Today is a little tour back to the early 1980s when Mattel released the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Computer Labyrinth Game. [Cameron Kaiser] was dealing with a few boxes of old stuff when he came across the game. Luckily for us, he decided to do a complete teardown and a comprehensive review more than 40 years after it came out.
The game itself is pretty simple. You and a friend are characters on the board, navigating an eight-by-eight maze. As you move through the labyrinth, a microcontroller emits twelve audio cues telling you what you’ve run into (walls, doors, treasure, and so on). The eight buttons on the side allow you to hear the different tones to know what they mean, as we imagine even the most well-written manual might struggle to describe that. In addition, the pieces are diecast metal, which allows the game to detect where the pieces have been placed. Continue reading “Dungeons And Dragons Board Game From The 1980s Holds A TMS1100” →
If you are a certain age, you probably remember the Mattel Football game. No LCD screen or fancy cartridges. Just some LEDs and a way to play football when you should be in class. While these might seem primitive to today’s kids, they were marvels of technology in the 1970s when they came out. [Sean Riddle] looks, well, not exactly at the games, but more like in them. As it turns out, they used chips derived from those made for calculators.
[Sean’s] post is a glimpse into this world of over four decades past. Football was actually the second electronic game from Mattel. The first one was Auto Race. There were also games called Space Alert, Baseball, and Gravity. Inside each are quad in-line packages with 42 pins, a Rockwell logo, and a custom part number.
Continue reading “Is It A Game? Or A Calculator?” →
In case you weren’t around in the 80s, or you happened to blink, you may have missed the Mattel Aquarius computer. [Nick Bild] has a soft spot in his heart for the machine though and built the Aqua cartridge to make the Aquarius into a more usable machine.
Originally equipped with a mere 4 KB of RAM and a small, rubbery keyboard, it’s not too surprising that the Aquarius only lasted five months on the market. [Nick] decided on the cartridge slot to beef up the specs of this little machine given the small number of expansion ports on the device. Adding 32 KB of RAM certainly gives it a boost, and he also designed an SD card interface called Aqua Write that connects to the Aqua cartridge for easily transferring files from a more modern machine.
The Aqua Write uses an Arduino Mega 2560 to handle moving data between the SD card and the system’s memory. This is complicated somewhat because a “PLA sits between the Z80 and data bus that XORs data with a software lock code (initialized to a random value on startup).” [Nick] gets around this by running a small program to overwrite the lock code to zero after startup.
Getting data on and off retrocomputers can certainly be a challenge. If you’re trying to get files on or off another old machine, check out this Simple Universal Modem or consider Using a Raspberry Pi as a Virtual Floppy Drive.
Documentation can be a bit of a nasty word, but it’s certainly one aspect of our own design process that we all wish we could improve upon. As an award-winning designer, working with some of the best toy companies around, [Jude] knows a thing or two about showing your work. In his SkunkWorks Project, he takes a maker’s approach to Bo Peep’s Skunkmobile and gives us a master class on engineering design in the process.
As with any good project brief, [Jude] first lays out his motivation for his work. He was very surprised that Pixar hadn’t commercialized Bo Peep’s Skunkmobile and hoped his DIY efforts could inspire more inclusive toy options from the Toy Story franchise. He does admit that the Skunkmobile presents a more unique design challenge than your standard, plastic, toy action figure. Combining both the textile element to create the illusion of fur and the RC components to give the toy its mobility requires careful thought. You definitely don’t want the wheels ripping into the fabric as you wheel around the backyard or for the fur to snag every object you pass by in the house.
Given the design challenges of making the Skunkmobile from scratch, [Jude] decided the best way forward was to retrofit a custom-designed skunk-shaped body onto a standard RC car chassis. The difficulty here lies in finding a chassis that can support the weight of the retrofitted body as well as one big enough to hold a 9-inch Bo Peep doll inside the driver’s compartment. Before spending endless hours 3D printing (and re-printing) his designs, [Jude] first modeled the Skunkmobile in card (using cardboard), a practice we’ve seen before, and are always in love with. He continually emphasized the form of his device was probably even more important than its function as capturing the essence as well as the “look and feel” of the Skunkmobile were critical design criteria. You can even see the skunk wagging its tail in all his demo videos. Prototyping in card gave [Jude] a good feel for his Skunkmobile and the designs translated pretty well to the 3D printed versions.
What really impressed us about [Jude’s] project is the incredible detail he provides for his entire design process from his backstory, to the initial prototypes, to the user testing, and, finally, to the realization of the final product. Remember, “We want the gory details!”
Continue reading “Documentation Is Hard, Let The SkunkWorks Project Show You How To Do It Well” →
Security researchers can be a grim crowd. Everything, when looked at closely enough, is insecure at some level, and this leads to a lot of pessimism in the industry. So it’s a bit of a shock to see a security report that’s filled with neither doom nor gloom.
We’d previously covered Somerset Recon’s initial teardown of “Hello Barbie” and were waiting with bated breath for the firmware dump and some real reverse engineering. Well, it happened and basically everything looks alright (PDF report). The Somerset folks desoldered the chip, dumped the flash ROM, and when the IDA-dust settled, Mattel used firmware that’s similar to what everyone else uses to run Amazon cloud service agents, but aimed at the “toytalk.com” network instead. In short, it uses a tested and basically sound firmware.
The web services that the creepy talking doll connected to were another story, and were full of holes that were being actively patched throughout Somerset’s investigation, but we were only really interested in the firmware anyway, and that looked OK. Not everything is horror stories in IoT security. Some stories do have a happy ending. Barbie can sleep well tonight.
In February, Google and Mattel introduced their Hello Barbie Internet-connected toy. This Barbie has an internal microphone, a WiFi connection to Google’s voice recognition services, and a speaker to carry on a “conversation” with the targeted child.
Like the folks at Somerset Recon, we’d say that this is an Internet of Things (IoT) device that’s just begging for a teardown, and we’re totally looking forward to their next installment when they pore through the firmware.
On the hardware front, Barbie looks exactly like what you’d expect on the inside. A Marvell 88MW300 WiFi SoC talks to a 24-bit (!) audio codec chip, and runs code from a 16Mbit flash ROM. There’s some battery management, and what totally looks like a JTAG port. There’s not much else, because all the brains are “in the cloud” as you kids say these days.
From day to day we alternate between the promise of IoT and being anti-IoT curmudgeons, so it should come as no surprise that we’re of two minds about Hello Barbie. First, there’s the creepy-factor of having your child’s every word overheard by a faceless corporation with “evil” in their mission statement (see what we did there?). Next, we’re not sure that it’s OK to record everything your child says to a toy and listen to it later, even if you are the parent. Hackaday’s [Sarah Petkus] summarized this neatly in this article.
But mostly, we’re curious about how well the thing actually works and what it will do with naughty words. And who will take on the task of reviving the Barbie Liberation Organization? Now we totally want to go out and buy one of these things.
[Ken] was strolling through a department store one day looking for a gift for his daughter when he stumbled across a Mattel’s Hot Wheels Radar Gun for $30. He purchased it, took it home, and tested it out. Surprisingly, the device had the ability to not only scan toy cars, but also regular size vehicles, spinning bicycle wheels, and joggers as well. As his mind began to churn coming up with new ideas, he purchased another toy and repackaged it creating a more professional grade DIY radar speed detector.
The process was pretty simple. First, he disassembled the device getting to the Doppler radar system inside, which was similar to the professional radar guns that police officers used. This toy was able to transmit a continuous wave at 10.525GHz, measuring the returning frequency of returning waves that bounced off of moving objects. However, the detection range of this toy was severely limited. [Ken] then upgraded the antenna housing unit with a 3″ diameter acrylic document tube, making the quality look a lot better. After that, the system was attached to a tripod allowing for the device to be easily transported and setup near a busy traffic road, quietly watching the speed of cars driving by.
Continue reading “Hot Wheels Toy Turned Radar Gun” →