Last month I went to Paris with a bunch of artists to work on an installation at the Palais de Tokyo museum. The structure in the picture is made mostly from salvaged materials, and it’s full of robotic musical instruments and noisemakers – all controlled through MIDI, the 30 year old protocol that will never die. Here’s a nice virtual tour of the thing.
This is a project I made for my two year old nephew. He really likes bright lights and buttons, so I wanted to make something special for him with plenty of both. I made it from a clear box so he could see the parts inside. As he’s a curious boy, I wanted this to spark a lifelong curiosity about how things work.
Since this toy is fully programmable, it can evolve as he gets older. The behavior now is simple: change light colors and patterns based on the knob state and button presses. Once he’s a little older, I can reprogram this to be a memory game where he has to reproduce certain patterns. If it survives early childhood, perhaps I can even teach him to program it himself…
Join us this Saturday, June 29 1-4pm, for this month’s installment of our Make-Along series!
Make-Along–A Monthly Crafting Event at NYCR
This is not your typical craft class. Make-Along is a self-guided craft workshop where participants learn new skills, explore new materials, and make great things!
This Month’s Topic: Stuffed Toys!
In this session we’ll be exploring the wonderful world of plushies, amigurumi, and other stuffed toys, including ones specifically made for the tiniest of makers. A perfect session to make a gift for all your baby-expecting friends or to make yourself a squishy new BFF to clutch while you nervously watch GAME OF THRONES. (For the record Grumpy Cat is NOT impressed with that show.)
Are you a beginner? We’ll provide materials for a variety of projects and will help you learn to use a sewing machine, hand-stitch, crochet, and will help guide you through anything else your project requires.
Are you a master? Show off your skills and inspire others! Bring a project, use our materials, and hang out in a great space while doing what you love!
Looking for project ideas? Check out our Pinterest board.
Last month we introduced Future Crew, and at the 2013 Interactive Show we finally unveiled the
fully mostly operational game stations. There were five stations in the final design, and in keeping with the show’s “Digital Archaeology” theme, each was built from repurposed ancient hardware. The brains of each console was a Raspberry Pi (to connect to the network and draw OpenGL graphics) and some number of Teensy microcontrollers to interface with the real world. Of course, the source is available for you to build your own Future Crew stations!
A discarded video edit console and RF TV became the Timeline controller. Since the Pi can turn the composite video on-and-off, one of the modes glitches out the TV occasionally with real static! This one had some of the more imaginative tasks like “disable all blinking buttons” in addition to the normal tasks like “advance the timeline!”.
A rackmount data acquisition analog-digital converter and three NTSC TVs became the Blender control unit and Technobabble patch panel. The labels were printed on our large format plotter and then the BNC holes were cut on the laser cutter. The teensy++ firmware can handle arbitrary cross connects and even multi-way connections. This was one of the harder stations to play — there are eight switches, twenty verbs and twenty nouns. We ended up disabling all the verbs except “MODULATE” since it was much too difficult to find the right ones. As a todo item we plan to ramp up the difficulty as the game goes on.
A 1930′s Model 15 Teletype and some random video switcher served as the slowest output console. It’s amazing that the teletype functioned nearly perfectly for the entire eight hour show — perhaps the fresh quart of oil during the previous servicing helped keep it working. The source for this console is one of the simpler ones — it just prints to a file descriptor to write to the teletype.
One of the hardest consoles was made from a toy piano. Even with the song book, playing “Row Row Row Your Boat” under duress is not easy.
And a last minute entry was a rotary phone. Quick! Get the President on the line! This time the handset just had a recorded loop, but future games will incorporate text to speech.
We have a whole list of things to fix and improvements to make before Makerfaire 2013. Stop by NYCR to play it during Craft Night on Thursdays and give us your suggestions!
Take that Babbage! A *working* mechanical computer. That’s right, I said it. Come check out the Turbo Entabulator at the upcoming NYCResistor Interactive Show this coming Saturday! This is the latest diabolical machine to come out of the labs at Fenton Heavy Industries. Its lack of speed is only surpassed by its unreliability and general mechanical shakiness. But hey, it’s probably the only computer you can print out yourself.
Cathode ray oscillographs weren’t just used for reading tweets in the 1940′s, they were also used as vector displays for serious astronomical simulations and training systems like “Space Rocks”. You can play it at the 2013 NYC Resistor Interactive Show!
While the Delta-V of the simulator space craft was optimistic for its era, the basic acceleration, velocity and position model is reasonably accurate. If the ship passes too closely to one of the space rocks, it is destroyed and the simulation restarts. Once the ship runs out of fuel (measured in hexadecimal in the upper left corner since the CPU can’t perform a DIV/MOD operation fast enough to display decimal numbers), it is stranded and unable to continue its mission.
We were not able to locate an original controller, but the interface is similar enough to more modern analog joysticks that we could wire it in. Have your own vector display? spacerocks.c is the source for the Teensy to drive it.
There’s nothing like a big party to force some cleaning… would you look at our toilet? I mean… I’m not even sure it was this clean when we moved in. Someone will think some magic cleaning elves descended upon it in the dead of night.
This is just so you’ve been alerted… that the facilities will be clean for our 4th Annual Interactive Party this coming Saturday June 15. We’ll have great projects, wine, a DJ and dancing under a great big LED illuminated arch.
Go get tickets now, as they are moving and we’re not sure we’ll have any left to sell at the door… http://interactiveshow2013-eorg.eventbrite.com/#
The Teletype Corporation Model 15 “typebar page printer” is a beautiful piece of equipment from the 1930′s. While the interface has much in common with modern serial communication standards – start bits and stop bits, asynchronous clocking, idle-high conditions — in the teletype all of these are implemented purely mechanically. The mainshaft looks like something out of an automobile instead of a piece of computing. Just like a car, you have to keep it well oiled, check the gaps for proper clearances and be very wary of the spinning pieces while working on it.
The 5-bit Baudot words are clocked in synchronously with the mainshaft’s rotation rate at 45.5 baud (22 ms per bit). This slow speed is difficult to generate with modern computers and serial ports, so many users bit-bang the port with Heavy Metal, which itself requires somewhat older machines to run. The 5-bit word has only thirty two entries, which is insufficient to simultaneously represent the entirety of the twenty six letters A-Z, ten digits 0-9 and punctuation. Instead there is a reserved code to switch to Figures and another code to switch to Letters. Space, carriage return and line feed are present in both the Letter and Figure sets. The interface must track which rail is currently selected and insert the correct shift sequences on the fly.
In slow motion the holding magnet can be seen pulling the selector during one-bits and not attracting it during the zero-bits. Each bit is latched via the “sword” mechanisms onto one of the rails, which select one of the twenty-eight hammers. During the fifth bit an extra gear cocks the mechanism and a latch lets the hammer fly during the stop bit. The coils are designed for 60 mA, but have a very high inductance (on the order of 4 Henries according to John Nagel). Most approaches to interfacing with the system use a large 100 VDC power supply and a current limiting resistor (that must dissipate 6 W of power!).
Both the high voltage and the custom baud rate issues are a bit cumbersome, so I thought there must be a better way. USB ports will output about 5 W, so I figured that would be close enough to drive the magnet if I could produce sufficiently high voltage. Using Adafruit’s boost converter calculator, I came up with some rough numbers and built a circuit that handles both the slow baud rate and voltage required to interface with the teletype. It shows up as a normal USB serial port and handles the 7-bit ASCII to 5-bit Baudot translation, including tracking which of the two rails is selected, outputs the bits at the correct baud rate, and runs the PWM charge pump to generate the high voltage with the inductor. A second MOSFET is used to switch the high voltage through the current loop, allowing the holding magnet to turn on and off.
It’s fully self-contained, fits in an Altoids tin and works with any software you want to run on the interface computer. If you want to run it with a Raspberry Pi, be sure to use a powered hub to avoid overloading the Pi’s weak USB power circuitry. The schematics and source code are posted to 45baud.net and you can see it in action as part of Future Crew at the digital archeology themed 2013 NYC Resistor Interactive Party.
It’s a little known fact that during the 1940′s the premier Twitter client was a cathode ray oscillograph vector display, such as this DuMont Labs 208B. The 15×12 character resolution was perfect for a 140 character tweet. This one has been restored, connected to the aethernet and configured to search for “I”, turning it into a time travelling view into the twitter-sphere’s narcissism. You can see it in action in this short video, or play with it in person at the 2013 NYC Resistor Interactive Party in June.
If the font looks familiar, that’s because it was inspired by the Asteroids video game, with additional characters for the rest of the ASCII subset. The source code is available asteroids-font.c for your own oscilloscope or vector display hacking. Depending on the bandwidth of your scope and the speed of the cathode ray tube, you might need to set CONFIG_SLOW_SCOPE to give the beam time to catch up with the image.