Podtique: podcast player in an antique radio

Podtique: Antique Podcast Player

Our friend Rick stopped by to show us his latest project, which he calls Podtique: a podcast player built into an antique radio cabinet. Using the original knobs, you tune in on “stations” which play different podcasts, with realistically generated static in between.

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The whole thing is run on a BeagleBone Black, and uses NeoPixel backlighting behind the dial. He’s written up the build on his blog, posted his code on github, and shared a heap of build photos in an album on flickr.

A Vintage Melody Synthesizer IC

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Leigh Klotz, author of Ham Radio for Arduino and PICAXE, gave us this interesting chip from the 80′s to play with: a UM3482A “Multi Instrument Melody Generator” IC.  While not quite rare, it is a bit of a vintage curiosity these days, and we wired one up to see what exactly it does.

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The vintage Radio Shack Archer package it came in was minimalist (though not quite this minimalist as it came to us– imagine that the chip were still there in the bubble). It promises not just 12 tunes, but circuit diagrams as well.

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This Archer-branded datasheet (including the promised circuit diagrams) came stapled to the back.  You can download a readable copy of the manufacturer’s original datasheet here.

“A mask-ROM-programmed multi-instrument melody generator, implemented in CMOS technology. It is designed to play the melody according to the previously programmed information and is capable of generating 12 songs with 3 different effects: piano, organ, and mandolin.”

Amongst the twelve musical selections are London Bridge, Row Row Row Your Boat, Oh My Darling Clementine, and (of course) Happy Birthday.  Suggested applications included toys, door bells, music boxes, and telephones.  (File under: Customized ringtones of the 80′s?)

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The three little graphs in the upper right show the three different timbres (the “instruments,” in the phrase “multi-instrument”) in terms of amplitude versus time. The other diagrams show how to wire it up to a speaker and how to configure the various inputs to select which song to play and so forth.

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We breadboarded up a sample circuit from the datasheet, substituting with parts we had on hand, including a little magnetic buzzer as the speaker. A 2xAA battery holder is connected up to the power and ground rails.  There is a momentary button switch to select the next melody in the set, and a row of DIP switches to set the configuration options.

And sure enough, it plays melodies.

Digi-Comp II replica in Terraria

YouTube user Richard Lewis built a working replica of the Digi-Comp II mechanical computer in the sandbox video game Terraria.

The replica makes extensive use of the so-called “Hoik glitch” in the game, that allows for rapid, controlled player movement, much like gravity guides the balls downward in the original.

More information about the version in Terraria is posted on the video page.

From the mailbag: DIY holiday lights

Chris wrote in:

I wanted to say thank you for writing your blog and the products you’ve created.  I used both to make my christmas lights this year.  Couldn’t have done it without you.

 

I used an ATmega xx8 mini dev kit programmed with an ISP shield to control a series of WS2811 LED pixels to make beautiful light. The controller is designed to be standalone, not part of a bigger system. I used a BCD thumbwheel switch to select up to 10 looks.

 

We can give credit to the FastLED Library team for the heavy lifting.  The case is from your friends at Adafruit. The target boards don’t quite fit in the Adafruit cases.  Thankfully ya’ll had the schematic PDFs posted and I saw I could literally cut corners to make them fit.

Back to why I appreciate what you do so much, growing up my dad tried to teach me about electronics.  He was putting motorola 6802 CPU’s in Sperry New Holland hay bale wagons.  Unlike how easy we have it today with Arduino he had to program in assembly…

 

I got a degree in Theatre and loved doing sound and lighting design.  So I really love the art you put into your technology. I’ve built many of your kits.  My favorite are the interactive LED panels.  Blinking lights!  I like to put them behind the ikea glass “white boards” so my ideas really shine when I write them down.  I’m looking forward to seeing what you do in 2015!

Flickery Flame Soldering Kits!

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In October, we released our Solderless Flickery Flame project, based on a tiny breadboard with six red and yellow candle-flicker LEDs, to give a fun and semi-realistic flame effect. Today, we’re releasing two new Flickery Flame Soldering Kits along the same lines, each of which has 6 candle-flicker LEDs, a little circuit board, and a battery holder.

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The Yellow/Red kit has the same mix of yellow and red candle-flicker LEDs that works so well in the breadboard kit.  This one will look great in a jack-o-lantern, luminaria, or scale-model fireplace.

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On the other hand, the White/Warm White kit has a mixture of (cool) white and warm white LEDs that give a modern wintery flame effect that has at least as much charm, but won’t be mistaken for a natural fire. This one will look great in all kinds of winter holiday decorations, luminarias, and props.

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Both the Yellow/Red and White/Warm White kits are fun, low-cost, self-contained, and easy soldering kits, which will be right at home both as stocking stuffers and as bite-size first projects for soldering workshops.

Interactive LED Cats

We were sent a picture of handsome cat Gandalf with an array of green Octolively kits all built up.

Mr. Pumpernickel also looks great in the green glow. Both Gandalf and Mr. Pumpernickel are continuing in a longstanding tradition of cats and interactive LEDs.

Harley Cat, Before frosting glass

Harley Cat (who passed away a few years ago) helped test our very first interactive LED project: our Interactive LED Dining Table.

Jellybean helped demonstrate a later project: our interactive LED coffee table. She is featured at about 48 seconds into this video.

LED Pez Menorah, this time with instructions!

Joyce wrote in this year with her latest Pez Menorah (using our Deluxe LED Menorah kit), featuring a Star Wars theme.

She also wrote up a thorough set of instructions on tumblr, which looks like a remarkably easy way to publish a step-by-step tutorial without using a platform like instructables. It may take some getting used to reading chronologically, but it is effective.

Previous Pez Menorah posts: