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.
We’ve seen a few e-ink based computer designs before, such as this Macintosh Classic II and this e-ink laptop project. The steampunk theme would go well with a hand-crafted metal mouse or this tiny display.
Continue reading “2022 Cyberdeck Contest: Steampunk Cyberdeck Is Made From Wood, Leather, Brass And E-Paper”
It’s an interesting question: What does one do for a follow-up to building the world’s worst HDMI display? Simple — stick it in a cool steampunk-inspired case and call it a day.
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?
Continue reading “Barely HDMI Display Gets A Steampunk-Inspired Enclosure”
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.
Continue reading “Hand-Built Metal Mouse Is Beautifully Engraved”
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.
Continue reading “Maakrapu Is A Buggy Drawn By A Five-Legged Beast”
We don’t really think anyone in the Victorian era had a COSMAC Elf — the homebrew computer based around the RCA 1802 CPU. But if they did, it might have looked like [Daniel Ross’] steampunk recreation of the system that includes an appropriate-looking teletype device. You can see the thing in a series of videos, below. There are actually quite a few videos showing different parts of the system, along with several blog postings stretching back a few months.
A magic eye tube doesn’t look out of place in this build. We especially liked the glass tube displays and the speaker, although we thought the USS Enterprise looked out of place with the technology based on stone knives and bearskins, to paraphrase Mr. Spock. On the plus side, the VFD displays have the right glowing look, although a Nixie would have been pretty good there, too.
The videos don’t have much detail, but the blog posts do if you wanted to attempt something similar. Honestly, 1802 system design is pretty easy thanks to the its on-chip DMA that allows you to load memory from switches with no actual software like a monitor. The teletype started out life as a Remington #7 from around 1900, although another newer machine donated parts to get everything working. It is a testament to how well things were built then that it took as much abuse as it did and still has working parts.
We have a soft spot for the 1802 — it was a very good design for its time. We’ve even gone as far as to simulate it.
Continue reading “Queen Victoria’s Secret (Teletype And COSMAC Elf)”
It took nearly a year for [Chris Crocker-White] to assemble this glorious mahogany and brass Geiger counter, but we think you’ll agree with us that it was time well spent. From the servo-actuated counter to the Nixie tubes and LED faux-decatrons, this project is an absolute love letter to antiquated methods of displaying information. Although for good measure, the internal Raspberry Pi also pushes all the collected radiation data into the cloud.
[Chris] says the design of this radiation monitor was influenced by his interest in steampunk and personal experience working on actual steam engines, but more specifically, he also drew inspiration from a counter built by [Richard Mudhar].
Based on a design published in Maplin back in 1987, [Richard] included a physical counter and LED “dekatron” displays as an homage to a 1960s era counter he’d used back in his school days. [Chris] put a modern spin on the electronics and added the glowing display of real-time Counts Per Minute (CPM) as an extra bonus; because who doesn’t like some Nixies in their steampunk?
Internally, the pulses generated by a common Geiger counter board are picked up by some custom electronics to drive the servo and LEDs. Triggered by those same pulses, the Raspberry Pi 3A+ updates the Nixie display and pushes the data out to the cloud for analysis and graphing. Note that the J305β Geiger tube from the detector has been relocated to the outside of the machine, with two copper elbows used as connectors. This improves the sensitivity of the instrument, but perhaps even more importantly, looks awesome.
We’ve seen some very high-tech DIY radiation detection gear over the years, but these clever machines that add a bit of whimsy to the otherwise mildly terrifying process of ionizing radiation are always our favorite.
Continue reading “Steampunk Geiger Counter Is A Mix Of Art And Science”
We’ll be honest right up front: there’s nothing new in [David Cambridge]’s brushless motor and controller build. If you’re looking for earth-shattering innovation, you’d best look elsewhere. But if you enjoy an aimless use of just about every technique and material in the hacker’s toolkit employed with extreme craftsmanship, then this might be for you. And Nixies — he’s got Nixies in there too.
[David]’s build started out as a personal exploration of brushless motors and how they work. Some 3D-printed parts, a single coil of wire, and a magnetic reed switch resulted in a simple pulse motor that performed surprisingly well. This morphed into a six-coil motor with Hall-effect sensors and a homebrew controller. This is where [David] pulled out all the stops on tools — a lathe, a plasma cutter, a welder, a milling machine, and a nice selection of woodworking tools went into making parts for the final motor as well as an enclosure for the project. And because he hadn’t checked off quite all the boxes yet, [David] decided to use the 3D-printed frame as a pattern for casting one from aluminum.
The finished motor, with a redesigned rotor to deal better with eddy currents, joined the wood and metal enclosure along with a Nixie tube tachometer and etched brass control plates. It’s a great look for a project that’s clearly a labor of self-edification and skill-building, and we love it. We’ve seen other BLDC demonstrators before, but few that look as good as this one does.
Continue reading “Steampunk Brushless Motor Demo Pushes All The Maker Buttons”