Flashing TI Chips With An ESP

Texas Instruments is best known to the general public for building obsolete calculators and selling them at extraordinary prices to students, but they also build some interesting (and reasonably-priced) microcontrollers as well. While not as ubiquitous as Atmel and the Arduino platform, they can still be found in plenty of consumer electronics and reprogrammed, and [Aaron] aka [atc1441] demonstrates how to modify them with an ESP32 as an intermediary.

Specifically, the TI chips in this build revolve around the 8051-coreĀ  microcontrollers, which [Aaron] has found in small e-paper price tags and other RF hardware. He’s using an ESP32 to reprogram the TI chips, and leveraging a web server on the ESP in order to be able to re-flash them over WiFi. Some of the e-paper displays have built-in header pins which makes connecting them to the ESP fairly easy, and once that’s out of the way [Aaron] also provides an entire software library for interacting with these microcontrollers through the browser interface.

Right now the project supports the CC2430, CC2510 and CC1110 variants, but [Aaron] plans to add support for more in the future. It’s a fairly comprehensive build, and much better than buying the proprietary TI programmer, so if you have some of these e-paper displays laying around the barrier to entry has been dramatically lowered. If you don’t have this specific type of display laying around, we’ve seen similar teardowns and repurposing of other e-paper devices in the past as well.

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LED Painter

The people at Brilldea have come up with LED Painter, a 16-channel RGB LED controller capable of controlling up to 48 independent LEDs. It uses a Texas Instrument TLC5940 to control the LEDs and can be connected to more LED Painter boards, creating a large array of RGB lights. The TLC5940 itself has been modified to make connecting independent LEDs easier.

The team strung together nine of these along with a Propeller-based controller called a Prop Blade and fitted the lights into three windows with semi-opaque glass to create a display of dancing randomized RGB lights. If all the dancing lights have inspired you, the TLC5940s are fairly inexpensive, but you’ll need both through-hole devices and some SMT components to get if off the ground.

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TI-83 Intervalometer

The headline How to Make Time Lapse Video With Your DSLR didn’t really grab us. Honestly, you pay that much for a camera and it can’t do time lapse out of the box? Well, we nearly missed the real story: [Chris Martino] was using a TI-83 to act as the intervalometer for the camera. The calculator has a 2.5mm audio jack for it’s data port and the camera has an identical port for the shutter trigger. The TI-83 runs a program with a FOR loop to act as the timer. When the loop completes it sends data to the port, and the voltage triggers the shutter. The rate isn’t very exact and varies depending on the charge left in the batteries. [Chris] estimated 10000 program iterations ends up being about 26 seconds between pictures. This technique has been tested on 84, 86, and 89 series calculators too. There are a couple example time lapse videos embedded after the break.

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