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Steam Sparky, Sparky

Signs I may be losing my mind #579

Inspired by Pac Gentleman and Pongmechanik and of course The Great Crystal Cyberdrome Exhibition, I just spent an hour in the bath trying to devise an electromechanical computer that could drive a Tetris fairground game. Of course I could cheat and hide a microcontroller in the base (I've already implemented Tetris in C), but there's something terribly appealing to me about the idea of a clicking whirring machine that could theoretically have been built as far back as 1835 (when the relay was invented).

Comments

I would DEF!! pay a pound a go!
How do you mean, drive? are we talking totally mechanical, including the droppy-block things?
It would probably need to have an electrically operated bitmap display - a grid of either lamps or solenoid-operated paddles. Actual moving blocks in the display would be difficult because you have to be able to remove arbitrary rows when they're completed and shuffle the rest down. You also need some way of resetting it for a new game.
H'mm.. I shall bend my cranium around it. Difficult, but not impossible- a completely mechanical version would indeed be remarkable!
Yes, definitely doable but quite complicated, especially if you have a full 10x20 playing grid. The random block chooser would be interesting. The most difficult parts are probably collision detection and allowing block rotation (ISTR that was one of the trickiest parts even in software because you have to prevent the block rotating if doing so would cause a collision). It also needs a way to speed up the machine over time to make it more difficult.
Speeding up the machine's no problem, you just have a graded system of switching between contacts on a rheostat, driven by a multiple stepped cam on a slow worm drive, i.e. geared in such a way that it takes the duration of the game to travel over one step. The rheostat would, of course, control the primary drive motor. As for ISTR, I'm not even sure of what that is, let alone how to incarnate it mechanically..
I know.. Think massive ticket-clock arrangement with flap-down coloured squares/cubes on a wire grid frame. Like the old indicator boards at London Liverpool Street and similar John-Cleese-Clockwise-Esque stations.
That was exactly what I was about to suggest. A friend of mine did a university project implementing basic logic gates using cotton reels and rubber bands - I'm sure that you could use smoething similar to make your mechanical processor.
:-D Exactly?

I'm afraid I'm coming at this from the mechanical viewpoint and starting from scratch- I have to say my knowledge of programming can be expressed as the simple factor, Nil. I don't think I'd know a logic gate if it bit me on the bum.. Not that it's likely to.

I am however warmed greatly by the fact you can make them from rubber bands and cotton reels...

I can see how to do logic gates with relays, but cotton reels and rubber bands?