Instructables

Versatile and Low Cost Digital Counter

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This hack will transform a cheap easily sourced calculator into a versatile counting machine. It can be used as a cheap method to measure distance using a wheel, reed switch and magnet (think bike odometer).

So what else can it do you ask? Well, how many times does your central a/c turn on in a day? How often does that radiator fan in your car kick on? How many times does that refrigerator door open in a day/week/month? And the list goes on and on... in fact, have an idea of something repetitive to count? Do post what and the method to count it ;)

Distance meter: Wheel of known circumference, reed switch, magnet
A/c: Relay on thermostat line
Radiator Fan: Relay on fan circuit
Fridge Door Open: Relay or photo sensor on light or reed switch/magnet

In the spirit of the magnet challenge - this is going to be built as a distance meter for a bike and I'm going to measure how many times certain doors around campus open/close during a specific time interval (just for fun :P)
 
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Step 1: BOM - Bill of Materials

Quick list of materials and tools you may want on hand.

Tools
Soldering Iron
Solder
Some form of adhesive (to attach magnet to a spoke -- or make a holder -- etc.)

Materials
Calculator using a PCB
Wire (nothing heavy duty - little scraps and leftovers are perfect for this)
Reed Switch
Magnet (suitable for activating the reed)
A Zip tie or two
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rsgino75 years ago
Hey, this is a really cool, yet so simple idea. Great Job! I do have problem with the soldering. I do have PCB however the solder does not stick to the board. Any tips?
Use conductive glue
How could you modify this to measure speed on a bike?
not speed distance could be possible multiply the circumfrence of the wheel by the number on the calculator and that should tell you in the same units ( metric / imperial / anything u invent ) that you used for the circumfrenecr of the wheels Speed works on a completely different set up you would need to get rid of the calculator all together as you are couning the certain number of pulses per min or so many secs
Are you the one in your profile picture and is it recent? Because if so you are a frickin genius.
That means i'm a genius too :)
Jono1529 binnie6 years ago
You Could Just Do Distance Over Time
trebuchet03 (author)  binnie7 years ago
Yep -- you'd need a timer... You can adapt the concept to do so (I think someone has a speed sensor in the magnet challenge contest ;)). But, it can do average speed if you keep track of time :P
I wonder if you could do that with just a reed switch, calculator, and stop watch...

of course then again you could just spend $10 on a cheapo bike calc at walmart _
Agentfern2 years ago
This is a great idea, but the calculator shutting off after a while could be a problem (I want to measure how far my pet hedgehog runs on his wheel in one night). Do you have any idea how to make sure the calculator stays on?
DIYShared3 years ago
I have used the concept to make a Measuring Wheel. As a matter of fact I didn't know your project before. True! Anyway you did it first. http://diyshared.com/MeasuringWheel/MeasuringWheel.htm
Works great, but mine had a plastic flexible circuit board. I had to use some conductive glue to make the connections then some super glue for strength.
aessam13 years ago
there is a problem in most calculators
Most of them automatically close after a while to save the battery
so these calculators can only be used in fast counting
manicmonday5 years ago
Oops. Correction. It worked for a few minutes correctly, then the stiff wire started causing the "=" to go off on it's own multiple times. So then I tried another wire that wasn't so stiff, and it worked for a few minutes, then stopped getting connection. So, unless someone knows of a glue that is also a conductor, then that kind of calculator doesn't work for this application.
Look at my page how to do it with that kind of calculator: http://diyshared.com, click on Homemade Measuring Wheel. I have put also instructions on how to do a kind of conductive glue.
graphite mixed with glue will do the trick
you can shave pencil leads for the graphite, should be mostly graphite over glue
there is a type of conductive glue but thats all I know on the matter. I don't know what its called or where you can get it from, sorry
DeathunT5 years ago
My problem is that after 5 min, if nothing append, the calculator switch off!!! How can I prevent that?
use a different calculator
beehard443 years ago
maybe if i attach that to the NO pin of a relay and attach my input to the coils then maybe i can use it to detect electrical signals.....
i can see a tipping bucket counter here...
DIYShared3 years ago
To complete my previus post, if you are interested I show in my video how to use a calculator with flex circuit keyboard:





 
Bob13564 years ago
The counter is an absolute great circuit,  What I need to do is step it up to the next level.  I would like to start with a particular number and count down and when it got to zero provide a change of state output.  After 50 or maybe 100 openings on a door, the change of state output will allow me to lock the door once it got to zero.  I will have to test but I believe that if I start with the number 50 entered and did "-1" then short the leads connected to the equal button will allow the circuit to count down. I would need an output when it read zero.  Thoughts and comments! 
TOCO5 years ago
http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2419298here is the link for the reed switch at radioshack.

DeathunT5 years ago
How to you keep your calculator to auto-turn-off? Most calculator turn off after 5 min... PLEASE HELP!
sompie7 years ago
I had at home a IR sensor so i all put it on my basketball ring and let the calculator on 2 so every time i scored my calculator at 2 points. Sorry for my bad english
Derin sompie5 years ago
What if you shoot foul shots or 3-pointers?
nice idea :)
manicmonday5 years ago
I bought that exact clear calculator, and it was easier than another than had an actual PCB. I wasn't able to solder the PCB at all, and that was if I was right about the place to solder it anyway. It was very confusing. But the clear calculator was much simpler, and I noticed that there were holes at critical junctures. I placed stiff wire in the 2 holes that lined up with the "=", bent it double, and crimped it down. It was no problem.
yarnspin7 years ago
Who could start making these to sell with my skein winders. I need a silent counter to count number of revolutions. What would you charge to make 3 to test with?
ur telling me you cant make one yourself?
I just do not have the time. Need someone to make me six at a time or more. Nels Wiberg
Yes, the calculator that I took apart was a printed circuity board and I do not know how to connect the sensor to that. I'm also too busy making spinning wheels to make fibers into yarn. If you would be interested in making them for me let me know. It would help with my Skein Winder sales.
Patented6 years ago
its a nice idea...i never think to do this!
wat r u foreign or something? lol jk but to be honest the grammar really sucks.
Lol im not a foreing but I speak french
I got an idea to resolve the problem with the different calculators doing different things when you press "=", this uses 2 switches though
You know how it calculates when you press "+" or any other signs? instead of wiring the "=" button to the switch, wire the "1" and the "+", have the magnet or something trigger the "1" and then the "+", shouldn't be a problem to do for a spinning object, might look ugly on doors though.
exellent logic.
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