What’s New, From 1927

Here we are at the start of the new year, which for the Internet Archive means a note about what has just entered the public domain. 1927’s finest previously copyrighted materials are now up for grabs in the public domain, which means there’s a treasure trove of films, books, and music to freely copy and remix.

Their article highlights a few notable pieces of 1927’s popular culture , of which we suggest you should definitely take note of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis if you have any interest in sci-fi, but for Hackaday readers there’s not much else in the article itself relating to technology. Delving into the archive for 1927 is still a fascinating pastime though, because beyond the interest of seeing what’s now free it led onto what was the state of technology in the 1920s. And here we find ourselves as much navigating the English language as we do the library itself, because so much of what we do uses vocabulary from the decades since. Continue reading “What’s New, From 1927”

Building A Digital Library Of Amateur Radio And Communications

For years the Internet Archive has provided the online community with a breathtaking collection of resources, out of print books, magazines, recordings, software, and any other imaginable digital asset in easily retrievable form. Now with the help of a grant from the Amateur Radio Digital Communications Foundation they are seeking to create a collection that documents amateur radio from its earliest days to the present.

The work will be multi-faceted, and include the print and digital materials we’d expect, as well as personal archives and oral histories from notable radio amateurs. For many of us this will provide a wealth of technical details and insights into taming the ionosphere, but for future historians it will be an invaluable reference on the first century of the hobby.

Amateur radio is perhaps the oldest hardware hacking pursuit of the electronic age, because certainly at the start, radio was electronics. Thus amateur radio’s long history has indirectly given us many of the things we take for granted today. Sure it has its moribund aspects, but we think if it continues to follow the growth of new technology as it has for so many years it will continue to be an exciting pursuit. We look forward to browsing this archive, and we hope to see it grow over the years.

Header image: Lescarboura, Austin C. (Austin Celestin), 1891-, No restrictions.

Cracking Open The Prince Floppy After The Purple Reign

Readers of a certain vintage will no doubt remember the time when Prince eschewed his royal position and became an unpronounceable symbol. People had no choice but to refer to him as TAFKAP, The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, and members of the music press were sent a 3.5″ floppy disk with a font file containing a single character — that gender-transcending shape that would soon become another one of Prince’s guitars. But it’s 2021, and now you can get it from the Internet Archive. Fun fact: the file wasn’t ever locked down. In fact, the symbol was available on Prince’s Compuserve and fan club CD-ROM.

While some people trawl auction sites for overalls and weird keyboards, others look for ridiculous items from the zeitgeist, like a copy of this floppy. Take [Anil Dash] for instance. [Anil] finally pulled the trigger after 15 years of debating this particular purchase. [Anil]’s interest was reignited after reading this analysis of whether the symbol could ever be put into Unicode. (Between being trademarked, a logo, and a personal character, it’s ineligible for inclusion.)

Earlier this week, [Anil] teamed up with Adafruit to extract the data from the floppy. The Twitter thread that ensued led readers to another old source of the font — the 1994 game Prince Interactive. We wonder if they broke out the oscilloscope, though it doesn’t look like it.

Thanks for the tip, [pt and limor]!

Emulating Handheld History

There’s a certain class of hardware only millennials will cherish. Those cheap ‘LCD Video Games’ from Tiger Electronics were sold in the toy aisle of your old department store. There was an MC Hammer video game. There was a Stargate video game. There was a Back To The Future video game. All of these used the same plastic enclosure, all of them had Up, Down, Left, Right, and two extra buttons, and all of them used a custom liquid crystal display. All of them were just slightly disappointing.

Now, there’s an effort to digitize and preserve these video games on archive.org, along with every other variety of ancient handheld and battery powered video game from ages past.

Double Dragon. You remember this, don’t you?

This is an effort from volunteers of the MAME team, who are now in the process of bringing these ‘LCD Video Games’ to the Internet Archive. Unlike other games which are just bits and bytes along with a few other relatively easily-digitized manuals and Peril Sensitive Sunglasses, preserving these games requires a complete teardown of the device. These are custom LCDs, after all. [Sean Riddle] and [hap] have been busy tearing apart these LCDs, vectorizing the segments (the game The Shadow is seen above), and preserving the art behind the LCD. It’s an immense amount of work, but the process has been refined somewhat over the years.

Some of these games, and some other earlier games featuring VFD and LED displays, are now hosted on the Internet Archive for anyone to play in a browser. The Handheld History collection joins the rest of the emulated games on the archive, with the hope they’ll be preserved for years to come.

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Hackaday Links: July 16, 2017

[Carl Bass] has joined the board at Formlabs. This is interesting, and further proof that Print The Legend is now absurdly out of date and should not be used as evidence of anything in the world of 3D printing.

Here’s something cool: a breadboardable dev board for the Parallax Propeller.

Finally, after years of hard work, there’s a change.org petition to stop me. I must congratulate [Peter] for the wonderful graphic for this petition.

Want some flexible circuits? OSHPark is testing something out. If you have an idea for a circuit that would look good on Kapton instead of FR4, shoot OSHPark an email.

SeeMeCNC has some new digs. SeeMeCNC are the creators of the awesome Rostock Max 3D printer and hosts of the Midwest RepRap Festival every March. If you’ve attended MRRF, you’re probably aware their old shop was a bit on the small side. As far as I can figure, they’ll soon have ten times the space as the old shop. What does this mean for the future of MRRF? Probably not much; we’ll find out in February or something.

Rumors of SoundCloud’s impending demise abound. There is some speculation that SoundCloud simply won’t exist by this time next year. There’s a lot of data on the SoundCloud servers, and when it comes to preserving our digital heritage, the Internet Archive (and [Jason Scott]) are the go-to people. Unfortunately, it’s going to cost a fortune to back up SoundCloud, and it would be (one of?) the largest projects the archive team has ever undertaken. Here’s your donation link.

If you’re looking for a place to buy a Raspberry Pi Zero or a Pi Zero W, there’s the Pi Locator, a site that pings stores and tells you where these computers are in stock. Now this site has been expanded to compare the price and stock of 2200 products from ModMyPi, ThePiHut, Pi-Supply, and Kubii.

[Jason Scott] Gets A Job In A Candy Factory — Kinda

Remember when you used to have to dial into a Bulletin Board System to connect with others through computers? How about those fond memories of phone phreaking? If you find that the details are fading in your mind you’ll be happy to know that [Jason Scott] is making sure they’ll never be forgotten. And now he’s landed a new job that will make this mission even easier.

We’re most familiar with [Jason’s] film, BBS: The Documentary. This five-hour epic traverses the oft-forgotten world of the BBS. It pays attention to things like the formation of ASCII art groups, the elite control of the Sysop before the Internet decentralized access to information, and quirky technological limitations like what happened as FIDOnet ran out of addresses for new nodes.

In short, [Jason Scott] is a technological historian. He gives speeches, makes movies, and finds information stashes that history shouldn’t forget. He’s done this outside the tradition of finding a Professorship or Curator position for a major institution. Instead he asked for sabbatical funding through Kickstart, and now he’s found his way to a position that seems like it’s made just for him; Archivist for the Internet Archive. Go get ’em [Jason].