Random Developments And Random Toys

ESP8266 Flashing Jig

Woo! ESP8266 Flashing jig is ready:

ESP8266 Flashing Jig

Works great with Arduino IDE + ESP8266 board “plugin” + PL2303 USB to serial cable.

ESP8266 WiFi module

It seems I’ve been living under a rock for past couple years not to learn about ESP8266 WiFi module.

ESP8266

Long story short: last time I checked embedded WiFi options for hobbyists it was mostly $50-$150 boards or Arduino shields. And now there’s this tiny 10x25mm module for ~3 dollars (literally costs peanuts). Low power, but with fairly quick MCU, 1x ADC, 16x GPIO pins, WEP/WPA/WPA2 encryption, can be used both as client or as a WiFi access point(!). And most importantly has an amazing community, good software support, lots of info / documentation. Crazy! ;)

RC2014 update: now in enclosure

My RC2014 is now in a nice sturdy enclosure:

RC2014 in action

Front panel: power button, reset button, power led.

RC2014 in action

Rear panel: FTDI serial cable connection, power jack.

RC2014 in action

Web MIDI API is surprisingly easy

So I bumped into this neat CodePen snippet “Musical Chord Progression Arpeggiator” by Jake Albaugh. I never really tried to get any formal music theory training so for me this demo seemed to be rather impressive. And I thought it’d be even more fun if I could feed that to my MicroKorg synth.

After poking for couple hours with Web MIDI API spec I managed to produce this snippet with section to switch output to MIDI device (limited to Chrome browsers as far as I know):

Musical Chord Progression Arpeggiator

Lots knob wiggling fun! Unfortunately I currently do not have any gear to record a sample of that.

RC2014 retro computer kit

I finally found a DIY retro computer kit that I always wanted: RC2014 (available as a kit on Tindie marketplace). According to the author himself:

RC2014 is a simple 8 bit Z80 based modular computer. It is inspired by the home built computers of the late 70s and computer revolution of the early 80s. It is not a clone of anything specific, but there are ideas of the ZX81, UK101, S100 and Apple I in here.

It’s pretty much everything I always wanted to build myself (but never had enough patience & smarts to design it):

  • Uses Z80 cpu
  • Uses simple a simple bus with pluggable modules
  • Serial I/O for terminal

The kit itself

RC2014 kit

Probably my favourite thing here - the backplane (big square PCB). Very simple, can be easily done from veroboard + uses 0.1″ header sockets.

Assembled modules

5-6 hours and 500 - 600 solder joints later:

RC2014 assembled modules

Aside the back plane this kit includes:

Fully assembled

RC2014 fully assembled

Operation

ROM chip in the kit comes pre-flashed with (drumroll) Microsoft Basic dating back to 1978! And that can be accessed via serial console. So this means you can connect RC2014 to a terminal. But since I’m not that crazy yet and I do not have enough space for that I opted in for simple FTDI USB to serial cable + minicom.

Eventually, after some debugging and circuit troubleshooting I got this:

RC2014 running Microsoft Basic

I think it’s actually running some code written by Bill Gates himself. Other than that I cannot do much else without some kind of permanent storage device or at least a ROM programmer. And it’s also somewhat unstable but I do not have the gear to diagnose it. Good excuse to finally get an oscilloscope I always wanted, eh?