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Billy Bass Hack

This is a modification to the Gemmy Toys Billy Big Mouth Bass. This hack is modeled after Marsette Vona's famous Embedded Billy Bass Hack. Marsette's original circuit was based on an 8051 type of chip. I have modified the project to use a PIC16F819 microcontroller and a common LM386 audio amp because I am more familiar with these parts. I considered this a great learning project.

The essence of the hack is to record your own messages and have Billy act them out. The 'chipcorder' IC can store up to 20 seconds of sound, and I have configured it to store 2 10 second messages. You record the different body movements and voice by moving the 10 way switch mounted on the front of the bass and pressing the existing pushbutton.

For now, here is a link to my diary on robots.net so you can read commentary I wrote as I worked on the project.

As of September 2 2004, the circuit was worked up on my solderless breadboard. On the right is the 10 way switch on a PCB I etched. It uses resistors to create a voltage divider so that the position of the switch can be read with one pin on the microprocessor using an A/D converter.

As of September 18 2004, most of the circuit is soldered into place. The 10 way switch and debug LED are mounted in the front panel of the Bass. I have wired the connections to the existing circuit, power, and switches using a DB 25 connector so I can easily move the prototype board over to program it.

The audio amp isn't working very well with output going to the speaker. I got a pair of cheap powered computer speakers, and now I can hear it if I crank the volume up all the way.

If you don't know the history, "Billy Bass" is a cheap knockoff of "Boogie Bass" which was advertised on American TV pretty heavily. Here is a cheap knockoff of Billy called "Rocking Fish" that I found on eBay. The sound is truly horrible, but it looks a lot better than my beat up old billy, and all of the motors worked. The circuit board is completely different from billy bass (much simpler, really.) Hmmm. What could I do with this?

Update 27 September 2004

Either the LM386 audio amp or the microphone pre-amp circuit is just too wimpy. The sound is not loud enough and has all kinds of hiss. Furthermore, when the motors run, I get lots of noise. So I had to abandon the original hack in order to make the deadline of the Christ the King Fall Festival.

I ended up ditching the idea of Billy saying back your recorded message. I wired the output of the new control circuit to both "Billy Bass" and "Rocking Fish." Now the recorded body movements make the two dance in unison.

I built a control panel to go behind the fish pond. There are 3 buttons to control either Billy or rocking fish's normal spiel, and then a button that makes them both dance in parallel.

Here is the finished product! Kudos to Genny Gruel who painted the mural on the pond. The game was a popular attraction at the carnival. I had lots of fun.

I provide this information/software for those few who might find it useful and/or interesting. I, Eric Ayers, claim no responsibility or liability for any damage that may be incurred as a result of the application of this information/software.

I, Eric Ayers, have no relation to the manufacturer of the the Billy Bass, or to any other company mentioned on this page. Modifying your Bass as described on this page will likely void any warranty that it may come with.


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