It never fails; you want to upgrade your aging PC, but you still need that archaic RS-232C serial port for controlling your Parallax Boe-Bot, using that serial mouse, getting online via your trusted Hayes ACCURA V.90 modem, and, even, programming your Pfaff 2140 sewing machine. Apple Boot Camp enlistees can run into a similar RS-232C port quagmire using an older Windows app on a MacBook Air. Now, a new USB to RS-232C converter plug from SparkFun Electronics might be your upgrade answer. Able to support both Windows and Mac platforms, this $12.95 plug can give any modern PC a flashback to the ports of the past. According to a helpful tip posted on the SparkFun Electronics Web site, you might have to modify this converter jack by removing two hex nuts from the DB-9 connector. But, hey, that beats staying mired in antiquated pre-2001 technology just for the sake of a nine-pin serial port.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.