Full disclosure: I wasn’t watching TV last night. I was sitting in the garden with a glass of cider and a pizza, watching swallows eat mosquitos and cheering them on. I had surly thoughts about those swallows when Rob Bishop mailed me this morning to remind me I’d missed an epochal TV event: the Gadget Show, on the UK’s Channel 5, described the Pi as the “…most important and revolutionary piece of tech created in this country, this century.” And then went on to use it to power an ice cream machine they made from bits of laser-cut plywood and a collection of nuts and bolts in the studio, which is exactly what we think you should do with important and revolutionary technology in this sort of weather. Damn you, mosquitos.
Happily, the video from last night’s show is available online, so it turns out that my evening watching the massacre of the mosquitos wasn’t wasted. The video can’t be embedded, but it’s definitely worth five minutes of your time: click here or on the picture to view. It seems the video isn’t available online outside the UK, but if you’re curious and you’re not in Blighty, you should be able to google for a UK public proxy.
What you’re not told on the video or on Channel 5’s associated page is how Rob Bishop stepped in at the last minute, when the Gadget Show’s engineer was sick, to complete the programming for the ice cream maker, giving up a weekend (which he spent working in a Cambridge cafe known for its superior wi-fi offering) to get the tech in place for the segment in time. I salute you, Rob, and I owe you an ice cream. All that code you see in the clip? Prepared by Rob’s fair (actually, quite tanned, now he’s been on holiday) hands. There’s also a PiFace breakout board in there, via which the Pi controls the LEDS and the solenoid that opens and closes the whippyscoopy* valve.
Turns out that the motion-activated dispenser and ripplicating* device driven by the Pi worked a treat. Congratulations, Rob. Any disastrous failures you might see in the video are entirely down to a failure to plan how might you get dry ice into a small opening without a funnel, and not Rob’s cool-as-ice coding. Enjoy the video (it’s a hoot), and let us know what you think below. No, I wouldn’t eat one either.
*These are technical ice cream terms that I just made up.