Have you ever looked at a derelict electric wheelchair and thought “I bet I could make something great with that!” Of course you have- this is Hackaday, after all! And so did [Made in Poland], who managed to get a hold of a broken down electric wheelchair and put the full utility of his well equipped metalworking shop to work. The results? Lets just say it hauls.
What we really enjoyed about the build was that there wasn’t much that couldn’t be done by an average garage hacker with a drill press, angle grinder, and a stick welder. While it’s definitely nicer to have a lathe and a high quality welding table, plasma cutter, and everything in between, nothing that [Made in Poland] did in the video is such high precision that it would require those extensive tools. There may be some parts that would be a lot more difficult, or lower precision, but still functional.
Another aspect of the build is of course the control circuitry and user interface. Keeping the skid steer and castor approach meant that each motor would need to be controllable independently. To achieve this, [Made in Poland] put together a purely electromechanical drive controlled with momentary rocker switches and automotive relays to form a simple H-Bridge for each motor.
Of course you just have to watch until the end, because it really proves that a man will do anything to get out of hauling wood around! Old electric wheelchairs can also make a great base for big robots, as it turns out.
Continue reading “Electric Wheelchair Dump Truck Hack Really Hauls”
There are a few words in the electrical engineering lexicon that will perk any hardware hacker’s ears. The first of course is “Nixie tubes” with their warm cold war era ambiance and nostalgia inducing aura. A close second is “relay logic”. Between their place in computing and telecom history and the way a symphony of click and clatter can make a geek’s heart go pitter patter, most of us just love a good relay hack. And then there’s the classic hacker project: A unique timepiece to adorn our lair and remind us when we’ve been working on our project just a little too long, if such a thing even exists.
With those things in mind, you can forgive us if we swooned ever so slightly when [Jon Stanley]’s Relay Logic Nixie Tube Clock came to us via the Tip Line. Adorned with its plethora of clicking relays and set aglow by four Nixie tubes, the Relay Logic Nixie Tube Clock checks all our boxes.
[Jon] started the build with relay modules that mimic CD4000 series CMOS logic chips. When the prototype stage was complete, the circuit was recreated on a new board that mounts all 55 Omron relays on the same PCB. The result? A glorious Nixie tube clock that will strike envy into even the purest hacker’s heart. Make sure to watch the video after the break!
[Jon] has graciously documented the entire build and even makes various relay logic boards available for purchase if you’d like to embark on your own relay logic exploits . His site overflows with unique clock projects as well, so you can be sure we’ll be checking those out.
If you feel inspired to build your own relay logic project, make sure you source genuine Omron relays, especially if your Relay Computer Masterpiece takes six years to build.
Thanks to [Daniel] for sending this our way. Got a cool project you’d like to share? Be sure to send it in via the Tip Line.
Continue reading “Relay Logic Nixie Tube Clock Checks All The Boxes”
If you thought your home-brew project was taking a long time, [Jeroen Brinkman]’s MERCIA Relay Computer project probably has you beat. He began working on this impressive computer back in 2014, and has been at it ever since. In fact, the ongoing nature of the project is embedded into the name itself — the English translation of the acronym MERCIA is “My Simple Relay Computer Under Construction”. Being interested in old analog and relay computers from an early age, [Jeroen] took on this project to educate students about how computers work. The entire computer is build only using relays, diodes, and capacitors, not to mention color-coded wire based on signal functions. Using relays as the primary switching elements is at the core of his educational goal — anyone can understand how a relay works.
Understandably, this thing is big. But he has cleverly packaged it to visually show the major building blocks of a computer. While the exact size isn’t stated, we can estimate based on the photo of [Jeroen] standing next to the modules that these panels are about 1.5 m tall and perhaps 60 cm wide. The whole computer is nine panels wide, making it about 5 meters long. Except for the ROM assembly, pairs of panels are hinged together and they fold like a book and carried like a suitcases when being moved. If you enjoy the clickety-clack sound of relays, be sure to watch the relay longevity test in the video below and check out our article on the 1958 FACOM from last year.
This is a fascinating project, but unless you have a couple thousand relays laying around and a decade of free time, it’s probably better to just enjoy [Jeroen]’s work rather than build your own. We hope he releases schematics and other documentation once the project is finished. You can follow his Facebook build log if you want to keep track of the progress. Thanks to [David Gustafik] for the tip.
Continue reading “Relay Computer Consumes Six Years And 4.5 Suitcases”
When it comes to understanding computers, sometimes it’s best to get a good understanding of the basics. How is data stored? How does the machine process this information? In order to answer these questions a bit more and start learning programming, [Nakazoto] built a 10-bit binary adder with relays.
The build is designed from the ground up, including the PCBs, which are milled using a CNC machine. There are six boards: the input board, sequencer board, 2 sum register boards, a carry register board and a 1-bit ALU board. The input board has 32 LEDs on it along with the switches to turn on each bit on or off. In total, 96 relays are used and you can hear them clacking on and off in the videos on the page. Finally, there is a separate switch that sets the adder into subtraction mode.
Usually, [Nakazoto]’s website is mostly about cars, but this is a nice diversion. The article has a lot of detail about both the design and build as well as the theory behind the adder. Other articles on binary adders on the site include this one which uses bigger relays, and this 2-bit adder which uses 555 timers.
Continue reading “A DIY 10-bit Relay Adder”
Imagine having to program your computer by rewiring it. For a brief period of time around the mid-1940s, the first general-purpose electronic computers worked that way. Computers like ENIAC initially had no internal storage for code. Programming it involved manipulating thousands of switches and cables. The positions of those switches and cables were the program.
Kathleen Booth began working on computers just as the idea of storing the program internally was starting to permeate through the small set of people building computers. As a result, she was one of the first programmers to work on software and is credited with inventing assembly language. But she also got her hands dirty with the hardware, having built a large portion of the computers which she programmed. She also did some early work with natural language processing and neural networks. And this was all before 1962, making her truly a pioneer. This then is her tale.
Continue reading “Kathleen Booth: Assembling Early Computers While Inventing Assembly”
The humble car alarm has been around almost as long as the car itself, first being developed by an unknown prisoner in Denver, circa 1913. To the security-conscious motorist, they make a lot of sense. The noise of a car alarm draws attention which is the last thing a would-be thief wants, and the in-built immobilizers generally stop the car being moved at all without a time-consuming workaround. Both are a great deterrent to theft.
It may then surprise you to know that I, dear readers, consider the aftermarket car alarm to be one of the most heinous devices ever fitted to the modern automobile. Combining the unholy trifecta of being poorly designed, cheaply made, and fitted by only the most untalented or uncaring people to wield a soldering iron, they are a blight that I myself refuse to accept.
It was my very own Mazda that suffered at the hands of a car alarm system. Two days after purchasing the car, the keyfob died, and thus the car would no longer start. My other car was already out of action due to bent valves, and I needed to get to work, so I figured as a competent hacker, I’d be able to quickly disable it.
Continue reading “The Bane Of Aftermarket Car Alarms”
Recently, [Manuel] did a post on making logic gates out of anything. He mentioned a site about relay logic. While it is true that you can build logic gates using switch logic (that is, two switches in series are an AND gate and two in parallel are an OR gate), it isn’t the only way. If you are wiring a large circuit, there’s some benefit to having regular modules. A lot of computers based on discrete switching elements worked this way: you had a PCB that contained some number of a basic gate (say, a two input NAND gate) and then the logic was all in how you wired them together. And in this context, the SPDT relay was used as a two input multiplexer (or mux).
In case you think the relay should be relegated to the historical curiosity bin, you should know there are still applications where they are the best tool for the job. If you’re not convinced by normal macroscopic relays, there is some work going on to make microscopic relays in ICs. And even if they don’t use relays to do it, some FPGAs use mux-based logic inside. So it’s worth your time to dig into the past and see how simply switching between two connections can make a computer.
How do you go from a two input mux to an arbitrary logic gate? Simple, if you paid attention to the banner image. (Or try it interactive). The mux symbols show the inputs to the left, the output to the right and the select input at the bottom. If the select is zero, the “0” input becomes the output. If the select is one, the “1” input routes to the output.
Continue reading “Relay Computing”