I am a bicycle snob. I'm at a point where beauty and function generally win out over comfort or financial considerations. This is where non-cyclists start to get really confused. Deep down, riding a bike is about sacrifice, and that's not a popular starting point for most people. There's usually a faster way to get where you need, or a drier one, or one that causes a bit less hardship and pain. But the combination of physical challenge and childlike entertainment makes a bicycle a special thing, and this leads to a cascading series of strange decisions. Eventually, you end up riding around on tires that are too skinny, with bars that are too low and a saddle that is too hard. Read the rest “A bicycle snob takes on an e-bike”
Vegemite has enough salt to be conductive, and is viscous enough to draw distinct traces with on suitable medium (say, toast that has been cooked such that most of the water has evaporated, making it a good insulator), as Luke Weston has ably demonstrated. Read the rest “Literal breadboarding, with toast and Vegemite”
Boing Boing pal and maker superhero Mitch Altman, creator of the amazing TV-B-Gone, spent several years designing a simple-yet-powerful DIY music synthesizer that he could use to teach creative electronics and also digital signal processing to kids and adults. The result is the ArduTouch Music Synthesizer! And it's only $30! Demo videos below. Mitch wrote about the method behind his maker madness in IEEE Spectrum. From his essay:
Read the rest “TV-B-Gone inventor Mitch Altman's rad new $30 DIY Music Synthesizer!”
As a kid with a lust for music, I was rocked by the Moog synthesizer sounds of 1968’s Switched-On Bach. I needed to learn how to make those sounds! Thus began a lifetime of learning and synthesizer making while I made my way in the tech industry, where I ultimately created the TV-B-Gone, a gadget that lets you turn off almost any model of remote-controlled television. Since the popular success of the TV-B-Gone, I’ve created many fun, open-source, hackable hardware kits for the maker workshops I give around the world. In these workshops, newbies learn to solder, tinkering their way into electronics and microcontrollers. Remembering my own youth, I wanted to provide them with a kit that was simple to assemble [PDF] and use but still a fully fledged music synthesizer.
The result was the US $30 ArduTouch. This project incorporates, on a single board, a touch keyboard, an ATMega328P (the same processor used in the Arduino Uno), and an audio amp with a speaker. It also has a software library that can serve as an entry point into the world of digital signal processing.
At the big Apple Event today in Cupertino, a new iPhone was revealed. Here are official photos we received from Apple, for a closer look. Read the rest “Apple iPhone XR: A Closer First Look [PHOTOS]”
Running a retroarcade sounds like a lot of fun, and the same games that used to get the kids pumping quarters then are still the most popular. Which means that 32-year old OutRun cabinets tend to break down often.
Out Run is a favorite at the arcade to say the least. It is in almost constant use from our younger Players. One of the reasons of course is that Sega designed this particular model to basically make you feel you were in an actual vehicle. While not quite like the Ferrari Testarossa Spider you drive in the game itself, it’s a nice design. Furthermore there were four different versions of the arcade game produced. Two of them were upright models with two others being sit-down cabinets.
Great fun working around hot CRTs! You can whine about authentic monitors all ya like, if I were running an arcade, I would replace the innards on most of the machines with Raspberry Pis and 4k LCDs and put the original PCBs in a nice glass cases on the wall next to each, with art gallery-style cards. Read the rest “1986's OutRun a maintenance hassle for arcade operators in 2018”
Androkavo tests some of the cheap eBay solder against the brand-name stuff; it gets there in the end, but it's surely not the advertized 60/40 alloy and needs to be close to 400° before it behaves itself. Read the rest “Cheap eBay solder vs the good stuff”
Charles Platt's growing series of electronics books are the best I've come across. He explains concepts very clearly, and his illustrations are excellent. His latest book in the series is called Easy Electronics. It covers voltage, resistance, capacitors, transistors, integrated circuits and more. No tools are needed to make the projects.
The Mag Hand Workstation[Amazon link] by Hobby Creek is a 4.5 Lb steel platform with flexible, magnetic arms that hold delicate objects in place while I paint, solder and study them. Since my side projects involve tiny antiques with itsy bitsy locking mechanisms, I used to have a habit of losing important pieces - but those days are behind me.
My Hydra-like workstation comes with 2 magnetic trays that can be positioned anywhere on the platform.
And because of built in magnets, even if tip the whole thing upside down, everything stays put. The pieces are modular and allows me to set the flexible matrix in any way I want. In fact, the arms and optional Mag Helper can simply be used by themselves when placed on any steel object.
The Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized Linux computer that costs about $30 (some versions are only $10). Because they are cheap, tiny, and versatile, they are an excellent basis for lots of different projects. Creative Projects with Raspberry Pi (out today!) by Kirsten Kearney and Will Freeman is loaded with build instructions, resources, and pointers to a bunch of cool projects: coffee roasters, weather stations, mobile phones, handheld gaming consoles -- 35 in all. The photos are big and clear, and the introduction at the beginning will get Raspberry newbies up to speed.
Arduino is on open-source electronics prototyping platform that lets you make interactive stuff without having a degree in electrical engineering.
For about $(removed) you can buy a credit card sized circuit board that has input connections (for buttons, knobs, light sensors, microphones, humidity sensors, fart detectors, Internet signals, etc) and output connections (for servo motors, LEDs, buzzers, speakers, stepper motors, vibrators, etc). You write programs on your computer to tell the Arduino how to process the input signals and how to activate the output components. This program is uploaded to the Arduino's microprocessor, making it self-contained. Read the rest “If you want to learn about Arduino, this is the book to get”
The 555 timer integrated circuit was invented in 1971. Over a billion are made every year, because they are so versatile. Charles Platt wrote of the chip:
It has turned out to be the most successful chip in history, both in the number of units sold (tens of billions, and still counting) and the longevity of its design (fundamentally unchanged for almost forty years). Even now, about a billion 555s are manufactured each year.
In Make: Electronics, I decided to include the 555, because it remains so fundamental. It’s also a wonderful teaching tool, since it can be used in so many ways. If you want to build, say, a reaction timer, using a counter and a couple of logic chips, you’re going to run it with a 555 timer, and you may end up adding a couple more 555s to take care of functions such as delaying the start of the count and locking the display until a reset button is pressed. You can also run a 555 fast enough to generate audible tones, which can be incorporated into a burglar alarm, or you can use it in a combination lock. All three of these projects are included in the book.
Make magazine celebrated the 555 timer and its creator, Hans Camenzind, a few years ago when it featuring a 555 Week on its website.
555s are dirt cheap, too. Ebay sells 100 for $(removed).
Because the 555 is so fundamental electronics, people honor it by making giant size versions of it. Read the rest “This guy built a storage ottoman that looks like a giant 555 timer chip”
Electronic Football is the only sportsball I've ever liked! This remake is pretty great!
The sounds, controls and rinky-dink electronic screen are back! I am sure I remember there being some kind of passing game in the original, but this running game kept me busy for an hour or so.
Relive the virtual excitement!
Nick from Adafruit writes, "The latest installment of Circuit Playground is here: the letter L.
Learn about how an LED works with Adabot and the Circuit Playground components." Read the rest “Circuit Playground: explaining LEDs with cool puppets”
I'd not heard of Elektor magazine until today, when I came across this photo of the cover from a 1974 edition. I assumed it was fake. Everything about it seemed like it was created this year - the typeface, the names of the projects, the tagline ("up-to-date electronics for lab and leisure"). Someone has uploaded the issue in PDF format.
Such a groovy magazine!
Joint smoking transistors:
Elektor is still around, but the design is vastly different:
Read the rest “Cool cover for a 1974 hobbyist electronics magazine”
Elektor is a monthly magazine about all aspects of electronics, first published as Elektuur in the Netherlands in 1960, and now published worldwide in many languages including English, German, Dutch, French, Greek, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese (European and Brazilian) and Italian with distribution in over 50 countries. The English language edition of Elektor was launched in 1975 and is read worldwide.
Elektor publishes a vast range of electronic projects, background articles and designs aimed at engineers, enthusiasts, students and professionals. To help readers build featured projects, Elektor also offer PCBs (printed circuit boards) of many of their designs, as well as kits and modules. If the project employs a microcontroller and/or PC software, as is now often the case, Elektor normally supply the source code and files free of charge via their website. Most PCB artwork is also available from their website.
Poking a golden tortoise beetle ("goldbug") triggers the insect's color to change from gold to a red-orange. Inspired by the natural system underlying that insectoid superpower, MIT researchers have developed flexible sensors circuits that can be 3-D printed. Eventually, the technology could lead to sensor-laden skin for robots. From MIT News:
Read the rest “Flexible, printable circuits inspired by goldbug beetle”
“In nature, networks of sensors and interconnects are called sensorimotor pathways,” says Subramanian Sundaram, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science (EECS), who led the project. “We were trying to see whether we could replicate sensorimotor pathways inside a 3-D-printed object. So we considered the simplest organism we could find...."
The MIT researchers’ new device is approximately T-shaped, but with a wide, squat base and an elongated crossbar. The crossbar is made from an elastic plastic, with a strip of silver running its length; in the researchers’ experiments, electrodes were connected to the crossbar’s ends. The base of the T is made from a more rigid plastic. It includes two printed transistors and what the researchers call a “pixel,” a circle of semiconducting polymer whose color changes when the crossbars stretch, modifying the electrical resistance of the silver strip.
In fact, the transistors and the pixel are made from the same material; the transistors also change color slightly when the crossbars stretch. The effect is more dramatic in the pixel, however, because the transistors amplify the electrical signal from the crossbar. Demonstrating working transistors was essential, Sundaram says, because large, dense sensor arrays require some capacity for onboard signal processing.
Anker makes good stuff. Their 60-Watt 10-port USB charger can charge up to 2.4 amps per port (12 amps maximum). If you live with more than a few people, this can come in handy. It's on sale at Amazon for $33.59. Read the rest “Anker's 10-port USB charger on sale for $33.59”