BEST Hackable, Scroungeable electromechanical devices V2021?

Hi Everyone, This is Terry King and as some of you may be aware :slight_smile: I have a 40 year history of scrounging parts and old devices and giving them to kids, and figuring out how to make kits and help people learn how do Do Stuff with Old IBM PCs, Arduino, ESP32 and etc.

I am asking you to think about what currently available sort-of-old stuff in THIS era you have noticed might be repurposed, hacked, or demolished to make Other Interesting Stuff, and hopefully present some insight into What The Heck this stuff all IS...

In the 80's (remember that Century??) I started a thing at IBM called "Computer Demolition", as soon as IBM PC's and XT's were being replaced by ATs and them new things called PS2. Fortunately I had the job as Personal Computer Coordinator at an IBM site with 8000 employees. And the head of Community Relations thought it was not totally crazy to take stuff headed to Scrap/disposal and bring it out to kids and take it apart. Computer Demolition. I got middle/high school kids to take an XT totally apart, think about the subassemblies, bring up the motherboard and parts on the table with no case and boot IBM ROM BASIC and then plug in the floppy disk controller and bring up some game like Rocky's Boots.

Then I showed how to hack 5-1/4 disk drive motors and make a "robot" and how to hack an IBM 5152 Graphics Printer into a computer controlled Crane with an electromagnet. Wow, I found the How-To:

P.R.CRANE is a Computer Demolition Project that creates a PC-Controlled Robot Crane. You can
control the crane manually with the arrow keys, have it learn a series of steps, and create and edit a robot
control program. P.R.CRANE is made from an old IBM 5152 Graphics Printer, plus about $25 of parts
available at the hardware store and Radio Shack. Computer Demolition is based on the idea that you have
to take technology apart to understand it. The Computer Demolition Projects not only tell you how to
take apart old computers, disk drives and printers, but tells how to reuse the many parts inside for
innovative projects.

OK, That's Ancient History, sort of like me at 81 years old, but I believe the Hacker Gene lives on!

What have YOU seen? Hacked? Repurposed? What Good Junk is out there in 1921 (OOPs.. 2021)? What could be really cool and interesting, electro-mechanically or otherwise, if an Arduino or ESP-32 invaded it's wires/neurons? Maybe it's RESET forever but it's I/O lives on....

Let's Make Some Stuff Work!

Regards, Terry King
...In The Woods In Vermont
The one who dies with the most Parts LOSES! WHAT DO YOU NEED??

Toaster ovens
Lectric tooth brushes.
Cell phones
Solar yard lights

Led light bulbs, both dumb and smart. Many of the smart ones contain esp8266 modules.
Some no longer have support and show up at the low-price stores.

Battery-operated tools and lawn equipment, frequently free-ish once the initial batteries have worn out.

Ditto low-end printers once they’ve run ou of ink. Neat mechanical components, at least.

Has anyone torn down any recently-obsolete printers? What make/model looks promising..?

I need to develop a relationship with the official E-Waste system here in Vermont.

And in the reverse direction, is anyone involved with a MakerSpace or School that would like a free box of Miscellaneous Electronics parts, some useable microcontrollers, etc. etc?? I have accumulated too much in researching parts for kits etc etc. Just PM or email terry at terryking dot us.

...The One who Dies with the Most Parts LOSES!

1 Like

Most all older TVs have IR remote receivers in them. Some are at the end of a short cable but many are integrated on the main board. It would take a little work to make a drawing of the circuit but not too difficult - just right for beginners. Almost all will have a small EEPROM, you know, for storing channel presets, etc.

Lots of older sets also have LEDs and tactile switches available. These don't seem as amenable to scrounging though, as new ones are so plentiful and cheap.

I took the keyboard from a dead telephone and used keyboard,h to generate the key table, even had code to reproduce the letters, like on a cell phone. I was intending to used the built-in status LEDs on the keyboard as indicators but lost the code in a computer death :frowning:

I had an old food vacuum sealer that no longer had the oomph to draw enough vacuum to trigger the sealing cycle. Motor, vacuum/pressure pump, control board, relays, switches, LEDs.

Junked dehumidifiers have similar things inside. Really, almost any small appliance with tactile switches and LEDs or displays hold a microcontroller with its attendant I/O devices.

Some printer cartridges (Ricoh) actually used stock EEPROMs, as do some blood glucose monitors in their strip batch chips,

Dehumidifiers are of course refrigerators. Not so remarkable nowadays but if de-gassed, the compressor made a usable tyre or balloon pump. :grin:

another very nice find is all the old NiCad drills that are getting tossed and replaced with newer devices.

Although personally I've more-or-less given up taking things apart in favor of surplus stores (which alas have been going away), and now I'm giving that up in favor of China and/or the "overstock" items are "real" distributors. (just ordered $90 or so of stuff from Newark, of which ONE item was not deeply discounted...)
Alas, these are all schemes that may lead to having parts that are no-longer obtainable. At least, some of them have actual spec sheets!

(For example, Apparently "MCM" has gone out of business, and Newark is having a fire-sale on many of their pre-packaged components and stuff. $0.60 RPi 3 cases. $1.30 micro Servos... Ridiculous RPi cables and connectors... )


My old Nicad RYOBI now runs off a 12V 7Ah SLA, it is still the same speed but it now has GRUNT. :dizzy_face: :laughing: :dizzy_face: :laughing: :dizzy_face: :laughing:

Tom... :smiley: :+1: :coffee: :australia:

My 9.6 runs off 4 cells and only room for 4

But many-many prople trash the old drills and buy new

Even a power screwdriver works well in the hobby world.

Computer mouses (mice?) contain different buttons and small encoders. And USB cables with exposed connections.

Lot of ICU or surgery (single use) equipment contain interesting electronics. There are probably other professions that discard similar stuff daily.

One version of the CO2 insufflation tube for laparoscopic surgery contains a hardly exciting heater wire along with a genuine DS18B20 temperature sensor. The one with the square filter - note the four-pin connector.

Blood pressure sensors are considered contaminated if actually used, though there might be the occasional accidentally opened one which of course, cannot be re-used. There are disposable finger pulse oximeter sensors using dual-band LED and photodiode - I carefully kept at least one from my last ICU "adventure".

What else is there?

Electrocoagulation "scalpels" and similar. Most have nice soft three wire cables. Some of the advanced have electronics inside probably for serial number.
My "hermaphrodite" breadboard and pin header friendly DMM probe:

THANKS for the many different ideas. That's what I hoped we'd share: stuff I don't know!

I need to connect to someone at the scrap/surplus department at the Hospital in Burlington, VT. I do have a working ElectroCardiograph. HP, still works aged at least 40.. My daughter used it in HighSchool 30 years ago; now she's a Cell Biology professor at Yale. Hands-on stuff is GOOD...

The battery drills / screw guns would run well with readily available cheap H Bridge modules. I will do some tests. Could make a good crane I think.

I'd love to find a widely-used older printer that runs Stepper / DC motors. What I liked about the old IBM Graphics printer: Plugs in the wall, has decent internal power supply, has drivers for the motors that can be hacked into... Arduino /ESP32 can move the motors.

I appreciate the ideas!

Regards, Terry King
...In The Woods In Vermont
The one who dies with the most Parts LOSES! WHAT DO YOU NEED?? (Free parts/goodies box shipped to any MakerSpace / Kid you know)... Email me!

The current single use ones are not as good as the old re-sterilisable ones which used silicone insulation.

Haven't come across that. Most are just wires, and one pin per wire, including the popular purple LigaSure which looks rather cool.

Earlier staple guns used a four cell lithium battery which included a discharger resistor module which activated as you plugged it in. In order to salvage it, you had to smash the top from the battery pack and remove the discharger immediately after it was used. :woozy_face:

Disposable sigmoidoscopes come with an illuminator module - three LR44s and a LED - which if not actually needed for the procedure can be snapped off (with some difficulty) and put aside - before the sigmoidoscope is used of course! :laughing:

LigaSure have some chip in the connector that is not connected to anything. I believe it is some RF ID.
There is LigaSure clone from Voyant that has 256k I2C FRAM in the connector for some mysterious reason.
Harmonic scalpels have a lot of electronics inside. It uses 1-wire-like communication and includes 3 or 4 chips. They are marked but Google does not know them and the family codes does not match any common chips. Unlike other similar devices they have real SMD buttons.

There are other surgery specific device but it is probably not worth mentioning - it depends on the procedure and what is used in the given hospital.

Like the car key. Now that you mention it, I will take a look.

I haven't seen a clone (AFAIK) but while it may be a "genuine part" check, it may also relate to plugging it into the wrong socket (despite the pin spacing :worried:).

Harmonic scalpels not so popular here. :grin: Have been and gone. As you say.

"Clone" was maybe a wrong word. I meant similar mechanism and indication. Voyant is black/green and has its own connector and different generator. They cannot be confused.

Well, I haven't see that one but they may be using it in the Base (Public) Hospital.

I am not sure how many of the diathermy pencils in present use are genuine Valleylab as there are certainly plenty of clones. Fortunately, it is now "de rigeur" to use the smoke evacuation versions. :roll_eyes: I still collect unused (opened) ones, no shortage of three conductor wire or accordion tubing if I ever need it. :crazy_face: