Improved Technique For Resistive Divider Keypads

[Lauri Pirttiaho] from the [Swiss Knife of Electronics] channel explains how to simplify your resistive divider keypad design on Hackaday.io.

The usual method involves building a resistive ladder that gives unique and equally spaced voltages for each keypress. If you have just four or five discrete buttons, it isn’t terribly difficult, but if you have a 12- or 16-keypad matrix, things get complicated. [Lauri] looked into the past to come up with a better way, specifically a 646 page, 1 kg textbook from 1990 — Analogue Ic Design: The Current-Mode Approach by Toumazou, Lidgey, and Haigh. He learned that sometimes what’s hard to do in the voltage domain is easy in the current domain.

Normally you’d throw in some resistors to form different voltage dividers depending on which key is pressed, and read the resulting voltage off of a voltage divider with an ADC. But that means using the voltage divider equation, and the difference in voltage between keys can get very small. Dropping the voltage divider and measuring the current through a current mirror generates a linear voltage across its output load resistor that can be easily read by your microprocessor. And [Lauri] has posted an example of just such a program on his GitHub repository for an Arduino.

Heavy analog electronics, for sure, but something to keep in mind if you’re reading more than 12 keys. Do you have any examples of solving problems by looking into old and/or less-common techniques? Let us know in the comments below.

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This Slimline Word Clock Uses Laser Etching To Keep Things Simple

Judging by the tips we get, it seems like the popularity of word clocks has perhaps started falling off lately. But back at peak word clock, we were seeing dozens of designs, some better than others. This simple but classy word clock seems to benefit from all that prior art, making the design just about as simple as it can get while still looking great.

The main tool for [t0mg]’s build is a laser cutter, which is a great choice for keeping the design simple. The tricky part of word clocks is getting the “word search” matrix executed cleanly, and we’ve seen everything from laser-cut wood to inkjet prints, and even commercially produced PCBs, used for the job. [t0mg] opted instead to spray paint a piece of glass and etch away the characters with the laser, which results in superb text quality. Etching the underside of the glass also has the advantage of protecting the paint layer while giving the finished clock a glossy face that really looks nice. Under the template lie layers of MDF that hold the Neopixel strips and act as light guides, while an ESP32 and RTC perform timekeeping and LED-driving duties. [t0mg] finished off the clock with a nice web interface to set the clock, change the colors, and perform maintenance functions. The video below shows the software in use.

We really think this clock looks great, and for those with access to a laser cutter, it seems like a great way to go about building your own.

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Discrete LEDs Make A Micro Display

Few things excite a Hackaday staff member more than a glowing LED, so it should be no surprise that combining them together into a matrix really gets us going. Make that matrix tiny, addressable, and chainable and you know it’ll be a hit at the virtual water cooler. We’ve seen [tinyledmatrix]’s work before but he’s back with the COPXIE, a pair of tiny addressable displays on one PCBA.

The sample boards seen at top are a particularly eye catching combination of OSH Park After Dark PCB and mysterious purple SMT LEDs that really explain the entire premise. Each PCBA holds two groups of discrete LEDs each arranged into a 5×7 display. There’s enough density here for a full Latin character set and simple icons and graphics, so there should be enough flexibility for all the NTP-synced desk clocks and train timetables a temporally obsessed hacker could want.

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A Microwave Repair Even Mechanical Keyboard Fans Will Love

Microwave oven design and manufacturing have been optimized to the point where the once-expensive appliances are now nearly disposable. Despite the economics, though, some people can’t resist fixing stuff, especially when you get a chance to do it in style. Thus we present this microwave repair with its wholly unnecessary yet fabulous adornments.

The beginning of the end for [dekuNukem]’s dirt cheap second-hand microwave started where many of the appliances begin to fail first — the membrane keyboard. Unable to press the buttons reliably anymore, [dekuNukem] worked out the original keypad’s matrix wiring arrangement and whipped up a little keypad from some pushbutton switches and a scrap of perfboard. Wired into the main PCB, it was an effective and cheap solution, if a bit on the artless side.

To perk things up a bit, [dekuNukem] turned to duckyPad, a hot-swappable macropad with mechanical switches and, of course, RGB LEDs. Things got interesting from here; since duckyPad outputs serial data, an adapater was needed inside the microwave. An STM32 microcontroller and a pair of ADG714 analog switches did the trick, with power pulled from the original PCB.

The finished repair is pretty flashy, and [dekuNukem] now has the only microwave in the world with a clicky keypad. And what’s more, it works.

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LED Art Reveals Itself In Very Slow Motion

Every bit of film or video you’ve ever seen is a mind trick, an optical illusion of continuous movement based on flashing 24 to 30 slightly different images into your eyes every second. The wetware between your ears can’t deal with all that information individually, so it convinces itself that you’re seeing smooth motion.

But what if you slow down time: dial things back to one frame every 100 seconds, or every 1,000? That’s the idea behind this slow-motion LED art display called, appropriately enough, “Continuum.” It’s the work of [Louis Beaudoin] and it was inspired by the original very-slow-motion movie player and the recent update we featured. But while those players featured e-paper displays for photorealistic images, “Continuum” takes a lower-resolution approach. The display is comprised of four nine HUB75 32×32 RGB LED displays, each with a 5-mm pitch. The resulting 96×96 pixel display fits nicely within an Ikea RIBBA picture frame.

The display is driven by a Teensy 4 and [Louis]’ custom-designed SmartLED Shield that plugs directly into the HUB75s. The rear of the frame is rimmed with APA102 LED strips for an Ambilight-style effect, and the front of the display has a frosted acrylic diffuser. It’s configured to show animated GIFs at anything from 1 frame per second its original framerate to 1,000 seconds per frame times slower, the latter resulting in an image that looks static unless you revisit it sometime later. [Louis] takes full advantage of the Teensy’s processing power to smoothly transition between each pair of frames, and the whole effect is quite wonderful. The video below captures it as best it can, but we imagine this is something best seen in person.

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Die Photos Reveal Logic From Commodore 128 PLA Chip

The 8721 PLA, or programmable logic array, was one of the chips that had to be invented to make the Commodore 128, the last of the 8-bit computers that formed the leading edge of the early PC revolution, a reality. [Johan Grip] got a hold of one of these chips and decided to reverse engineer it, to see what the C-128 designers had in mind back in mid-1980s.

PLAs were the FPGAs of the day, with arrays of AND gates and OR gates that could be connected into complex logic circuits. [Johan]’s investigation started with liberating the 8721 die from its package, for which he used the quick and easy method favored by [CuriousMarc]. The next step was tooling up, as the microscope he was using proved insufficient to the task. Even with a better microscope in hand, [Johan] still found the need to tweak it, adding one of the new high-quality Raspberry Pi cameras and motorizing the stage with some stepper motors and a CNC controller board.

With optics sorted out, he was able to identify all the pads on the die and to find the main gate array areas. Zooming in a little further, he was able to see the connections between the matrices of the AND and OR gates, which makes decoding the logic a relative snap, although the presence of what appears to be an output block with latching functions confounds this somewhat.

The end result is a full Verilog HDL file that reflects the original 8721 logic, which we think is a pretty neat trick. And we’d love it if our own [Bil Herd] could chime in on this; after all, he literally designed the C-128.

Hackaday Podcast 077: Secret Life Of SD Cards, Mining Minecraft’s Secret Seed, BadPower Is Bad, And Sailing A Sea Of Neon

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams are deep in the hacks this week. What if making your own display matrix meant a microcontroller board for every pixel? That’s the gist of this incredible neon display. There’s a lot of dark art poured into the slivers of microSD cards and this week saw multiple hacks digging into the hidden test pads of these devices. You’ve heard of Folding@Home, but what about Minecraft@Home, the effort to find world seeds from screenshots. And when USB chargers have exposed and rewritable firmware, what could possibly go wrong?

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (~65 MB)

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