A 1960s Copal flip clock

Classic 1960s Flip Clock Gets NTP Makeover

Many of the clocks we feature here on Hackaday are entirely built from scratch, or perhaps reuse an unusual display type. But sometimes, an old clock is just perfect as it is, and only needs a bit of an upgrade to help it fit into the modern world. One such example is the lovely 1960s Copal flip clock (in German, Google Translate link) that [Wolfgang Jung] has been working with — he managed to bring it squarely into the 21st century without changing its appearance one bit.

Like most flip clocks from the 60s and 70s, the Copal clock uses a small synchronous AC motor to advance the digits. Because this motor runs in step with the mains frequency, it also acts as the clock’s timing reference. However the original motor had died, and a direct replacement was impossible to find. So [Wolfgang] decided to replace it with a modern stepper motor. He designed a small PCB that fit the original housing, on which he placed a Trinamic TMC2225 stepper motor driver, a Wemos D1 Mini and a small 5 V power supply.

A flip clock mechanism with a PCB attached to itThanks to its WiFi connection, the D1 can find out the correct time by contacting a Network Time Protocol (NTP) server. Displaying that time would be tricky with the original hardware though, because there is no indication of which numbers are displayed at any time. [Wolfgang] cleverly solved this problem by placing an IR proximity sensor near the lowest digit, allowing the D1 to count the number of digits that have flipped over and thereby deduce the current state of the display.

There’s plenty of fun to be had with classic flip clocks like this, and with a bit of hacking any old split-flap display should be usable for your own clock project. If none are available at your local thrift store or yard sales, you can always roll your own.

A thermostat unit and a replacement PCB for it

Custom Thermostat PCB Connects Boiler To Home Assistant

Thanks to Home Assistant, automating the various systems that run your home is easier than ever. But you still need to make a connection between those systems and your Home Assistant setup, which can be tricky if the manufacturer didn’t have this use case in mind. When [Simon] wanted to automate his home heating system, he discovered that most Home Assistant-enabled thermostats that he could find didn’t support his two separate heating zones connected to a single boiler. The easiest solution turned out to be to design his own.

The original heating system consisted of two control boxes that each had a 230 V mains connection coming in and a “request heat” control line going to the boiler. [Simon] considered replacing these with a simple off-the-shelf ESP8266 relay board and a 12 V power supply, but figured this would look messy and take up quite a bit of space. So he bought a neat DIN-rail mounted enclosure instead, and designed a custom PCB to fit inside it.

A Home Assistant screen showing two thermostatsThe PCB holds a Wemos D1 Mini connected to two relays that switch the two heating circuits. The D1 runs ESPhome and needs just a few lines of configuration to connect it to [Simon]’s home network. There’s no separate power supply — the 230 V line is connected directly to a 12 V DC power module mounted on the PCB, so the new system is plug-and-play compatible with the old.

Complete PCB design files are available on [Simon]’s website and GitHub page. There are several other ways to make custom thermostats for your home, with an Arduino for example. If you’re interested in repairing your own heating system, or want to optimize it even further, there’s a whole community out there to help you.

Fritzing diagram of connections between the Wemos D1 board, the TP4056 board, the pushbutton and the LiIon battery

Battery-Powered ESP8266 Sensor? Never Been Simpler

Say, you’re starting your electronics journey with a few projects in mind. You have an ESP8266 board like the Wemos D1, a Li-Ion battery, you want to build a small battery-powered sensor that wakes up every few minutes to do something, and you don’t want to delve into hardware too much for now. Well then, does [Mads Chr. Olesen] have a tutorial for you! Here, you’ll learn the quick and easy way to get your sensor up and running, learn a few tricks for doing sleep Arduino environment, and even calculate how long your specific battery could last. Continue reading “Battery-Powered ESP8266 Sensor? Never Been Simpler”

A wristwatch similar to the Berlin Uhr, with the actual Berlin Urh in the background

Tiny Berlin Clock Replica Also Counts Seconds

If you’re a clock aficionado and have ever visited Berlin, you’re probably familiar with the Berlin Clock on Budapester Straße: a minimalist design of yellow and orange lights that displays the time in a base-5 number system. This clock has been telling the time to the few that can read it since 1975, and is but one of several unusual clocks that can be found in the city.

Berlin resident [jjoeff] decided to make a miniature replica, appropriately called the Berlin Uhr Nano, in order to watch the unusual display at any time of day. Built around a Wemos D1 Mini, it connects to WiFi in order to synchronize its internal clock to an NTP time server. It then drives a custom PCB that holds 39 WS2812 LEDs to display the time in its proper format. Unlike the original though, it also includes a full counter to tell the number of seconds; the bigger clock just flashes a single lamp to show the seconds passing.

Powered by a 500 mAh lithium battery, it can be converted into a wristwatch by simply threading a strap through slots in the PCB. With no buttons for adjustment or any functionality other than displaying the time, it serves the same purpose as the original, just in a portable format. We’ve seen a slightly larger Berlin Clock replica made of wood before, as well as a round one that uses the same base-5 encoding scheme. Continue reading “Tiny Berlin Clock Replica Also Counts Seconds”

PS/2 wireless dongle

The Wireless PS/2 Keyboard That Never Was

The PS/2-style port was once about as ubiquitous on PCs as USB connectors are today, and more than a few of us accumulated a fair collection of keyboards and mice that sported the 6-pin mini-DIN plug. They’re not nearly as common today, but when you need one, you need one, so if your stockpile of PS/2 keyboards has dwindled to nothing, you might want to look at rolling your own PS/2 remote keyboard dongle.

That backstory on [Remy Sharp]’s build starts with his acquisition of a neptUNO, a 160€ FPGA retrocomputer that gives you access to just about every Z80 and 6502 computer of yesteryear. While the box supports USB keyboards, [Remy] had trouble getting one to work. So out came a Wemos D1 Mini, which was wired up to a stub of PS/2 cable. The microcontroller is powered by the PS/2 port, and connects to the WiFi network on boot-up and starts a WebSocket server. It also served up a page of HTML, which lets him connect with any device and send keystrokes to the neptUNO. He also added a couple of hardware buttons to the dongle, to access menus on the neptUNO directly. The video below shows it in action.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, [Remy] says he took inspiration for this build from [Ben Eater]’s excellent PS/2 deep dive. We’d like to think he saw that here first, but either way, it’s a valuable reference on how keyboards used to work.

Continue reading “The Wireless PS/2 Keyboard That Never Was”

Enjoy An ASCII Version Of Star Wars In The Palm Of Your Hand For May The 4th

Everyone by now has probably seen the original — and best; fight us — installment of the Star Wars franchise, and likely the ASCII-art animation version of it that improves greatly on the film by eliminating all those distracting special effects, human actors, and the soundtrack. But what we haven’t had until now is a portable player for ASCIIWars, to enjoy the film in all its character-based glory while you’re on the go.

While this tribute to [Simon Jansen]’s amazing ASCII-art achievement might seem like a simple repackaging of the original, [Frank] actually had to go to some lengths to make this work. After getting [Simon]’s blessing, the build started with a WEMOS D1 Mini, a good platform for the project less for its wireless capabilities and more for its 4 MB of flash memory. A 240×360 TFT LCD display was selected to show the film; the scale of the display made most fonts hard to read, so [Frank] used Picopixel, a font designed for legibility on small screens. The animation file is stored on the SPIFFS file system on the D1’s flash memory, and a few lines of code parse it and send it to the display. The final touch is mounting the whole thing is an old slide viewer, which magnifies the display to make it a little easier to see.

As much as we applaud [Frank]’s tribute to [Simon]’s effort, there’s no reason to confine this to the Star Wars universe. If you read up on the history of ASCII art, which goes surprisingly far back, you might be inspired to render another classic film in ASCIImation and put it on a viewer like this. ASCII-Metropolis, anyone?

Continue reading “Enjoy An ASCII Version Of Star Wars In The Palm Of Your Hand For May The 4th”

A Not-So-Alarming Clock

By and large, alarm clocks (including phones that double as alarm clocks) are annoyingly alarming. If it’s not the light or the sound, it’s both. Yes, we know that’s the point of an alarm clock, but sometimes life presents opportunities to check the time and/or the weather and sleep in a little bit longer based on the result. We don’t know about you, but loud noises and eye-blasting light are not conducive to getting back to sleep, especially if you’re a light sleeper.

In [Stavros Korokithakis]’ case, if it’s a tennis practice morning but it’s raining, then it’s no longer a tennis practice morning and he can go back to sleep for a while. A phone seems perfect for this, but the problem is that it provides too much information: the phone can’t check the weather without the internet, and once it has internet access, a bunch of eye-opening notifications come flooding in.

[Stavros] had a long list of must-haves when it came to building the ultimate alarm clock, and we can totally get behind that. He needed something smarter than the average off-the-shelf clock radio, but nothing too smart. Enter the ESP8266. As long as it has an internet connection, it can fetch the time and the weather, which is really all that [Stavros] needs. It gets the current temperature, wind speed, and forecast for the next two hours with the OpenWeather API, and this information is converted to icons that are easy to read at a sleepy, one-eyed glance at the OLED.

Adaptive brightness was high on the list of must-haves, which [Stavros] solved by adding a photoresistor to judge the ambient light and adjust the OLED screen brightness appropriately. And he really did think of everything — the octagonal shape allows for the perfect angle for reading from bed. There’s just one problem — it can’t accept input, so it doesn’t actually function as an alarm clock. But it makes a damn good bedside clock if you ask us.

If you really want to start the morning right, use a winch to yank the covers off of you.

Via Adafruit