Monthly Archives: January 2012

Atari ST workshop series

Our member Gunstick has started his workshop series about the Atari ST platform with a focus on oldschool demos which were the craze in the 90′s.

This Saturday was the first talk (get the slides from there too) with a focus on the convoluted history, the specifications of the machine and showing off a whole lot of applications, programming languages, games and demos.

That show was a bit long and also some disks just did not work or crashed mid way. Still it gave a good impression how, with time, the technological perfection was all the time increased. Concern was raised with all those bad floppy disks if everything has backups. As answer Gunstick presented his latest acquisition from Kryoflux: a nice little gimmick which makes it possible to use an old floppy drive via USB and directly sample the magnetic information from the disk.

The audience got a glimpse of the somewhat insurmountable task of creating a decent animation with the ST hardware and at the same time was amazed that the impossible was really not impossible. That’s the true hacker spirit: in the end, the word “impossible” does not exist.

Here is a video of one of the demos we watched (will be replaced by HQ version when video repository is again available).

The next workshop is already announced. Stay tuned!

Status update

Aleksej und Burkhard (und Heribert?) haben die Decke gestrichen und Fußleisten angeschliffen. Beim Bodenbelag fiel die Entscheidung für Entfernung weil buckelig und echt fertig, dabei kam diese Interessante Abdeckung zum Vorschein. "Sollen wir das mal aufschrauben?" - Na klar sollen wir das mal aufschrauben!

Burkhard "Aufputz" B. hat sich um Steckdosen und Lampenbestromung gekümmert und Jürgens Leuchtstofflampen angebracht, der Arebitsraum hinten benötigt jetzt nur noch Bodenbelag (schon gekauft und im Raum), dann kann eingeräumt werden. Unter das PVC soll jetzt doch OSB, zum Ausgleich.

Nochmal zwei Montage- und Justagestunden von Jürgen und Helmut später ist das Schloss jetzt im finalen [TM] Stadium - Neue Endschalter und besseres Timing lösten die mechanischen deadlocks.

Viene Juan Cirerol a Cholula

Este sábado 28 de enero celebremos mi cumpleaños #36 en la tocada que presenta Alter Exa: Juan Cirerol, la dirección es en La Mezca, 6 norte 811 en San Pedro Cholula. Hay cover de 50 pesos y el Hackerspace Cholula está poniendo el equipo de audio. La cita es 9 PM.

Tocada con Takk y DJ Colchado

Este viernes 27 de enero de 1976. La cita es a las 9 PM en Hackerspace Cholula: 3 poniente 324 en San Andrés Cholula.

No cover, los visuales corren a cargo de Fela Funk y Tagtoolmx.

El propósito es hacer un poco de varo para terminar de pagar la renta, gulp!

Marble Adder

Every 2 years the science festival invites to bring science to young people. It is split into 2 parts. The first 2 days are for dedicated workshops with groups from various schools. The last 2 days are open to the public.

prototype of a half adder done with LEGO

Being a bit late with our submission we came up with the nice idea to explain binary logic. Research on the Internet showed several ideas but none was really going into depth of the true logic inside computers. The initial aim to do Lego models was changed into doing a copper construction which should be more stable. The Lego models would be used as course support material.

the main design was done using the chalkboard

We applied an iterative creation process and building modular components. This allowed us to create a fully functional 4 bit binary adder using real logic models. We also put emphasis on the general steam-punk style of the machine. The whole construction is only composed of copper, solder and glass marbles. No other material was used except for the wooden base.

Building a half adder component

Half adders were build which can then be connected together to form more complex logic. Each half adder has several fixed places where marbles can pass from one to the next. That is some sort of API between the different half adder modules.

Top view of the buildup to adapt half adder APIs together

To connect half adders a temporary construction is used

Being a first-time participant in the science festival, we were somewhat worried whether we could run the show, since most of our educationally trained staff was busy with the “Foire de l’Etudiant”. The science festival group was composed of engineers in computer science and students of various levels which don’t necessarily have the skills to teach children. Maybe the hardest part was thus not building and assembling all those logic gates, but devising a clever and appealing way to explain binary logic to pupils and their teachers. In the end, the no-fuss approach of simply jumping into the cold water finally resulted in some really great presentations.

Closeup of the machine

After the fist couple of classes the show was rolling smoothly, just the voice got worse and worse with the high noise level. Our booth was probably one of the few which had quite a heavy load of theory. Despite this potential turn-off, the pupils were all very interested. Also we varied the presentation spontaneously to feature less theory and more marble run depending on the audience.

the marble adder at our booth

The initially planned 11 classes were spontaneously extended to 14 as during the pause times, some teachers with their complete class showed up to ask if we could give them a talk. It seems the word spread that there was something cool to learn and see. Unfortunately very few higher level classes showed up.


During the weekend, the general public was really amazed just by the look of the copper construction. This probably also triggered our appearance on national TV as well as in newspapers. The most asked question was how long it took to build. We didn’t really know so the answer was a wild guess of “4 people during 3 months”.

explaining mechanical logic with the LEGO models during public weekend

The presentation done during the first 2 days was of no great use for the weekend and we settled into several people doing short individual talks. There was almost constantly a crowd in front of our booth but not too many people were asking questions unless we went forward and invited on-watchers to get some explanations who always took up this offer.

Photographers were fascinated

In general we had 2 kinds of visitors. There were the technically interested (teachers in computer science, parents with a technical background) who were amazed at how we were able to show the precise logic inside a microchip. There were the artistically inspired people and of course the children, who saw a highly complex marble run with fancy levers doing multiple actions simultaneously. Some photographers spent a long time on our booth and we invited them backstage to get some nicer close-up shots of the copper construction.

Sometimes we were surprised by the various people. There was the 5 year old who could tell his mum “look I can do 1+1 with marbles and it says 2” as well as the grandmother who knew binary from her teaching days and was staring, eyes wide open, at the machine. And of course, it is still a marble run. Everybody loves marble runs!

showing the single copper half adder to the kids

Most people did not immediately realize we were an a.s.b.l. and thought this was coming from a high school or university. That was quite flattering. Of course we profited from the occasion to hand out flyers of our club. Also several parents were interested in our monthly “hackids” effort, tutoring young people from 10 to 18 years old. We were able to make connections with several like-minded people and other institutions present at the festival which is quite a valuable asset that we got from our presence. The success of our attendance shows up in our getting invited to present our adder at science discovery days or weeks at several secondary schools.

We’re already plotting about what to do in 2 years time, maybe reusing the existing machine in some way or another. Meanwhile we need to come up with a storage solution for the device. It’s quite huge and taking up a massive amount of space in our already crammed club rooms.

More infos:

The building team

Trip to Luky’s Hardware in Burbank, CA

Today I was up in Burbank for work, and decided to check out a place I had heard about but never visited. It's called Luky's Hardware, and it is a veritable Aladdin's cave of fasteners, fittings, hoses, electronics and aerospace-related bits.

Check out the inside:

Most of the place looks like this - bin after bin of aircraft rivets, stainless nuts and bolts, hydraulic actuators, aircraft gauges.

They also have a nice selection of large o-rings, huge bins of stainless hydraulic lines, and lots of of miscellaneous stuff, such as a whole box of photomultiplier tubes sitting out on the sidewalk.

Check it out if you're in the area:
Luky's Hardware
3814 West Burbank Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91505
(818) 845-8338

DIY Ham Radio kick off

Zarya explaining all the HAM toys :-)

Today fish_ [com]buster Jelmer and I have started the DIY Ham radio project, making the first 2012 randomdata workshop a fact!

Good spirtis, mediocre food and of cource the great Randomdata blinky in the background combined made this a great kickoff. Stay tuned for more updates on how we are doing in our guest for radio waves.

Next mayor date: 2th of may 2012, exam time!

Workshop kickof info
Our HAM radio page (still a bit empty but not for long!)