One of the first things we learn about computers is the concept of binary ones and zeroes. When we dig into implementation of digital logic, we start to learn about voltages, and currents, and other realities of our analog world. It is common for textbooks to use flow of water as an analogy to explain flow of electrons, and [Glen Anderson] turned that conceptual illustration into reality. He brought his water computer to the downtown Los Angeles Mini Maker Faire this past weekend to show people the analog realities behind their digital devices.
[Glen]’s demonstration is a translation of another textbook illustration: binary adder with two four-bit inputs and a five-bit output. Each transistor is built from a plastic jewel box whose lid has been glued to the bottom to form two chambers. A ping-pong ball sits in the upper chamber, a rubber flap resides in the lower chamber covering a hole, with a string connecting them so a floating ball would lift the flap and expose the hole.
The Triforium is a public art installation in Los Angeles, weighing 60 tons and standing six stories tall. Built in 1975, it was designed to combine light and sound, all under the control of computer hardware of the era.
The team were able to recover the original software that ran the sculpture’s effects — stored on 8-bit paper tape, which was not uncommon for the era. These were manually transcoded, and an emulated version of the original program has been created. In the interest of not causing further damage to the sculpture, the original lights are being left untouched. Instead, an LED system will be fitted to the sculpture to enable it to be relit.
A reflection pool at the base of the sculpture is long gone, as is the original audio source. When first built it housed a carillon — a musical instrument that uses a bell for each note in the scale. In the case of the Triforium, the carillon was made of 79 quartz bells played either manually or by the computer and amplified over a speaker system.
In 2006 that carillon was removed (replace with a digital audio source) but the gods of dumpster diving were smiling that day. It was snapped up by someone who recognized the uniqueness of the instrument and shared their story as a brief webpage. We hope that some day this will also be restored to working condition and played along with the Triforium in an exhibition. The sound of a carillon is amazing to hear in person, and we suspect the timbre of quartz bells to add an indescribable layer to the experience.
This Saturday we’re hosting the Hackaday Unconference — three live events in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco that are going to jumpstart the idea engines and enthusiasm of everyone who attends. We can’t even tell you what the Unconference is about; it’s the people who participate that make the schedule and guide the discussion. Everyone there will be ready to give a talk of at least eight minutes on something that excites them right now. As the day goes on, ideas will feed off of each other and people will give talks and lead discussions they hadn’t even thought of before hearing other presentations of the day. It’s an atmosphere that you’ve never experienced unless you’ve been to an Unconference.
If you are located near one of these events it’s not too late to sign up. We’ve expanded the RSVP limit for Chicago and Los Angeles. And San Francisco has a waiting list that will likely be released at some point this week. So sign up now!!
Those not located nearby can still peek in to see what’s happening. We’ll be covering all three events on Hackaday Twitter, Hackaday Facebook (including some Facebook Live blips throughout the day), and Hackaday Instagram using the #HackadayUncon hashtag. While you’re looking through all the ways to stay connected with us, you should sign up for the weekly Hackaday.com newsletter to pick up any stories you might have missed and get a few hints of what is ahead.
Reserve your spot at the Los Angeles Hackaday Unconference on Saturday, March 18th. The Hackaday community is huge in LA and this event will fill up, so don’t delay.
The Unconference is a unique opportunity to decide the course of the day as it happens. Everyone who attends should be ready to stand and deliver at least eight minutes on a topic they find exciting right now. The energy this creates is the key to a level of involvement that can’t be matched at traditional conferences that have a divide between those presenting and those attending.
LA Joins Chicago and San Francisco
This announcement of the Los Angeles Hackaday Unconference joins two others happening the same day. Last week we announced San Francisco as a host location and the event is now full… but anyone in the area should still get their name on the waiting list. Four days ago we announced Chicago as the second location and that event will likely reach capacity today. [Shulie Tornel] and [Jasmine Brackett] are organizing things at the LA event which is being held at the Supplyframe Design Lab from 1 – 8 pm on 3/18.
Build Something that Matters
You can speak on any topic you want, but sometimes having a theme helps to get the ideas flowing. When considering your topic, keep Build Something that Matters in mind. Have you been looking into a technology, project, or idea that can make life a little (or a lot) better for the world? That would be an exquisite topic.
At the beginning of the day we’ll go around the room and get the talk title or subject from everyone there, then as a group we’ll hammer out a schedule for the day. As presentations progress, we encourage new impromptu talks to spring up, and can even split those off into a second talk space or discussion group. We’ll have food and drink on hand, as well as some interesting hardware to give out as door prizes.
The Hackaday Unconference is the ultimate idea and energy exchange in a crowd of your peers. You’ll have a hard time finding a cooler way to spend a Saturday this year. See you there!
Back in June when Hackaday attended LA Tech Day I met [Gray Bright]. He’s been a big fan of Hackaday for years and recently started producing and hosting The Tomorrow Show, a Late Night Talk Show focused on Science and Technology. [Gray] invited me on the show to talk about Hackaday and the 2015 Hackaday Prize.
[Gray’s] approach is to view scientists and engineers as the new rock stars. In each episode he invites some of the biggest names from the worlds of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) and conducts a thought-provoking and entertaining interview. There’s a healthy dose of comedy from future correspondent [Ant Simpson] and [SupernoVanGirl], live musical performances, and it’s all filmed in front of a live studio audience.
Filming the show in the Hollywood studio on a Friday night in July was a hoot. I was honored that our segment was on the same episode as the legendary engineer and entrepreneur [Nolan Bushnell], founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese’s. [Nolan] even did an impromptu standup set when there was a short technical delay.
You can watch the full episode (below the fold) to see antics from The Tomorrow Show team, [Nolan’s] anecdotes about the early days of Atari and being [Steve Jobs’] boss, as well as my first TV appearance spreading the word about the Hackaday Prize. It’s also hilarious to see [Nolan] hooked up via electrodes controlling [Gray] to play Brain Pong just like when we toured Backyard Brains last year.
We are doing a lot this spring to get people elbow-deep in hardware hacking. We have so many live events coming up that we’re going to be doing Saturday morning recaps to keep you informed. Here are the upcoming events should be planning to attend if you’re nearby.
Today! NYC Hardware Hackathon
We hope you didn’t miss our announcements about the Hardware Hackathon we’re putting on in New York. It starts this afternoon and runs all night and into Sunday. If you really want to get in on the hacking we might be able to help you out (hit us up on Twitter). But you can also show up on Sunday to see the results live. Tickets for that are available here.
May 9 & 10 Hackaday Prize Worldwide: Los Angeles
Next weekend we open up the Hackaday Design Lab of Pasadena, California for a workshop, talks, and a day of hacking. This is the Hackaday Prize Worldwide: Los Angeles. Start out on Saturday with the Zero to Product workshop which will discuss getting from design to production. Interspersed with this are a set of talks from amazing presenters before a bit of social time at night. On Sunday we open our doors for Free Build and hope to see a ton of people working on their Hackaday Prize entries. RSVP now!
Saturday, May 16 BAMF Meetup
Seeing everything at Bay Area Maker Faire means a lot of time on your feet. By the end of the day the Hackaday Crew is ready to take a load off and toss back a tasty beverage. We invite you to join us on Saturday, May 16th starting at 7pm. All the cool kids will be there so please RSVP now.
It’s not compulsory, but a lot of people bring hardware they’ve been working on to show off at this meetup and you should too!
May 23 & 24 LayerOne Conference
Every year our friends from NullSpace Labs organize the LayerOne Conference in Los Angeles. This is LA’s premier hardware security conference. This year Supplyframe is sponsoring the badges and Hackaday will be camped out at the Hackaday Hardware Villiage.
[Brian Benchoff] and [Mike Szczys] will be hacking their own badges while looking for awesome hacks other people are pulling off. We’ll bring plenty of swag and want to get everyone there to try at least some level of badge hack.
When we get together we like to build stuff, and that’s what has been motivating us as we work toward Hackaday Prize Worldwide: Pasadena. This two-day event held May 9th and 10th in the Los Angeles area is not to be missed. We are presenting a workshop, speakers, hacking, and socializing. Drop what you’re doing and get a ticket for the low-low price of being an awesome person.
On Saturday the ninth, Hackaday opens our doors for the workshop: “Zero to Product”. [Matt Berggren] leads the workshop. He is well known for running the Hardware Developer’s Didactic Galactic up in San Francisco (a meetup that we love to attend). [Matt] comes from a hardware design background and has done it all. He’s been involved in building schematic and PCB tools, been run through the startup gauntlet, and has a ton of hardware experience including everything from FPGA layout to getting that product out the door.
The workshop covers the things you need to consider when producing production-quality, professional-level circuit boards. Don’t be afraid of this, the discussion is approachable for the newcomer as well as the experienced hacker. Of course a PCB does not a product make so the conversation will also move through component selection, enclosures, best practices, and much more.
You Can’t Miss these Talks
[Elecia] is an embedded systems expert and a Hackaday Prize judge in both 2014 and 2015. Elecia will be demonstrating a gadget designed to familiarize engineers with the capabilities of inertial various sensors like accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers.
We do have a few other speakers and lighting talks lined up but we don’t want to announce until we have final confirmation from those presenters. Please check on the event page for updates.
Show Off Your Hacks and Build More On-Site
We have the space, we have the people, add some food and beverage and now you’re talking. On Saturday evening we’ll warp up the talks and workshops, throw on some tunes, and pull out the projects we’ve been working in our spare time.
This casual hang-out is a great time to find answers and advice for that one problem that’s been tripping you up. We’ll make sure there’s something to fill your belly and keep you happy while you think about what you want to hack on the following day.
Sunday is Open Hack Day. Want to work on the concepts you picked up from Saturday’s workshop? Great, we can help with that! We’ll also have hardware development boards on-hand from our Hackaday Prize Sponsors, other random hackable stuff, and of course you may bring your own equipment and get down to business. Anything is fair game but we’re especially excited to see what people are building as their 2015 Hackaday Prize entries!