Tater Targets -When It continues

Welcome back to Tater Targets as we continue from our previous blog Tater Targets - It Begins. Now Where were we? That’s not right we weren’t at Where, we were…. When. That’s right, When were we. (If you find that amusing, I appreciate the chuckle, if you find it annoying, well then, my apologies. I just can’t help myself.) We digress. Let’s get back to the When.

In the last blog we said there is a lot more to the When, than now. The reason for that is you have to go back a few years to really find the start of this adventure. In fact, it might have been around a decade ago, which just seems crazy sometimes. It was at that time, that we had one of those wild ideas jump into our conversations. One brother in particular, those oldest children be crazy, said “what if….just bear with me here….what if there was a target that raised and lowered out of site. It pops up and down, and you see if you can shoot the thing.” Well sure, that’s a start, but that’s not the end of the conversation. “Yeah, yeah, that would be sweet. Then what if this target was moving linearly to. That way it runs back and forth, pops up and down, and really messes with you so you can’t hit the thing if you wanted to.” Remember, it’s been a decade, so I might be paraphrasing a little. “Ooooo, and what if it keeps score. Each time you hit the target, it gets knocked down out of site, and you use that to add to the score. You let the thing run for like 2 minutes popping up and down and see how you do.” Easy right? Well for us, apparently, so easy that a decade later, we are getting closer, but not quite there yet.

When you think about the When, (I probably just annoyed someone again), consider what a decade means to technology. For a little perspective, I ask you this: When was the Raspberry Pi introduced? Take a minute and look that up. If you just continued reading, I want you to know that I am stalling. Trying to get you to look it up. Did you look it up? Alright, based on what I see, the first model was mass released somewhere around February of 2012. That is only 7 years ago. So ten years ago if somebody suggested, “hey why don’t you use a raspberry pi”, then you went into the house to see if you had the ingredients to make some brain food. 

Alright so no RPI, how about Arduino? Well yes, Arduino did exist. I believe when we started there were two models available, and a third getting close. There was the Serial Arduino, and the Nano. The Uno, was on its way, but not quite there yet.  We had Arduino on our mind, but even with a smart little board, there were a few other items that were still going to be an issue. For example, how do you power the board, let alone any motor that you might use with it, in a way that you can take it anywhere? How do you do that in a way that doesn’t cost you a small fortune? I think I remember seeing the first “Power Bank” for phones sometime around 2012. (This is not thorough research on any of this, just what I recall.) A lot of the hardware and technology we have now, just didn’t exist a decade ago. Since then though, the availability has increased, cost has decreased, and now you can’t turn a corner without running into some smart device. Each year over the last decade, things got a little easier for us. Smarter controllers, more peripherals, more code libraries, better batteries, and the list goes on.

Decade of Change

Credit: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/features-and-news/decade-of-digital-dependency

That’s why it is almost comical to think back at the start of this When. The image of one of our iterations in particular is burned into my head. I am still impressed with what it was, for some reason, but I also chuckle because it was a beast. After working out some details on the base target of the system, the one that raises and lowers, we were ready to give it some linear motion. Here was the thing though, the base target was constructed fully out of metal. That meant that all of the electronics had to be protected by, you guessed it, metal. So what we had was a 24”x24”x24” cube of 1/8” to 1/4” metal with a metal arm that popped up out of it. That meant the “slide” had to be pretty heavy duty. So we had two pieces of conduit running in parallel attached to some strut for the legs. On this conduit we had something that amounted to a skateboard with a few extra wheels. This skateboard was then attached to some cable/rope that was ran to the end to be used with some garage door pulleys. This entire gadget was ran off of what basically amounted to a car battery. Sounds like a very mobile target system, right? Just pick it up, toss it into the truck, and you are having a blast. Maybe not quite. Considering the When though, I say we were doing alright.

 

Early Iterations: Power Distribution and motor controllers. 

Over the next several years we stripped it down, built it up, stripped it down, built it up, and continued that process trying to see where we could shave size, weight, and cost. Our mechanical knowledge was based around what you could weld, drill, grind, and assemble in a garage. Getting around the “bulky” problem was a bit of an issue. That’s why things started evolving into targets that weren’t metal based. If you aren’t shooting metal, then bulletproofing gets reduced. The assumption being that you need to be a good enough shot, not to directly hit the electronics. Our idea started to evolve, and with time, as the When continued, new manufacturing processes became available, even in a garage. I think the picture started clearing up for us about a year ago actually. Suddenly the pieces started falling together. After nearly a decade of When, something was getting closer in the now. In part that was due to all of the advancements in technology that can happen over a decade. I think though, that staying true to our style, true to our Who, is how we really got here. As I said we almost never knew what we were doing, but by the time we were done, we knew what not to do. Over a decade, we learned a lot of what not to do, and eventually it got us to where we are now. And in the now, we have a lot of ideas for the future. This time we think we might get to the future in less than a decade. So When? Follow us, and you’ll see. Where? That's for the next blog.

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