Blinking Cursor Turns 54, Hardly Anyone Notices

In an interesting post on Inverse, [Sarah Wells] does a deep dive into something you probably don’t think about very often: the blinking cursor. You’d assume there wasn’t much to the story. Maybe a terminal manufacturer put a toggle flip flop on the cursor output and it caught on. But the true story is much deeper than that.

We were surprised that the father of the blinking cursor was one guy, [Charles Kiesling]. In a 1967 patent, he described the blinking cursor. An ex-Navy man, [Kiesling’s] patent names his employer at the time, Sperry Rand, where he’d worked since 1955.

Homebrew Slide Rule Gets Back To Mathematical Basics

In the grand scheme of things, it really wasn’t all that long ago that a slide rule was part of an engineer’s every day equipment. Long before electronic calculators came along, a couple of sticks of wood inscribed with accurate scales was all it took to do everything from simple multiplication to logarithms and trig functions.

While finding a slide rule these days isn’t impossible, it’s still not exactly easy, and buying one off the shelf isn’t as fun or as instructive as building one yourself. [JavierL90]’s slide rule build started, ironically enough, on the computer, with a Python program designed to graphically plot the various scales needed for the fixed sections of the slide rules (the “stators”) and the moving bit (the “slide”).  His first throught was to laser-engrave the scales, but the route of printing them onto self-adhesive vinyl stock proved to be easier.

With the scale squared away, work turned to the mechanism itself. He chose walnut for the wood, aluminum for the brackets, and a 3D-printed frame holding a thin acrylic window for the sliding cursor. The woodworking is simple but well-done, as is the metalwork. We especially like the method used to create the cursor line — a simple line scored into the acrylic with a razor, which was then filled with red inks. The assembled slide rule is a thing of beauty, looking for all the world like a commercial model, especially when decked out with its custom faux leather carry case.

We have to admit that the use of a slide rule is a life skill that passed us by, but seeing this puts us in the mood for another try. We might have to start really, really simple and work up from there.

Wireless Protocol Reverse Engineered To Create Wrist Wearable Mouse

We’ve seen a few near-future sci-fi films recently where computers respond not just to touchscreen gestures but also to broad commands, like swiping a phone to throw its display onto a large flat panel display. It’s a nice metaphor, and if we’re going to see something like it soon, perhaps this wrist-mounted pointing device will be one way to get there.

The video below shows the finished product in action, with the cursor controlled by arm movements. Finger gestures that are very much like handling a real mouse’s buttons are interpreted as clicks. The wearable has a Nano, an MPU6050 IMU, and a nRF24L01 transceiver, all powered by some coin cells and tucked nicely into a 3D-printed case. To be honest, as cool as [Ronan Gaillard]’s wrist mouse is, the real story here is the reverse engineering he and his classmate did to pull this one off.

The road to the finished product was very interesting and more detail is shared in their final presentation (in French and heavy with memes). Our French is sufficient only to decipher “Le dongle Logitech,” but there are enough packet diagrams supporting into get the gist. They sniffed the packets going between a wireless keyboard and its dongle and figured out how to imitate mouse movements using an NRF24 module. Translating wrist and finger movements to cursor position via the 6-axis IMU involved some fairly fancy math, but it all seems to have worked in the end, and it makes for a very impressive project.

Is sniffing wireless packets in your future? Perhaps this guide to Wireshark and the nRF24L01 will prove useful.

Personal Energy Orb Prevents Your Life From Being Swallowed By The Internets

We love the Internet, but we are definitely guilty of losing track of the time we spend traipsing around our virtual haunts. This project will not only remind you to get out and exercise, it will cripple your digital experience if you don’t heed its colorful warning.

[Janko Hofmann] calls it the Personal Energy Orb. It’s really just an Arduino and an RGB LED. But as with most creations, the idea is what makes it great. The orb has a dock next to your computer. It tracks how much time you spend online, changing colors as you rack up the hours. If you don’t heed the warning signs of overuse it will even start to slow down your mouse cursor. But never fear. Full functionality can be restored by topping off your personal energy. As you can see above, there’s also a docking station on [Janko’s] bicycle. The orb monitors your mileage, moving out of the red zone so that your computer will be unencumbered the next time you sit down for a long session of flash games. Don’t miss his video presentation embedded after the break.

Controlling A Mouse With Your Voice

It’s entirely possible to use a computer without the aid of a mouse or trackpad. Shift and arrow keys will get you very far, but that is entirely too taxing. [Stephen] came up with a really neat way to control a mouse with your voice, a project that is sure to find its way onto the desktops of those with mobility issues very quickly

The voice controlled mouse works in conjunction with the voice recognition built into OS X, a little AppleScript, and a touch of Python. When the user says, ‘show grid’ a 10 by 10 grid numbered 1 to 100 is displayed on the screen. By saying ‘thirty five,’ the cursor moves to the 35th cell in the grid. From there, the mouse can be controlled by speaking cardinal directions such as South and Northwest.

[Stephen] put up a very clever demo of his Voice Mouse project available after the break. Even though he did have a little difficulty with his mac recognizing a few of his spoken commands its light years ahead of trying to navigate the web with just shift and arrow keys.