A Fantastic Frontier Of FPGA Flexibility Found In The 2019 Supercon Badge

We have just concluded a successful Hackaday Superconference where a highlight for many was digging into this year’s hardware badge. Shaped in the general form of a Game Boy handheld gaming console, the heart of the badge is a large FPGA opening up new and exciting potential for badge hacking.

Beyond our normal tools of compiling custom code or modifying hardware with a soldering iron, we now have the option to change core hardware behavior with Verilog. And people explored this new frontier to great effect, as seen at the badge hacking ceremony. (Video embedded below.)

FPGAs are not new, technically speaking, why are they exciting now? We can thank their recent growth in capability, their rapidly falling cost, and the relatively new availability of open source toolchains. These developments elevated FPGA into one of the most exciting trends in hardware today, so this year’s badge master [Sprite_TM] built an open FPGA playground for several hundred of his closest Supercon friends. Let’s take a look at what people were able to accomplish in just a few days using this unique and powerful hardware.

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Found Footage: Elliot Williams Talks Nexus Technologies

Back at the 2017 Superconference, Hackaday Managing Editor Elliot Williams started his talk about the so-called “Internet of Things” by explaining the only part he doesn’t like about the idea is the Internet… and the things. It’s a statement that most of us would still agree with today. If anything, the situation has gotten worse in the intervening years. Commercial smart gadgets are now cheaper and more plentiful than they’ve ever been, but it seems like precious little has been done to improve their inherent privacy and security issues.

But his talk doesn’t serve to bash the companies producing these devices or even the services that ultimately folded and left their customers with neigh useless gadgets. That’s not his style. The central theme of Nexus Technologies: Or How I Learned to Love WiFi” is that a smart home can be wonderful thing, assuming it works the way you want it to. Elliot argues that between low-cost modular hardware and open source software, the average hacker has everything they need to build their own self-contained home automation ecosystem. One that’s not only cheaper than what they’re selling at the Big Box electronics store, but also doesn’t invite any of the corporate giants to the party.

Of course, it wasn’t always so. A decade ago it would have been all but impossible, and five years ago it would have been too expensive to be practical. As Elliot details his journey towards a truly personal smart home, he explains the advances in hardware and software that have made it not just possible on the DIY level, but approachable. The real takeaway is that once more people realize how cheap and easy it is to roll your own smart home gadgets, they may end up more than willing to kick Big Brother to the curb and do IoT on their own terms.

This previously unpublished recording somehow slipped between the cracks of the editing room floor but upon recent discovery, it’s still just as relevant today. Take a look at Elliot’s view on Nexus Technologies, then join us after the break for a deeper dive. Make sure to subscribe to Hackaday’s YouTube channel to get in on the 2019 Hackaday Superconference live stream starting Saturday, November 16th.

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Supercon CFP Extended By Two Weeks

Need a bit more time to submit your talk proposal for the 2019 Hackaday Superconference? Okay, but we can only do this once. You now have until August 16th to submit your proposal.

Supercon is the ultimate hardware conference. Take all the best conversations you’ve had about electronics, firmware development, industrial design, art, music, and culture and pack them into three incredible days in Pasadena. That’s the start of what you’ll find at this event. There is no substitute for experiencing it in person.

What makes this so unique is the people who show up. We are forever on the search of people with clever, compelling, delightful, and bizarre stories about hardware creation… and that means you. Yes, you! Supercon is a great place to give your first-ever conference talk. Package up the details of your recent hardware adventures and send them in as a proposal. The biggest mistake we see people make is assuming nobody wants to hear about what’s going on in their workshop or lab. Long talk or short talk, we want to hear your talk!

Take the plunge, the water is warm the so are the soldering irons which run constantly in the Hacker Village that forms during Supercon. There are still tickets available, but of course, speaker receive our undying gratitude and of course, free admission.

Hackaday Superconference Tickets And Proposals Are Live Right Now

Stop what you’re doing and get your ticket to the Hackaday Superconference. This is the ultimate hardware conference, November 15th, 16th, and 17th in Pasadena, California. It will sell out, especially the early bird tickets which are certain to be snapped up before the end of this day. (Edit: Early Bird tickets are already sold out, but you can still get the Early Bird price by submitting a talk).

Supercon is all about hardware creation. From prototypes and manufacturable designs, to one-off hardware art and products that have sold thousands, this is where you meet the people and hear the stories behind new and interesting feats of engineering. It’s a weekend filled with fascinating talks and mind-expanding workshops, but Supercon is so much more.

This is a Hacker Village where the greenest beginner and the grayest veteran sit shoulder to shoulder to solder, to code, to dream of the future, and to share stories of the past. We want you here, and you need to make it happen. Whether it’s professional development (yes! ask your boss to make this a business outing) or your hard-earned vacation, Supercon will recharge your batteries and top off your inspiration for the year to come.

Your Talk Here

The Call for Proposals is now open. We want you to speak at Supercon!

Yes, I’m talking to you. Core to the mission of the Hackaday Superconference is to encourage more people to speak publicly about everything that goes into designing and manufacturing hardware. This means we want first time speakers just as much as we want seasoned presenters. You will be celebrated at Supercon; the ethos of this community is warm, welcoming, and thankful that you took the time to help everyone learn something interesting.

Don’t stop to ask yourself if you should… yes, we want to read your talk proposal. No topic is too big or too small for consideration. This is your chance to give back as a thank-you to so many people who have helped you gather your own skills over the years. We stand on the shoulders of giants, it’s your turn to be giant.

True Believer Tickets

We like to think of our Early Bird tickets as a nod to the true believers out there. We haven’t published the speakers, the workshops, or really anything else. That info will be public as everything comes together, but by then it may be too late to get a ticket. Right now all we can tell you for certain is that there will be a big celebration to name the grand prize winner of the 2019 Hackaday Prize, there will be a ton of badge hacking on a mind-blowing hardware badge being designed by Sprite_TM (Jeroen Domburg), you will have way too much fun and get far too little sleep, and tickets will sell out. In other words, this will be awesome.

Need more convincing? You can watch the recap video from 2018, or dive into the weekend overview, badge-hacking, and competitive soldering roundups. I’ve never met anyone from the first four years of  Supercon who regretted buying early bird tickets. I’ve met plenty of people who regretted missing out. Don’t miss out on year five of the movement. This is your community, there is truly something for everyone, and Pasadena is a beautiful place to be in the middle of November. See you at Supercon!

Apple 1 Emulator Is A Perfect Fit For Supercon Badge

Supercon badge hackers had to be ready to present their show-and-tell by 6 pm Sunday evening. This ruthless unmoving deadline meant every badge hack on stage represents an accomplishment in time management, and some luck, in addition to their own technical merits. But that deadline also meant a few fantastic projects lost their race against the clock. We were rooting for [Jac Goudsmit] to build an Apple I emulator as his badge expansion, but he wasn’t quite done when our badge hack ceremony began. After Supercon he went home, finished the project, and documented everything in a detailed writeup.

Our 2018 Supercon badge is built on a retro-computing theme, and the default firmware came with a BASIC interpreter as well as a Z80 emulator running CP/M. So an Apple 1 emulator should feel right home with its contemporaries. Mechanically speaking, all the parts were a tight fit on the badge expansion board given out to every attendee at Supercon. So tightly that [Jac] had to file down the two main chips in order to fit them side by side. The breadboard-like pattern of connected holes on the expansion board, intended to help ease in beginners for their badge hack soldering, proved to be an inconvenience in tightly packed arrangements such as this.

With all the work [Jac] had invested, it was heartbreaking to know he was only five minutes of soldering and 30 minutes of coding away when time ran out. Time pressure was part of the challenge faced by every Supercon badge hacker, and while we’re sad [Jac] missed the deadline for stage time we’re happy to see him finish and write it all up. We hope every badge hacker would write up their stories of frantic weekend projects. Those who do so on hackaday.io are encouraged to tag their project with “Supercon” and get them added to our list of badge hacks for everyone to admire.

Supercon Badge Hackers Racing The Clock

At the end of Hackaday Superconference weekend, we hold a badge hacking ceremony on the main stage where anyone who has done anything with their badge is invited to come on stage and show off their work. Yes, even if it’s just a blinking LED! It was a tremendous pleasure to see not only people taking us at our word and presented blinking LEDs, but that the community in the room welcomed these inductees to hardware hacking with cheers. Before the ceremony, though, there was a lot of frantic work by badge hackers armed with soldering irons and fueled by caffeine. It’s always amazing how much people can accomplish in a single focused weekend.

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This Weekend: The Greatest Hardware Conference

The Hackaday Superconference is this weekend and it’s the greatest hardware con on the planet. Tickets are completely sold out, but you can still get in on the fun by watching the livestream and joining Supercon chat.

For everyone who will be here in person, the entire Hackaday crew is busy as beavers preparing for your arrival. We’re assembling badges, rigging AV for the talks, stuffing goodie bags, calling caterers, and taping cables to the floor. This is by far the biggest Superconference yet.

Doors open at 9 am Friday at the Supplyframe HQ. This is your first chance to get your hands on the fantastic Supercon Badge that’s a freakin’ computer. The day is filled with badge hacking, workshops, badge talks, and a launch party. [Rich Hogben] and [Andrew Bakhit] will be doing live IDM sets on Friday night, as we celebrate into the wee hours of the morning.

Saturday, doors open at 9 am over at the Supplyframe Design Lab as we turn on the livestream and get the main event under way with over 50 speakers and workshops. Badge hacking continues throughout the weekend, and this year we’ve added the SMD Soldering Challenge to the fun. There will be meetups during Supercon; the Tindie meetup and the amateur radio meetup are both Saturday at 1 pm.

Subscribe to Hackaday on YouTube and follow us on Facebook to keep up with everything going on.