Sunday, October 13, 2013

Hardware Tools: Something Old, Something New

In which our protagonist discusses U-boats, cows and cats while introducing his most important hardware tools.

We had mentioned that, thanks to other people's work, we know have an inexpensive EEPROMer based on the Arduino. If you haven't heard the name before, an Arduino is a series of small, open-source mini-computers from Italy built for electronic experiments. And if you are still reading this blog, you probably want to go out and get one right now, because they are enormous fun in their own right.

Our version is the Arduino Uno, though in retrospect, the Mega might have been the better choice because it has more digital lines.

The Arduino needs a host computer to connect to. We'll need a computer as a terminal anyway once we get the prototype going, but I really don't want to fry my MacBook Pro because I screwed up some silly little wire on the breadboard.

Fortunately, we still have a white plastic MacBook Core2Duo. The case is cracked and scratched and it's so slow the finished Übersquirrel will probably boot faster. But it has two USB ports, and if something bad happens to it, that would merely be very annoying, not a catastrophe. (If that happens, we'll get a Raspberry Pi.)

Because of its support role, and because it is white with dark smudges from too many years of hard use, the white MacBook is called Milchkuh. That's German for "milk cow", the name for the type XIV tender U-boats in World War 2. You learn this sort of thing when you grow up with a submarine fan in the the family.

The Milchkuh with the Arduino Uno attached and the EEPROMer shield installed. Skeptical cat is skeptical, probably because of the disconnected cable. Stoopid Hooman!

As nice as the cow is, we really don't want to develop on it. To allow access from both the main machine, the MacBook Pro, and Milchkuh, we use Dropbox. Remember to make backups.

Our breadboard, Arduino and Milchkuh are all we need to get started on the prototype. So in the next entry, we'll finally get some silicon warm and free-run the 65c02.