Staples Easy Button Hacking

January 7, 2007 Posted by bob in Building | Computers - (Comments Off on Staples Easy Button Hacking)

For a project at work I needed a solid button that would be easy to press. It turned out that the Staples Easy Button was a perfect match for what I needed; heavy, easy to locate without looking for it, a great size, and it was just a single button. I opened it up and removed the speakers and disconnected the majority of the inner workings, rewiring some bits so that I could run a wire out of it and into the serial port of a computer. Then I could use the button as an input device. It worked perfectly.

Here is a step-by-step gallery that shows how to dismantle the button, remove the speakers (you could leave them in, but what’s the point? Why not take out the free speaker for use somewhere else?), tap into the switch, and re-assemble.

We start by removing screws. Keep removing screws until you can pry the speaker out. Cut the red wires and remove the speaker. Reassemble the button most of the way. Remove the resistor on top. Also cut the black and white wire coming from the battery case. Cut the traces to the chip (the black mound). Solder wires at the points shown on the images: there’s one point where the resistor used to be, and one point that’s just a bare hole. Then solder the other ends of those wires to the black and white battery wires. Now reassemble completely. You can now tie or solder wires to the pads where the batteries go and use the button for whatever application you have.

OLD Personal Projects

June 1, 2004 Posted by bob in Building | Computers - (Comments Off on OLD Personal Projects)

In high school I played around in my basement bedroom a lot. I discovered some neat things, some things that I still can’t explain, and some very useful things.

One thing I worked on was a sound system. I found a couple speakers and a really old amplifier at Goodwill and rigged them together. The sound quality wasn’t professional, but it was more than enough to do what I wanted. It wasn’t even stereo, but I could get it loud. Then I took apart an alarm clock and rewired the speaker output into the sound system. Occasionally I would have the amplifier volume a little loud and I would wake up EVERYBODY in the house at 6am for school. Later I took my 386 computer apart and wired the internal speaker output to the amp. The computer didn’t have a sound card, so this was my only option.

Another thing I played with was input devices. I took a keyboard apart and tapped into the wires for the arrow keys. Then I took apart two pens and taped them so they were perpendicular to each other. I put a small piece of metal in each that would slide around easily. Then I taped paper clips on each end so that the pieces of metal would make two separate paper clips touch and complete a circuit. The circuit it would complete was the arrow key. I then attached this small contraption to a glove. The end result was a motion sensitive glove that could tell whether my hand was tilted forward, backwards, left, or right, and would send the appropriate arrow key through the keyboard to the computer. It was the cheapest glove ever.

One of my experiments involved plugging a socket into a bucket of water. Bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen appeared at the terminals. After a few days, so much of the wire had corroded that the tub was blue-green with copper. There wasn’t really a point to all of it, just the coolness of seeing science doing what it was supposed to.