Getting retro hardware up and running again is sometimes a feat, and the amount of effort needed tends to go up exponentially with increased hardware age. Getting an IDE hard drive running again is one thing, but things like peripherals on truly “retro” computers like Commodores and Amigas is another beast altogether if you even have a 30-year-old mouse still lying around. That’s why adapters like Project mouSTer are here to help you connect modern USB hardware to truly ancient computers.
This piece of equipment was built for the Atari ST (hence the name), a
8-bit computer from the mid-80s. It mates a DB9 plug with USB via a small microcontroller which does the translating. The firmware can be flashed over the USB connection so there’s planned support for other machines of this vintage. The chip supports all the features the original mouse did, too, including PS4 pad support and support for joysticks, and comes in an impressively tiny package once assembled which blends in seamlessly.
The project is a great step to getting retro computers working again, even if you can’t find exact OEM replacements anymore. That’s a common problem, and we’ve seen this solved in other ways for other old Ataris. It’s not uncommon to put modern power supplies in retro computers, either, as long as they power up and work after everything’s wired together.
Like many of the stories you’ll find on these pages, this one starts with a user being annoyed about their device’s inability to perform a simple task. All [Jay Tavares] wanted was for his Bose Cinemate speakers to turn themselves on and off as needed. It seems like a reasonable enough request, and indeed, is exactly the point of HDMI’s Consumer Electronic Control (CEC) feature. But in this case, it would take a bit of custom hardware to get similar functionality.
Unfortunately, the speakers [Jay] has only support optical audio; so any interoperability with HDMI-CEC (hacked or otherwise) was immediately out the window. Still, he reasoned that he should be able to detect when the TOSLINK audio source is actually active or not, and give the speaker system the appropriate signal to either power on or shut down. You might think this would require some kind of separate stand-alone device, but as it turns out, all the necessary information was available by reverse engineering the connection between the receiver and the subwoofer.
After some investigation, [Jay] found that not only was the content of the TOSLINK audio source being sent over this DB9 cable, but so were the control signals required to turn the system on and off. So he designed a simple pass-through device with an ATtiny85 and a couple passives that latches onto the relevant lines in the cable.
When audio is detected over the optical connection, the MCU will inject the appropriate signals on the control line to simulate the user pressing the “Power” button the remote. When the chip hasn’t detected audio after 10 seconds, it sends the signal to shut the speakers off.
While [Jay] notes he can’t guarantee this works on anything other than the particular Bose Cinemate GS Series II system he has, we’d be willing to bet the concept could be adapted to other models or even brands that use a similar cable to link their principle components. If all else fails, you could always add an ESP8266 to your sound system and control it over WiFi.
If you’re attached to that favorite DB-9 interfaced device you should look into this part. FTDI is selling a USB-RS232 adapter as a replacement for DB-9 connectors. They come with USB male or female connections depending on the application and have the same serial footprint and pinout to which you’re accustomed. Using converter cables is just fine but this simplicity requires a few minutes of desoldering, rather than redesigning, etching, and populating a board in order to give that older design built-in USB connectivity.
[Zibri] found a very simple method for using brain waves as a controller via a DB9 serial port. He’s using Uncle Milton’s Force Trainer which we saw yesterday in the brain controlled Arduino. In that project the Arduino tapped into the LEDs and interfaced those signals with a computer via USB. This time the connection was made using an RS-232 transceiver to pass data from the programming header inside of the toy’s base unit to a computer over the serial port. Tapping into the programming header has a lot more potential and should be more reliable than sniffing logic out of LED connections. [Zibri] has written an application to display the received data but it doesn’t look like he’s made the code available for download.
Apparently he tipped us off about a week ago. We recall seeing this submission but as you can tell it’s a little bit light on the detail. So if you want your tips to be at the front of the line, make sure you do what you can to fill us in on all the details of your project. At our request [Zibri] provided a picture of the PCB from the Force Trainer’s base unit. See it after the break. Continue reading “Mind Control Via Serial Port”