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Post details: Microcontrollers, Light Pipes, and a Trip To Sci Plus!

Microcontrollers, Light Pipes, and a Trip To Sci Plus!

Posted by: The Mad Scientist

While laying in bed and trying to go to sleep a couple of nights ago, I let my mind begin to wander with thoughts of developing new vixen cartoon characters that could maybe one day also be turned into talking animatronic animal robots. All of a sudden inspiration hit me like a sledge hammer on the head, and I came up with a fantastic idea that made me so excited that I could barely fall asleep that night! This idea for a new animatronic robot character was so exciting (at least to me) that I had a mini-obsession about it and have spent the last two weeks researching the technology behind it! What is this great fantastic idea do you ask? I would love to tell you, since it will probable be a year or two before I can turn this great new idea into a reality, I will have to keep this a secret project for now. I will tell you this about my new project however-- it involves fiber optics-- lots of fiber optics! I will most likely discuss the new character in more detail when I have the new character's design on paper and copyrighted, but until then I will be keeping this character under wraps.

As if to feed my obsession, as it so happened, the mad scientist equivalent of a candy store, American Science & Surplus, was having a sale on large fiber optic lamps. These lamps have a round base and a fountain-shaped formation of .75mm end-glow optic fibers coming out of the top that glow in different colors, and they usually cost between $20.00 and $50.00 apiece, but American Science & Surplus had them on sale for only $5.95 each! These lamps struck me as the absolute most perfect things to take apart and reverse engineer to figure out how fiber optic cables were illuminated, so I had to get my hands on some!

That afternoon I gathered up my chemist friend and we headed down to the American Science & Surplus store to go and check it out! Not only did I stock up on a couple of the fiber optic lamps while I was there, but I also picked up some other neat oddities including: heat-shrink tape to use with my electronics projects, a bright 4-color LED light stand with fading effects to use as an alternate fiber optic illumination source, a 3.5mm mono mini-jack plug to hook up to a audio pick-up inductor coil that I was building a novelty, and a magnifying visor to help me with soldering!

Also in the past couple weeks I have been looking for an alternative to the overly expensive General Semiconductor AY5-2376 ASCII Keyboard Encoder IC for the ASCII keyboard encoding board that I am building for my Replica I computer. So far the best alternative I have come across is the KR2376 developed by Standard Microsystems, but that too isn't exactly cheap-- just cheaper. The other day I may have found a source that has authentic Apple II keyboards and ASCII keyboard encoder boards that are compatible with my Replica I system, but those have their own pluses and minuses. On the plus side, the Apple II keyboard and encoder are guaranteed to work with each other and my Replica I system, but on the downside the combo is very expensive and I will be out of the fun of building my own keyboard and encoder board. I will have to weigh in the cost of all the parts to build my own encoder board based on the KR2376 IC, but building my own my turn out to be cheaper, and since I don't have a big budget for my projects, anything that I can get for cheaper is a good thing!

Lastly, I have been doing a lot of research on PIC microcontroller programming lately so that I can used custom controlled PIC microcontrollers in my projects, and thanks to a lot of help from Dwayne Forsyth from the company 2D Kits, I now know the model PIC microcontroller programmer that I am going to use as well as which development software. After I purchase and build the PIC programmer board and practice programming the chips, I should be able to start making custom chips that can add to the functionality of my robots!

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