As mentioned in the introduction, I think this would look much nicer if mounted in a custom enclosure that looked like a die. With a laser cutter I would cut a nice piece of acrylic into 12 pentagons (with alternating tabs the width of the acrylic) to fit together in a dodecahedron shaped box. The cut pieces would be engraved with electronics symbols where the numbers would otherwise be, and the holes for the display and button would be perfect. This would turn it into a 12 sided die that can do the job of all the other dice, fitting since the 12 sider is otherwise neglected
Other things I would use a laser cutter for include (but are not limited to):
The next project I'm considering is a 7 X 32 LED scrolling sign for the back of my car. It sure would be nice to be able to cut those 224 holes for the LEDs in a perfectly uniform manner.
Precisely cut the corners off of square things to prepare for life about a battlestar.
Everything I previously had considered buying a cricut for, but 1000 times better.
Boxes, boxes and more boxes.
Make professional looking signs for every room in the house.
Custom game pieces.
Wooden or acrylic cosmic encounter boards and boards for other games.
Everything else listed in my "webserver stop light" article's notes.
Everything else listed in my "elecronic score keeper" article's notes.
I'd make many beautiful and useful things.
I'd make many beautiful and useless things.
Paranoia about electronics devices
Buying the small blue box I mounted this in lead me to a very surreal conversation.
I found this (and a couple of other sizes I experimented with) at a local "the container store
". When I went up to pay for it, the cashier was particularly chatty, initially freindly, and (I felt) inordinately interested in what I was going to put in my containers. At first I imagined that she just liked her job, and liked to fantasize about all the fun things people people put in their containers. But after talking to me, I believe her container stuffing fantasies took a dark turn. Or perhaps she always imagines herself as a vigilant watch dog, guarding against nefarious criminal uses.Her:
Oh, those little blue boxes, I remember those. I had a lot when I was a teenager.Me:<smiles and nods politely>Her:
Are you buying them for nostalgia? From when you were a teen? They are too small to really keep anything in them.(I'm not really sure what the implication was here. Perhaps she used to keep drugs in hers?)Me
: No, they are for a project I'm working on.Her:
Oh, what are you going to keep in them?Me:
I'm not going to keep anything in them. I'm going to cut a hole in one and use it to mount my project.Her:
What do you mean? <looking very perplexed at that moment
I have some electronics I've made and I'm going to cut a hole in the side so you can see the display, and mount the electronics inside.Her:<with a look and tone of horror>
Do you mean.... (dramatic pause
) a device???Me:
Yes. An electronic device I've made.
No longer chipper and friendly, she said nothing more to me other than to tell me the total bill. I imagine as soon as I was gone she ran off to report me for making dangerous electronics. Alas, I paid with a credit card so now my name is on some super secret terrorist watch list, for having the gall to use a small decorative box for something other than it's imagined proper use.
Over a decade in the making
I first tried to make a device like this in the late 90s. My original design was going to speak the digits with a sound recording chip I got at radio shack, and used a PIC micro controller. At that time there was (to my knowledge) no free C compiler and no free simulator for the chip. I wrote the initial code in assembly to light up some LEDs, compiled it, ran it through the dedicated programmer I bought and then stared at the chip. It did nothing. I looked at my code and found no obvious errors, but I was hardly an assembly language expert.
And then I was stuck. With no simulator or way to see what was going on in the chip, I had nowhere to go to debug it. Something was wrong with my code and the chip was a little black box I had no insight into. I never totally give up in a situation like this, but I was discouraged enough to finally put it away for a few days. And then a few more, and then a few weeks and then months. Eventually over the years I lost the PIC programmer in a move or something.
About 10 years later, I bought a mini-pov
kit from adafruit and had fun supervising my son as he put it together. Later a friend asked me to help him hack it into a brain machine
and I was impressed at how easy it was to replace the firmware with new software that totally changed what it did. I looked into the processor used by this device and found that micro processors had become much easier to use. This inspired me to try to make my electronic die again.
I bought a USBispTiny kit, put it together and built my first prototype on a bread board. Just like the first time, nothing happened. But now instead of being stuck, I had options. I used the free AVR studio to simulate the chip and watched exactly what my software was doing wrong. Very soon I had a working prototype and moved on to experimenting with printing my own board.
If I were doing it today, I probably wouldn't even have to bother with AVR studio, since this project could probably be designed in the arduino environment, and then ported to the ATTiny chip.
The moral of the story is that as time goes by the barrier to entry with micro controllers drops lower and lower and it gets easier to get your feet wet all the time.