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Ask Steve Wozniak Anything

ThJ Re:Where Are Today's Hobbyists? (612 comments)

I accidentally posted anonymously, so here's what I wrote, and what I want to add to:

Well, if you want to tinker with 1970s-era home computer technology, the parts for doing so still exist. One of my builds had a Zilog Z80 processor, 32kB of SRAM and EEPROM memory (no interface circuitry required), plus a 4 MHz clock generator. For output, I had 2 latch DACs and a latch gate, hooked up to the X, Y and Z (intensity) inputs of an oscilloscope. Plotting vectors on the screen every 20 or 40 ms only takes up a few processor cycles. Input from a PS/2 keyboard runs at such a low baud rate that you don't really need to worry about having a chip for it either. Use a simple multiplexer and a couple of logical gate chips to set up interrupt triggers for the screen refresh and keyboard input. I believe the PS/2 has a clock pin, so just trigger when that's high or low. You could hook up your EEPROM so the processor can flash it, for some primitive storage, or you could hook up an old tape deck to some simple analog circuitry, for Commodore 64-style storage. IBM PC floppy drives also use a very simple interface, but you'd need more logical circuitry. You could toss on another Z80 as an I/O co-processor and run them in lockstep with the 4 MHz clock. The possibilities for fun tinkering are endless.

I must admit that I've had trouble finding an easy, inexpensive way of prototyping. Sending PCB layouts to fabs is a little bit expensive, especially if you make a mistake. I've used veroboard in the past, but all the soldering for bus lines can take its toll on the copper tracks, especially if you make mistakes, and you often end up having to throw out a board after a while. I've been tempted to try wirewrapping tools lately, because of how easy it is to fix a mispatched connection. I have also experimented with laser printer etching, but it's time consuming, and the chemical brew you need for it is rather nasty. The closest thing I have gotten to "real time development" in the way you would do with software is SPICE, specifically LTspice in my case, but you have to watch out for some things. In the simulation, conductors are ideal and have no time delay, resistance or capacitance, and components behave perfectly, with no thermal noise, so you risk doing an entire design in SPICE, and then discovering later that you actually needed those seemingly optional decoupling capacitors for the circuit to remain stable. This becomes especially apparent as you get closer to the gigahertz range (and is part of the reason why circuits have kept shrinking over the years, as this reduces those side effects).

more than 2 years ago

How $1,500 Headphones Are Made

ThJ Re:Sarcastic or not? (353 comments)

The funny bit is that a pair of near field monitors can be had for 400 dollars or less these days and with built-in matched amplifiers for each element in the speaker cabinet, their accuracy often beats more expensive Hifi systems.

more than 5 years ago

Australian ISPs Claim Net Neutrality Is an 'American Problem'

ThJ Re:Well.. (363 comments)

This already happens. I know of at least one colocation company that has different bandwidth caps for packets to the domestic exchange than packets that have to go abroad. Typically this is because their linkups are supplied by different companies, and the international link costs more.

more than 6 years ago



Have you ever had the Programmer's Blues?

ThJ ThJ writes  |  more than 5 years ago

ThJ writes "This is a little tale of the troubles I have had since I started working as a programmer, and it might come off as a rant. I am currently 26 years old and I have been into electronics and computers since I was very young. With this article, I hope to share my experiences with other programmers, and get some useful feedback from the web community."
Link to Original Source

Google Earth used by terrorists in Inda attacks

ThJ ThJ writes  |  about 6 years ago

Thor writes "'The terrorists who attacked various locations in southern Mumbai last week used digital maps from Google Earth to learn their way around, according to officials investigating the attacks.

Investigations by the Mumbai police, including the interrogation of one nabbed terrorist, suggest that the terrorists were highly trained and used technologies such as satellite phones and the Global Positioning System, according to police.' the IDG News Service reports.

What are the moral implications of this? Does Google bear any indirect responsibility? What other modern-day tools could terrorists use to carry out such attacks? Could Google somehow help prevent future attacks, and what consequences would this have for privacy?"

Link to Original Source

Organizing your files

ThJ ThJ writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Thor writes "Over the years, a significant number of files have accumulated on my hard drive. I am not a very organized person, and this has naturally materialized itself in how these files have been (dis)organized. I have a 'Backup' folder. I have a 'Backup' folder inside of the 'Backup' folder. I have a 'Stuff' folder with an older 'Stuff' folder inside of it. My desktop is completely cluttered with icons, which will eventually end up in the 'Stuff' folder. You get the picture.

I presume that other people have the same problem. Further, I optimistically presume that they must have solved it in some glorious way that I am tragically unaware of. What I'm (presumably) looking for is some piece of software that will do the grunt work of sorting through my files, perhaps by following some sort of ruleset, placing them in categorized folders. Perhaps some kind of Bayesian filtering with a training window popping up when I drop new files on my desktop?

NOTE: I am a fan of Linux, but due to various circumstances, I use Windows XP as my desktop OS."


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