2023: As The Hardware World Turns

We’ve made it through another trip around the sun, and for the first time in what feels like far too long, it seems like things went pretty well for the hackers and makers of the world. Like so many, our community suffered through a rough couple of years: from the part shortages that made building even the simplest of devices more expensive and difficult than it should have been, to the COVID-mandated social distancing that robbed us of our favorite meetups. But when looking back on the last twelve months, most of the news was refreshingly positive.

Pepperoni costs ten bucks, but they can’t activate Windows on their registers…

Oh sure, a trip to to the grocery store can lead to a minor existential crisis at the register, but there’s not much we at Hackaday can do about that other than recommend you some good hydroponics projects to help get your own home farm up and running.

As has become our New Year tradition, we like to take this time to go over some of the biggest stories and trends that we picked up on from our unique vantage point. Some will be obvious, but there’s always a few that sneak up on us. These posts tend to make for interesting reading in the future, and if you’ve got the time, we’d recommend going back and reading the previous entries in this series and reminiscing a bit.

It’s also a good time to reflect on Hackaday itself — how we’ve grown, the things that have changed, and perhaps what we can do better going forward. Believe it or not we do read all of the feedback from the community, whether it’s in the comments of individual posts or sent into us directly. We couldn’t do this without readers like you, so please drop us a line and let us know what you’re thinking.

So before we get any farther into 2024, let’s wind back the clock and revisit some of the highlights from the previous year.

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Raspberry Pi Zero Powers Custom Camera Platform

These days, most of us are carrying a fairly impressive digital camera with us at all times. But as capable as the hardware and software of a modern smartphone may be, there’s still plenty of reasons you may want a “real” camera to go along with it. The larger sensor, advanced controls, and selection of lenses that you’ll get with even a relatively cheap camera opens up a world of artistic possibilities.

If you’re really into chasing that perfect shot, you can even build your own digital camera these days. This design from [Jacob Cunningham] may not be able to go shot-for-shot against a Canon or Nikon in its current state, but we think you’ll agree there’s a lot of potential here — especially for something pieced together with modular components and perfboard.

Inside the 3D printed enclosure is a Raspberry Pi Zero, a Pi HQ Camera module, an 1.5″ OLED display, a lithium-ion battery pouch cell, and the charging and voltage regulation boards necessary to keep everything powered up. There’s also a handful of tactile buttons to work through the settings and menus, and a 10-axis IMU to help you keep your horizon level.

[Jacob] figures the whole thing comes in at around at $185.00, though naturally that number could go up or down considerably depending on what you’ve already got in the parts bin and what kind of lenses you add to the mix.

The hardware side of things looks more or less complete, at least for a first version, and [Jacob] has provided everything you’ll need to build one of your own. But the software is still a work in progress, with the latest push to the Python code in the project’s GitHub repository just eight hours old at the time of this writing. If you’ve been looking for a DIY camera project to really sink your teeth into, this could provide a great starting point.

If you’re more interested in moving pictures, we recently covered the CinePi project, which aims to develop an open source cinema-quality camera that you won’t need studio backing to afford.

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PolaPi-Zero For Surprisingly Good Instant Photos

The ‘Pola’ in the PolaPi is a giveaway for what this Hackaday.io project is. This polaroid-like camera, created by [Muth], is a sort of black and white, blast from the past mixed with modern 3D printing. It is based on a Raspberry-pi Zero with a camera module, a Sharp memory LCD for viewing the image, and a Nano thermal printer to print the actual photo. Throw in some buttons, a battery and a slick 3D printed case and you have your own PolaPi.

polapi-frontRight now it’s already on the second iteration as [Muth]s gave the first prototype to some lucky person. As he had to rebuild the whole camera from scratch, he took advantage of what he learned in the first prototype and improved on it. The camera has a ‘live’ 20fps rate on the LCD and you can take your photo, review it, and if you like the shot, print it. The printed photo is surprisingly good, check it out in the video after the break.

Currently the software is being actively developed and the latest version has, among other things, a slit-scan mode. For those who don’t know, slit-scan photography is a technique that can create some crazy warped and psychedelic effects (in this case, as psychedelic as a black and white photo can be).

We know you want one for yourself. If you don’t want to spend the time installing and configuring your RPi Zero, [Muth] kindly shared an SD card image with everything ready.

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