This guy is a freakin genius

glennji | Nov 24, 2004 min read

The Official Site of Benjamin J Heckendorn
I stumbled onto Ben’s site somehow (don’t ask me how – I’m drunk) and I’ve decided that I want to be just like him. Since that’s never going to happen, I want to instead place his work on a pedestal and use it as inspiration for my own – he’s a freakin’ genius!
In case you don’t want to look at the site, he takes game consoles (playstation 1 and 2, ataris, whatever) and converts them into handheld portable excitement stations. They run on batteries. They have a built-in screen. Quite often the game – CD or cartridge – pokes out menacingly from the back of the unit. But who cares when you can impress ladies and influence strangers with the power of portables?? Anyway, it seems that Ben has been doing this kind of thing for some time, and he’s released a book describing how to make your own (I wonder where I can find that one?), definitely worth checking out if you’re into this stuff.
Which I’m not, but really wish I was. (Oh how I wish …) I’ve got the tools, sort of – a soldering iron and a dremel, what more could you need? – but not the learning (we studied electronics at Uni, but it wasn’t thorough enough to stick). So I’m stuck in that place where I really want to do electronic stuff, but I’m afraid I’ll be wasting my time or money, and will most likely end up electrocuting myself or someone like me. In the past, I bought a multimeter kit from Dick Smith (or something) … of course I couldn’t finish it, and ended up losing the components and never tackling it again. Was it too much for me? Probably. Has that dissuaded me? Not at all – I’ve since bought a (much smaller, easier) radio transmitter kit to build, not for any reason but the experience. I’ve always thought I could learn things, but you have to crawl before you run a marathon (bad analogy is my forté) so I’m completely prepared to fsck this kit up too – I’ll get it right eventually. And then I’ll be turning things into portables, just like Ben Heckendorn (but with less hair).
There are a couple of electronic projects that I want to get going sometime between now and never. The radio transmitter kit is the first, yes, but then I want to build a proper high (-ish) fidelity stereo FM transmitter with a standard input jack, so I can (for example) plug an MP3/OGG player into it, then tune in on any radio – including but not exclusive to a car radio. Voila – cheap in-car MP3 player (and you don’t even need to take it out of your bag … once playing). I’ve seen the kit at Jaycar, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get done. After that, it’s all about home theatre PC gear. I’ve got a mini-ITX motherboard, and a case that can (in theory) fit everything … except that I need to take the power-supply PCB out of it’s happy steel case in order to fit it in. Chris thinks I’m going to electrocute myself, and I think Dee does too; they may be right, but I’ve got to try.
I’ve found another PSU design on the web that I’d like to try too – it was specifically designed for carputers, but it would work from a power-pack DC supply (which is what I really want. So once I’ve done the two radio transmitters, that should be the next project. Finally, I think I want to buy a mini-ITX case. It’s not an electronics project, but more of a fallback in case I can’t build the other cases or PSUs. It would also let me start playing with the appropriate software before I had to do anything outside my comfort zone.
The real drive to all this? I want to have it all done by June 2005.