Sunday, February 27, 2011


What fits in a mint tin and lets the 19th Century communicate with the 21st?

It's not a real riddle, it's the Morse key USB keyboard! A nifty little interface that connects to a telegraph key on one end and on the other, tells your computer it's a USB keyboard.

While first at glance you might see only hobbyist fun (and big fun indeed for some of us), there's a serious side to this kind of interface, too: persons with limited mobility or strength who are unable to use a conventional keyboard can use a telegraph key. It has been done before, usually in the form of software running on a dedicated machine with a specialized interface; this is plug'n'play, portable. USB connection, Dr. Hawking?

Downside, you'll need the hardware/software to flash an Arduino-compatible microcontroller. Or know someone who can.

Update: If you'd like to match this to a landline telegraph sounder, Jake von Slatt's sounders are a scratch-built solution; the morse2led software he uses to drive them (from a keyboard led) would also work a commercial sounder, piezo buzzer or electromagnetic buzzer, though you might have to fiddle with the drive ciruits a little.

If you were wondering, yes, there is Morse telegraphy on the Internet. The software is free. The linked page, at the wonderful Morse Telegraph Club website, will guide you to sites and software, some using landline (or American) Morse and others using radio (or International) telegraph codes

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Yes, even the SX-70: The Impossible Project is making film for them! And for a number of other classic Polaroid cameras.

Polaroid themselves got out of the instant film business in 2008; a group of enthusiasts bought up the machinery from the last few plants, leased space from Polaroid and...started from scratch on the chemistry: Polaroid had made their own dyes, etc. and it was information they couldn't share. It seemed impossible -- but it wasn't.

A couple of years ago, I packed away my Dad's old SX-70, thinking it was long odds it would ever take another photograph. Looks like I was wrong.

It's not that "retro," but it was a lost technology and now it's back. It will probably never again be the preferred choice for vacation snapshots but it is certainly nice to have the option.

(First found here, thanks to her).

Monday, February 7, 2011


I only know what I have seen on their website, but MiniSteam has me totally enthralled: more tabletop steam (and everything from Stirling to internal combustion) engines than I have ever seen in one storefront, from a huge variety of makers. Even steam robots -- see for yourself.

There and elsewhere, my dream toy for the summer, a Stirling-engine fan.

Prices on many of them are not for the faint of heart -- but it's wonderful stuff to see.