Nyan Cat at Supercon

A project log for Nyan Cat Badge Demo (2018 Supercon)

An adaptation of YouTube star Nyan Cat for the 2018 Hackaday Superconference Badge

RogerRoger 11/11/2018 at 21:303 Comments

In my pull request for Nyan Cat to go in the Hackaday Superconference 2018 badge, I included a way to launch it by typing ‘nya’ at the main menu. It existed mainly because I felt silly to create a pull request for a feature that was impossible to launch. This was originally intended to be a placeholder and be replaced by something else, but due to time crunch that “something else” never happened. So the final badge firmware flashed to every unit distributed to Supercon attendees had Nyan Cat launched via ‘nya’. It’s not the original intention, but also not the end of the world.

What this meant was that Nyan Cat badge app is now also an unplanned social experiment. By default only people who comb through badge firmware source code will find it. I didn’t think that would be enough, so on Friday I walked around telling people about it while the animation was playing on the badge around my neck. I think I told roughly one dozen people (some of them in groups) by the time Friday evening’s official kickoff party was done. Saturday morning at the official opening ceremony, I saw a person I didn’t recognize with Nyan Cat running on their badge. At that point I felt the knowledge seeding stage was complete, and it was time to let the word-of-mouth propagation take over.

One thing I thought was interesting: I had programmed a mute button to the app so it’s possible to play the animation without the music. Every time I told someone about Nyan Cat, I also mentioned ‘0’ would mute and ‘9’ would resume playback. However, as the weekend went on, I realized not everyone who knew about ‘nya’ knew about the mute button! It’s possible these people found out about ‘nya’ by reading the badge main menu source code (which launched the app) but not the app’s own source code (where the mute code lives.) It was also possible it got lost in the word-of-mouth propagation.

I knew there was a risk that people (including myself) would be annoyed at the music by the end of the weekend. But the sheer number of people packed in a small venue created a noisy enough environment that the music is actually a little difficult to hear over ambient noise. I didn’t encounter any complaints about it being a nuisance. Whew!

(Cross-posted to


morgan wrote 04/01/2019 at 19:35 point

I didn't know it could be muted! It's now playing full time at my desk

  Are you sure? yes | no

scottalmond wrote 04/01/2019 at 05:36 point

"Saturday morning at the official opening ceremony, I saw a person I didn’t recognize with Nyan Cat running on their badge."

Wow, I wonder if that was me you saw.  I was at the opening ceremony that day (trying to take in every minute of the three day event) and had it running then to kind of show off the fact I'd found it.  I've been following "Mike's Electronic Stuff" videos and one of the things he does often is read the memory from chips that are in commercial products to reverse engineer how they work.  I have very limited experience with PIC, so I wasn't able to do a data dump directly, but I surmised the code would be online, and it was on GitHub (most of the source c code anyway, and the full hex).

Honestly, I was just trying to figure out the answer to the puzzle, guessing the solution might be hard-coded in an easy to read way in the hex file (the source c code online was just a dummy template to avoid spoiling the answer too easily), so that's why I looked through the hex file.  I didn't find any hints for the puzzle, but did find some of the commands like "nya" and... the chess game one I forget at the moment ("sergio"?).  I had a long hearty laugh Friday night to suddenly discover that "nya" was Nyan cat.  This was my first time at Hackaday and this truly elevated the whole experience from simply fun to epic.

I'm working on a badge of my own currently, although far simpler (Attiny85 based), but am considering adding a reference to Nyan cat (tune and rainbow colors) as a similar kind of Easter egg.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Roger wrote 04/01/2019 at 19:18 point

Thank you for letting me know Nyan cat was good for a long hearty laugh. I created it hoping it would make a few people's day and I felt it was fairly successful on that front.

I would love to hear more about your Easter egg if you get around to it. My project page here should have all the resources you'd need to make your own, but if I've overlooked anything please feel free to ask.

And I believe the chess program was Sargon:

  Are you sure? yes | no