Projects

This page will be (ir)regularly updated as necessary…

Current project

I’m doing my best to put most of my focus on one project at a time. That’s not to say there won’t be diversions and distractions, of course…

SmartParallel

A serial to parallel interface design, initially, to allow me to print from devices such as a Raspberry Pi to my venerable Epson MX-80 F/T III dot matrix printer. What makes it smart is the onboard Atmel ATMEGA328PB microcontroller that we allow me to reconfigure the interface any way I see fit.

I also hacked up a Centronics breakout board with shift register for the data signals as a kind of half-way house.

And I designed a serial level shifter daughterboard to allow the SmartParallel to be used with devices that have 3.3V signals.

Work in progress

Other projects that have been started and are at some stage of development. These are the next candidates for ‘current project’ status.

Zolatron 64

A 6502-based homebrew computer. This will be nothing fancy. It’ll be slow and very basic. But it’s a way of improving my understanding of how computers work. And just having fun.

This is likely to be a long-running project. It’s named after my beloved spaniel who departed this life a couple of years ago, and who can be seen channelling Steve Jobs in the image on the right.

Sheldon robot

Who doesn’t want a robot? This is really what got me into electronics. The current design uses a tracked vehicle base. The aim is to equip it with all manner of sensors and explore emergent behaviour and maybe even stuff like machine learning.

SmartSensors / SensorBus

Using an ATTINY microcontroller as a way of giving otherwise dumb sensors (eg, ultrasonic rangerfinders, IR rangefinders, proximity sensors and the like) some degree of autonomy. This will require developing my own serial communications protocol (a fancy term for bit-banging) which I’m calling SensorBus. This is part of the Sheldon project.

Projects on hold

These are projects that have been started but, for one reason or another, are on the back burner.

DreamBox

For a while, I had trouble getting to sleep. I was using ambient music to help me drift off. Rather than using my iPhone or an MP3 player, I figured I’d build a Raspberry Pi Zero, plus DAC and headphone amplifier, into this retro-looking radio, which would also serve as a bedside light, controllable over the network via MQTT. But this has gathered dust because my sleep problem went away.

HMV1960

A 1960 HMV radio that I gutted and am using as an excessively large case for a Raspberry Pi.

BeebServe

A Raspberry Pi acting as middleware between my BBC Master Turbo and the network (and, by extension, the Internet). I already have the serial connection sorted. The rest would be software.

Minitel

I rescued an old Minitel terminal from the local recycling centre. I’ve toyed with the idea of hooking it up as a terminal for a Raspberry Pi or some other single-board computer – but, well, you know…

Completed projects

BBC Micro joystick

A simple little project – just a matter of wiring, really. But it does involve a couple of PCBs that allow me to connect the joystick to the computer via standard Ethernet cables. I used this project as a way of getting back into KiCad after a spell of not using it (during which time version 5 had arrived).

Dawnclock

A way of waking up gently. It fades up lights (64 LEDs), plays birdsong, then music, then switches to the radio. It monitors the temperature, and sends reports to a local server via MQTT. Configuration is via its built-in web server. But mostly, it eases us into the day. My first major project. I was very naive and ignorant about electronics – but hey, it worked.

IoT thermometer

A simple temperature and humidity sensor, an ESP8266 board and an LCD display. WHat more do you need?

I built a couple of these, mainly as a way of learning KiCad and how to get PCBs fabbed. They communicate over our home wifi with our intranet server, using a web API, logging the temperature every 5 mins. They were fun to put together, but I’d do them completely differently now.