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  1. My wife was asking if I could make our Christmas lights blink to music like the outrageous displays that show up on the cable channels at the Holidays. I did a quick internet search and found that many of the folks who do this are using something called an "Arduino", which is a little hobbyist computer you can program from a PC to turn things on and off (you need some circuitry so it can actually turn house current on and off, but the Arduino provides the brains). I worked with similar hardware back in the 1980s when this sort of system would have cost a few $1000, so I was a little surprised to see you could buy a working system for less than the price of a Tamiya kit... I did a quick check and found that Amazon sells these things, so I added the starter set to my "wishlist". My wife refuses to buy me more kits that just end up in the stash, but this gadget showed up under the tree and I've been having great fun with it: you can make it flash lights in any pattern you can program and connect buttons and simple sensors to control what it does. It also came with a tiny RC plane servo that you can control to make things move. The programs are C/C++, but you don't need to know much to do interesting things and you get a little booklet with lots of example programs (there are also lots of how-to/dummy books and websites out there). This would be a great way for teenage kids to get into programming. Anyways, I'm thinking about how to use this in some sci-fi projects I've had in mind for a while. Just wondering if anyone else is using these things in their models? Seems like this might be a good way to get more of the "internet generation" interested in modeling. Don
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