A collection of my inventions, hardware and software. All inventions are built upon pre-existing knowledge and (most often) components, so not all the items below are revolutionary new or novel, some are simply the re-purposing and adaptation of extant products/components to solve new problems.
I'm getting to that stage where I seem to forget more than I remember, so here is a partial list of what I currently remember ideating, designing, and or making.
- Mobile Gentleman's Study / Office (designing/early construction)
- Digital Window Mark II (prototyping)
- Digital Window Mark I (completed, success but its form limited its usefulness)
- Digital Airgun Target (prototyped, abandoned - too many other things to pursue)
- Digital Fireplace (prototyping)
- Anonymous, Autonomous, Abandonable Internet Relay
- Cross-Country Trailer Camera System (completed)
- Sidecar Dog Cage (completed)
- "Elevator Action" Arcade Machine Halloween Costume (completed)
- One Kernel Popcorn Maker (completed)
- Three Screen Desk Layout (completed version 1.0)
- Old Time Radio Redux (completed version 1.0)
- Hammock at WPI (completed)
- Hammock at ARTISTdirect (completed)
- Motorcycle Shed (completed, found impractical)
- Passive Police Radar Jammer (completed, found impractical)
- Besiex Inertial Propulsion Device (prototyped, failure supposed)
- Besiex Amphibious Car (abandoned)
- Remote Under House explorer (completed)
- Remote Over House explorer (completed)
- Remote Model Rocket Launcher (completed)
- More to come...
- Coming Soon...
I was big into model rocketry when I was in middle school and early in high school. I was also into computers and programming. My best birthday gift in that decade was the Tandy PC-5, a revolution at the time, a veritable computer you could fit into yout pocket! With a Z80 processor, 4k of RAM, and BASIC ready to be used, it was truly awesome. I eventually had all the main accessories: a cassette tape interface and a thermal cashier receipt printer. I eventually married my love of rocketry and computers and made the very slight but still not unimpressive realization that I could use the cassette tape interface adapter as a means to launch my model rockets via the PC-5. The tape interface was the sort common in those days, you would just connect up your trusty portable cassette tape recorder to this device by way of the audio out and microphone jack. The interesting bit was that back then the microphone jacks usually worked not merely as a microphone jack but also as a means to pause/unpause the tape recorder via a switch. The PC-5 had the ability to start and stop the cassette tape's recording so that it didn't use more tape than necessary when recording. All I had to do was build a little box that used the microphone high signal to activate a relay which would connect the model rocket's igniter and its power source. I then spent days writing a needlessly fancy launch program complete with arming code requirement, fancy count down, abort mechanism, and warning buzzer! I still get misty eyed thinking about that little PC-5, I still have it, too, tucked away. Back then a computer you could easily put in your pocket was a magical thing...
A healthy creative mind is one which is free enough to be permitted the occasional beautiful but wholly useless idea. One day I was staring at an open Zippo lighter, marveling at its form and function and began to wonder how its use could be extended, beyond the mere lighting of things on fire. As I often went back country camping and used camp stoves I began to imagine a Zippo as a very tiny camp stove, and wondered whether it could actually make anything. I hit upon the idea that it could perhaps make popcorn, and after some tinkering I rigged up a wonderfully effective system for doing just that. Using the metal from the sides of a soda pop can I created a tiny spring-action holder which would keep one kernel of corn inside the lighter's flame cowling/shroud. All you had to do was light the Zippo and in about 30 - 45 seconds that single kernel would pop and fling itself out of its folder, and hopefully into a hand ready to catch it. For weeks I carried the Zippo in my pocket with its corn kernel in place, ready to produce an instant snack. Useful? Not very. Exceedingly psychologically satisfying? Very much so!
Cross-Country Trailer Camera System (2011)
This is less an invention and more of a modestly novel approach to solving a problem. I was moving from California to Pennsylvania, towing a 26 foot trailer. I'd never towed a 26 foot trailer and was more than a little concerned about doing so, worried that my inexperience could easily get me into trouble, either hitting a structure with the trailer or hitting another car. I did not know exactly what I might experience in my cross-country travel, traveling the interstates and stopping at highway adjacent gas stations and motels is one thing, navigating urban centers is another. I needed to make a few stops on my cross-country trip. As I had recently moved out of my house I had eight home security day/night cameras which were idle. I began to think how nice it would be to use them to give me eyes on everything that was going on with the trailer. I put together the following solution. I installed a cheap (but good) double DIN radio with video monitor into my truck. I bought a small video multiplexer and mounted it under the dash with its buttons accessible. This would now let me view up to eight cameras on the dash mounted display, with fancy features like rotating through all cameras or showing four cameras at a time, or showing one camera with thumbnails of the rest (and it came with a remote!). I then mounted the cameras to the trailer and truck using some amazing suction cup mounts intended for mounting cameras to cars/etc. In the end I mounted one camera at the rear (looking down and behind, so I'd know who was behind me on the highway and who was behind me as I backed up), I mounted one camera on each side of the trailer, at the front, giving me excellent coverage of blindspots (most useful when I am backing up and turning but also making sure I'm clear to enter a lane), two camera inside the trailer (I was transporting 3 motorcycles and all my possessions, I wanted to make sure the motorcycles didn't fall over, nothing got upset, and that nothing caught on fire (from fuel/friction/whatever). And I mounted one camera on the truck pointing down at the hitch region, so that I could easily connect and disconnect without needing anyone else to guide me, and also so if something came loose I would see it. Everything worked marvelously! In the end of course the reality was that I could probably have gotten across country just fine without the cameras, I didn't seem to come close to making any terrible blunders, everything in the trailer was perfectly secured, etc. But, I was glad I installed my setup anyway. So much of life is about investing vast fortunes in order to prevent the unlikely, can't fault myself for that.