What’s a tachyscope? According to [Daniel Ross], it is an animated display from an alternate timeline circa 1880. The real ones, of course, didn’t have LEDs and microcontrollers. The control unit looks like an old-timey radio, complete with Nixie tubes. The spinning part has blue and white LEDs, each accepting data from one of two serial ports. You can select to see data from one port, the other, or both. You can see the amazing contraption in the video below.
The LEDs are surface mounted and placed inside a glass test tube. Each display has its own processor. The project appears to have a PCB, but it is just a piece of fiberglass with a color print on top of it and holes drilled with a rotary tool. The board has no actual conductors — everything is point-to-point wiring. The base of the unit is old cookware. The slip ring is pretty interesting, too. It uses an old video tape head, D-cell batteries cut up, and contacts from a relay.
Vintage typewriters can be beautiful and elegant devices. But there’s a limit to their value if, as with the 1903 Remington owned by [Daniel Ross], they are fire-damaged and have a seized mechanism. What did he do with what was essentially a piece of scrap metal? Produce an unholy mashup of the vintage machine and a 1988 Sharp daisy wheel typewriter to make a steampunk-style teletype, of course!
Stripping down both machines was evidently no easy task, and the result he’s achieved has the Sharp’s printer mechanism at 90 degrees to its original orientation sitting below the roller in the space once occupied by the Remington’s type bars. We’re sad to see that the keyboard on the older machine appears to be inoperable, but on the other hand each letter does light up as it’s typed.
Meanwhile at the electronics side the components from the Sharp have been transferred to a custom PCB, and the whole can be driven from a 300-baud serial line. As can be seen from the video below the break, the result is an unholy love-child of two typewriters that could scarcely be more different, but somehow it works to make an impressive whole.
If [Bob Dylan] had seen [Pgeschwi]’s bike chain clock, it might have influenced the famous song. The clock uses a stepper motor and a bike chain to create a clock that has a decidedly steampunk vibe. Despite the low-tech look, the build uses 3D printing and, of course, a bike chain.
The clock doesn’t just show the time. There is a contraption to show the day of the week, and a pendulum shows the current phase of the moon. The visible wiring is all old-school brass wire on the wood base. [Pgeschwi] is considering changing out all the 3D printed parts for brass ones, so this may be just an early prototype of the final product, but it still looks great.
The design used common tools, including Tinkercad and an online gear generation tool. There are a lot of details you wouldn’t suspect until you tried to build something like this yourself. For example, making the chain reliably go in both directions required a timing belt to synchronize the top gears. Getting the numbers on the chain to pass by the gears.
It is hard to tell from the picture, but there’s an LED under the 10-minute marks that shows the unit’s digits of the time. There are no markings for it yet, but in the picture, the time is actually 4:09.
Laptop screens have come a long way ever since the first LCD-equipped portables hit the market back in the 1980s. But even today’s high-resolution, full-color screens are not ideal for use in direct sunlight: limited contrast and annoying reflections can make reading awkward and working nearly impossible. Electronic-paper displays don’t suffer from those problems, but their low update speed and lack of color limit their use for general computing.
For some people however, the limitations of e-ink are not a deal-breaker. One of them is [Alleycat], who built a portable computer specifically for use in direct sunlight and equipped it with a 10.3″, 1872×1404 resolution e-ink display. It’s powered by a LattePanda Alpha 800s that runs Windows 10, and is mainly used for text-based tasks.
The LattePanda and the display are mounted inside a beautiful hand-made wooden case with a brass cover and leather straps, which makes it look like a kind of steampunk attaché case. A beefy power bank makes it a truly mobile machine, even though it doesn’t come with a built-in keyboard: [Alleycat] is too much of an ErgoDox fan to include anything inferior with the Steampunk Cyberdeck.
With an update rate of 15 Hz the display is nowhere near as fast as a modern TFT screen, but it looks entirely usable when [Alleycat] demonstrates scrolling in a web browser and even the classic DOS game Alley Cat. In fact, it reminds us of those first-generation LCD screens that were fitted on 286-class laptops back in the day, although with a vastly higher resolution.
That seems to have been [mitxela]’s solution, and please don’t take our assessment as a knock on either the original build or this follow-up. [mitxela] himself expresses a bit of wonder at the attention garnered by his “rather stupid project,” which used the I2C interface in an HDMI interface to drive a tiny monochrome OLED screen. Low refresh rate, poor resolution — it has everything you don’t want in a display, but was still a cool hack that deserved the attention it got.
The present work, which creates an enclosure for the dodgy display, is far heavier on metalworking than anything else, as the video below reveals. The display itself goes in a small box that’s machined from brass, while the HDMI plug gets a sturdy-looking brass housing that makes the more common molded plastic plug look unforgivably flimsy — hot glue notwithstanding. Connecting the two is a flexible stalk, allowing it to plug into a computer’s HDMI port and giving the user the flexibility to position the nearly useless display where it can be seen best.
But again, we may be too harsh in our judgment; while DOOM is basically unplayable on the tiny display, “Bad Apple!!” is quite watchable, especially when accompanied by [mitxela]’s servo-controlled MIDI music box. And since when has usability been a criterion for judging a hack’s coolness, anyway?
Computer mice, like computers themselves, used to be built almost solely in hideous beige designs. These days, things are a bit more stylish, but they’re still largely following a simple plastic formula. [Uri Tuchman] decided to build a fancy metal engraved computer mouse for a little more style on the desktop.
The build starts by gutting a simple three-button scroll mouse, as there’s really no sense in reinventing the wheel where the electronics is concerned. The PCB inside is pulled out and assembled on a brass baseplate, along with standoffs and supports for the mouse wheel as needed. It’s paired with a hefty brass enclosure with a nice gentle slope to sit well in the hand. Or, as well as it can, given the square metal edges of the finished product.
The build is full of fun details, like [Uri] trying to form a hex shaft by hand, and the work that goes into the engraving is similarly impressive. In any case, it’s a build that would pair wonderfully with a proper steampunk keyboard. Alternatively, if you hate the idea of having to do all that engraving by hand, think about building your own CNC machine. Video after the break.
The steampunk aesthetic can take on many forms, and while pipes, valves, and boilers can look great, having complicated machinery with lots of moving parts really makes your project shine. A team of steampunk enthusiasts over at Tampere Hacklab did this by building a vehicle named Maakrapu. It’s a two-wheeled buggy that looks like it’s being pulled forward by some kind of five-legged creature. The extremely smooth motion of its legs conjures up images of lobsters or crabs (“Maakrapu” means “land crab” in Finnish), and is also reminiscent of Theo Jansen’s Strandbeesten.
The wooden legs are linked together with a metal crankshaft, which was welded together from plasma-cut parts. A steering wheel is included to orient the legs in the direction of travel, although the actual steering of the vehicle is done through differential braking. An earlier version had no propulsion and was meant for downhill riding only, but this latest model comes with an electric motor and a battery, making it actually somewhat useful as an urban runabout.
The video embedded below shows the design of the Maakrapu as well as a long drive from the center of Tampere back to the Hacklab. If you like vehicles with lots of little moving legs like this, check out the Strandbeest Bicycle. For a more literal “steam”-punk experience, try this steam-powered bike.