Tag Archives: Evil Mad Science

Atmel is everywhere at the 2013 Maker Faire, episode 5

So after seeing Atmel in the parking lot, and a hexapod 3-D printer, a Geiger counter and a bike lite powered by Atmel, I looked at some of the fine-art installations over in the corner of the pavilion. There I spotted Ghostmatrix, a robot that dragged flashing optical pipes over glow-in-the-dark plastic to make a spooky ephemeral message.

The Ghostmatrix at Maker Faire 2013 had a smaller platen to better install on the wall. Turns out Ghostmatrix is by Jonathan Foote, a well known Maker from San Francisco. My friend Windell, a co-founder of Evil Mad Science, had introduced me to Jonathan earlier in the day, but I never made the connection, simply because Jonathan is not the kind of fellow to brag about his installation.


Windell Oskey and Jonathan Foote talk tech in front of the Evil Mad Science booth at Maker Faire 2013.


I poked around the internet and was delighted to see that Ghostmatrix is based on the AdaFruit MiniPOV (persistence of vision) kit which uses the Atmel ATtiny2313V-10PU microcontroller.  And I was also happy to see Windell’s pal Super Awesome Sylvia has built the basic miniPOV kit. If a 12-year-old can build it and get it working, you can build it and get it working. If anything, write Sylvia and ask for help.


And here is another art installation that just tickled me. It’s basically an endless loop of 16mm film that displays specific frames in the holes in the wooden strip on the front. I guess you can use it to come up with your lotto numbers, as it’s called Your Lucky Numbers by Christopher Palmer.

Evil Mad Science and Atmel at the 2013 Maker Faire

Many Atmel employees will be at our Maker Faire booth this weekend. I will be there both days and open-source guru Eric Weddington has flown in as well. The Atmel booth is right next to the Arduino booth, so we should be easy to find. Be sure to bring your sun hats and sunscreen since many attractions are outside and it is easy to get burned.

I also wanted to give a shout out to my pals Lenore and Windell from Sunnyvale kit maker Evil Mad Science. We met at the eFlea and I have visited their shop. I have bought two Alpha-5 clocks from them, knowing that the super-accurate real-time-clock combined with an Atmel processor will keep precise time.

I went to an open-house they had last year, and got these snaps. Be sure to visit their booth and check out their really cool kits. Here are some pictures:


Here is Windell showing off his latest project— The Digi-Comp, a ball-bearing operated mechanical computer.


Evil Mad Science does not re-sell cheap imported junk. They design, test, and package their kits right here in Silicon Valley.


Here are just a few of the kits Evil Mad Science sells. They all have great style, panache and entertainment value.


Every engineer needs a powerful CO2 laser cutter.


I wanted to show Windell’s bench, since we all can relate. Even young guys like Windell need microscopes to work on modern electronics.


They have this awesome CNC router at Evil Mad Science. That is one of their motion-sensitive LED panels on the bed. You wave your hand over it, and the lights modulate.


Here is a close-up of the light panel. I am pretty sure they use Atmel chips in it.


Typical Maker—Windell spent months designing and perfecting this custom cabinet, rather than buying some chipboard stuff from Ikea.


Here is Lenore, the co-founder of Evil Mad Science. She is holding up my pal Ron Quan’s new book on building your own transistor radio.


And here is Ron, who came down to the open house at Evil Mad Science because he is a maker as well as a brilliant engineer with 65 patents and membership in SMPTE, IEEE, and the AES.

Hope you like the peek inside Evil Mad Science. I will be writing up experiences at Maker Faire as well as keeping you up to date on Ron and Atmel and my other pals.

Rako starts at Atmel

Some of you might recognize me from my previous job at EDN magazine. I covered the analog beat. So many of my friends were surprised to hear I was joining Atmel. What they did not realize is that being an analog expert is only part of what I love. I ran a consultation business for 20 years. My specialty was designing, prototyping and delivering working hardware. One of my favorite jobs was in 2001, at a startup where I designed a complete point-of-sale terminal in only 2 months. I knew I would need help doing the software, so I called my friend Dave Mathis. He agreed to write the code, but only if I used a modern micro. Not knowing any better, I suggested a well-known micro. He said he would quit if I used that hardware. He refused to program one, after more than a few bad experiences. Then I figured we could use an 8051 clone. He said that he really did not want to deal with special function registers. OK, this was going nowhere fast, so I asked him what he thought would be a good embedded processor. Dave had written Forth compliers for Samsung micros, so I didn’t know what to expect. He said I should check out Atmel. I did. I was impressed. I had been exposed to Atmel micros when I was consulting to HP. They ran wicked fast and did not need 8 clocks to execute an instruction. The other thing I loved is that I could get a Butterfly prototyping board for $49.95, and a real in-circuit emulator for $200. When you are in a startup in angel-investment mode, that low barrier to entry really means a lot.

So I picked a nice little AVR micro that did everything we needed and more. I wrote the assembly language firmware for the point-of-sale terminal as well as some other products we developed. I hired two buddies to write some C code. I see why Dave recommended Atmel. Wags have joked: “The best programming language is the programming language your best programmer likes best.” I really like the Atmel development system and the chips worked great. Both buddies have gone on to love and use Atmel micros in their projects as well.

So I am really looking forward to document how Atmel can make your design work go better. I will be getting up to speed on Atmel’s touch technology and will share with you what I learn. I am also looking forwarded to getting into the ARM controllers. That is some heavy iron to an 8- and 16-bit guy like me, but my buddy Dave will point me in the right direction and I am sure my co-workers here will put up with my questions.

When Sander Arts asked me to join him at Atmel, the first thing I did was call my pal Dave. We thought Atmel was cool and we knew it 13 years ago. But I was not sure of how Atmel was doing in the eyes of the world. Dave said “Atmel’s star has really risen in the last 5 years.” The Arduino was part of that. But he said people were also seeing how cool the Atmel ARM stuff was. And the whole world was seeing what Dave saw in 2000, how Atmel can get you into 8-bit development cheaply, and how nice the code works. When I was at the Design West conference this year (2013) I saw my buddy Windell Oskay, the co-founder of Evil Mad Science. When I told him I was starting with Atmel he was really jazzed. He said that he loved the Arduino and the whole development ecosystem that has sprung up around it.

In addition to telling you about all the cool things Atmel is up to, I will be sure to keep you informed of all the fun things my pals are doing. This includes lifestyle things like the electronic flea market here in Silicon Valley and career things like how my crack protégé has figured out a LinkedIn profile that gets him 3 headhunter calls a week. Stay tuned and look for all the system design scuttlebutt that will help you be a better engineer and programmer.