This is going to just be a list of a few geek projects I’ve had in mind for a few years now. Given time constraints, I probably won’t pursue any of them. If you’ve done one of these or can make one of these work, I’d love to see a write-up on it. (Let me know!)
This idea was inspired by the Donkey Konga controller — initially, I was going to track one down and hack it for a USB connection and write a driver. With the advent of Arduino, you could use traditional bongos with sensors and just have the Arduino appear as a keyboard. It was a goofy idea, to be sure, and wildly impractical — who the fuck wants to type Unicode in via binary? Ugh.
The idea for this came from reading Bruce Stirling and William Gibson’s The Difference Engine — it’s a topic that’s been fascinating to me ever since. Could you build a practical computer using nothing but Gaslight Era technologies? Because the era is so loosely defined, I decided that 1913 was a good cut-off date for the end of it, as that’s when the White House ditched gas in favor of electric. As for a start? Well, I set it at the early 1800’s. Really, this project would have been more about the cutoff date than the start date. The triode (a type of vacuum tube) was invented in 1906-1907, but didn’t get properly refined until 1914, which is after our cut-off date. I had a bunch of scribbles in a notebook on this project, but it disappeared during a move and I haven’t seen it since.
Honestly, this seems like it’s the most feasible project on this list — building a go-kart that runs off of a Stirling engine. The plan was to build pretty much everything except the bearings and wheels from scratch — having a mill helps, but I’d also need a lathe. If I could produce a .5 to 1.0 horsepower Stirling, I could definitely get a go-kart moving (but probably not quickly). This would be a fun project to undertake with Eddy someday.