Ideas to Prototypes Hack Chat with Nick Bild

You've got the idea, now make something of it

Wednesday, July 29, 2020 12:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
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Nick Bild will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, July 29, 2020 at noon Pacific Time.

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For most of us, ideas are easy to come by. Taking a shower can generate a half of dozen of them, the bulk of which will be gone before your hair is dry. But a few ideas will stick, and eventually make it onto paper or its electronic equivalent, to be played with and tweaked until it coalesces into a plan. And a plan, if we're lucky, is what's needed to put that original idea into action, to bring it to fruition and see just what it can do.

No matter what you're building, the ability to turn ideas into prototypes is what moves projects forward, and it's what most of us live for. Seeing something on the bench or the shop floor that was once just a couple of back-of-the-napkin sketches, and before that only an abstract concept in your head, is immensely satisfying.

The path from idea to prototype, however, is not always a smooth one, as Nick Bild can attest. We've been covering Nick's work for a while now, starting with his "nearly practical" breadboard 6502 computer, the Vectron, up to his recent forays into machine learning with ShAIdes, his home-automation controlling AI sunglasses. On the way we've seen his machine-learning pitch predictor, dazzle-proof glasses, and even a wardrobe-malfunction preventer.

All of Nick's stuff is cool, to be sure, but there's a method to his productivity, and we'll talk about that and more in this Hack Chat. Join us as we dive into Nick's projects and find out what he does to turn his ideas into prototypes.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney07/29/2020 at 20:04 0 comments

    I'm not sure I've seen Nick sign on yet - you out there, Nick?

    morgan12:00 PM
    probably cleaning his desk

    morgan12:00 PM
    /me ducks


    Nick Bild joined the room.12:00 PM

    Nick Bild12:00 PM
    Hi, I'm here!

    Nick Bild12:01 PM
    The wheels were spinning.

    greenenergyengr joined the room.12:01 PM

    There he is. Welcome Nick, and welcome to everyone on this fine Hack Chat Wednesday! I'm Dan, I'll be modding today. Let's welcome Nick Bild to the Hack Chat today to talk about turning ideas into prototypes.

    Nick, can you give us a little backstory on yourself?

    Boian Mitov12:02 PM
    Hello everyone :-)

    Nick Bild12:02 PM
    Sure! Thanks so much for having me...

    Nick Bild12:02 PM
    I have degrees in computer science and bioinformatics and professionally I've been a software engineer for about 15 years, splitting my time between industry and academia...

    Nick Bild12:02 PM
    About a year and a half ago I got interested in the idea of teaching myself about electronics in my free time. I decided to design and build a retrocomputer based around the 6502 processor as a first project. I knew nothing at the start...I was literally googling "what is the difference between voltage and current"...

    Nick Bild12:02 PM
    It took me several months to build and debug (I had almost no tools other than a multimeter at the time; no logic analyzer, etc.) The result was the Vectron 64 ( I learned a lot in the process, and by the end I was hooked...

    Nick Bild12:03 PM
    With the confidence from building my first project, I started quickly building devices based on my other ideas. At this point, I've finished 17 substantial projects, 13 of those being published on Hackaday. Some of my more popular projects are...

    Nick Bild12:03 PM
    - ShAIdes ( - glasses that control devices around the house with a wave of the hand.

    Nick Bild12:03 PM
    - Tipper ( - AR glasses that predict if a baseball pitch will be in or out of the strike zone.

    Nick Bild12:03 PM
    - Deep Clean ( - watches a room and flags all surfaces as they are touched for special attention on the next cleaning to help prevent the spread of contagious disease.

    Nick Bild12:04 PM
    - Vectron AI ( - interfaces with the Vectron 64 to provide gesture detecting AI to control and Atari 2600 game.

    Nick Bild12:04 PM
    - Safe Meeting ( - keeps an eye on you during your Zoom calls, and if it sees inappropriate attire, the video is immediately muted.

    Nick Bild12:04 PM
    A full list is here:

    Nick Bild12:04 PM
    I haven't (yet) had the chance to turn any of my prototypes into finished consumer-ready products, but I have had some success in quickly turning ideas into working prototypes, so I'd be happy to your answer questions about that, and general questions about any of my projects.

    Nick Bild12:04 PM
    PS - My desk is not normally that clean :)

    Phew -- one of us...

    Nick Bild12:05 PM

    Luke J. Barker joined the room.12:06 PM

    So with the Vectron build, did you find your IT background prepared you in any way? Or had your education kind of abstracted the bits and bytes so much that it was like starting from scratch?

    Nick Bild12:09 PM
    That was one of the reasons I wanted to build the Vectron. I was used to working at such a high level of abstraction, that I wanted to learn what was really happening, beyond some boxes labeled "RAM" and "CPU" with lines connecting them...

    Nick Bild12:10 PM
    When you deal with these older chips you can understand everything that's happening. You can envision every signal on the bus and get a very deep understanding.

    Nick Bild12:10 PM
    The modern abstractions are good, yes, writing assembly and building your own computer isn't terribly practical...

    Yeah, that's exactly why I want to build a...

    Read more »

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