Category Archives: Original Art

Radio Apocalypse: The Emergency Broadcast System

Some sounds are capable of evoking instant terror. It might be the shriek of a mountain lion, or a sudden clap of thunder. Whatever your trigger sound, it instantly stimulates something deep in the lizard brain that says: get ready, danger is at hand.

For my part, you can’t get much scarier than the instantly recognizable two-tone alert signal (audio link warning) from the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS). For anyone who grew up watching TV in the 60s and 70s in the US, it was something you heard on at least a weekly basis, with that awful tone followed by …read more

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Posted in conelrad, EAS, EBS, emergency alert system, Emergency Broadcast System, fcc, Hackaday Columns, history, Original Art, public alert system | Leave a comment

Maria Goeppert-Mayer: The Other Nobel Prize Winner

Maria Goeppert-Mayer was one of only two women to win the Nobel prize for physics thus far, the other being Marie Curie. And yet her name isn’t anywhere near as well known as Marie Curie’s. She also worked on the Manhattan Project and spent time during her long career with Enrico Fermi, Max Born, Edward Teller, and many other physics luminaries.

She was “other” in another way too. She followed her husband from university to university, and due to prevailing rules against hiring both husband and wife, often had to take a non-faculty position, sometimes even with no salary. Yet …read more

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Posted in Hackaday Columns, history, Maria Goeppert-Mayer, Nobel, nobel prize winners, Original Art, physics, quantum physics | Leave a comment

Organizing Teams With Collective Fictions

There is often an observable difference between what is considered the right thing to do, and what actually is being done.

Terry Pratchett said it best when he made Death declare mercy and justice nonexistent: “TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY.” (Note that Death is not shouting, he simply speaks upper case.)

We can’t measure justice and mercy. These are collective fictions — things we agree to believe to enable us to get along — and …read more

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Posted in discussion, Featured, Interest, organization, Original Art, Software Development, work | Leave a comment

The Clutter Manifesto

My basement workshop is so crammed full of stuff I literally can’t use it. My workbench, a sturdy hardwood library table, is covered in junk to the point that I couldn’t find a square foot that didn’t have two layers of detritus on it — the top layer is big things like old projects that no longer work, boxes of stuff, fragile but light things perched on top. Underneath is the magma of bent resistors, snippets of LED strip, #4 screws, mystery fasteners I’ll never use, purple circuit boards from old versions of projects, and a surprising number of SparkFun …read more

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Posted in cleanliness, clutter, disorganization, Hackaday Columns, mess, Original Art, tool hacks, workshop | Leave a comment

Hacking When it Counts: Prison Locksmithing

In 1978, Tim Jenkin was a man living on borrowed time, and he knew it. A white South African in his late 20s, he had been born into the apartheid system of brutally enforced racial segregation. By his own admission, he didn’t even realize in his youth that apartheid existed — it was just a part of his world. But while traveling abroad in the early 1970s he began to see the injustice of the South African political system, and spurred on by what he learned, he became an activist in the anti-apartheid underground.

Intent on righting the wrongs he …read more

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Posted in apartheid, escape, Featured, history, jailbreak, lockpicking, lockpicking hacks, locks, Original Art, Pretoria, prisoner, social engineering, south africa | Leave a comment

How The Integrated Circuit Came To Be

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. It may surprise you that the microchip that we all know and love today was far from an obvious idea. Some of the paths that were being explored back then to cram more components into a smaller area seem odd now. But who hasn’t experienced hindsight of that sort, even on our own bench tops.

Let’s start the story of the microchip like any good engineering challenge should be started, by diving into the problem that existed at the time with the skyrocketing complexity of computing machines.

The Problem: Tyranny Of Numbers

The …read more

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Posted in Fairchild Semiconductor, Featured, history, integrated circuit, intel, Original Art, Robert Noyce, texas instruments, univac | Leave a comment

Sferics, Whistlers, and the Dawn Chorus: Listening to Earth Music on VLF

We live in an electromagnetic soup, bombarded by wavelengths from DC to daylight and beyond. A lot of it is of our own making, especially further up the spectrum where wavelengths are short enough for the bandwidth needed for things like WiFi and cell phones. But long before humans figured out how to make their own electromagnetic ripples, the Earth was singing songs at the low end of the spectrum. The very low frequency (VLF) band abounds with interesting natural emissions, and listening to these Earth sounds can be quite a treat.

Long, Long Waves

The VLF band is roughly …read more

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Posted in amateur, atmospherics, Curated, Engineering, ham, ionosphere, magnetosphere, Original Art, propagation, radio hacks, sferics, vlf | Leave a comment

Books You Should Read: V-2 By Walter Dornberger

In an era where we can watch rockets land on their tails Buck Rogers-style live on YouTube, it’s difficult to imagine a time when even the most basic concepts of rocketry were hotly debated. At the time, many argued that the very concept of a liquid fueled rocket was impossible, and that any work towards designing practical rocket powered vehicles was a waste of time and money. Manned spacecraft, satellite communications, to say nothing of landing on other worlds; all considered nothing more than entertainment for children or particularly fanciful adults.

This is the world in which V-2, …read more

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Posted in A-4, Hackaday Columns, history, Original Art, space, V-2, Walter Dornberger, Wernher von Braun | Leave a comment

Silicon Valley was Built on Tubes of Glass

Bill Shockley brought the transistor to a pasture in Palo Alto, but he didn’t land there by chance. There was already a plot afoot which had nothing to do with silicon, and it had already been a happening place for some time by then.

Often overshadowed by Edison and Menlo Park or Western Electric and its Bell Labs, people forget that the practical beginning of modern radio and telecommunications began unsuspectingly in the Bay Area on the shoestring-budgeted work benches of Lee de Forest at Federal Telegraph.

As the first decade of the 20th century passed, Lee de Forest was …read more

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Posted in Featured, history, Original Art, silicon valley, stanford, technology, vacuum tubes | Leave a comment

Beyond Conway: Cellular Automata from All Walks of Life

There’s a time in every geek’s development when they learn of Conway’s Game of Life. This is usually followed by an afternoon spent on discovering that the standard rule set has been chosen because most of the others just don’t do interesting things, and that every idea you have has already been implemented. Often enough this episode is then remembered as ‘having learned about cellular automata’ (CA). While important, the Game of Life is not the only CA out there and it’s not even the first. The story starts decades before Life’s publication in 1970 in a place where a …read more

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Posted in cellular automata, computing history, conway, Featured, Interest, Original Art, von neumann, Wolfram | Leave a comment