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My ridiculous new invention - The 1diot Stick! - 1 to 30
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Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Fri 7th Nov '08 9:49AM
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Well, after scrapping the idea of getting this patented I decided it's time to share it with the good people of thedaddy.org so you can a) tell me how silly it is, b) come up with new ideas for me, and c) Give me tips on soldering.

During a discussion with Swoop last week which covered the origins of computer/video games, and the current push towards ever greater 3d immersivity in gaming, it struck me that what the world might need is, in fact, a one-dimensional games console.

Originally envisaged as a simple row of lights on which a tennis game would be played, as a homage to the first ever electronic game, the scope soon blossomed as we thought of new applications for such a device:

Morse code training and output
Maths tuition programs
Games - simple ones such as Frogger (thanks Magina), Lights Out and Simon - but easily expandable to make (silly) RTSs, puzzle games.
An 'attract' mode to display pretty patterns
A visualiser for music in the style of Milkdrop.

I was also considering that pictures and letters can be displayed scrolling scross the display, by displaying a single row at a time. For an example of this in action, check out the game on www.kongregate.com called 'Z-Rox' (thanks Swoop). Hell, if I can get the thing to show porn it could actually catch on

I realised that although a device is one dimensional it could still include such things as:

Multicoloured / variable intensity lighting (though this arguably makes the device more than one-dimensional, but not spacially at least)
Full keyboard / joypad control
Surround Sound
Haptic feedback
Touch sensitivity
Audio input (for the milkdrop app)
and so on.

Spanners has also contributed some great input ideas such as mercury switches or accelerometers for motion sensitivity, temperature sensors to make some really baffling 'how do i make this light go on' type puzzles. Hidden contacts which would have to be wired together for the final challenge, maybe?

So, feel free to a) mock me now, and b) contribute any ideas you have for games or applications and I'll add them to my ever growing list!

-THE TECHY BIT-
My initial vision was to make the simple light-bouncing game using circuitry alone, but I soon realised that I would need to use a chip (I'm guessing PIC18 is the way forward). And once I've got a chip in place there's no reason to limit myself to such a simple application, all I need to do is write the menu and each application in assembly and use a PIC programmer to load it into the PIC18. However, I'm going to need to get some practice in working with PICs first so I have a book on order and am off shopping next week for various tools and components. Does anyone here have any experience in working with PIC16 or 18? If so, do you have any advice for me or words of caution before I begin? I'm planning to purchase a bunch of PICs anyway, so that I can practice first and it doesn't matter if I blow a few up. Plus I think it's be cool to have a pockletful of tiny computers anyway!

Edit: Oh yes, and it might be called the 1-Dimensional Input/Output Terminal Stick, as that way it would be referred to as the '1diot stick' But feel free to suggest any better names you can come up with!
  

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Fri 7th Nov '08 12:46PM
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That's an excellent idea.

If you want it to be a programmable device and allow people to write stuff for it it might be worth trying to get some kind of tiny linux distribution in it as that would make it a lot more flexible. If you go the route of writing assembler on a PIC its going to be a one function device.
Of course that would be a good example of the old scope creep thing I was talking about.
    

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Fri 7th Nov '08 1:02PM
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I love linux fans, I'm used to being told I have to switch from Windows, but I haven't even designed the 1diot stick yet

Edit (to address your point properly) - the 1.0 version will just be hard- (well, firm-) coded to play a single app. Then once I know I can do that I want to build a menu system with a few different apps. So the 3.0, if I ever get that far, would be where I'd want to start making it available for other people to code for if they wanted, at that point I will consider the whole OS thing... I'm currently looking at 64K of memory I think, don't tell me theres a linux distro that will fit in that!
  

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Fri 7th Nov '08 3:09PM
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You certainly couldn't do it on a PIC but as with all these sorts tasks you will find most of what you want to do has been done a thousand times and the part that is movel will be relatively small so it's always worth looking for some kind of system on a chip which does what you need. Or prototype it on a PC and just have the PIC controlling the hardware to the PCs commands.
    

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Fri 7th Nov '08 3:29PM
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If you give it 32 lights you can run a Unix timestamp clock with one second granularity and watch as it explodes in 2038!
    

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Fri 7th Nov '08 4:49PM
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altair_8800

It occurs to me that the switches and row of lights concept is not unlike an early home computer like an Altair
    

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Sat 8th Nov '08 8:47AM
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General was bold enough to comment:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altair_8800

It occurs to me that the switches and row of lights concept is not unlike an early home computer like an Altair



Programming the Altair was an extremely tedious process where one toggled the switches to positions corresponding to an 8080 opcode, then used a special switch to enter the code into the machine's memory, and then repeated this step until all the opcodes of a presumably complete and correct program were in place. When the machine first shipped the switches and lights were the only interface, and all one could do with the machine was make programs to make the lights blink. Nevertheless, many were sold in this form.

Wow, hopefully I can make the coding process a little easier than that!

I also think one of the versions will have a lot in common with this, but rearranged in a row:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lights_Out_(video_game)
- actually not easy to see there, but it's basically a square of lights, each one of which is also a button. I'd like to get touch sensitivity in there eventually.

However, I'm pretty much stalled for a week till my next paycheque comes in and I can go shopping at Maplin, just like when I was 15, I used to love that place
  

Spanners*
Misses his big brother :(
Mon 10th Nov '08 8:47AM
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I think this is a fantastic idea with many things going for it including being pocket-sized, having a good generic interface that can support multiple apps and of course being baffling to anyone else trying to figure out what you're playing with!

My idea for enhancement (admittedly in a later release) was to use a multitude of sensors to make it into a kind of 'virtual Chinese puzzle box' so to make all the light go on you'd have to do various combinations of pressing, tipping, shaking, warming, holding magnets nearby, dipping in water etc
    

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Mon 10th Nov '08 2:32PM
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Ooh, holding magnets nearby is a new one I think. Are there simple magnetic-sensing components or does this involve trying to detect fluctuations in the electricity flow?

For anyone following this thread, yes I am currently completely rusty about everything to do with electronics, as it's erm... 17 years since I last picked up a soldering iron. I'm not planning to wade in with my soldering iron at the weekend, I'm going to practice some basic cheeseboard circuitry first, then start on a book called PIC in Practice which works through some small projects. After that I should be in a position to actually start construction!
  

Spanners*
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Mon 10th Nov '08 6:17PM
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Demian was bold enough to comment:
Ooh, holding magnets nearby is a new one I think. Are there simple magnetic-sensing components or does this involve trying to detect fluctuations in the electricity flow?


Yep, what you want is a reed switch. They use them in magnetic window/door sensors for burglar alarms.
    

Swoop*
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Tue 11th Nov '08 9:22PM
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I really love the electronic puzzle box idea, but from your original post and from conversation, I think concentrating on that would make it more of a toy (well, puzzle) than the multi fuction tool that you seemed to be going for. Temperature guages might turn it into a gimmick. The motion sensors have heaps of use though, keep them in.

I like the idea for the machine in the style of a console or computer which you could then produce applications for. Once you've get that sorted, then you can work on limited edition runs of puzzles, theme idiot sticks for special events, the world is your one dimensional lobster.

Spanners mentioned it's going to be pocket sized? I thought you said you'd settle for no less than 2ft long? Oooh collapsible! Genius. Do that too.

GPS too. And that thing where you flap it in the air and the light trails spell out words and make pictures.
 

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Fri 14th Nov '08 4:54PM
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And so it begins...



  

Spanners*
Misses his big brother :(
Fri 14th Nov '08 6:18PM
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Wow! Good luck fella!
    

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Fri 14th Nov '08 9:52PM
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http://evilmadscience.com/tinykitlist/100-meggyjr

you could try looking at the meggy jr for inspiration,
    

Xander
The panda is the evolutionary equivalent of living off benefits.
Fri 14th Nov '08 10:22PM
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I salute you Demian you dedication to your 1diot stick is highly commendable.

In that highly boring meeting we had to go too I noticed you needed a second sheet of paper to continue your designs. That's dedication.

Looks very A-Team that photo or like your trying to make a bomb...
 

Amanshu*
Giggity Giggity goo
Fri 14th Nov '08 11:11PM
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Wait, you're actually going to try and make it? Cool!
   

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Sat 15th Nov '08 6:20PM
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Amanshu was bold enough to comment:
Wait, you're actually going to try and make it? Cool!



But of course
Today I started on a 'make your own metronome' kit to get a bit of practice in before starting on the stick (centre left in the photo).

Amazing what can be done with these PIC chips, check this out: http://www.micro-examples.com/public/microex-navig/doc/079-touchclock.html

And Xander: Oops, was it that obvious I wasn't paying the slightest bit of attention? Heheh, well they ought to make the meetings a little bit less mind-numbingly dull
  

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Sun 16th Nov '08 7:04PM
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Practice: Day 1!

Result: Failure, and a burnt finger I don't know what went wrong but despite looking pretty cool it completely fails to do anything when turned on. Probably due to my cack-handed soldering, or maybe because the speaker seems to be missing it's connecting wires, so I had to improvise (see the black wires bending round the left hand side).

However, I resolved not to be deterred, and I had learnt that pointy-tipped soldering irons are rubbish. So...

Practice: Day 2!
Back to Maplins for a new higher-wattage soldering iron with chisel tip, more solder and wires, and a less ambitious project:

Result: Success! Much neater soldering after the practice on the first project, and it works! The two potentiometers control how long each light blinks for. Not really photographable but here's the proof that it does actually work:



Only 12 components and a couple of wires, but anyway!

Next up:

Nothing revolutionary here, however it does have a lot in common with the 1.0 prototype of the 1diot stick, so should be useful practice.
  

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Mon 17th Nov '08 7:05PM
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Whee!!


In action:


32 components and a couple of wires, total build time < 1 hour! I'm also getting much neater at the soldering thing:


Next up: Alarm clock with digital display. I've also figured out how to build my own logic gates, however I neglected to buy a pack of relays which I'll need for this. Back to Maplins on Saturday!
  

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Wed 19th Nov '08 4:15PM
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Alarm clock project on hold while I spend a couple of days studying circuitry theory. I've learnt more in the last two days than they managed to teach me in 2 years of A-level physics.

I could never grasp any of electronics as each thing was defined in terms of other things, however it's not really so bad once you grasp that voltage is the potential to force current along a wire, and current is simply the flow of electrical charge. It can also be easily pictured in terms of a pipe filled with water - if there's more pressure at one end the water will flow along the pipe, and you can attach a turbine somewhere along the way to cause something to happen. The voltage (potential difference) is equvalent to the difference in pressure at each end, and the current is the amount of water shooting through it. (Edit: Or is it the speed it shoots along? damn, I've packed my notes away for the day now!)

Anyway, I have purchased a set of relays but they're fairly pricey, so I want to figure out a way to build a circuit with a couple of switches to control whether the two relays form an AND or an OR gate, rather than using up four relays building one of each.
  

General*
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Wed 19th Nov '08 5:08PM
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If you need logic why don't you use your PIC rather than doing it with discreet components?
    

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Wed 19th Nov '08 6:53PM
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General was bold enough to comment:
If you need logic why don't you use your PIC rather than doing it with discreet components?



Because I'm also trying to learn the whole electronics thing, rather than just make the 1diot stick, since I'm enjoying myself so much
However, after the AND/OR relay project I'll probably crack open the PIC programmer and bag o' chips and start getting my head round it, I think my soldering's probably up to speed now.

Speaking of which...



Main(s) power, wahey!



  

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Mon 24th Nov '08 10:55AM
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(currently stalled while I read a rather large book on assembly programming, which I'll be using to program the PIC chip controlling the 1diot stick)
  

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Mon 1st Dec '08 6:26PM
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Grr..I know it's a long shot, but: does anyone have any knowhow about using MPASM to blow code into microchips? I can compile the code fine but I'm getting nothing out of the PIC programmer...
  

Epicure_mammon
I'm not crazy cause I take the RIGHT pills :)
Mon 1st Dec '08 6:33PM
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I've never had any trouble with MPASM - which programmer are you using. I must confess I've only every used PIC16s before!
  

Epicure_mammon
I'm not crazy cause I take the RIGHT pills :)
Mon 1st Dec '08 6:36PM
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Oh - and with your relays, don't forget to stick a diode reverse bias across the coil - otherwise the back EMF from the inductance of the coil will fry your logic!!
  

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Tue 2nd Dec '08 8:40AM
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Awesome! Thanks EM. Yes, I'm starting out with a PIC16F84. I think the problem is with the Velleman 111 programmer board. For a start, the 'do not remove or insert device' flashes continually at about 1/10th of the normal brightness all the time the PIC16 is plugged into it. Do you know if this is normal (I doubt it because it didn't do it initially with the PIC18 it came with), or is this a symptom of a fried chip?

Edit: I've often been amazed about the bizarre amount of things people have asked for, and received help for, on thedaddy, but I thought this was incredibly unlikely. I'm going to have to start a thread called 'Is there ANYTHING tddoers don't know about??'
  

Epicure_mammon
I'm not crazy cause I take the RIGHT pills :)
Tue 2nd Dec '08 9:32AM
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That is odd - i've not used that particular board before. There are a few mistakes I've made in the past which have lead to fried chips though, the most frustrating is accidentally setting the "code protection" bit, which effectively converts the EEPROM to PROM - so it can't be reprogrammed. Is that a possibility?

The other thing I've attempted a few times is to programme the wrong kind of chip. I notice you're using a PIC16F84, are you sure, for example, that you're not using a PIC16F84A?

Had a flick through the VM111 manual - its not very helpful is it!
  

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Tue 2nd Dec '08 2:46PM
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Epicure_mammon was bold enough to comment:

Had a flick through the VM111 manual - its not very helpful is it!



No, it's utter rubbish, and I'm starting to think the board is too Can you suggest the best one to choose if I were to replace it with a different make?
  

Epicure_mammon
I'm not crazy cause I take the RIGHT pills :)
Tue 2nd Dec '08 3:13PM
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I use PICKit2 - but that requires you to build a small board to accept the chip you're going to programme. Shouldn't be too much of a problem. There's a circuit diagram for the board in the 56 page user guide here :

http://docs-europe.electrocomponents.com/webdocs/09b5/0900766b809b5c1a.pdf

  

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