Self Watering Plant, Part 1


Just begun assembling and preparing the parts for what I hope will be a self watering plant mechanism..


Stage 1: take delivery of a battery-powered water pistol, then open it up..









This base was able to provide 3v and 4.5 v as well as having a useful switch and speaker point.

The connector block is to simplify connecting it up to the Pi / Microbit / Circuit Playground Express




First comes the opening up, then comes the moment of truth: has it got potential for inclusion into a new project?

Consideration must be given to the old battery / leaked battery / corroded connectors scenario as well as the voltage that it will be happy to operate with..



tinfoil is a great help..





Time to reveal the toy collection

There is a distinction between where a child’s toy meets a tool meets a gadget, but there was no need to draw that distinction in today’s Year 11 Computer Science class. After a brief introduction I threw open the wooden toolbox (from Sammy’s Garage – just the thing..) to reveal a smorgasbord of delights awaiting connection and coding up.



Pond probe

    What every discerning newt desires: a pond probe to illuminate the deepest reaches of the wild with:


sample bottle, spikes, absorbent foam, Velcro and a magnet to collect deep water samples and:

a {on-borrowed-time} bulb, lump of fool’s gold and a cat’s eye to shine / reflect so that location can be determined.


sorry newts!




Calculator reboot


    What to do with a calculator that has sustained damage resulting in some missing buttons?

Remove most of the remaining buttons then create a game with a complex dossier of rules that seek (not entirely successfully) to put the ‘fun’ into ‘functionality’!




Early gaming

    It doesn’t get much earlier than Pong – my thanks to my sisters who, on occasion, let me loose the family gaming system. This required:


a/ nobody being able to watch tv for the next hour

b/ a hunt around for new C size batteries

c/ twiddling the tuning button with extraordinary patience until the flickering on the tv resolved into white lines on a black background

  • tis still a mesmerizing prospect!



PS there is an Apple Watch pong now!


Honorable mentions must go to Tomy and Nintendo for these gems too (albeit 10 years later):



286 / 486 beginnings

    here’s one from the archives: my first PC, a 286 running at 16mhz

(Turbo, 8mhz otherwise) a full 1 MB of RAM and a whopping 10MB RLL hard disk! In 1992 the KB was still a thing.

Once the hdd got too full it was time to run ‘Stacker’ which compressed that precious space to squeeze more on.

After some upgrading fun, this hulking machine became a 486 (sx) with 4 MB of ram and 420 MB IDE of storage. Not much by today’s standards but quite a transformation, resulting in the ability to run Windows 3.1 and, eventually even Encarta ’96 !