Back to Basics Hack Chat

Keep it simple, Simplifier

Wednesday, July 15, 2020 12:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Simplifier will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 at noon Pacific Time.

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Stay in the technology business long enough and eventually you'll have to face an uncomfortable question: "Have I built anything permanent?" Chances are good that most of us will have to answer in the negative. For all the flash and zazzle we put into our projects, and for all the craftsmanship we try to apply to our systems, all of it is built on a very fragile foundation of silicon that will be obsolete within a decade, held together by slender threads of code in a language that may or may not be in fashion in a year's time, and doesn't even really exist in anything more tangible than a series of magnetic domains on a hard drive somewhere.

Realizing that nothing you've built has any permanence is the engineer's equivalent of a midlife crisis, and for many of us it sets off a search for an outlet for our creativity that we can use to make things that will outlast us. One hacker, known now only as "Simplifier", turned his search for meaningful expression into a quest to make technology better by making it more accessible and understandable. His website, itself a model of simplicity, catalogs his search for useful materials and methods and his efforts to employ them. He has built everything from homebrew vacuum tubes to DIY solar cells, with recent forays into telecom tech with his carbon rod microphone and magnetostrictive earphone.

In this Hack Chat, Simplifier will answer your questions about how turning back the technology clock can teach us about where we're going. Join us as we explore what it takes to build the infrastructure we all take so much for granted, and find out if there's a way to live simply while still enjoying a technologically rich life.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney07/15/2020 at 20:21 0 comments

    OK everyone, thanks for coming, let's get started. I'm Dan, I'll be your moderator today, and I want to welcome Simplifier to the Hack Chat. You've probably seen a few of his projects that we've covered over the years, including DIY vacuum tubes and solar cells.

    Welcom, Simplifier! Can you tell us a little about how you got interested in getting back to technology's roots?

    sfrias112:01 PM
    MSX-BASIC, Z80-BASIC, poke/peek haha

    Simplifier12:02 PM
    Sure! I started off being interested in programming, but eventually got tired of the fact that my programs always had to run in someone else's playground (hardware manufacturers, VMs, etc.), so I started getting interested in hardware. From there it was a slippery slope, and I found I was only truly satisfied when I was able to make technology from natural materials.

    Simplifier12:02 PM
    Turns out that's a lot of fun, actually, so I started documenting it.

    For reference:

    Hackaday Dan Maloney

    Home Brew Vacuum Tubes Are Easier Than You Think

    It all began with a cheap Chinese rotary vane vacuum pump and a desire to learn the witchcraft of DIY vacuum tubes. It ended with a string of successes - a working vacuum chamber, light bulbs, glow tubes, diodes, and eventually this homebrew power triode and the audio amplifier built around it.

    Read this on Hackaday

    Dag Spicer12:04 PM
    How did you learn the techniques involved in making your own vacuum tubes? Is special equipment required?

    Dag Spicer12:04 PM
    Ah! OK thanks!

    Hi Dag!

    Simplifier12:05 PM
    I mostly just figured it out as I went along. My vacuum tube projects probably had the highest ratio of experimentation to research out of anything I've done. I think the only thing I looked up was which metals seal to which types of glass, and did the rest by trial and error.

    Simplifier12:05 PM
    As far as equipment, I just used a rotary vane pump intended for servicing AC units, a little oven I built myself, and a chinese induction heater module for firing the getters

    Simplifier12:06 PM
    Oh and a bunch of pipe fittings

    Ethan Waldo12:06 PM
    Have you delved in to optics and making lenses? That's a tough nut to crack for the uninitiated.

    Dag Spicer12:06 PM
    Were any dangerous materials used? Mass produced vts often had thoriated filaments and electrodes I believe.

    Dag Spicer12:07 PM
    The audio amp is GENIUS!

    Simplifier12:07 PM
    @Ethan Waldo I've thought about it occasionally in the past, and I may do so if I need a lens I can't buy off ebay, but honestly lenses are so simple it would have to be a matter of practicality; I can't really justify writing an article on it at the moment

    Simplifier12:07 PM
    simple technologically, I know they're hard to make properly

    Simplifier12:08 PM
    @Dag Spicer For the tubes, not at all. I just used plain tungsten; thoriated filaments don't like a poor vacuum

    Ethan Waldo12:08 PM
    My understanding is mirrors are simpler to make than lenses

    Andy Pugh12:08 PM
    A friend of mine (now dead, he was much older) tried to make vacuum tubes out of baked-bean tins and jam jars. I believe it was going quite well, though the vacuum looked like a tough nut to crack. But then some real valves turned up in the hut one night. Possibly from one of the guards... He was a guest of Stalugluft III at the time ( )

    Andy Pugh12:10 PM
    I guess that valves looked a bit less mysterious back when they were more everyday items.

    Simplifier12:10 PM
    @Ethan Waldo That makes sense, a mirror only has one critical surface

    Andy Pugh12:11 PM
    I tried maching a lens once. Finding a starting material with a low-enough turbidity is difficult.

    Nicolas Tremblay12:11 PM
    On what project are you working on right now?

    Simplifier12:11 PM
    @Andy Pugh That was really one of the biggest discoveries for me, was how mundane they are. They're just a hot wire in an empty bottle, really.

    Simplifier12:11 PM
    @Nicolas Tremblay...

    Read more »

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Evgeniy An wrote 07/15/2020 at 19:22 point

Don't understand how it works

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