Ever since the Internet first came into being, people have used it to share interesting and amusing images. I remember years and years ago seeing the following "Man vs. Woman" image when a friend emailed it to me:
It is, of course, obvious what this represents -- man is a simple creature, while women are far more sophisticated and complex. (What? You have a different interpretation? In that case, please feel free to share it with the rest of us in the comments below.)
This image kept on reappearing in my "Inbox" over the years, and each time I would grin and then delete it. Until, one day, I thought to myself, "Hmmm, it might be fun to build one of those." When you come to look closely at the original, however, you realize that it's not all that well made. I'm not convinced that it actually does anything per se; instead, I think its creator simply mounded a bunch of knobs and switches and LEDs on a panel -- whatever he (I'm assuming it was a he) happened to have to hand -- and took this picture.
For myself, I wanted to create something a little "tastier," as it were. I'm thinking of a piece of furniture involving wood and brass and antique analog meters and switches -- something that would not look out of place around the beginning of the 20th century. As an example, my chum Douglas in California is in the process of building a control console for his recreation of Doctor Who's TARDIS, and the following image is of one of his sub-panels:
This goes some way to explain why, for the past few years, I've been collecting "stuff" in the form of antique meters and knobs and suchlike. Of course, it goes without saying that I also want to have lots of LEDs, but I want them all to be of the tri-color variety and I want them to be tastefully mounted behind mother-of-pearl-like "dots." The bottom line is that I want the finished unit to look like a piece of fine furniture.
Thus it was that I acquired a 1929 wooden radio cabinet as shown in the image below (you may recall seeing this little beauty in my Welcome to the Pleasure Dome video). This is going to house the "Woman" portion of the device. All of the wood will remain as-is; all I'm going to do is remove the woven speaker grill in the upper middle and replace it with a brass plate that contains my switches and meters and whatnot. Also, there will be a second brass plate filling the hole in the wooden panel at the bottom off the cabinet.
In the fullness of time, the "Male" portion of the device will be presented in a smaller antique wooden box that sits on top of this radio cabinet, but that's a project for another day. Over the years, I've experimented with a variety of different ways to monitor the switches and control the LEDs and analog meters. For example, the setup shown in my Awesome Art of Bodacious Breadboards column involved a PICAXE microcontroller being used to control chains of input and output shift registers, which were intended to monitor the inputs and drive the outputs, respectively.
Unfortunately, my early attempts all quickly grew to be painfully complicated and convoluted, so I put my "Man vs. Woman" project on the metaphorical back-burner. In fact, it was just a few days ago, while I was working on my Mind-Boggling Infinity Mirror project, that I thought to myself, "Hang on, these NeoPixels mean that I could control all of the LEDs on my "Man vs. Woman" project using a single digital output pin on an Arduino." And then I thought, "Good Grief, an Arduino Mega has more than enough I/Os to monitor an array of switches, plus it has enough PWM outputs to drive a bunch of analog meters, plus it has enough analog inputs to monitor a cornucopia of potentiometers."
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