If there is one thing we’ve learned during several years of running the Hackaday SMD soldering challenge it is this: Most people need magnification to do good soldering at a tiny scale. The problem is, like most tools, you can buy something as cheap as a $5 binocular headset or you can spend $1,000 or more on a serious microscope. What’s in between? [Noel] looks at some affordable options in a recent video that you can see below.
[Noel] started out with a cheap “helping hand” that has a simple little magnifying glass attached to it. The major criterion was to find something that would have no delay so he could solder under magnification. While it is possible to work under a scope with a little lag in the display, it is frustrating and there are better options.
Continue reading “Magnifying On The Cheap”
Borescope cameras are great inspection tools. They’re flexible, they magnify on a variable scale, and they come with their own lighting. Oh, and they’re pretty cheap, too. Because of all this, these tiny cameras can serve a number of purposes. Doctors put them down your cake hole to look for ulcers and polyps, and mechanics probe pistons with them to check for buildup. [agulesin] used one to make a reading aid for his mom.
Mom suffers from macular degeneration, and can’t read print smaller than 1″ (2.5cm). This condition can cause issues ranging from blurred vision to complete loss of vision in the center of the visual field. Standard handheld magnifiers can work fairly well depending on a person’s condition, but they only provide a fixed magnification level and most offer no lighting.
[Agulesin] had the idea to make a reading magnifier by feeding video from a downward-facing borescope camera to an old netbook. The camera is mounted in a plywood arm that’s fixed to a bi-level platform made from scrap MDF. It’s a simple idea that’s well executed—just project flat, printed material on to a vertical screen. There’s nothing for the user to hold or mount, and no risk of neck strain from looking down over the material.
With any simple project comes limitations. The camera is fixed in place. This rig built to view sheets of A4 paper (between letter and legal size) that are moved around by the user, and it can only handle a stack of so many sheets. If [agulesin]’s mom tried to read a thick novel this way, the camera would likely not focus. Even so, it’s a great piece of assistive tech for people with low vision.
It’s no surprise that things change as we age, and that tasks that were once trivial become difficult. Case in point: my son asked for help with the cord on his gaming headset the other night. The cable had broken and we could see frayed conductors exposed. When I got it apart, I found that I could barely see the ultra-fine wires to resolder them after cutting out the bad section. I managed to do it, but just barely.
This experience got me thinking about how to deal with the inevitable. How do you stay active as a hacker once your body starts to fight you more than it helps you? I’m interested mostly in dealing with changes in vision, but also in loss of dexterity and fine motor skills, and dealing with cognitive changes. This isn’t a comprehensive list of the ravages of time, but they’re probably the big ones that impact any hacker-related hobby. I enlisted a couple of my more seasoned Hackaday colleagues, [Bil] and [Rud], for their tips and tricks to deal with these issues.
Continue reading “A Hacker’s Guide To Getting Old”