This Year’s Hackaday Supercon Badge Is a Working 1980s Desktop Computer

This is #badgelife

Alasdair Allan
4 min readOct 31, 2018

Over the course of the last decade hackable electronic conference badges have evolved from being simple blinking lights to far more complex contraptions designed to live on long after the conference has ended. Earlier in the year we took a look at the EMF Camp badge which was a fully working cellphone, and with Hackaday’s Supercon at the end of this week I’m looking forward to getting my hands on another piece of electronic artwork.

Because this time the conference badge is a fully functioning 1980s style retro-computer running CP/M, and comes with a keyboard and screen.

This year’s Hackaday Supercon badge. (📷: Hackaday)

“Everyone through the door gets one of these badges featuring a 320 × 240 colour display, a full qwerty keyboard, and limitless hacking potential! The stock firmware runs a BASIC interpreter, the CP/M operating system, and includes games…” — Mike Szczys, Hackaday

The work by Voja Antonic on the badge originally made its appearance at Hackaday Belgrade back at the end of May. The firmware was written by Jaromir Sukuba, who was a winner of the Hackaday Coin Cell Challenge held earlier in the year.

This Conference Badge Is a Computer. (📷: Hackaday)

Built around a Microchip PIC32MX370 microcontroller, the board also has a Microchip SST26VF016B flash chip providing an additional 16MB of storage on board. On the keyboard side of the board, alongside the 55 momentary contact switches, is a colour 320 × 240 LCD screen, and an RGB LED which is directly controllable from the board’s BASIC interpreter.

“…the Hackaday BASIC interpreter that has been customised to make full use of all the badge functions. It has the ability to save and load programs from 16 storage slots, but it can also transfer programs onto and off of the badge over serial. It drives the music on the badge using a simple scripting language. There are words for controlling the LEDs, twiddling GPIO on the pin header, and taking more direct control of the display by changing colours, moving the cursor, controlling screen refresh, and using the extended ASCII character set.” — Mike Szczys, Hackaday

The Hackaday Supercon badge front (left) and back (right). (📷: Hackaday)

Flipping the board over reveals two AA battery holders flanking the PIC32 microcontroller along with a speaker and amplifier circuit. But if you’re interested in hacking on the badge hardware the thing you’re interested in is located to the top left of the screen, and that’s the badge’s expansion header.

The badge’s expansion header. (📷: Hackaday)

The header can be used for programming, serial, I2C, and GPIO. With Supercon bringing a new expansion board that wasn’t available during the badge’s previous outing at Hackaday Belgrade.

The expansion board attached to the badge’s header. (📷: Hackaday)

As well as acting as protoboard, the expansion boards has a number of different footprints, including three “Shitty Add-on” headers, allowing you to easily solder components with common fo.

If you’re interested in sitting down and hacking on the Supercon badge, there will be an all day badge hacking workshop this Friday before the start of the conference proper, and a hardware hacking reference guide is available. Details of the badge itself can be found on the project’s page.

Although if you do run out of things to do with your new Supercon badge, you can always resort to hacking on the badge you might have picked up at the Open Hardware Summit last month. Because Drew Fustini will be there, with new firmware to extend the life of your badge.

If you’re going to be at Hackday’s Supercon this week, do make a point of stopping me in the halls and say “Hello!” and tell me what you’re interested in right now. Or, if you don’t want to talk to me, Alex Glow will also be there talking about her robot owl Archimedes, along with Cameron Coward and potentially some other Hackster folks.

Hackaday Supercon kicks off this Friday. See you there..?

[h/t: Hackaday]