The Arduino Uno form factor represents an incredibly well documented way to get started with microcontrollers, but what if you want to add a directional pad interface? Rather than fishing around in your parts bin and/or online for discreet parts, the Keypad Shield Kit from SKITEC provides everything you need as a standard plug-in shield.
The pad includes up/down/left/right and center buttons. Two general purpose buttons are also implemented on top of that – one of which can be set up as a reset. 3 pins are required to interface with the device, leaving a wide range of unused IO ready to go via male or female (stackable) headers that emanate from the top.
The board also takes care of debouncing functions, and it supports multi key combinations. Optionally, it features an interrupt pin to let button presses break into normal operation for time-sensitive inputs. A dedicated SKITEC-Keys library is available to assist with this boards operation, helping you get started on your interface journey!
A hackable games console, software development device, and even a radio beacon – the ESPboy2 can seemingly do almost anything! Reminiscent of the transparent plastic stylings of the Game Boy – the updated ESPboy2 runs your favourite retro games, analyses WiFi signals, and can download programs directly from an app store.
However, the ESPboy2 starts to distinguish itself from other retro games consoles with its attachable modules and ability to be programmed using C/C++, MicroPython, Arduino IDE, and other languages. It can therefore be used as a prototyping and development platform compatible with a wide range of code libraries!
With add-on modules such as a heart rate monitor, GPS navigator, and a full keyboard – there are many creative coding possibilities to be explored. If you want something totally custom, you could even design your own modules using things like light sensors! It enables you to assemble modules from scratch, with extensive community documentation available – see the product page for details..
The ESPBoy2 is open source, easy to disassemble, portable, and modular – making it perfect for modifications and experimentation. The previous iteration of this device, the ESPboy, has been used to run a wide variety of applications, including the Game Boy emulator shown below;
The ESPboy2 has been upgraded with a clear acrylic case that makes it more polished and hardwearing, with soft tactile switches for the buttons. The programming port is accessible without any disassembly, and the pin headers are written directly on the case – making hacking this device even faster.
A dedicated community has built up, intent on finding new and interesting ways to use this tiny computer. For guidance on getting started with the ESPboy2, the maker recommends that you start here with a detailed setup guide written up by one of their users.
ESPboy is an independent company based in Saint-Petersburg, Russia, happy to ship almost anywhere in the world. If you’re looking for a great portable retro gaming console with a lot of hackability, this is it!
The world of modular synthesizers is a unique and colourful place, where modules which defy convention, subvert the standards, and re-invent the game are welcomed and encouraged. Take the BLM CMOS FX Processor MK2 for example, which is an effects processor which seeks to generate the sound of circuit-bent equipment, with what they’ve termed a ‘XOR Drone Voice Synthesizer’ – capable of making those power-starved, lo-fi, glitched-up sounds we love.
The BLM CMOS FX Processor is a 16HP module featuring sound processing alongside envelope generation and amplitude controls in one sleek-looking unit. Power starve is a common modification done to old Casio keyboards, Speak & Spell machines and more, restricting the flow of current around a circuit to introduce grainy lo-fi artifacts and alter the pitch of the incoming signal. This feature is one which the maker says is totally unique, with no other similar products on the market! The addition of an envelope generator and control over the amplitude, gives this feature even greater dexterity.
For a full rundown of the features of the unit, see the attached user guide. It’s another superbly designed and crafted unit which is sold by Blue Lantern Modules, who are based in the USA. Here’s a little demo of the unit in action with a TB-303 style acid sequence.
Designing DIY projects such as musical instruments can be a fiddly process, sometimes involving a lot of wiring knowledge from the get-go. Having a device such as the Blackboard allows instant access to buttons for controlling your code, and makes testing it much simpler. With the Blackboard, you can dive straight into creating code for musical instruments, controlling lighting setups, or even designing games!
The Blackboard is a touch-controlled device, featuring a grid of 24 touch-sensitive squares used to control and operate all sorts of ideas. These are ‘capacitive sensors’, which detect human touch by reading the difference in electric charge between plain air and a finger.
A series of nine fully customizable LEDs communicate information from the Raspberry Pi Pico. There are ten total connections for other equipment or sensors – five of these are General Purpose Input Outputs (GPIOs), and the other five are external pads. These connections create an almost unlimited number of ways to use this device – perhaps you could expand it into a stage-ready instrument, add MIDI output, or use environmental sensors!
The Raspberry Pi Pico communicates with your computer over USB using the serial, and can be programmed using C/C++, Micropython, CircuitPython, or even the Arduino IDE! You will find a lot of documentation about this popular microcontroller online, where makers have shared a wide variety of unique projects.
If you’re looking to create something new, want a solid piece of capacitive touch hardware, or are interested in learning more about the Raspberry Pi – this is a great place to start. Blackbeat is an independent company based in Culiacán Rosales, Mexico, and is the product’s designer and seller.
Depending on what microcontroller/dev board you’re using, you may have all the IO for your project that you need. On the other hand, perhaps you want to integrate a few buttons, an LED, or small buzzer and don’t have the necessary pins available. Or maybe you just don’t have the patience and/or physical room needed to run the appropriate lines.
The good news is that you don’t actually have to run every single line if you can instead implement a protocol like I2C. The even better news, depending on your situation, is that the I2CUI4_V1 module from iotdevices integrates 5 buttons, a buzzer, and RGB LED into one convenient PCB. The device also has another 7 GPIO pins that can be broken out via pin connectors, expanding potential interface possibilities even further.
The product listing notes that this would work well in clocks, multimedia devices, weather stations, and more, but the possibilities are really only limited by your imagination. It works with both Arduino and ESP-based devices, the latter of which would make it perfect for use with Home Assistant setups, especially when it would be easier to mash a button or two rather than getting out your phone!
While the original Game Boy and its various Pocket/Advance/Color iterations have long been out of production, this venerable system apparently never left our collective hearts. This is evidenced, in part, by the new and/or hacked hardware and software that people have come up to use with the platform; now including an ESP8266 WiFi module for the Game Boy Advance (GBA) from maciel310’s store.
Maciel310, AKA Anthony Maciel, is quick to note that, while he’s not the first to connect an ESP device to the GBA, he believes that this is the first one to be put up for sale. The idea behind adapter is that for the GBAJam2021 event, he wanted to make the first MMO game for the platform, but was limited to using a physical tethered connection.
With this hardware, you could play such a game wirelessly, as you’d expect with a portable console. It’s important to note, however, that it won’t simply enable Internet connectivity to existing games, you’ll need a game designed to work with this hardware.
You can see a bit more info on the Game Boy advance MMO on this playlist, and the clip of a GBA booting off of the ESP8266 WiFi adapter is embedded below:
Of course, this isn’t the only bit of custom Game Boy kit available on Tindie. You can also check out Prima Materia, a new Game Boy game for 2021, or this 2MB Flash Cart for custom firmware storage.
Electronics have improved exponentially over the years, to the point where today we carry what not too long ago would be considered a supercomputer – plus a robust sensor and communications suite with us as a ‘phone’. Such global improvement has the trickle-down effect that we can use these leaps in technology in our own projects, including the amazing STMicroelectronics VL53L5CX time-of-flight (ToF) sensor.
This ‘sensor’, as noted in Pesky Products’ breakout board listing, might better be described as a low-res camera, since it’s able to pick up on ToF data in an 8×8 grid. This resolution is good enough for gesture recognition, pose estimation (i.e. whether one is sitting, standing, or lying down), and much more, though it is limited enough to obscure detailed identifying information.
The ranging capability of the sensor is up to 400 cm, and the field of view is conspicuously rated at 61º. This means that a full 360º view could be covered, plus just a bit more with 6 sensors arranged around a robot or device. The sensor features a few additional tricks beyond sending pure range info, including the ability to calculate ‘motion intensity’, i.e. relative velocity, for each pixel.
Pesky products is clearly a big fan of this sensor, and what better way to show appreciation for a device than to make a breakout board to let others enjoy it as well? Their board includes 8 pins to accommodate the needed power and interface pins, in a 17.9mm x 10.3mm package. Alternatively, if you’d rather integrate this into your own custom PCB, they’ve got you covered in that scenario as well; the design is downloadable via OSHpark.
The words noise, lo-fi, and kit in combination are music to our ears – conjuring up images of exciting electronic music projects, sound adventures and soldering serenity. The MFOS NOISE TOASTER Lo-Fi Noise Box KIT brings thes together to deliver a noise machine capable of emitting a vast range of sounds from a 9V battery. In fact, it’s guaranteed to bring the noise!
The MFOS Toaster circuit houses all the key features you need to make noise: a VCO (voltage controlled oscillator), a white noise generator, a Low Pass VCF (voltage controlled filter), a LFO (low frequency oscillator), an AR envelope generator, a VCA (voltage controlled amplifier, and a one watt amplifier that drives a small speaker. It comes as a kit which includes a PCB, switches, potentiometers, LEDs, resistors and capacitors you need to make a finished unit. For the record, MFOS is an abbreviation of Music From Outer Space, a website full of DIY projects created by the sadly departed Ray Wilson.
A Bill Of Materials has been supplied if you need to know exactly whats inside. The seller also has panels available if you want a sleek looking front end. The MFOS Noise Toaster is the first product to be sold by Sunny’s Shop who are based in China – we look forward to seeing more soon!
In recent years, we’ve seen a number of synthesizers which seek to recreate the classic sound of retro consoles and computer music! There’s a new model on the scene; the DAFM synth – BLASTER YMF262 (OPL3) which will take you back to the computers, keyboards, and consoles which housed the mystical Yamaha YMF262 chip – powered by the glory of FM synthesis.
The YMF262 was originally housed in Sound Blaster Pro 2 and Sound Blaster 16 ASP sound cards so you can be sure you’re getting the real deal, enclosed in a modern form with controls for a host of synth parameters. This synth comes fully constructed with a choice of knob colour and a sleek enclosure, featuring OLED screens, dual rotary encoders and buttons for full control. Send messages to the DAFM Blaster via 5-Pin MIDI input or via USB – it’ll react to inputted MIDI notes as well as CC (Control Change) messages for tweaking/automation of individual parameters. Get a full run down of all you need to know in the datasheet they’ve supplied.
The Arduino Nano has become something of a go-to for many makers. With the features of the ubiquitous Arduino Uno, but in a small, inexpensive, and breadboard-able form factor, what’s not to love? I’ve certainly embedded it in my share of projects, but once you move past prototyping on a breadboard, or simply hooking up a few wires, there are a few things that could be enhanced.
As an answer to my Nano wish list, I developed the Grounduino Nano board. It features 5 extra 5v pins, plus an additional 5 grounds versus the Arduino Nano itself, thus the ‘Groundino’ moniker. Additionally, there’s space for a 2200µF capacitor that connects to the +5V and GND lines, and connections for an extra 4 3.3V pins under the cap’s footprint. Space for a capacitor here provides a good method to help even out current fluctuations, such as when working with WS2812B LEDs.
The board can be used with male or female pin headers, but is designed to be used with screw terminals for easy wire connection/disconnection. Two mounting holes are provided, which can be used with either 3mm or 6-32 screws, or with a DIN rail adapter option.
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