Media Coverage and PAX Display

Posted in Uncategorized on August 24th, 2011 by admin

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  Once the Maker Faire was over, I kinda lost steam, but it’s time to sum up.  It was great to see all of you out there, and I had a great time showing the device off.

I got a little media coverage.  HackADay wrote up a short piece, and that lead to a small write-up in Engadget. I appreciate the notoriety.  I don’t know who this “Ulysses” is, but it’s not me.  My name is Mitch, and you can contact me at

More importantly, Dial A Grue will be displayed at the upcoming Penny Arcade Expo.  I won’t be there, but the folks from the Digital Gaming Museum have agreed to take it up and display it.  They hope to have to functional, so that you can actually play it.  Feel free to tell me if you see it.

That’s all for now.  Maybe I’ll write up some more soon.



Putting it all together..

Posted in Ears, Mouth, Phone, Wetwork on May 15th, 2011 by admin

This post is long overdue.  The hardware has been complete (enough) for weeks now, and the software has been improving incrementally.  It is the impending arrival of the Maker Faire that finally prodded me enough to finish writing this up.  I’ll be there showing this off.  Here’s what the completed project (mostly) looks like:  (more details after the break)

Click to embiggen

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Extracting guts from the tele-coupler

Posted in Ears, Mouth, Wetwork on April 11th, 2011 by admin

In order to interface the modem with the telephone, I bought a simple device called a tele-coupler.   It is used when only have a phone that doesn’t have a standard jack, or is a digital phone line.  It actually straps to a telephone handset and accoustically couples the phone and modem together… wonderfully old-school, but it doesn’t exactly look like an old school handset however.

Click to embiggen

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Adapting screw spade connectors for Arduino use..

Posted in Phone, Wetwork on April 9th, 2011 by admin

Screw LugMany of the terminals in the phones I might use have connectors designed to attach to screw terminals. This makes it a little difficult to attach to a standard Arduino.  Here is my way to adapt them.





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It’s Alive!!!

Posted in Ears, Mouth, planning on April 1st, 2011 by admin

What I hope will be the final piece of the puzzle arrived today.  It’s a little adapter that turns a regular modem into an acoustically-coupled modem.  It’s intended for use when there isn’t a regular phone line available—you can strap this to a regular handset instead.

I decided to do a proof on concept, just to see if the modem+coupler could talk to the TDD.  Presto:


Click to embiggen

It seems to work fine, and now I just need to embed that coupler inside a phone handset….

Brains too small, make bigger…

Posted in Brains!, Coding, planning on March 31st, 2011 by admin

I supposed I should have figured this out earlier, but there just isn’t enough SRAM for the zip interpreter to run the Zork I story file.   It is trying to malloc() approximately 30KB of ram for various data structures, and the poor little Arduino Mega only has 8.   It might be possible to implement an interpreter from scratch that could get away with using program space (128K or 256K, depending on the model) for static data, and make better use of the SRAM (8K) and eeprom (4K) spaces, but that doesn’t seem likely before the Maker Faire, so I’ve decided to switch tracks.

The main game will run on a FitPC, (a small computer that can be easily embedded), and will talk to the trusty Arduino Pro to interface with the phone hardware, while simultaneously using the modem to talk to the TDD.

Problems loading sketches into new Arduino Mega

Posted in Brains!, Coding on March 30th, 2011 by admin

As I said in a previous post, It looks like a standard Arduino just doesn’t have enough memory, so I found an Arduino Mega, which is based on the ATMega 1280 rather than the 328.

However, when I got the Mega from MakerBot Industries, it refused to accept any new program uploads.  Every time I tried I got:

avrdude: stk500_2_ReceiveMessage(): timeout

Read how I fixed it after the break.

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New Phone….

Posted in Phone, Wetwork on March 28th, 2011 by admin
The second phone I acquired for the project

Straight outta the 70's (click to embiggenify)

While the original phone I bought for this project is uber-cool, the fact remains that it’s not quite period appropriate to the time when Zork was at its peak (1977-1983).   So a little time wandering though the world’s biggest bazaar showed me an alternative.  It came labeled as “No Sound from ringer, works okay” in grease pencil on the side.  I didn’t care if it rings, since I’m going to gut it anyway, but it’s a little piece of the 70’s, and it’s ALL MINE!


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Ears and Mouth have arrived…

Posted in Ears, Mouth, planning on March 25th, 2011 by admin

The key to making this project work is allowing it to communicate with the old TDD.  To do that, I’ve managed to acquire a couple of TDD modems, specifically designed to talk to TDDs.   The Intellimodem can even do Baudot, which the TDD does (at 45.5 baud[*]).

The modem and all the stuff that came with it.

It comes with all the accessories, except a manual.

More after the break

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Smaller, but still not working…

Posted in Brains!, Coding, Wetwork on March 23rd, 2011 by admin

So, by commiting acts of unspeakable hackery, I’ve gotten it small enough to load onto the Arduino:

Of course it doesn’t run, but that’s a different hurdle.