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At the most recent Dorkbot DC, we had a wonderful, extremely informative presentation given by Alden Hart. By day, Alden is an electrical engineer and the CTO of a technical consulting firm, by night, he messes around with LEDs and microcontrollers, especially for elaborate holiday light displays he does at his home in Northern Virginia. Alden’s talk was entitled “Practical Microcontroller LED Designs – lessons and gotchas from prototype to production.” It was a very well-presented survey of software and hardware methods he’s explored. Some of the programming was over my head, but he presented everything clearly enough that I was able to follow it conceptually, anyway. I learned a lot, about such things as different schemes for LED dimming, including something called Bit Angle Modulation (BAM), color processing conversions from HSB (Hue,Saturation, Brightness) to RGB, and the use of inductive drives for ballasting LEDs (instead of the more common use of resistors).

There was all sorts of stuff brought up that I wanted to know more about. I’m talking to Alden now about unpacking more of this information for us in some fashion (in MAKE articles, here on the blog, etc.). In the meantime, you can download Alden’s PowerPoint presentation of his talk here.

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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