Core 64: Interactive Core Memory Badge

Interaction with vintage technology, designed to inspire.

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Many people have heard of core memory, but few have experienced it. This project enables interaction with core memory in a way that is new, and the experience is unexpectedly engaging. You have to try it! Core memory is an inspiring technology enabling anyone to physically interactive with a magnetic wand. The array of LEDs brings it to life in new and unexpected ways. With this configuration one can directly interact with discrete bits of screen memory.

This is one of those ideas that seems too simple, but needs to be experienced to "get it." Based on the feedback I've received from people who have used the proof-of-concept I built, this concept is worth sharing with a wider audience as a complete product. The form factor clearly begs for this product to take shape as an electronic badge, of course. It makes it much easier to carry around and share with other people, which is why this project exists.

The proof-of-concept is on another project page here; see the li

The previous work with the proof-of-concept is posted here and runs with 32 cores. 

The badge version of this project will take shape on this project page, and will have 64 cores. The project name is a nod to my favorite 8-bit computer, the Commodore 64.

The vision for the badge follows:

1)  8x8 core memory array will be center stage.

2) Each core is backlit by an RGB LED.

3) The core array will be driven with transistors, directly tied to a slew of GPIO on an Arduino compatible microcontroller in order to be accessible and programmable by anyone with basic Arduino experience.

4) A magnetic stylus will be easily transportable and stay with the badge.

5) Battery power will be 3 "AAA" or "AA" or LiPo.

6) No buttons allowed! But reed switches and hall effect sensors are fair game.

My aim is to keep the badge simple and clean looking, so the focus is entirely on the cores themselves. That is, after all, the focal point of this project.

That said, I'm open to ideas and collaboration! This will be my first end-to-end surface mount PCB design project, so I'm trying to limit the rabbit trails. The prototype will most likely use an existing 8x8 RGB LED array and Arduino-compatible board in order to simplify the board design work.

  • Hardware IO Testing Breadboard

    Andy Geppert07/08/2019 at 12:22 0 comments

      In order to make sure I have a workable hardware solution, I'm pulling together the various components I intend to use to make sure there is enough IO and that it maps out as I think it will to the Teensy LC pins. The source code on Github has been updated to reflect the state of the project now. 

      The important parts of this hardware testing are:

      1. Will it all run from a single cell LiPo since that is the lowest voltage I intend to use? Yes.
      2. Since I plan to use discrete IO on the Teensy LC to directly drive the 20+ transistors needed for 64 cores, are there enough pins without conflicts? Yes, although some pins will be used for more than one function to keep a few IO pins open. The shared pins will be: I2C bus, LED Array.
      3. The LED Array runs well on GPIO 17 through the buffered output with a 1S LiPo. The Unicorn Hat looks like a great option to use directly, as is.
      4. The OLED screen is for testing the I2C bus, which I intend to use for some hall sensors and general expansion.
      5. As shown above, the components are drawing about 70 mA. The LED matrix brightness is set as low as it can go. The cores are not running, but the current pulse is expected to be about 300-400 mA, and will be handled with a capacitor to make sure the system doesn't brownout.

      TO DO NEXT:

      Connect drive some cores through Jussi's 4x8 shield to ensure adequate power sourcing. Then get going on the circuit and PCB prototype in KiCad!

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