Thursday, 14 November 2013

Spreading the word.

I'm pleased to see the crazyness is spreading and more and more people are submitting hair brained ideas. T-Shirt printing. Firing rockets at a grid, each square representing a number of bits (like that a lot). Dance Dance Revolution. Making and breaking circuits with a really high powered laser. Either I'm not crazy, or we're all crazy together. Either is good.

Sunday, 28 October 2012


There's definitely some scope with data-over-CD-changer-protocol. You've got disc number, track number, time elapsed. Bonus points if you drive a CD changer full of discs where each track on each disc is a different n-bit symbol, perhaps encoded as a DTMF tone or something. Wouldn't be very pleasant to listen to, but it would be slow as hell (and that's kinda the point).

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Oh Raspberry Pi, you spoil me with your multitude of interfaces: I2C, SPI, UART, HDMI, Composite - all ripe for abuse.

How about driving a CD changer containing a disc where each track was a different tone. You could definitely get a couple of bits per second out of that (say 2 seconds per track, 16 tracks).

Also, floppy disk music is awesome. I want to see some of that in action. And QuadCopters playing the piano are pretty neat too.

I wonder how finely you could adjust the brightness on an LCD and have it detected by a webcam?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Another day, another dollar

I spent most of today programming flash chips using DFU (Device Firmware Update) over USB, monitoring the communications using a very expensive Lecroy USB packet analyser. I struck me that packet analysers provide an excellent way of adding many more layers to your stack diagram, especially as this one could be operated over an Ethernet network, or remotely over USB using a DCOM based system.

The analyser worked on a store and dump basis, so you're going to add some pretty bad latency to the system (which is good), grabbing a few bytes at a time and then displaying them on screen.

For maximum wrongness, I think you should connect the computer running the packet analysis tool to something using Composite video out. Perhaps a really old black and white TV display. Which you could then photograph, and send the photograph via fax. And the data retrieved once you had OCR'd the fax of the photo of the screen would in fact be bytes of compressed audio which when converted back to PCM were in fact DTMF tones. Or maybe the output of a Commodore C64. Too much Commodore C64? Tough, I still love them. OK, maybe they are the bytes from a webcam pointed at another monitor. Or bytes from a USB flash drive having data written to it. Too run-of-the-mill? How about bytes of PostScript being sent to a USB printer? Bytes of data from a USB Infrared receiver? Bytes of data sent to a USB LCD?

Sometimes I get worried about how natural this all seems to me.

Friday, 11 June 2010


Using something like this you can move model locomotives around under software control.

If you had a series of optical detectors or perhaps good old fashioned reed switches, you could transmit ones and zeroes by positioning the locomotives. If you had long platforms and short trains you could have perhaps four (2 bits) detectors per platform. If you had locomotives with some kind of detectable unique marking on them and you had the ability to switch trains between platforms (now that would be fun to watch), you could send different values by arranging them. If you had four platforms and three trains there would be 24 combinations. I can't think of a setup that would be a nice power of two, but wouldn't it be more fun to transmit a non-integer number of bits with each arrangement? And think of the fun you'd have working out an algorithm to shuffle the locomotives around, towers-of-hanoi style.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

An itch you just can't scratch.

If you attach a webcam to the carriage of some electromechanical device (I have a Commodore MPS-1230 dot matrix printer) you could wind the carriage backwards and forwards and point the webcam at one of two images (say, a cross and a circle) which you could pick out with some simple image recognition. You'd just have alternately print lines of, say, 20 or 60 characters and let the carriage return at the end of every line using, you know, a carriage return.

The best thing about the MPS-1230 (and I admit, its benefits are few and far between) is it can be operated over the DIN serial port on the back of a Commodore C64. Which has a range of exciting input options, like a set of TTL GPIOs.

Bonus points if it's a Wifi webcam.

IP over Fatness

Something I've seen a little of lately, if you had some Bluetooth or internet-enabled weighing scales, you could exert a force on the scales to transmit a reading. You'd have to check and see what kind of accuracy you can get and how much force you can generate with Meccano. You could place one of two weights on the scales for 0/1, or if you could generate the force mechanically (and accurately enough) you might be able to get 4 or 5 bits per reading. A screw and a spring might work, as long as you can lift it clear of the scales so they can calibrate on power-up.

I like Bluetooth for this application because it adds lots of lovely layers to the stack diagram.