Framed PONG Is Picture Perfect

How cool would it have been if arcade cabinets had acrylic panels all along that let you gaze upon the field of TTL chips within? When [Jürgen Müller] scored the innards of an original 1972 PONG machine, that’s exactly what the plan was: build a suitable cabinet that re-imagines PONG as a sleek and stunning work of art.

Instead of trying to cram a CRT in that nice mahogany cabinet, [Jürgen] opted to use an 8″ TFT screen. But get this: [Jürgen] built a Spartan 6 FPGA-based upscaler to adds the scan lines, blur, and afterglow that make it look like the classic PONG experience.

[Jürgen] also built an interface board that amplifies the sound, splits the video out into sync and brightness for the upscaler, and provides 5 V to the PONG circuit board. [Jürgen] decided to circumvent the board’s native voltage regulator in the name of keeping things cool.

[Jürgen] says the project’s web page is in a preliminary stage right now with more information to come. We sure hope that includes a video of it in action. For now, you can check out the files for the interface PCB, the FPGA board, and a list of the fonts.

Should you ever get tired of classic PONG, try playing it in one dimension.

Thanks for the tip, [Anonymous].

Eyesight Guardian Polices Your Poor Pupils

Don’t know about you, but over the last year or so, we have gone from spending ten or twelve hours a day at this computer to upwards of sixteen or eighteen. Fortunately there’s a window behind the monitor for taking those 20/20/20 breaks that are supposed to prevent eye strain, but it’s so hard to remember (and boring) to do it. And nobody needs yet another thing to remember in the name of self-care.

[Daniel Hingston] certainly agrees. As you’ll see in the delightful video after the break, [Daniel] has made a game out of the whole process of stopping every twenty minutes to spend twenty seconds looking at a point that’s at least twenty feet away. Once the break is over, [Daniel] uses the dual-purpose start button to acknowledge having looked away for 20 seconds. The device is meant to clip onto the corner of any monitor, and [Daniel] has provided several sizes of the bridge piece so that everyone can find their fit.

The Guardian’s guts are pretty simple — an Arduino Pro Mini runs the stop watch and a TFT display to show the graphics that live on an SD card. This is a great way to preserve your eyesight by gamifying something we all know we should be doing. It might be nice to add a break timer that counts up to 25 or thereabouts so you have time to stand up and come back. If you press the button too soon, it scolds you and you have to start your eye break over.

Need some more self-care lately? Our own [Jenny List] has your back in these interesting times.

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Multi-Channel Battery Monitor Aces First Sea Trial

A little over a a year ago, we covered an impressive battery monitor that [Timo Birnschein] was designing for his boat. With dedicated batteries for starting the engines, cranking over the generator, and providing power to lights and other amenities, the device had to keep tabs on several banks of cells to make sure no onboard systems were dipping into the danger zone. While it was still a work in progress, it seemed things were progressing along quickly.

But we know how it is. Sometimes a project unexpectedly goes from having your full attention to winning an all-expense-paid trip to the back burner. In this case, [Timo] only recently put the necessary finishing touches on his monitor and got it installed on the boat. Recent log entries on the project’s Hackaday.io page detail some of the changes made since the last time we checked in, and describe the successful first test of the system on the water.

Certainly the biggest issue that was preventing [Timo] from actually using the monitor previously was the lack of an enclosure and mounting system for it. He’s now addressed those points with his 3D printer, and in the write-up provides a few tips on shipboard ergonomics when it comes to mounting a display you’ll need to see from different angles.

The printed enclosure also allowed for the addition of some niceties like an integrated 7805 voltage regulator to provide a solid 5 V to the electronics, as well as a loud piezo beeper that will alert him to problems even when he can’t see the screen.

Under the hood he’s also made some notable software improvements. With the help of a newer and faster TFT display library, he’s created a more modern user interface complete with a color coded rolling graph to show voltages changes over time. There’s still a good chunk of screen real estate available, so he’s currently brainstorming other visualizations or functions to implement. The software isn’t using the onboard NRF24 radio yet, though with code space quickly running out on the Arduino Nano, there’s some concern about getting it implemented.

As we said the first time we covered this project, you don’t need to have a boat to learn a little something from the work [Timo] has put into his monitoring system. Whether you’re tracking battery voltages or temperatures reported by your BLE thermometers, a centralized dashboard that can collect and visualize that data is a handy thing to have.

TTGO ESP32 Module With Multiple Personalities

Volos Projects educator [Danko Bertović] had a TTGO ESP32 board looking for a project, so he implemented a surprisingly functional weather station for such a small screen. Presumably that was too boring for him, so he decided to write a version of the classic Atari game Breakout instead. [Danko] prefers using the Arduino IDE for ESP32 projects, and has made the Breakout software available as an Arduino sketch. We hope the weather station sketch will be released soon, too. The TTGO is a small ESP32 board with an ST7789V 1.14 in (29 mm) TFT color display, available from your favorite Shenzhen market supplier. This platform is perfect for all kinds of niche applications. We’d love to hear how you are using, or plan to use, these modules in your projects.

We wrote about one such project last summer, where a similar TTGO module was used to display 50-year broadcast delayed transcripts of the Apollo 11 mission. [Danko] is no stranger to Hackaday — he has made several Arduino-based calculator projects.  Perhaps the most remarkable being the circuit sculpture binary number calculator from last year, another project that morphed into a computer game (Pong).

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Simple Sprite Routines Ease Handheld Gaming DIY

Making your own handheld games is made much easier with [David Johnson-Davies’] simple sprite routines for the Adafruit PyBadge and PyGamer boards. Sprites can be thought of as small, fixed-size graphical objects that are drawn, erased, moved, and checked for collision with other screen elements.

xorSprite() plots an 8×8 sprite, moveSprite() moves a given sprite by one pixel without any flicker, and hitSprite() checks a sprite for collision with any screen elements in a given color. That is all it takes to implement a simple game, and [David] makes them easy to use, even providing a demo program in the form of the rolling ball maze shown here.

These routines work out-of-the-box with the PyBadge and PyGamer, but should be easy to adapt to any TFT display based on the ST7735 controller. The PyGamer is the board shown here, but you can see the PyBadge as it was used to create an MQTT-enabled conference badge.

If you really want to take a trip down the rabbit hole of sprite-based gaming graphics, you simply can’t miss hearing about the system [Sprite_TM] built into the FPGA Game Boy badge.

Five Channel Monitor Keeps Boat Batteries Shipshape

While those of us stuck sailing desks might not be able to truly appreciate the problem, [Timo Birnschein] was tired of finding that some of the batteries aboard his boat had gone flat. He wanted some way to check the voltage on all of the the batteries in the system simultaneously and display the information in a central location, and not liking anything on the commercial market he decided to build it himself.

Even for those who don’t hear the call of the sea, this is a potentially useful project. Any system that has multiple batteries could benefit from a central monitor that can show you voltages at a glance, but [Timo] is actually going one better than that. With the addition of a nRF24 module, the battery monitor will also be able to wireless transmit the status of the batteries to…something. He actually hasn’t implemented that feature yet, but some way of getting the data into the computer so it can be graphed over time seems like a natural application.

The bill of materials is pretty short on this one. Beyond the aforementioned nRF24 module, the current version of the monitor features an Arduino Nano clone, a 128×160 SPI TFT display, and a handful of passives.

Knowing that a perfboard wouldn’t last long on the high seas, [Timo] even routed his own PCB for this project. We suspect there’s some kind of watertight enclosure in this board’s future, but it looks like things are still in the early phases. It will be interesting to follow along with this one and see how it eventually gets integrated in to the boat’s electrical system.

If you’re looking for a way to keep an eye on the voltages aboard your land ship, this battery monitor disguised as an automotive relay is still the high-water mark in our book.

Jigsaw puzzle with timer

Your Puzzle’s Done When The Electronics Says So

We can race against the clock when assembling jigsaw puzzles online but what about competing against each other in the real world? [HomeMadeGarbage] came up with the simplest of solutions with his jigsaw puzzle timer that stops only when the puzzle’s completely assembled.

Copper strip on back of puzzle
Copper strip on back of puzzle

His simple solution was to attach copper foil tape to the back of the pieces, with overlap. He did this in a serpentine pattern to ensure that all pieces had a strip of the tape. The puzzle he used comes with a special container to assemble it in. At two corners of that container, he put two more pieces of copper foil, to which he soldered wires. Those two act as a switch. Only when the puzzle is completed will those two pieces be connected through the serpentine strip on the back of the puzzle.

Next, he needed a timer. The two wires from the puzzle container go to an Arduino UNO which uses an ILI9325 touch panel TFT display for both the start, stop, and reset buttons, and to show the time elapsed. Press the touch screen when it says START and begin assembling the puzzle. When the last piece is inserted, the serpentine strip of copper tape completes the circuit and only then does the Arduino program stop the timer. As you can see from the video below, the result makes doing the puzzle lots of fun.

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