Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Don't Just Carve Wood...

I've been interested in and building electronics goodies for about 54 of my 64 years and ended up spending my working career as an Electrical Engineer.

About 12 or 13 years ago I decided to use what I had learned in that time to do something completely frivolous.  I built an animated, Microprocessor-controlled LED Jack O'Lantern, what else?

I don't remember why, but haven't had him out for a the last couple of years years.   This year, as the bewitching holiday  approaches, I  dragged Ol' Jack out from his lair under the cellar steps and put him back to work chasing the spooks away from our upstairs bedroom window.


As it turns out, if I had just waited a few more years I could probably have found one made in China for sale at some big box store for $49.95
.  But, like carving, it felt good to design him, scrounge up the parts and build him myself.

video 

For those who are interested in the details, Jack is measures about 20" across.  He is based on the 8051 microprocessor and the code was written in assembly language (I didn't -- and still don't -- have one of these slick "C" compilers that are readily available these days).

The eyes, nose and mouth are made of 8 x 8 arrays of individually hand-wired LEDs. 
I designed most of the faces myself, but before turning him on for the second Halloween season, I gave each of the kids in the neighborhood a paper with the LED positions noted so that they could design their own "face".  I had quite a few designs submitted and included them all in what you see here.

If anyone is really interested in more details, I'd be glad to discuss the nitty-gritty at length.  Just drop me a line.


'Til next time...Keep makin' (wooden) Chips and soldering (micro) Chips!  


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