Public transit seats have a rough life. Enduring a number of wear cycles that would make your sofa weep, they take a beating and have to keep looking presentable. When trains and buses are retired, where do the old seats go? A team from the MIT Hobby Shop investigated what was happening to the seats from retiring MBTA Red Line cars and recycled them into stylish chairs.
After some sleuthing and many emails, the MBTA relinquished a number of old subway seats to the team. Since the subway seats didn’t have legs, wood from old church pews was used to create bases. It took one pew end support to create each set of legs, which were cut out on a bandsaw. The old dark stain was sanded off, and the bases were finished with three coats of gel topcoat, letting the natural beauty of the old oak shine through.
We love seeing old things given new life here at Hackaday. If you want to see some more recycled furniture, check out this tire table, this upcycled jeans chair, or these best practices for making box forts.
Subways! They’ve been around for an awfully long time; almost as long as modern railways themselves, believe it or not. Building underground was undertaken in earnest by those in the 19th century, who set out to build networks of stations to allow residents to get around a city quickly and effectively.
That fact should stick in your mind as you sample this glorious retro video from 1992. “L.A. Underground – Safety in the Extreme” is a guide for Californians, aiming to educate residents about the new B Line subway that opened the following year. The video acts as if the subway is a new fangled, mysterious thing, with a couple of confusing off-the-wall moments as well. If you’re a transport enthusiast or get excited about weird public films, this one’s for you.
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: LA’s Hilarious Subway Safety Film From 1992”
Wrapping up a multi-year project to provide free WiFi on all public transportation, South Korea’s Ministry of Science and Information and Communications Technology (MSIT) announced that a total of 35,006 buses had been equipped nationwide.
Previously, subscriber-based WiFi had been installed on subways and in subway stations. It was provided privately by two phone carriers and free only for their subscribers. The coverage was spotty and slow, and in 2017 the government took over and implemented a better system. With this announcement, the whole public transportation system is now covered with stable and free WiFi.
We also noticed that the government has released the details of the 220,000 WiFi access points to the public. This includes the location, IP address, and RSSI data for use by people and companies wanting to develop location-based services. What is the state of free WiFi access points in your region, and does it extend to public transportation? Do you find it reliable, or do you use your data plan when out and about?
Old-school rail monitoring systems had amazing displays of stations and tracks covered in flashing lights that tracked the progress of trains along a route. While it’s unlikely you’ll fit such big iron from the mid-20th century in your home, you can get a similar aesthetic with [Kothe’s] interactive subway information display.
The display relies on an Arduino Mega 2560 Pro Mini as the brains of the operation. It drives strings of WS2812B LEDs which correspond to stations along the various metro lines in the area. Additionally, the microcontroller drives a 4.3″ Nextion LCD display. The Nextion displays have the benefit of acting as a self-contained human machine interface, running their own controller on board. This means the Arduino doesn’t have to spend cycles driving the display, and the Nextion hardware comes with a useful software package for quickly and easily designing GUI interfaces. For further feedback, a DFPlayer MP3 module is used to allow the system to playback prerecorded voice samples that provide information on the rail system. The attractive front panel is made with lasercut acrylic and a color printed acetate sheet.
It’s a build that bears striking similarity to real rail information systems fielded by railways around the world. We can imagine such a device being particularly useful in a backpacker’s hostel or university dorm to help those new to town find their way around. If you prefer a more stripped-back aesthetic, we’ve seen a barebones PCB build done as well. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Interactive Subway Map Talks You Through The Route”
If you’re a frequent traveler on a public transit system, it can be helpful to know when the trains or buses are arriving and if there are any delays. We might reach for a tablet to mount on the wall, but that relies on keeping the OS, the software, and its library dependancies up to date. For true reliability you’ll need to build directly in hardware, which is exactly what this map of the London tube system uses.
The base map is printed directly on PCB, with LEDs along each of the major routes to indicate the current location of the trains. A few small chips handle the WiFi connection — it appears to our eye to be an ESP8266 — and pulling the information about the trains from the London Underground API (it would be virtually impossible to build everything for this project in hardware). The hardware can be easily reprogrammed, and with the PCB layout this could be adapted for other public transit fairly easily.
Even apart from the philosophical differences on design between hardware and software approaches, we still appreciate the aesthetic of LEDs on PCB. In fact, we’ve seen a whole host of artwork on PCBs ever since the price came down dramatically in the past two decades.
Thanks to [Al] for the tip!
One problem with building things using state-of-the-art techniques is that sometimes those that look like they will be “the next big thing” turn out to be dead ends. Next thing you know, that hot new part or piece of software is hard to get or unmaintained. This is especially true if you are building something with a long life span. A case in point is the New York City subway system. Back in the 1990s the transit authority decided to adopt IBM’s new OS/2 operating system. Why not? It was robust and we used to always say “no one ever got fired for buying IBM.”
There was one problem. OS/2 was completely eclipsed by other operating systems, notably Windows and — mostly — has sunk from the public view. [Andrew Egan’s] post covers just how the conversion to a card-based system pushed OS/2 underground all over the Big Apple, and it is an interesting read.
Continue reading “The OS/2 Operating System Didn’t Die… It Went Underground”
Thursday was my final day in Shanghai. After spending all of Wednesday at Electronica Asia, I headed over to the Espressif Headquarters which is just one subway stop away. This is of course the company behind the well-known ESP8266 and its younger sibling, the ESP32. My host was Ivan Grotkothov, Director of Software Platforms. The backstory on how he found his way to the company is truly interesting, as are the stories he shared on some of the legend and lore surrounding the WiFi capable chips the company makes — and the new one whose existence just leaked out this week.
Join me below for that and few other fun things from my last day in this city of 26 million people.
Continue reading “Hacker Abroad: Visiting Espressif And Surprising Subway Ads”