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TOPIC: When Embedded Systems are Just Not Fun Anymore

When Embedded Systems are Just Not Fun Anymore 3 years 2 months ago #17738

  • hop
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I love the posts that fly around the internet about what can be done with embedded systems, or even micro-controllers at the core. With all the new gizmo's out that enable us, like HDMI touch LCD screens, temp sensors, ultrasonic sensors, etc., it's easier and more affordable than ever to create that special device that does something special. I know, I have done plenty!

But the realization comes soon enough, after a weekend of digging deep into the configuration settings of a 32 bit PIC, or tweaking a bit-bang protocol to talk to a complicated display module. The realization, and question to ones self. "Is this a hobby? Or is this a dream field and sector of expertise that can sustain me?". Then you are faced with having what amounts to an expensive model train set or a viable venue that expands your knowledge and introduces you to an inventor's sector, and there are LOADS of competition. My company's catch phrase is "If you can imagine it, you can embed it." Catchy huh? But realistically, if you can think it, it's probably already on ebay.

So you look at the tools to further your hobby and your science, and you realize eventually, again, that you spent a good chunk of change to get where you are. Now you have 30 plano trays with tons of various components, a DSO, a fairly nice DMM, a signal generator, a spectrum analyzer, and you realize you have walked barefoot, in the sun, halfway from Phoenix to L.A. Do you turn back? Or do you keep walking to your goal?

AH to be young again, but then time would rewind back as well, and simple analog scopes were a couple of thousand dollars. You didn't have MCU's that could run without loads of support devices and components. Not even an internet. OK, AH to be young again in THIS DAY AND AGE! lol

Fact is, time is finite. At least for me these days. With a new REAL JOB position, and a family, and home matters to attend to, I find it is more difficult than EVER to just create a little gizmo that does something cool. Tetris on a PIC? How about Joust on a 7" HDMI touch screen using a Super Nintendo Emulator on Debian Linux hosted on a quad core Raspberry Pi? I want to, but more viable creations nag at me. My mosquitto network project, watch-dog code for stability, lighting my pantry with fade effects, measuring the moisture in my hibiscus soil. Controlling water flow accuators and pumps for my small hydroponics experiment. An autonomous quad copter to film HD from the air.

I see you-tube videos where a guy plays star wars imperial march using an old 3.5 floppy drive, through its stepper motor, and I have to ask "HOW? How did you find time to do this, and how do you explain to your significant other that investment in what... a coffee table joke piece?"

So I guess I'm just bitching. It's less fun and more serious now for me. I'm not sure when that transition happened, probably when I bought my scope and my Hakko FX888, and air gun rework station, my nice DMM, all my little tools, my component gear, my expensive Hakko tips, my plano compartment trays, etc. I want RTOI! Return On Investment.

I guess it's still fun. The science of it all, but sometimes I can't help but feel like Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters, building a mountain of kitchen materials in his house to achieve a resemblance of an idea in his head. To what end? At least my significant other is as supportive as they come. She loves this side of me. Without it, I would be as toast as my fried analog experimental components.

Build your little old-video-game emulators, toys, maybe make a buck or two, but know you are walking into seriously turbulent waters. Keep a serious mind. Know that someday you need to turn serious and take it somewhere. Or don't. I will, or at least try!

Thank you for listening to my rant! :)

YouTube for the Star Wars Imperial March Played by a 3.5 Floppy Drive's Head Stepper Motor - GENIUS! On multiple drives and accurate, even representing various musical components of the John Williams composition! WOW! Talk about over the top!

When Embedded Systems are Just Not Fun Anymore 3 years 2 months ago #17741

  • jmessina
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I remember watching that video for the first time, mouth agape in amazement. Still to this day I can't figure out whether it's pure genius or a sign of some terrible personality disorder.

I think it should be required viewing for all who want to get into this "hobby" along with a big warning....
"WATCHOUT - THIS COULD BE YOU ONE DAY!"

When Embedded Systems are Just Not Fun Anymore 3 years 2 months ago #17742

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jmessina wrote:
I remember watching that video for the first time, mouth agape in amazement. Still to this day I can't figure out whether it's pure genius or a sign of some terrible personality disorder.

I think it should be required viewing for all who want to get into this "hobby" along with a big warning....
"WATCHOUT - THIS COULD BE YOU ONE DAY!"

WOO WOO with a train set. It was a robot chicken episode. lol

Seriously, I immediately mentally went to work on how I could do it. I couldn't help it. I worked out that I would write an assembly midi translator that would take the midi notes and convert them into stepper speed and duration. Then I also went "MENTALLY" off to solve the limited distance of travel of the head guide to work out what to do if a note would go past that, imagining the head guide as a violinist's bow. Then thinking about how long of a break in the note would occur if the direction of the head had to change in mid-note playing, like a violinist would do. And also allowing the head to travel in the other direction for a note if there was longer travel available in that direction. Sick sick sick tinkering conditioning from years of playing with breaking out of the normalized box of operation. I need help. lol
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