For many people, a retrocomputer is a classic machine from the past lovingly brought back to working order. But for some, the idea of a retrocomputer is wider than that, encompassing modern hardware that delivers to feel like a device from the past.
The Monotron from [Jonathan Pallant] is one such computer. It’s definitely a retrocomputer such as you might have found in the 1980s, but it’s running on a much more modern Tiva-C TI Launchpad dev board sporting an ARM Cortex M4.
The platform has been created entirely in Rust, and emulates what would have been a rather desirable machine in the early 1980s. With an 800×600 pixel 8-colour VGA display interface, 32k of RAM, and mono 8-bit audio, it already has a few simple demos and games running upon it. [Jonathan Pallant] has given more than one talk on its design and capabilities, we’ve placed one of them as a video below the break. There is even a PCB available which adds all the ports as well as a micro SD card slot for program storage.
We like the Monotron, and we look forward to seeing it develop. It’s an exciting time for retrocomputig with projects such as the RC2014 Z80 machine and the Gigatron TTL RISC processor, but is there space for an emulated one such as this? We hope so.
Continue reading “The Monotron, A Rusty Retrocomputer”
In 2019, it’s possible to kit out a lab with all the essentials at an even cheaper price than it has ever been. The DPS3005 is one such example of low-cost equipment – a variable power supply available for less than $50 with a good set of features. [Markel Robregado] wanted a little more functionality, however, and got down to work.
The crux of [Markel]’s project is improved connectivity. A Texas Instruments CC2640R2F Launchpad is employed to run the show, with its Bluetooth Low Energy capability coming in handy. A custom smartphone app communicates with the Launchpad, which then communicates with the power supply over its Serial Modbus interface. Through the app, [Markel] can set the voltage and current limit on the power supply, as well as switch it on and off. This could prove useful, particularly for remote triggering in the case of working with dangerous projects. Sometimes it pays to take cover, after all.
We’ve seen power supplies modified before; this pot mod for higher precision is a particular treat. If you’ve hacked your bench hardware for better performance, let us know. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Adding Bluetooth Control To A Benchtop Power Supply”
The king of machine tools is the lathe, and if the king has a heart, it’s probably the leadscrew. That’s the bit that allows threading operations, arguably the most important job a lathe can tackle. It’s a simple concept, really – the leadscrew is mechanically linked through gears to the spindle so that the cutting tool moves along the long axis of the workpiece as it rotates, allowing it to cut threads of the desired pitch.
But what’s simple in concept can be complicated in reality. As [Clough42] points out, most lathes couple the lead screw to the spindle drive through a complex series of gears that need to be swapped in and out to accommodate different thread pitches, and makes going from imperial to metric a whole ball of wax by itself. So he set about building an electronic leadscrew for his lathe. The idea is to forgo the gear train and drive the leadscrew directly with a high-quality stepper motor. That sounds easy enough, but bear in mind that the translation of the tool needs to be perfectly synchronized with the rotation of the spindle to make threading possible. That will be accomplished with an industrial-grade quadrature encoder coupled to the spindle, which will tell software running on a TI LaunchPad how fast to turn the stepper – and in which direction, to control thread handedness. The video below has some great detail on real-time operating systems on microcontrollers as well as tests on all the hardware to be used.
This is only a proof of concept at this point, but we’re looking forward to the rest of this series. In the meantime, [Quinn Dunki]’s excellent series on choosing a lathe should keep you going.
Continue reading “Benchtop Lathe Gets An Electronic Leadscrew Makeover”
“Where’s the any key?” Well, it’s right here. After running into trouble with the STM platform, [lukasz.iwaszkiewicz] went with the Texas Instrument C Series Launchpad to construct his “Any Key” HID device. He was able to make use of the TI TM4C123G LaunchPad’s extensive USB library which is laid out into four tiers – the very top tier being Device Class API. This gives the programmer the ability to implement simple devices with just a few lines of code. [lukasz.iwaszkiewicz] points out that ST does not have this option available.
The Any Key uses a host PC program that allows the user to enter keystrokes into a virtual keyboard. This information is then passed to the Any Key device. When it is pressed, it will push the recorded keystrokes back to the host PC. Simple, but effective!
The project is completely open source, and all files and code are available. Be sure to check out the video after the break demonstrating the Any Key in action.
Continue reading “Finally, Someone Has Found The Any Key”
Because Nixies, Decatrons, and VFD tubes really are that cool, [cubeberg] over on the 43oh forums designed an IV-18 clock for the TI Launchpad.
Like adafruit’s Ice Tube clock, [cubeberg]’s project uses a surplus Russian IV-18 VFD tube conveniently sourced on eBay. On the board, there are three buttons for changing the time and setting the alarm along with a MAX6921 VFD tube driver and a small switching regulator to boost the 5 Volts on the Launchpad to the 50 V the tube requires.
There was a little bit of space left on [cubeberg]’s PCB design, and he filled that space with a header for a buzzer and a temperature sensor. Right now, the code doesn’t support an alarm function and he’s still waiting on a few components to finish off the thermometer portion of the board, but it’s still the makings of a very nice clock.
If you’d like to grab your own Launchpad ice tube clock, [bluehash] is organizing a group buy for 430h forum members. If they can get 15 pieces built, the clock will cost less than $5/unit. Very cool, and very cheap when you consider TI is practically giving Launchpads away.
Last month, [Vinod] bought a pair of hobby servos on a whim. These servos sat on the shelf for a while until [Vinod] asked his friend what he should use them for. [Achu] suggested using the servos for a walking robot, so after checking out a few YouTube videos of some servo-powered walkers, [Vinod] built his own.
The robot is built around a TI Launchpad housing an MSP430 microcontroller. An extremely simple circuit (just some servos and a cap) power the robot along by alternating the direction the servos turn.
[Vinod]’s two-servo locomotion mechanism is very reminiscent of BEAM robots, extremely simple walking (or rolling) robots made out of just a few logic circuits. This TI Launchpad is in some ways even simpler; where [Mark Tilden]’s Walkman robot used several 74-series octal buffers, [Vinod]’s project is just a Lanuchpad and a pair of servos.
All the code is available on [Vinod]’s blog. Check out the demo video after the break.
Continue reading “Two Motor Walking Robot With A TI Launchpad”
There are many microcontrollers available to make robots with, but few that are built with the exact features that you would need to construct one. Meet the [EMGRobotics MSP430G2553] robot controller board.
At $15 without the CPU or $17 with a [MSP430G2553] already plugged into the socket, this control board may make some Arduino enthusiasts take note for their next project. Besides a very attractive price (you’ll have to go to the home page to make a purchase), this board ships with a built in IR range sensor and accommodations to drive up to four hobby servo motors. If this isn’t enough for you, two 3 volt DC motors can be soldered directly to connections on the board and controlled independently and in either direction. In other words you don’t have to muck about with trying to build your own H-bridge circuit, it’s all taken care of for you!
The article shows it controlling a Hexbug spider. [EMGRobotics] has actually done something similar (and well-documented) before with this platform, so be sure to check out the post about hacking the Hexbug iteslf!