Something Old, Something New.

Some history before I share an idea….

Somewhere around 1976, I had a home computer running, my most understanding Wife watched my interest grow into a near obsession. Wire wrap tools, soldering irons, all made their way into the family room, and I remember the high cost of those early and power hungry 2Kx8 memory chips she bought me for Christmas.

A fond memory was one of her Girl Friends coming over on the day I first boot strapped the processor up, and got a simple message out ‘hello world’ followed by a few beeps through  the speaker, it was before I even had a terminal.  The woman put her hands on her hips and said “well now that you have this running, what are you going to do with it?”

A man learns not to justify his toys early in life, it never turns out well.. ” I told her it was a toy, and I’d continue to play with it.” At the time I was rather proud of myself, as I knew she had expected me to rationalize the time and expense I had invested.

Since that time, I have watched the mind-boggling advances in computer science, and so many of us have tossed out a lot of cool stuff thinking  it was obsolete. Many of us have had  ideas to do all kinds of crazy stuff, but we kept thinking someone else has already done it, or soon would..

One of my crazy ideas was to build a big X Y plotter frame with typical stepper motors.. all light weight fiber glass or aluminum with suction cups in all four corners.  Maybe five feet  by nine feet in dimension, and capable of covering a four by eight foot area.

The print head would be off the shelf air brushes, and the whole thing would fit inside a van. At Christmas time, you’d load up the van with water based paint, and paint Christmas scenes on store windows, and of course a built in laser pointer and level would allow you to move the frame and stitch the frames together for a larger scene.

Of course you could do sign boards on the fly with more permanent paint, and even photograph existing  signs and make new ones for a Proprietor on the spot!   Funny thing, I’ve been looking to see a van set up like this for over thirty years now, and haven’t seen it. Is it possible that some Tagger will get caught with one painting Grafitti first?

I ponder all the advances since I visualized this service as a small and mobile business. Now days we could use a wireless connection, or even mount an android phone on the frame and do the processing on the WEB, Lithium batteries might also do away with the requirement for a power cord back to the van, and this would greatly enhance the usefulness of the frame, we could paint from the window washer’s platform on the sixth story!

I have mentioned Jeri Ellsworth before, she grew up with a Comodore 64, and learned it inside and out. Jeri knew how much fun the C64 was and marketed a joy stick with what equated to a C64 computer with many popular games built-in! It was a great success, and obviously a lot of other people might have thought to do the same and dismissed it as a viable idea.

One thing we see over and over again, at some age,  people are attracted to things they were exposed to in their younger years, take Ford for instance, they did a very successful redesign on the Ford Mustang and grew the market to include a bunch of old guys that could afford to walk into the show room and buy a car that reminded them of the one they owned as a kid, and younger people appreciated the good looks too 🙂 I mention this because this is most predictable, and we need remind ourselves that generations are only 20 years apart, and there’s always a new crop of people wanting to experience the joys of childhood memories, there’s money to be made helping them enjoy the past.

With all this said, you know there is every kind of collector out there, I have a friend who makes the rounds to Thrift Stores and buys up old computers, he has a small warehouse full of old stuff, and he enjoys buying and selling on Ebay, there’s a following, and money to be made.

Considering all of this, I think about tools, parts, and support for some of these collectables.  Jeri Ellsworth has even designed replacement parts for stuff no longer available (Example: Pin Ball Machines) and people are grateful for what she does.

Many of us remember the first hard drives available to hobbyists, around 5-6 mega bytes of storage back when the CPM operating system was popular among  microprocessor  hobbyists, (before folks knew who Bill Gates was).  What Jeri Ellsworth knows along with a good many others is the Comodore Amiga was light years ahead of the IBM and clones, and we had to wait for what seemed like eternity for the IBM PC to catch up with the Amiga. It’s a valuable lesson that the best of ideas aren’t necessarily the ones that win the race or set the standard.

We watched as the capacity of  Hard Drives grew, and some of us may have forgotten about the time we couldn’t imagine what all we’d keep on a 10MB disk! Yes, those were the days when ASCII was near everything.  Maybe it’s best we recall all the limitations of either the operating  system or the file system, and we should remember that FAT16 could only handle a maximum of 2 GB because of 16 bit calculations on clusters, tracks, etc. Check the size of that little memory card in your cell phone, it’s up to 64 GBs today!

Just the other day, I was looking for an inexpensive camera to do some time-lapse with.  I was a little surprised to see such a void in features in the present line of inexpensive cameras, and with build in timers for a delay of seconds, I don’t see many cameras with a remote shutter where we might be able to exploit such a feature for the purpose of time-lapse over a period of days or weeks.

With a few google searches, I was able to find a few older cameras that sold for more than $1000 dollars new that had these features, and I easily bought one off eBay for $40!  What if got was good optics, with a remote power jack, I can put this all in a weather proof box for time lapse and take one picture a day for a year if I want to.  But.. there it was.. a built in memory limitation of 512 MBs 🙁

As you might know, the compact flash memory cards emulate hard drives, and their  standards followed hard drive developments and matched the limitations. The ceiling for this camera (due to its operating system) is 512MBs period.

Perhaps, there’s room for a new device to support old toys?  A compact flash that is compatible with the old stuff like this camera I bought? Maybe the first version would use  a connector and ribbon cable that hangs out of an open door on a camera or other device and moves files onto an SD card of 32 or 64 GBs of capacity.  The Compact Flash Storage Card emulator moves files out of the 512 MB area the camera knows about, and moves it to an area within the addressable SD Card area, files might use a creation date and time stamp so we might put them in order for a time lapse presentation, etc.

The larger question might be.. how much value would a product like this this add to toys we already have,  including the ones we had in our younger years that we might want to play with again?  Few of us would go through the trouble of setting up a C64 to play  few fun games, and few of us would bother with an older camera regardless of the quality of the optics, BUT.. what if there was a Compact flash Memory device like I describe?

If you find what I’m looking for, let me know, just scroll down and leave a comment.. and thanks for your time to read this..

George B.

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6 Responses to Something Old, Something New.

  1. Kerry Payne says:

    I don’t know that the product you describe exists, but if you’re willing to invest in an old Canon p+s, an open source firmware update may unlock enough of the hardware to get you to your goal.


  2. George B. says:

    Kerry, you posted a good resource to add to the conversation, I wish I would have found this before I got a different camera, this is likely the solution to my origional problem! I’m likely to dump the camera I have and go after the cannon!

    As for this Compact Flash solution, it would still be nice to have some tools that could cross over into that 512MB boundary, and drag files across into the SD area and keep the old devices happy and convinced they have more disk space to write to.

  3. Libo Gomez-Maier says:

    Here’s something I found:

    This adapter is the key along with finding an older Eye-Fi as they mention:

    • George B. says:

      Another, (actually two) great contributions to this thread Libo! We include I have a 256mb+WiFi SD “scandisk branded” memory card on my desk at the moment, and now I know that Eye-Fi made it, and where I might go to get support. Let me share an interest, there’s a High School less than a mile from me, The school lays in the middle of two roads about a half mile apart, It’s one quarter mile from either public road into where there’s school parking or where buses unload. A time lapse camera might run longer than a year to ever catch a pedestrian walking on the side walk anywhere near the schools frontage. Still, the city of Auburn, Washington has placed a Traffic Camera in this area that photos persons exceedign 20MPH when a solar powere LED light is flashing. Settign up a time lapse camera here woudl clearly demonstrate the traffic camera is handing out $200 plus tickets as a money maker, and NOT because there was ever a problem. At the same time, the City of Auburn has created a ‘choke point’ on their east boundry, as this flashing light is only 25 feet from the city limits boundry. I do think a solid year of time lapse with zero students present is entirely possible, and it would be a you tube video I’d be proud to post, I’m sure there are people most accustomed to the standard law here, (which is to reduce speed from 35MPH to 20MPH WHEN children are present), who are barely making their house payments and then get a $225 ticket in the mail WHEN they didn’t see a pedestrian a mile in in either direction of this school! An inexpensive older camera is not too much to lose if someone swipes it when you’re doing a time lapse study, being able to down load to another device would be a great solution, as the time lapse phots are more valuable than the camera itself.

      If you read this far, there’s other natural questions.. that Arduino you’re playing with, you saw the turn key library for the SD card, and how easy it is to read write to same, is the Eye-fi card an inexpensive way of getting a WiFi connection between your project and the WEB?

  4. Michael Lawton says:

    Is this what you are looking for?

    You know the world has adapters for everything George…lol

    But like computers the camera may only be able to read so much memory. And I am not sure buy reading your post if it has a slot or is all internal memory.

    Probably just need a schematic for the internals and you can modify it, but how much trouble would that be. Easier to buy what you need….

    Mike NJ

    • George B. says:

      Michael, another great resource, and it begs more questions. What I was looking for initially was an intelligent ‘bot’ to drag file(s) out of the 512 MB area the camera knows about into a second partition the camera knows nothing about. This might allow and older camera that is using a FAT16 file system to take up to 64GBs of pictures. Since we don’t assume any access to the camera’s processor, we need some kind of external intelligence to ‘MOVE’ the file, or convince the camera’s operating system that it has plenty of room to store the next file. Since I’ve long forgotten what little I knew about hard drives, it’s easy for me visualize a few extra lines of code in the HD controller that automatically moves files from a 512MB disk emulator to a much larger (later than FAT16) file system. If we removed the memory card from the adapter and plugged it into a PC, and saw the larger file system and memory, we’d have a way of making that old camera with high quality optics far more valuable. I’d need to re-read every line to know that there was an offering that did what I just said.. there’s an overwhelming amount of info to digest in one browse.

      Still.. it’s all about ecomomics, and that Cannon open source software is most interesting. IT IS an example of someone coming along and extending the value of something you thought was obsolete! For a lot of purposes, we don’t need take a high resolution picture. I am reminded of all the early home computers, and the ones that died in popularity first. There were a number that had propritary everything, and they seemed to die out first. Perhaps we’ll see the same thing with Cameras. As for the new firmware down load for the Cannon, looking up what you have is one thing, looking at what you might buy in the way of a power shot to make use of the new firmware is a more daunting task 🙂 Yes, no spell check was used here.. sorry.

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