Image of the presenter on the podium, in front of the projector screen with graphs shown on it

Supercon 2022: [Alex Whittemore] On Treating Your Sensor Data Well

If you build your own devices or hack on devices that someone else has built, you know the feeling of opening a serial terminal and seeing a stream of sensor data coming from your device. However, looking at scrolling numbers gets old fast, and you will soon want to visualize them and store them – which is why experienced makers tend to have a few graph-drawing and data-collecting tools handy, ready to be plugged in and launched at a moment’s notice. Well, if you don’t yet have such a tool in your arsenal, listen to this 16-minute talk by [Alex Whittemore] to learn about a whole bunch of options you might not even know you had!

For a start, there’s the Arduino Serial Plotter that you get for free with your Arduino IDE install, but [Alex] also reminds us of the Mu editor’s serial plotter – about the same in terms of features, but indisputably an upgrade in terms of UX. It’s not the only plotter in town, either – Better Serial Plotter is a wonderful standalone option, with a few features that supercharge it, as [Alex] demonstrates! You don’t have to stop here, however – we can’t always be tethered to our devices’ debugging ports, after all. Continue reading “Supercon 2022: [Alex Whittemore] On Treating Your Sensor Data Well”

Testing the World's Thinnest Boombox with a modular setup containing the basic components.

Supercon 2022: Joe Grand And The Thinnest Boombox

Boomboxes are one of those status symbols that define the 1980s and part of the 1990s, being both a miracle of integration and the best way to share your love of music with as many people as possible. Naturally, this led Joe Grand to figure that it would make it a perfect subject for a modern take on such an iconic device. The primary inspiration for this came from a piezo speaker developed by TDK called the ‘PiezoListen’. These are piezo devices that can be less than a millimeter thick, while still claiming to reproduce a broad range of audio frequencies.

Just having these speakers is only part of the solution, of course, which led Joe down the rabbithole of not only figuring out the components that should go into the system, but also how to get it all on a single PCB and see how far one can push different solder mask colors with an appropriately boombox-like design. At its core is a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W that runs Mopidy, to provide music server functionality. Also added are some RGB lighting and touch controls.

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Supercon 2022: Nick Poole Makes A Jolly Wrencher Tube

[Nick Poole] shared his circuitous journey into the obscure world of homemade vacuum tubes on the Supercon 2022 stage. It began innocently enough when he saw [Usagi Electric]’s single bit computer vacuum tube computer, which uses dozens of vacuum tubes. He got to wondering, could you make vacuum-tube-like devices containing multiple elements? There are some examples, like the 256-bit memory Selectron tube¬†from the 1950’s, but nothing general purpose like a 555 timer or quad NAND gate packages. Unencumbered by a deep understanding of how vacuum tubes work, [Nick] proceeds to fill this void by imagining Integrated Thermionic, a fictitious company that exists in an alternate history where transistors were not invented and the vacuum tube reigns supreme. He also showcases a variety of innovative products that Integrated Thermionics manufactured over the decades, including surface mount tubes.

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Supercon 2022: Chris Combs Reveals His Art-World Compatibility Layer

[Chris Combs] is a full time artist who loves using technology to create unique art projects and has been building blinky artwork since about a decade now. In his 2022 Supercon talk “Art-World Compatibility Layer: How to Hang and Sell Your Blinky Goodness as Art” (Slides, PDF), [Chris] takes us behind the scenes and shows us how to turn our blinky doodads in to coveted art works. There is a big difference between a project that just works, and a work of art, and it’s the attention to small details that differentiates the two.

Just like the field of engineering and technology, the art world has its own jargon and requires knowledge of essential skills that make it intimidating to newcomers. It’s not very easy to define what makes an artwork “art” or even “Art”, and sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish if you are looking at a child’s scrawls or a master’s brushstrokes. But there are a few distinguishing requirements that a piece of artwork, particularly one revolving around the use of technology, must meet.

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Supercon 2022: Tap Your Rich Uncle To Fund Your Amateur Radio Dreams

Imagine you had a rich uncle who wanted to fund some of your projects. Like, seriously rich — thanks to shrewd investments, he’s sitting on a pile of cash and is now legally obligated to give away $5,000,000 a year to deserving recipients. That would be pretty cool indeed, but like anything else, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, right?

Well, maybe not. It turns out that we in the amateur radio community — and even amateur radio adjacent fields — have a rich uncle named Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC), a foundation with a large endowment and a broad mission to “support amateur radio, funds scholarships and worthy educational programs, and financially support technically innovative amateur radio and digital communications projects.” As the foundation’s Outreach Manager John Hayes (K7EV) explained at Supercon 2022, ARDC is a California-based 501(c)3 non-profit organization that has been in the business of giving away money to worthy projects in the amateur radio space since 2021.

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