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August 3, 2005 / TildeWill

Blood, Sweat, and Wires

box_004.jpgLast night I had a hot date with RadioShack. I grabbed some banana plug sockets, a project box, 6-conductor phone cord, and a male parallel port. The goal being to construct an interface for two fencing weapons to a PC with plans to write software that will emulate a fencing scoring machine.

Now you may say that a PC is way more expensive than a scoring machine, costing a mere $350, and you’d be right. But look around you, how many computers do you see? How many scoring machines do you see? Yeah, so computers are more available, agreed? I also hope to one up the scoring machine by providing added information and possible data collection. How long was the tip depressed? How many times was the tip depressed but not long enough to set off a light? How many off targets did you have, how many on-targets? Etc.

So I started my work with the plastic project box. I took out my cordless drill and a 3/8" bit and went to town. Since I’m without a work bench in my apartment I had to hold the box with my hand which resulted in a drill bit to the hand and a fair amount of bleeding. After some gauze and tape I was back in business. I got the banana plugs installed and set to soldering. Again a vice would have been handy or at least a third hand, but I made do. Now I had to hook this beast up to the parallel port and plug it in, a few minutes later I was testing my box with some software a fellow fencer had developed. No luck.

So I made a trip to Wal-mart for the cheapest multi-meter they had. $10 and a bag of gummy bears later I was back in business. I tested my work and surprisingly all my connections were good (I must’ve learned something in that EE lab I took). The problem turned out to be unclear documentation on the software writer’s behalf and I had connected my contraption to the wrong pins, so I fixed that and badda boom badda bing! So tonight if I don’t get too caught up installing some new plug-ins for this blog, I’ll start writing my own software and keep this doggie rollin!

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