posts tagged with the keyword ‘microcontrollers’

2015.04.26

QWERTY Keyboard Rendering

I’ve always been fascinated by typewriters. I find them to be curious machines, and their history is no less interesting. (Go on, take a look!) Of course I’m also fascinated by digital technology, and how it empowers people to creating things. Above is a rendering of a QWERTY keyboard, and below is an actual QWERTY keyboard I created using digital fabrication and a tiny computer called a microcontroller functioning as the “brain”.

QWERTY Keyboard

The keyboard is fully-functional. Plug it into the USB port of your laptop or desktop computer and you can start typing. Of course you can only type the letters Q, W, E, R, T and Y… but it does work. Like all of the things we use, it has limitations. Like all of our technology, it doesn’t do quite all of what we’d like it to do.

QWERTY Keyboard

The QWERTY Keyboard is made from wood. (Just like the early prototype of the Sholes, Glidden & Soule typewriter seen below.) My father was good at working with wood, and his father before him was probably even better at it. I am not that good at working with wood, but I am good at creating things digitally. There is perhaps an inverse skill scale at work here. Are we losing the ability to craft real-world objects in exchange for creating digital objects? Maybe digital fabrication is the answer, bridging the gap between the two.

Sholes, Glidden & Soule typewriter

The Sholes, Glidden & Soule typewriter is a weird looking device, as is my QWERTY keyboard. I think there’s a place in the world for both of them, and perhaps a place where the two can meet.

QWERTY Keyboard

For more information on this piece, visit the QWERTY Keyboard project page. There are more thoughts and more photos, and as always, I welcome your comments.

2015.04.20

Arduino.cc

In accordance with a request from organizations and people I respect, here’s a photo take on 2015-04-19 showing the packaging from an Arduino UNO I purchased from Adafruit Industries (in the United States of America) on 2010-10-19 showing the text “Manufactured under license from Arduino by SMART PROJECTS S.r.l.”.

Adafruit / Arduino.cc

Here is the order information from that purchase. For more info, see the Hackaday post Your Arduino Packaging Could Sway a Court Case and the Adafruit post Please post old Arduino packaging that says “Manufactured under license from Arduino” #TeamArduinoCC.

2014.12.26

P.U.G.C.

I’m not sure the world needs (or is ready for) the Pop-Up Go(at) Controller, but I’ve built it. I know, I know, I can hear you asking “What is the Pop-Up Go(at) Controller!?” Well, here’s the story.

Back in August I posted about the Milwaukee Public Museum’s snake on the Milwaukee Makerspace mailing list. Seems the snake was in need of repair, so I asked people how they would build a snake. Shane suggested that the space should have a pop-up goat, and thus, I had to build a pop-up goat.

I mean, I didn’t have to, but one thing I’ve discovered over the past few months is that my work tends to be reactionary. People say things, or do things, and it prompts me to make something. So I made something.

Milwaukee Makerspace

I didn’t really make what Shane suggested, but I took the basic idea and did my own thing. I started with a photo of Milwaukee Makerspace I took last year. This would serve as the backdrop for the piece.

Goat

I dug around for a nice picture of a goat I could use, but as luck would have it, my daughter Madeline (also a photographer) recently shot a goat (with her camera!) so she allowed me to use her photo.

P.U.G.C.

The construction of the piece was done using MicroRAX, which is an Aluminum extrusion-based construction set. I’ve had some lying around for a while, so it was good to put it to use in a project. It cut easily with a hacksaw and bolts together using a few screws and plates.

P.U.G.C.

The goat attaches to a servo thanks to a few magnets. The image of the building and goat are photos I had printed, and then attached to some paperboard. The building slides into the slot of the MicroRAX.

P.U.G.C.

The servo mounted easily to the MicroRAX, and things are adjustable, so if I need to slide the servo up or down or left or right, that’s easy. Same with the front pieces that hold the building photo in place. I like to plan things to be interchangeable and adjustable when possible.

P.U.G.C.

There’s an Adafruit Perma-Proto Board on the back, along with an Adafruit Trinket microcontroller to make things happen.

P.U.G.C.

There’s a few screw terminals to allow for connection of power (AC adapter or battery) and a button to activate things. I typically build button enclosures, but for my silly project I decided to use a giant heavy metal electrical box with an old industrial push button. It’s so much overkill it hurts.

White House

As mentioned, I wanted the P.U.G.C. to be extensible, so here’s another idea for it. I can swap in a photo of the White House, and a surface to air missile. Ka-Boom! Smite thine enemies! ‘Merica says “Take That!!!” and so on…

Mac Flag

Or maybe you believe it’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy? Just enable “flag waving mode” and you can fly your freaky colors of freedom above the original Macintosh. Mr. Jobs would be so proud! Or angry.

And yes, the ‘at’ part in “Go(at)” is meant to be dropped as needed so this becomes the Pop-Up Go Controller. I can also hear you saying, “Those are some awesome photos, but is there video of this P.U.G.C. in action?” Well, of course there is!

2014.05.07

Teensy 2.0
Teensy is teensy

For the past few years I’ve been building devices that can emulate computer keyboards. Typically I’ve used the Teensy microcontrollers for this along with the Arduino IDE and the Teensyduino add-on. The things you can do with a Teensy to emulate a keyboard are very impressive! Basically, it’s the best way I know of to create your own custom USB keyboard.

Comparison
Size matters – A-Star with Arduino Micro and Leonardo

When the Arduino Leonardo was introduced, one of the features I was interested in was the ability to emulate a USB keyboard. I never actually got a Leonardo to test this with, mainly because the form factor was too large for my projects. Sometimes shield compatibility is good, sometimes the smallest board wins.

A-Star
Size matters!

I recently got a Pololu A-Star 32U4 Micro, which is a tiny (and cheap, under $13USD) board very similar to a Leonardo, once again using the Atmel ATmega32U4.

There may be a little bit of work involved in getting the A-Star up and running. There are drivers needed if using Windows, and (supposedly) a little more work to get things going with Linux. I had no issues with Mac OS X, but I’m pretty familiar with add-ons for the Arduino IDE due to using Teensyduino. You can also just pretend this is an Arduino Leonardo and that seems to work fine.

(I also can’t tell if the Pololu A-Star 32U4 Micro is open source hardware. They do have a bunch of files available, but I did not see an explicit “Open Hardware” note anywhere. It’s worth mentioning that the Teensy is not open source hardware. If that’s not a big deal to you, then it’s not a big deal to you. The official Arduino hardware is of course, open source.)

I’ll probably keep experimenting with the Pololu A-Star as a keyboard emulator for simple things, and stick with the Teensy for more complex things. I’ve also heard that the Teensy 2.0 will disappear in the future, which isn’t a huge deal, as the Teensy 3.1 is a big improvement over it, but the 3.1 does cost a bit more than the 2.0, so that’s one factor to consider when evaluating which board to use.

Have fun building your own keyboard!

Update #1: I’ve been talking to Pololu and they suggested the A-Star may actually be able to use the Teensyduino Keyboard libraries. I’m awaiting more info on this, as it would be an exciting development.

Update #2: It looks like the Teensyduino Keyboard libraries cannot be installed onto the A-Star, which is good to know. But don’t worry, I’ll be using the A-Star for some future projects anyway. ;)

2011.04.21

Diavolino

Remember when I wrote about Cheap Arduinos? Well, if you do, maybe you remember the Diavolino.

The Diavolino is a damn cheap Arduino clone, coming in at about $13. (I say “about” because if you want some headers, or a battery pack, or a chip socket, it’ll run you another few bucks… but still, you can get away with just $13 for the base kit.)

Even though I said there was an “extremely detailed assembly guide” there were a few places where I got slightly confused, mainly just in the “power options” section. (I wasn’t even drinking when I put this kit together, unlike the last kit I built.) Since I got the Diavolino with the 3 x AA battery holder for $1, it was simple to just go with that option. Obviously you’ll need a FTDI USB-TTL cable to connect it to your computer to program it. Again, leaving out the on-board USB makes this kit nice and cheap. (I did get a socket for the chip, as I don’t like to solder chips directly into place.) My only real complaint is that, even though the board looks cool in red and black, it can be a little hard to read the type on the board to locate the correct pins. Then again, I tend to prototype in dimly lit rooms.

I got this kit put together in about 40 minutes. (In fact, I even made a time lapse video showing the assembly.) This seems like a pretty simple kit for a beginner. In fact, I could see the Diavolino being used as a kit put together in a class for people wanting to learn soldering and basic Arduino programming. (As long as you can send them home without an FTDI cable.)

The Diavolino appears to have been designed knowing that in being low cost, a few sacrifices had to be made, and I’m OK with that. If you know how you want to use it, it shouldn’t be an issue at all. (This one is destined for a robot.)

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