Reverse engineering a TORCAM CNC lathe controller

TORCAM CNC controller reverse engineering 018

About a month ago, I connected with Arden’s high school tech teacher to see if we could get the CNC lathe and mill going in SJAM’s shop. It had been inherited from another school and as far as we knew had never run at its current location. The backstory is in my original post on this from September.

The TL;DR: this box was not designed to connect to a standard PC parallel port. Pin 13 on a standard port is an input to the PC, however I discovered that this box is expecting the 74HC240 and HC244 buffers to get their 5V Vcc via Pin 13.  Hmmm. Further investigation revealed that the controller box was feeding front panel button presses back through the on-board buffer chips, but some of those were terminating in the Pin 18-25 range at the PC.  Bzzzzt! Those are all grounds. So, discussing with the ever-lovin’, always-makin’ James Bastow, we conclude that this whole rig probably shipped with its own special computer, with a special I/O card on the ISA bus that provided all the I/O and power for the controller box. Looking at the pinout I had reversed, it seemed I could reasonably make a custom adapter cable to get at least minimal functionality out of this rig via a standard PC. That’s in progress.

A little help: I may have mistreated the parallel port on my old DOS laptop in the course of this work, so I’m looking for anyone who can contribute another with no hopes of having it returned. A Win98 laptop with parallel port would be much appreciated. Thanks!

After a very otherwise busy month, I’ve got an update. I cracked the case open and took a large number of photographs of the guts, including both sides of the PCBs. That’s my first step in reverse engineering this controller.

Next I…

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1shot #198-some days all you see is the fence…

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but that day I saw past the flickering poplars and the roiling sand in the surf, all the way to where the blue meets the blue. This beautiful lake, imprinted on me at birth, is as much a part of me as my DNA.

DW

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Weird Canada building culture–KWAG Drawathon

WeirdCanada Drawathon at KWAG 014-

Weird Canada, along with some help from KWAG, Equitable Life, and Wellington Brewery put together exactly the type of event that I’ve been soapboxing as an awesome and most effective way to extend the cultural ecosystem. This second annual Drawathon on Saturday ran from noon until midnight, spanned age demographics from young to old(er), and actively encouraged participation in creation (rhyme!).

Here’s my niece Alex who I serendipitously discovered at this event mid-afternoon. She heard about this through a teacher at KCI, which as we know has a really strong arts program. Anam Latif wrote this up in The Record. I found out about it because organizer Marie LeBlanc Flanagan reached out after stopping by my makebright booth at Communitech during the MaRS Studio Y visit a couple weeks back.

There seems to be substantial agreement that a rich cultural fabric is good for life in general, and is the most critical limiting factor on the growth of our Region with respect to talent attraction. How to actually work on said fabric has led to a lot of head-scratching, expensive studies, administrative overhead, and nervous sideways looks when we try to figure who will fund this development. It’s simple: let’s do 200 events that look like this. Not only drawathons, and Open Jams + artist-of-the-week, and heavy metal breakfasts, and DIYDAYs, but more more more! BluesFest, JazzFest, Kultrun, Oktoberfest are all great, but they are short-duration, big, and expensive. An excellent complement to these big anchors are small, low-overhead, inexpensive, unique, funky, risky, experimental gigs. It’s so simple.

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Hub Haps #007-Alexis Ohanian in the Communitech house

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reddit founder, Y Combinator partner, and now podcaster, Alexis Ohanian dropped in for Techtoberfest at Communitech yesterday along with his film crew, all the way from Brooklyn. This is the third Techtoberfest he has hit here, so he must be seeing something he likes. Check out his new thing: NYRD Radio.

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1shot #197-King and Queen

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KFD on the job last night.

At King and Queen, this is Kitchener.

DW

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Hub Haps #006-orange you glad for these bikes?

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Y’all know I love bikes. Happily, this week saw the installation of a new Community Access Bikeshare station out in front of my favourite haunt, the Communitech Hub. Another instance of the great stuff coming out of The Working Centre and a concrete step supporting alternatives to the car. Catherine Thompson wrote it up in The Record.

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DIYDAY2-awesome returns Nov 1

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Hey WR, my friend Marc Lecompte, an unsung pillar of the local creative ecosystem is putting on a second edition of his awesome gathering of makers last year: it’s DIYDAY2, coming Saturday, November 1st at Chainsaw. Noon to 5pm. You really gotta go to this to understand the vibe.

I hear a lot of talk about “place-making” and the importance of a diverse cultural fabric in our region’s economic prosperity. Well, gentle readers, this is where the rubber hits the road. Marc and 30 makers, musicians, and characters of all kind are putting it out there Nov 1. No focus sessions, no consultations, no giant plan, all GSD. Come out and drop a couple sawbucks on a content creator.

This is Waterloo.

DW

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Heads-up for the Premier

Premier Wynne scrum 2014-10-10-134

Heads-up for the Premier” was the quintessentially Canadian phrase I heard from the hallway right before Premier Kathleen Wynne walked into the scrum set up at CIGI on Friday. I was shooting the CityAge conference and just tagged along to the scrum after the Premier addressed conference attendees. Regular readers know I am fascinated by the meta level of media capture, leading me to frequently shoot photographers shooting something else. This scrum was no exception.

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World Press Photography exhibit in TO for 1 more week

World Press Photography Show 2014 - Toronto 028

Before leaving Toronto on Monday, I hit the World Press Photography exhibit at Brookfield Place on Bay Street. The show blew my hair back. If you have doubts about whether still photos can move people, see this show. It is on until Tuesday, October 21. Open 9am-9pm every day.

Sure, you can browse the winners on the web, but it’s a whole different experience to be in front of the five-foot-wide prints in all the sunlight streaming down. Got me right in the gut.

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1shot #196-gleaming rivers on Front Street

Toronto weekend 078

In Toronto, walking back to the hotel from Union Station, I found nearly the entire intersection at Front and York Streets dug up and covered with poly. The night light made it look like water. Like gleaming rivers of plastic. The next morning the road was open and freshly paved as if it had all been a dream.

DW

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