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    The preamp board wired up. This is the original preamp board. The circuit was adding a simple reverb circuit that totally ruined the sound of the amp so later we bypassed and removed this part of the circuit. The third socket from the left and its associated circuitry were removed.

    The preamp board wired up. This is the original preamp board. The circuit was adding a simple reverb circuit that totally ruined the sound of the amp so later we bypassed and removed this part of the circuit. The third socket from the left and its associated circuitry were removed.

Electronics Bit Evolution In An FPGA Simulated “Game Of Life”

On the Origin of Circuits Article #280 • Written by Alan Bellows ▼ Scroll to Continue ▼

Ever since I learned about who Jeri Ellsworth ( http://www.linkedin.com/in/jeriellsworth ) was and watched a few of her videos ( https://www.youtube.com/user/jeriellsworth/videos ) I was hooked on this vivacious young lass from (at the time) Portland Oregon. I rapidly learned that she was an ardent fan of the mighty FPGA chip. Now I had heard of these chips and I knew that they were Field Programmable Gate Arrays that could be programmed through a computer interface but I just presumed that they were for use in fancy switching circuits and had no idea of their true underlying power until I started researching Jeri and her fascination with them and her self taught usage designs. She inspired me to obtain and explore the FPGA world and though I have not accomplished near the level of understanding of them that she has I have certainly learned a lot from her over the years in both watching her countless videos and live hacking feeds.

This is a really cool article involving FPGAs and the Game Of Life (not the board game either). It reveals a lot about evolution that would otherwise not be able to be studied given the life span of a single generation yet here Adrian is able to accomplish dozens of generations in just a short time.

Here is the first part of the article. Click on the link at the end of the article to go to them main page of the article and read about the rest of it there!

In a unique laboratory in Sussex, England, a computer carefully scrutinized every member of large and diverse set of candidates. Each was evaluated dispassionately, and assigned a numeric score according to a strict set of criteria. This machine’s task was to single out the best possible pairings from the group, then force the selected couples to mate so that it might extract the resulting offspring and repeat the process with the following generation. As predicted, with each breeding cycle the offspring evolved slightly, nudging the population incrementally closer to the computer’s pre-programmed definition of the perfect individual.

The candidates in question were not the stuff of blood, guts, and chromosomes that are normally associated with evolution, rather they were clumps of ones and zeros residing within a specialized computer chip. As these primitive bodies of data bumped together in their silicon logic cells, Adrian Thompson– the machine’s master– observed with curiosity and enthusiasm.

Dr. Adrian Thompson is a researcher operating from the Department of Informatics at the University of Sussex, and his experimentation in the mid-1990s represented some of science’s first practical attempts to penetrate the virgin domain of hardware evolution. The concept is roughly analogous to Charles Darwin’s elegant principle of natural selection, which describes how individuals with the most advantageous traits are more likely to survive and reproduce. This process tends to preserve favorable characteristics by passing them to the survivors’ descendants, while simultaneously suppressing the spread of less-useful traits.

Dr. Thompson dabbled with computer circuits in order to determine whether survival-of-the-fittest principles might provide hints for improved microchip designs. As a test bed, he procured a special type of chip called a Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) whose internal logic can be completely rewritten as opposed to the fixed design of normal chips. This flexibility results in a circuit whose operation is hot and slow compared to conventional counterparts, but it allows a single chip to become a modem, a voice-recognition unit, an audio processor, or just about any other computer component. All one must do is load the appropriate configuration.

Adrian Thompson

Read all about it here!

via On the Origin of Circuits • Damn Interesting.

The Evolution of the Police Car – #8 – By the 1950s, automakers had begun offering “police packages,” such as this 1956 Dodge Coronet.

The Evolution of the Police Car - #8 - By the 1950s, automakers had begun offering

The Evolution of the Police Car

The Police Package

After World War II, American automakers began bundling the special options most often ordered by police departments into a special police packages. Ford unveiled its police package in 1950, Chevrolet in 1955 and Dodge in 1956. These cars might have looked like their consumer counterparts, except for the fancy paint jobs and lights, but they were anything but ordinary. The sheet metal hid serious improvements to both performance and protection. Police cars became much tougher and more resilient than their regular street counterparts. In 1956, Chrysler’s first official police package was offered on Dodge Coronets. A year later, Dodge offered a package with the 325 Hemi engine, with a variety of performance enhancements and 310 horsepower.

via The Evolution of the Police Car – MSN Autos#8#8.

Maker Faire 2011 – The Future of Education Panel by Element14

The 2011 San Mateo Maker Faire was a great success! So many wide-eyed kids (and adults) visited the element14 booth to witness a live taping of The Ben Heck Show, to see Ben Innes and the official unveiling of his stunning art installation piece as well as to see the culmination of the Great Global Hackerspace Challenge. This panel Features Jeri Ellsworth, Ben Heckendorn, and Mitch Altman. The panel Moderator is Michelle Dobson.

Make: Online | Krs – Hackerspace Electronics: From Nub to Ninja in Under a Year

Krs who learned electronics and went on to design electronic conference badges (and teaching others). She has the maker bug! “Krs – Hackerspace Electronics: From Nub to Ninja in Under a Year”….

via Make: Online | Krs – Hackerspace Electronics: From Nub to Ninja in Under a Year.

Jeri Ellsworth: Race Car-Building & Driving, Roller-Derby Skating, Self-Taught Chip Designer And My Buddy!

Take one race car driver, give her a roller derby jersey with the name “Rectifier 1N34″ (sic) and access to some components, and who do you get? Jeri Ellsworth.When Jeri took the stage this morning at ESC Silicon Valley, keynote comparisons were made between Woz, the Tuesday keynote presenter, and her. The basics are that they are both nerds who were bullied, they both had amazing dads who encouraged them to become electronics kids, they both dropped out of school (Jeri out of high school, Woz out of college), and they are both very much self taught. Unlike Woz who went back to school after starting Apple, Jeri did not. In fact everything she’s done – and it’s a lot – is self taught.

Catch the full article here:  Jeri Ellsworth: Race car-driving, roller-derby skating, self-taught designer.

One day I was researching alternative ideas for a reverb circuit and chanced to run into a video recorded  by Jeri Ellsworth where she took an old floppy drive and floppy and figured out how to control it and feed audio into it and out of it in effect turning it into a delay/reverb unit! I got excited about this and though it turned out that the device  was not very musically valid for what I wanted it was still very cool and so I subscribed to her youtube channel. That was a couple years ago and since then Jeri and I have become tech buddies and supported each others endeavors in the tech video/article world (she much more than I unfortunately). If you do not know who this “Force Of Nature” is be sure to check out her youtube channel at http://www.youtube.com/jeriellsworth or her website at http://www.jeriellsworth.com or just do a google search for her name on http://www.google.com to  find many many links to articles, stories, videos, and podcasts of her, by her, and for her! Jeri is currently working on a series of technical videos for both Element14 DIY parts supplier and Adafruit industries DIY parts supplier. Anyone who gets featured on the same keynote ticket as Steve Wozniak is a winner in my book!

LM386 Altoids tin amp – Hack a Day

Hacker friend and cohort Dino Segovis is back again with the fifth installment in his “Hack a Week” series. This time around he has put together a 1/2 watt audio amplifier that would make for a great weekend project. He’s a big fan of the LM386 amplifier chip because it does so much in such a small package. Since it is so versatile, he used it as the centerpiece of his Altoids tin amplifier.

via LM386 Altoids tin amp – Hack a Day.

[Phillip Torrone] pleads for companies to open source discontinued projects – Hack a Day

Phillip Torrone has a great idea here and I fully support it. He makes his case for manufacturers to open source their discontinued, cancelled, or never been produced products. Millions of man-hours and technological research are going to waste when they could be contributing to increasing our societies skill levels and maybe even inspiring new technological advances.

[Phillip Torrone] pleads for companies to open source discontinued projects – Hack a Day.


I recently decided to try to find some of the old technology books I fondly remember reading as young boy. I recall reading this book in wonder and curiosity. I also recall at the age of 8 years old not really having a full grasp of the materials covered in this book. It served to introduce me to terms and some concepts that seemed fantastical to me but the auther seemed confident in what he wrote and so I struggled to wrap my young mind around the concepts and information presented. I never had any formal training in electronics outside of an Ohms Law class I took somewhere along the way and I suppose you might also consider some of the physics classes I took in college.  I was excited to find this book and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in learning electronics. The information is presented in easy to understand concepts and projects involving magnets and other simple items that are commonly available. I will say I noticed a few things that are no longer available but most are. You may right click this file HERE and choose “Save As” option to save it on your computer. It is covered under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at http://www.gutenberg.org

Copyright, 1914, by THE NEW YORK BOOK COMPANY

555 Contest Winners Announced!

Last night @ChrisGammell and @JeriEllsworth announced the 555 contest winners… Somehow I missed the live announcements but HERE is the link to the contests homepage where the recorded video announcement and the prize winners list may be found.

My congrats to all the winners but especially to everyone involved. There were lots of great entries. The judges were:

The top prize “The Mims/Camenzind Prize” is a painting of a 555 chip donated by artist GnomeNCandle and it went to:

Tom Jenner for his – 555 Servo Controller

I personally did not have an entry due to month-long chinese parts shipment schedules combined with having to move 30 miles and a broken wrist. I was planning on entering a replica of the 1937 Hammond Novachord made completely and accurately out of 555 timer chips. I still am going to build this but at a much more leasurely pace than the month-long time limit of the contest. I will not profess that it will have near the depth and beauty of sounds and tones as the original but it should approximate it fairly closely with all of the same features. You may find details of this glorious instrument and its tale of reconstruction here!

Lasers to replace sparkplugs?

I know its not music related but I feel its a good step for science and humankind!

Catch the link to the full story here:
For more than 150 years, spark plugs have powered internal combustion engines. Automakers are now one step closer to being able to replace this long-standing technology with laser igniters, which will enable cleaner, more efficient, and more economical vehicles.

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