I’m no musician, but lately I’ve been experimenting with MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) in my projects. MIDI is a standard for controlling instruments that works by passing messages between pieces of connected equipment. The messages aren’t actual music in the same way as, say, an MP3 is. Instead, they are commands for making music—“Play middle C on an electric piano,” for example.
Recently I converted my old Ford pickup to diesel, and I needed to make a bracket to hold a throttle position sensor, which helps to control the new transmission. Often I wing this sort of thing, working from notebook drawings or cardboard models. But this time I decided to use 3-D CAD modeling, CNC manufacturing and 3-D printing to design and fabricate the part to the exact specifications I wanted.
Contributing editor Vin Marshall, takes on a second Radioshack DIY project, focusing on his musical side
I'd never given much thought to the idea of making a musical instrument before I set out on this project. Nor would I have had reason to expect much success, really, given that I'm practically tone deaf. But then I started to look at the waveforms involved – and that put sound into a framework with which I'm more familiar. In the end, I built a 5 note keyboard that I think actually sounds half decent.
When I’m building something weird—my pedal-powered Panzer, for instance—I have to pull together all sorts of obscure parts. Over the years I’ve noticed that I continually reuse some of them in project after project. here are the five that I can’t live (or work) without.
I relocated my shop recently, and packing it up reminded me that years of building have left me with an awful lot of tools. Many of them are very specialized—and in some cases, pretty obscure to the average DIYer—but they’re the ones I always reach for.
12-VOLT TEST LIGHT
A very simple tool that manages to take the guesswork out of jobs like debugging a vehicle electrical system. Ground the clip, and touch parts of the system with the tip. When the light comes on, you have power.
"Resistive" touchscreens are the type you're most likely to use in a DIY microcontroller project. These consist of two screen layers coated with a resistive material and separated by a small gap. When touched, the layers make contact, creating a voltage divider circuit. The resulting voltage is easily measured and correlated to position. The top layer of the touchscreen is just a clear overlay, though; what really makes it work is the layer underneath.
My projects tend to live rough lives. To make it easier to safely house their delicate parts in the future, I devised a torture test to determine which project enclosures best stand up to extreme conditions—and to my abuse.
I built a simple circuit and placed it inside a plastic project enclosure, a PVC electrical junction box, and a Pelican case. Then I subjected all three to torture by water, impact and fire.
Check out the gallery below to see the results of our tests:
The options for streaming music over the Internet have increased so dramatically lately that I’ve found my FM radio has become totally irrelevant. Still, I like to be able to listen to a lot of different types of music throughout the day, and I love radios too much to give up on them completely. Now that several music services, such as Last.fm, have released their programming interfaces to the public, I decided to build a custom Wi-Fi radio that can stream my favorite stations and ensure that I’ll always hear music I like.
Half a century ago, vacuum tubes were very common in audio amplifiers. A small voltage applied to the grid of a vacuum tube controls a relatively large current that drives the electromagnet in a speaker, creating movement and thereby sound. Modern solid-state amps are superior in cost, size and reliability, but many people still prefer the warm sound and mesmerizing orange-yellow glow of a tube amp.