A C64 SID Replacement With Built-in Games

Developer [frntc] has recently come up with a smaller and less expensive way to not only replace the SID chip in your Commodore 64 but to also make it a stereo SID! To top it off, it can also hold up to 16 games and launch them from a custom menu. The SIDKick Pico is a simple board with a Raspberry Pi Pico mounted on top. It uses a SID emulation engine based on reSID to emulate both major versions of the SID chip — both the 6581 and the 8580. Unlike many other SID replacements, the SIDKick Pico also supports mouse and paddle inputs, meaning it replaces all functionality of the original SID!

Sound can be generated in three different ways: either using PWM to create a mono audio signal that is routed out via the normal C64/C128 connectors, an external PCM5102A DAC board, or using a different PCB design that has pads for an on-board DAC and TL072 op-amp. While many Commodore purists dislike using replacement chips, the reality is that all extant SID chips were made roughly 40 years ago, and as more and more of them fail, options like the SIDKick Pico are an excellent way to keep the sound of the SID alive.

If you want to hear the SIDKick Pico in action, you can check out the samples on the linked GitHub page, or check out the video below by YouTuber Wolfgang Kierdorf of the RETRO is the New Black channel. To get your hands on a SIDKick Pico, you can follow the instructions on the GitHub page for ordering either bare PCBs or pre-assembled PCBs from either PCBWay or your board manufacturer of choice.

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A business card-sized love detector in a 3D-printed package.

2024 Business Card Challenge: Who Do You Love?

When you hand your new acquaintance one of your cards, there’s a chance you might feel an instant connection. But what if you could know almost instantly whether they felt the same way? With the Dr. Love card, you can erase all doubt.

As you may have guessed, the card uses Galvanic Skin Response. That’s the fancy term for the fact that your skin’s electrical properties change when you sweat, making it easier for electricity to pass through it. There are two sensors, one on each short end of the card where you would both naturally touch it upon exchange. Except this time, if you want to test the waters, you’ll have to wait 10-15 seconds while Dr. Love assesses your chemistry.

The doctor in this case is an RP2040-LCD-0.96, which is what it sounds like — a Raspberry Pi Pico with a small LCD attached. For the sensors, [Un Kyu Lee] simply used 8mm-wide strips of nickel. If you want to build your own, be sure to check out the build guide and watch the video after the break for a demonstration of Dr. Love in action.

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Schematic of the Pi Pico wireup, showing the various outputs that the firmware will generate on the GPIOs

A Scope Test Tool You Can Build With Just A Pico

Ever wanted to see how well your oscilloscope adheres to its stated capabilities? What if you buy a new scope and need a quick way to test it lest one of its channels its broken, like [Paul Wasserman] had happen to him? Now you only need a Pi Pico and a few extra components to make a scope test board with a large variety of signals it can output, thanks to [Paul]’s Sig Gen Pi Pico firmware.

description of the signals generated by the software, that can be read in detail on the project websiteDespite the name it’s not a signal generator as we know it, as it’s not flexible in the signals it generates. Instead, it creates a dozen signals at more or less the same time — from square waves of various frequencies and duty cycles, to a PWM-driven DAC driving eight different waveforms, to Manchester-encoded data I2C/SPI/UART transfers for all your protocol decoder testing.

Everything is open source under the BSD 3-Clause license, and there’s even two PDFs with documentation and a user manual, not to mention the waveform screenshots for your own reference.

It’s seriously impressive how many features [Paul] has fit into a single firmware. Thanks to his work, whenever you have some test equipment in need of being tested, just grab your Pico and a few passive components.

BreadboardOS, A Command Line Interface For The Pico

Operating systems! They’re everywhere these days, from your smart TV to your smartphone. And even in your microcontrollers! Enter BreadboardOS for the Raspberry Pi Pico.

BreadboardOS is built on top of FreeRTOS. It’s aim is to enable quick prototyping with the Pi Pico. Don’t confuse operating system with a graphical environment — BreadboardOS is command-line based. You’d typically interface with it via a serial terminal emulator, but joy of joys, it does support color!

Using BreadboardOS is a little different than typical microcontroller development. Creating an application involves adding a “service” which is basically a task in FreeRTOS parlance. The OS handles running your service for you. Via the text interface, you can query running services, and start or kill them at will.

Meanwhile, running df will happily give you stats on the flash usage of the Pi Pico, and free will tell you how full the memory is doing. If you really want to get raw, you can make calls to control GPIO pins, the SPI hardware, or other peripherals, and do it right on the command line.

BreadboardOS isn’t for everyone, but it could prove a useful tool if you like that way of doing things. It’s not the only OS out there for the Pi Pico, either!

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Building A Mechanical Keyboard As A Learning Project

[Thomas Rinsma] wanted to learn about designing PCBs. Thus, he set about a nifty project that would both teach him those lessons and net him something useful in the process. The result was kb1, a mechanical keyboard of his own design!

You might think [Thomas] would have started with a basic, barebones design, but he didn’t shy away from including some neat features. His keyboard has a “tenkeyless” layout, and uses Cherry MX-style switches, as has become the norm in the mechanical keyboard world. It has a 16×2 LCD display for user feedback, a rotary encoder, and it even has an RGB backlight for every key thanks to SK6812 addressable LEDs. Running the show is a Raspberry Pi Pico, equipped with the KMK firmware. The board actually uses twin PCBs as the enclosure, which is a nifty trick.

It’s remarkably fully featured for a first time build.

Building A Giant Boardgame Isn’t Easy

[Stevenson Streeper] is a maker, and was recently charged with a serious mission. He had to prototype, design, and build a board game. A software-controlled board game, that is, and one that was 400 square-feet in size. As you might imagine, this ended up being a tall order, and he’s been kind enough to share his tale on his blog.

His client’s idea was for a giant interactive game board akin to the glowing disco floors of old. It had to play a game approximating the rules of “The Floor Is Lava.” It had to handle up to 20 players at a time, too.

[Stevenson] runs a company that delivers “Activations”—basically big showpieces for customers willing to pay. This wasn’t his first attempt at building an immersive attraction, but it was a big job, and a challenging one at that. He explains the difficulties that came about from a limited crew, limited timeline, and a number of difficult missteps. Hurdles included surprise unusable off-the-shelf hardware and the difficulty of hand-sanding 144 tiles of polycarbonate. One weeps for the project’s plight early on – if only the AliExpress tiles were documented.

He may have bitten off more than he could chew, and yet—the project was finished and to a decent degree of functionality success. That’s to be applauded, and [Stevenson] learned a ton along the way. Big projects can be daunting and can put you in a bind. As this story demonstrates, though, perseverance often gets you somewhere okay in the end. Video after the break.

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KanaChord Is A Macro Pad For Japanese Input

There are various situations that warrant additional keyboards on your desk, and inputting a second language is definitely a good one. That’s the idea behind KanaChord, which generates Unicode macros to render Japanese Kana characters using chords — pressing multiple keys at once as you would on a piano.

The Japanese writing system is made up of Kanji (Chinese characters), Hirigana, and Katakana. Without going into it too much, just know that Hirigana and Katakana are collectively known as the Kana, and there’s a table that lays out the pairing of vowels and consonants. To [Mac Cody], the layout of the Kana table inspired this chording keyboard.

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