Hardware hacking - the next frontier?

One of the welcome additions this year has been a company subscription to MAKE. Reading it, I am reminded of Wired magazine circa 1994 - the same optimism, enthusiasm and sense of unbounded possibility.

In it, people write about projects they've created, and a lot of them involve technology that hasn't previously been readily available. Things start to get interesting, given that nowadays you can buy more processing power than they had for all the Apollo missions for less than a pint of beer.

For example, a lot of the projects featured in MAKE and on websites like instructables.com make use of AVR microcontrollers. These tiny chips, which cost as little as 50p, are fully fledged computers that can be programmed in C to do what you want them to.

Inspired by this, I set out to see how hard it could be to hack these things. The answer, gratifyingly, was 'not very'. After I had purchased an eight dollar interface kit from Adafruit Industries, I bought the components necessary to create a micro LED display:

Alphanumeric LED and battery pack

Following the great instructions from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, I built one, and then reprogrammed the chip to create a crude persistence of vision device, which could then be velcroed onto my spokes for use as a propaganda tool during the Critical Mass bike ride:

LED POV writing

So, here's to all the Makers out there, who, armed with their AVR chips, arduinos, MAKE controllers, phidgets and BUGmodules, are busy exploring the next frontier of DIY-tech: hardware.


[...] my newfound interest in programmable hardware, my latest project has been to create a LEGO minifig equipped with an AVR microcontroller backpack. [...]

I really thought you were going to post about Bug Labs and the recent announcement of their open source, hardware. And then you didn't. :-)

That'd be because I wasn't previously aware of the BUG system! Thanks for the tip - I've added a link to their site in the main text, and eagerly await their launch (and pricing details)...

[...] Hardware hacking - the next frontier? - [via Link [...]

[...] also managed to give a talk about my recent tinkering with AVR chips (as I have previously mentioned on this blog). The title of the talk was Do you want chips with that? - Physical [...]