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Technological Surrealism / Alec Nerds Out

Lo8 Labels

February 15, 2014

A final detail on the Lo8 8-track tape backup: custom labels. These will hopefully recall floppy disks or zip disks for those who suffered with them. (Sorry, Imation.) Note the 8-track-style labels for each track’s contents.

Custom diskette-style label on 8-track for Lo8

Custom diskette-style label on 8-track for Lo8

At Last The Set Is Complete

December 21, 2013

We have +, -, and * — and now, finally, an รท (obelus) screwdriver.

8 Track Rewinder

December 11, 2013

A quick one following on the heels of the 8-Track tape backup

While it’s fun to kick a technology when it’s down, it’s not as satisfying as making something that actually, y’know, works well. And I had some 8-track parts left over, particularly the guts of another tape unit whose amplifier circuitry and read/write head were fried.

In the process of making the tape backup unit one of the well-known flaws of continuous-loop tape reared its head — you can’t rewind. This made testing painful, since testing 5 seconds worth of DTMF tones meant running through a complete cycle of the tape. Even on fast forward this can take some minutes.

8-Track Rewinder

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Lo8: Resurrecting the 8-track as a data storage medium

December 8, 2013

I ranted back here about how awful the 8-track cartridge was. I’m happy to report that I’ve finally found a good use for it as a mortal insult to tape as a data storage medium.

I’ve always hated tape backup. My first experience with it was a Reveal brand device that piggy-backed somehow onto the floppy controller. It was an attempt to make tape backup accessible to the humble consumer; the drive was badly made and poorly supported, and any time I attempted to use it, the data was corrupted before I even had a chance to put the tape back in its plastic case. The $200 or so of hard-earned paper route money I spent on the thing was as irretrievable as the files I entrusted to its care.

So I figured I could kill three birds with one stone:

  • Insult tape backup by associating it with something as reviled as the 8-track
  • Revive the cherished experience of storing data on consumer audio media, as the first generation of home computers did in the early ’80s
  • Pay tribute to the 8-track, which I secretly love.

Here goes. Read the rest of this entry »

Voom-Aster Video Player Hacking

November 12, 2013

I needed to take a little break from the endless tracing of point-to-point wiring and replacement of sticky lumps of toxic goo for modern capacitors, so I picked up a project I’d left half-finished and spent the whole weekend engrossed in it.

This is an idea I had rattling around in my head for a while so in the summer I started looking for the parts. Primary among them was a View-Master toy, which I got from a lady who was its original owner when she was a little girl. She was slightly sad that I was going to take it apart but I promised that I’d do something worthy with it. Hopefully this is it.

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Television Repair Continued

October 18, 2013

I’m continuing to work on repairing my antique television, which I began documenting here.

There are a few good resources for television repair, such as Notes on the Troubleshooting and Repair of Television Sets. The wonderful thing about televisions is that they’re basically big oscilloscopes, so you can frequently use what’s on the screen as a detailed troubleshooting resource.

However, there are a number of risks, too: the CRT anode gets 16KV, which is enough voltage to require your daughter to attend expensive therapy when she’s old enough to understand What Happened To Dad. With everything guaranteed antique and without good documentation or test equipment, it’s also hard to know where to start. And certain bits and pieces, if they’re broken, will be very difficult to replace on the cheap — for example, the CRT.
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Drums for Tykes

September 7, 2013

I’ve cornered myself in my office amidst heaps of large, unfinished projects and it seems that whenever I try to get somewhere with one of them another 5 will throw themselves at me. I’ve got a broken B&W TV to fix, a monstrosity of a T6600 laptop to modernize, a few broken 8-tracks to tinker with, an antique Viewmaster to make awesome, and all the assorted Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards those entail.

So it’s nice to start and finish a small project in less than an hour. This is also the first project I’ve made for Luciana, who is now 16 months old and ready to handle that sort of thing.
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Television Repair Amateur Hour

August 14, 2013

I have a thing for old televisions and cabinet stereos, and by a narrow margin, old televisions are the lesser of two evils. With evil, in this case, being measured in square feet. Perhaps that’s why I have two old televisions and try to remain content with only one cabinet stereo.
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