraints on line width.)

10 lines of BASIC is truly an exercise in information density.

We’ve seen impressive 10-line BASIC programs before, like this re-implementation of the E.T. video game. (Fun fact: while considered one of the worst video games of all time, there’s a compelling case to be made that while it was a flop, it was ahead of its time and mostly just misunderstood.)

These programs don’t look much like the typical BASIC programs many of us remember. They are exercises in information density, where every character counts. So we’re delighted to see [Scott] also provides a version of his code formatted and commented for better readability, and a logical overview that steps through each line.

He spends a little time talking about the various challenges, as well. For example, hand ranking required a clever solution. IF…THEN conditionals would rapidly consume the limited lines of code, so hands are ranked programmatically. The 52-card deck is also simulated, rather than simply generating random cards on the fly.

The result looks great, and you can watch it in action in the video, just under the page break. If this sort of challenge tweaks your interest, there’s plenty of time to get started on next year’s BASIC 10 Liner Contest. Fire up those emulators!

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Hello, Halloween Hackfest!

Halloween is possibly the hackiest of holidays. Think about it: when else do you get to add animatronic eyes to everyday objects, or break out the CNC machine to cut into squashes? Labor day? Nope. Proximity-sensing jump-scare devices for Christmas? We think not. But for Halloween, you can let your imagination run wild!

Jump Scare Tombstone by [Mark]
We’re happy to announce that DigiKey and Arduino have teamed up for this year’s Hackaday Halloween Contest. Bring us your best costume, your scariest spook, your insane home decorations, your wildest pumpkin, or your most kid-pleasing feat!

We’ll be rewarding the top three with a $150 gift certificate courtesy of DigiKey, plus some Arduino Halloween treats if you use a product from the Arduino Pro line to make your hair-raising fantasy happen.

We’ve also got five honorable mention categories to inspire you to further feats of fancy.

  • Costume: Halloween is primarily about getting into outrageous costumes and scoring candy. We don’t want to see the candy.
  • Pumpkin: Pumpkin carving could be as simple as taking a knife to a gourd, but that’s not what we’re after. Show us the most insane carving method, or the pumpkin so loaded with electronics that it makes Akihabara look empty in comparison.
  • Kid-Pleaser: Because a costume that makes a kid smile is what Halloween is really all about. But games or elaborate candy dispensers, or anything else that helps the little ones have a good time is fair game here.
  • Hallowed Home: Do people come to your neighborhood just to see your haunted house? Do you spend more on light effects than on licorice? Then show us your masterpiece!
  • Spooky: If your halloween build is simply scary, it belongs here.

Head on over to Hackaday.io for the full details. And get working on your haunts, costumes, and Rube Goldberg treat dispensers today.

Trebuchet Sends Eggs Flying

Without any sort of restrictions on designs for trebuchets, these medieval siege weapons are known to send 90 kilogram projectiles over 300 meters. The egg-launching trebuchet contest that [AndysMachines] is entering, on the other hand, has a few limitations that dramatically decreased the size of the machines involved. The weight of the entire device is limited to no more than 3 kg, with any physical dimension no more than 300 mm, but that’s more than enough to send an egg flying across a yard with the proper design and tuning for maximum distance.

Trebuchets distinguish themselves amongst other siege weapons by using a falling weight to launch the projectile. The rules of this contest allow for the use of springs, so [AndysMachines] is adding a spring in between the trebuchet arm and the weight in order to more efficiently deliver the energy from the falling weight. More fine tuning of the trebuchet was needed before the competition, though, specifically regarding the stall point for the trebuchet. This is the point where the forces acting on the arm from the projectile and the weight are balanced, and moving this point to allow the projectile to release at a 45-degree angle was needed for maximum distance.

The video goes into a lot of detail about other fine-tuning of a trebuchet like this, aided by some slow-motion video analysis. In the end, [AndysMachines] was able to launch the egg over ten meters with this design. Of course, if you want to throw out the rule book and replace the eggs with ball bearings and the aluminum and steel with titanium, it’s possible to build a trebuchet that breaks the sound barrier.

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Congratulations To Our Op-Amp Challenge Winners!

The real world is analog, and the op-amp is the indispensable building block of many analog circuits. We wanted to give you analog fanatics out there a chance to shine and to encourage our digital brothers and sisters to dip their toes in the murky waters where ones and zeroes define the ends of a spectrum rather than representing the only choice. Hence, we presented the Op Amp Challenge. And you did not disappoint!

We received 83 entries, and it was extraordinarily hard to pick the winners. But since we had three $150 DigiKey shopping sprees to give away, our six judges buckled down and picked their favorites. Whether or not you’ve got the Golden Rules of the ideal op-amp tattooed on your arm, you’ll enjoy looking through all of the projects here. But without further ado…

The Winners

[Craig]’s Op Art is an X-Y voltage generator to plug into an oscilloscope and make classic Lissajous and other spirograph-like images, and it’s all done in analog. Maybe it was his incredible documentation, the nice use of a classic three-op-amp tunable oscillator, or the pun hidden in the title. Whatever the case, it wowed our judges and picked up a deserved place in the top three.

Hearkening back to the pre-digital dinosaur days, [Rainer Glaschick]’s Flexible Analog Computer is a modular analog computer prototyping system on a breadboard backplane. Since you have to re-wire up an analog computer for your particular, it’s great that [Rainer] gave us a bunch of examples on his website as well, including a lunar lander and classic Lorenz attractor demos.

And there was no way that [Chris]’s interactive analog LED wave array wouldn’t place in the top three. It’s a huge 2D analog simulation that runs entirely on op-amps, sensing when your hand moves across any part of its surface and radiating waves out from there. You have to admire the massive scale here, and you simply must check out the video of it in action. Glorious!

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Analog Anoraks: The Op Amp Contest Starts Now!

We thought it was time to give the analog side of Hackaday their chance to shine, and what’s the quintessential analog IC? The op amp! Whether you’re doing tricky signal conditioning, analog computations like it’s 1960, or just making music sound good, op amps are at the heart of many designs. This contest, starting right now, is your chance to show off what you can do with a good op amp, or a few.

And for everyone else, here’s your chance to dip your toes into the warm analog waters. Whether you’ve always wanted to build a Chua’s chaos circuit or just to listen to music, there’s probably an op-amp project that will fit your personal bill. All you have to do to enter is set up a project on Hackaday.io, and use the pull-down menu to enter. We welcome shows of op-amp bravado, naturally, but we’re also stoked to see your simple projects that might help our digital friends leave their world of black and white, and enter into the shades of grey.

Thanks to Digi-Key, our sponsor for the challenge, there are three $150 shopping sprees on the line for the winners. And as always, there are some honorable mention categories to help whet your analog whistle, and to give us an excuse to feature a lot of great projects. You’ve got until June 6, to get your entry in, but these aren’t necessarily simple builds, so get going now.

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Low Power Challenge: Keep Plants Green And Clean With E-Paper Smart Tags

There are plenty of reasons to devote oneself to the care of houseplants — after all, a room full of bright, glossy-leaved plants can be a joy to behold, and that’s not even one of the more tangible benefits they bring. But as any green thumb knows, there’s a fine line between a healthy, vibrant plant and one that’s soon to give up the ghost.

If your thumb tends less toward green and more toward the brown and crusty side of things, something like [Jon]’s Smart Plant system might be just the thing for you. These low-power plant tags are built around increasingly ubiquitous e-Paper displays, like the kind you might find in a retail shelf price tag system. The current version of [Jon]’s tags uses a Waveshare 2.9″ tricolor display and a PCB with capacitive probes that stick into the plant’s soil. An ESP32-S lives on the top section of the PCB, along with a 1,000 mAh LiPo pack that’s charged off USB-C. The design includes an optional solar panel for keeping the battery topped off, which may or may not help depending on the plant’s place in your personal jungle.

In addition to the soil moisture sensor, the Smart Tag has an ambient temperature and humidity sensor and a light sensor — everything to keep your plant happy. The power-hungry sensors are only powered on when the Smart Tag pops out of deep sleep; this gives and estimated five to six weeks runtime between charges, without solar charging of course. The e-Paper display shows custom graphics of the plant’s current environmental state, and the same data is also available via Home Assistant thanks to the ESPHome firmware.

These are nice-looking plant tags that can really pull a lot of weight in keeping plants healthy. Check out the other offerings in our Low Power Challenge Contest, and maybe get an entry together yourself.