Archive for the 'Materials' Category

It’s Here!

I was beginning to hash out some processing stuff, and then this arrives on my doorstep.

Tape + A Single Layer of Bubble Wrap = Internationally Shipped Package

Tape + A Single Layer of Bubble Wrap = Internationally Shipped Package

Needless to say, I was scared as hell at the very sight of this thing.
(please, please, please… don’t be broken…)

Exposing the Protective Layering

Exposing the Protective Layering

So Far, So Good.. And it\'s even the right one!

So Far, So Good.. And it's even the right one!

Everything looks good with the powerbase, and lets hope that everything is fine internally.

Silently preparing to unleash its glorious data.

Silently preparing to unleash its glorious data.

Pretty thankful that they included this...

Pretty thankful that they included this...

From what I can tell, this thing has an amazing amount of functionality… I really can’t believe that they stopped making these models. Instead of further developing the awesomeness that they had going for them they completely chopped these bases apart.

$%!# @#$#!!!..

$%!# @#$#!!!..

Of Course it’s always something… Although, this is something that I could have foreseen, but didn’t even cross my mind until I was staring right at the alien plug. (Yeah no matter what you do derek… that thing isn’t going into the wall socket today or any other day…)

Although this isn’t nearly as big of a problem as say… trying to find a discontinued product in the UK, it still puts a small damper in things for the time being. But I think I might have a quick solution lurking in the piles of electronics in the basement…. Otherwise I’m on a city-wide search for a 12 Volt 2.5 Amp power supply.

More news tomorrow.

So… Our First Problem.

Well, opening the box up was pretty fun for the first couple of minutes, before I immediately realized that something was askew…

I coulda sworn something important went there...

I coulda sworn something important went there...

You see… The “power base” that I have been researching which will eventually allow me to extract data has a pretty important piece of hardware that looks like this:

OH LOOK AN AUX PORT!

OH LOOK AN AUX PORT!

Pretty LCD...

Pretty LCD...

Apparently, Scalextric decided to UPDATE their Power Base’s… and by UPDATE they really meant cut out every USEFUL piece of functionality and cut costs…(No AUX Data, No Lap Counting/Timing, No Racing Modes…Nothing) The really bad news is that they even decided to discontinue the older line of feature-packed 6-car bases, making these things extremely rare. One of the only bases I’ve found in the US is here: Part of a Digital Conversion Kit. Buying this may be our last hope.

Another idea..
Being somewhat knowledgeable in electronics, and with the OK from Steve… I cracked open the 4-Car Power Base that came in our kit.

Surgery Prep

Surgery Prep

Under the Hood

Under the Hood

Hmmmm....

Hmmmm....

Wait... This Looks Promising... not..

Wait... This Looks Promising... not..

I studied this thing into the night… the only thing that looked as though it could be hooked up for data (and something that I spent a lot of time trying to figure out) turned out to be something that almost every micro-controlled hardware has: An initial programming port… I confirmed this by looking up the spec sheet for the PIC 16F819 microprocessor that sits on this board. I also checked the rest of the pins on this but didn’t find anything very usable.

The only half-solution I see right now to get any kind of usable data (in this case only from the hand throttles) is to tap directly into the throttles themselves. The throttle lines (which are actually just analog values) could be spliced into another microcontroller (Basic Stamp 2 or Arduino) processed into digital and sent via a serial connection to processing… this is definitely the long way around.

Otherwise we should really look into acquiring an older version 6-car Power Base with built-in Aux Port ASAP.

Day 5 – The Big One…

ANOTHER BOX!

The NEW... Digital Power Base

The NEW... Digital Power Base

Sweet Throttles of Power

Sweet Throttles of Power

Brake and Lane Change Buttons

Brake and Lane Change Buttons

15 Volts of Madness

15 Volts of Madness

Changing Lanes!

Changing Lanes!

The Fast Pieces

The Fast Pieces

The fly-off-the-track Pieces

The fly-off-the-track Pieces

Curvy Lane Change and Sensor

Curvy Lane Change and Sensor

Borders, Fence, Elevation

Borders, Fence, Elevation

These F1s are Gigantic

These F1s are Gigantic

Its Electric...

Its Electric...

Day 3 – A box arrives…

Unfortunately it must soon leave.

It contains an SCX “Pit Box” racing set, complete with a whole track and 3 cars. However, it does not interface with the Scalextric set (The one I have been researching) that is on its way here.

Today, I also purchased the KeySpan USB to Serial adapter from Amazon.com – free 2-day shipping. I also secured a couple of FREE sample MAX233A Serial Driver IC’s from the manufacturer’s website – also free shipping. I love free stuff, and free shipping is awesome too.

**MORE TECHNICAL STUFF**
The MAX233 IC is the piece of hardware that converts the +5 Volt TTL signal from the Scalextric PowerBase to +10 Volt RS-232 signal that a computer can understand. I also acquired a nice little wiring diagram for hooking this up:

MAX233 to AUX Port Diagram

MAX233 to AUX Port Diagram

Still on the list of materials to buy:
-Serial DB9 Cable (Standard 9pin for computer)
-4 Lead RJ-11 Cable (Looks like a standard phone cable – for Powerbase)
-Other various electronics

Day 1 – Initial Research

Met with Steve and Kathleen about the initial project overview and schedule… A particularly interesting requirement of the project:
ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR FAILURES.

Frankly, I can’t wait for those fun and interesting times.

Been surfing around the web for any evidence of previous hacks done to Scalextrics Digital systems. From what I gather, it is possible to receive information off of the AUX port on the Digital PowerBase.

**TECHNICAL/GEEK STUFF WARNING**
This is a serial bit stream (5 Volts TTL) that needs to get up-converted to normal computer levels (10 Volts RS-232). I can either make this cable myself (possible) or order one from some guy who makes them. [More about this here – slotforum.com]

I’m also looking into a USB to Serial adapter so that I can test software on my MacBook (which is sans-serial port) I’m particularly interested in the much hailed and Mac Supported Keyspan USB Adapter

The fun part begins when I get this all up and running and I get to stare at the 100 character long byte strings of 101010101000010101001010’s and try to decode what it all means. Fortunately there may be help in this area as well with this somewhat promising looking SSD to PC Dataprotocol Guide

According to this info it is possible to decipher:

  • Current Race Mode
  • Lap Time / Elapsed Time
  • False Start
  • Hand Throttle Position
  • Brake Button & Lane Change Button

Steve also informed me he has ordered “The Track”
I’m happily awaiting its arrival.


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