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interest in buzzer system?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 2:41 pm
by grapesmoker
I'm thinking of building a buzzer system sometime next spring. I have a basic design worked out which I think is sound and some ideas for implementation. I may even attempt to sell some of these systems if there is enough interest. For now, I'd like to ask people the following questions:

1) What features, besides the obvious, would you find desirable in a buzzer system?
2) What kind of physical configuration (in terms of housing, button styles, etc.) do people prefer?
3) How much would your program be inclined to pay for one? Right now I'm looking at a price point of around $150 to $200, depending on initial costs, but PCB production costs scale most unlinearly (in my favor) so that number could conceivably go down.

This is by no means a certainty and it's just something I've been fooling around with in my spare time. But if there's a market for this, I might take it up in the spring after I've defended.

Re: interest in buzzer system?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:25 pm
by DumbJaques
1) What features, besides the obvious, would you find desirable in a buzzer system?
2) What kind of physical configuration (in terms of housing, button styles, etc.) do people prefer?
3) How much would your program be inclined to pay for one? Right now I'm looking at a price point of around $150 to $200, depending on initial costs, but PCB production costs scale most unlinearly (in my favor) so that number could conceivably go down.
1) Having more than 8 available slots is desirable in my opinion, thought that may just be typical Maryland knotophilia. there are times when you'd want way more than 8 people to be able to play, particularly in practices or whatever, so I think that'd be desirable if possible.

2)
-I strongly prefer plunger buzzers that don't require anything to be held on the table top, since I find that increases the risk of things dropping and breaking exponentially. I suppose this implies hub lights rather than buzzer lights, but I think it's worth it to simplify set up and transfer.
-Buzzers that are either permanently attached (knot-style) to the hub or can be plugged in in the manner of traditional cables rather than with phone jacks are a must for my ideal buzzer system. Nothing breaks more consistently or reliably than the little tabs on those phone jack things, and it's very frustrating to deal with. The style of the 24-buzzer Chicago sytem would work fine for this purpose, I'd think. I'm undecided if something like that would be preferable than something that's just attached like the knot, I guess that's more of a engineering-side issue.
-Anything that links buzzers together in a chain on the tabletops should be avoided, since playing with those on college desks is absolutely aggravating and I often end up having to rest the middle of the five on my foot or some such nonsense.
-Clown buzzers/seizure lights please! Did you have a specific buzz sound in mind? One of the knots can moo, can you set something like that up? All of those built-in timers or neg/correct answer sounds are pointless, but it would be pretty amazing if you could press a button and hear Jerry yell at you for negging. You can't put a price on that.
-Overall weight/ease of transport are certainly non-negligible issues. We love the knot but it's an absolute bitch to carry around sometimes.

3) That's about 1/3 the price of the knot and about half as cheap as most other decent options, so we'd by one in a heartbeat (maybe two, just because) if it had all of the pluses and none of the minuses. Can we get custom orders on these Vinokurov originals? I'd like my plungers to be fashioned from Berber teeth and the system itself to to be built from tungsten carbide in the even that its forcibly ejected toward a wall by. . . passersby.

Re: interest in buzzer system?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:31 pm
by jonah
DumbJaques wrote:1) Having more than 8 available slots is desirable in my opinion, thought that may just be typical Maryland knotophilia. there are times when you'd want way more than 8 people to be able to play, particularly in practices or whatever, so I think that'd be desirable if possible.
In addition to this being very desirable for practice situations, many Illinois high school matches are 5-on-5, so you would be accommodating that market as well if you allowed more than 8 players at a time. As I mentioned in the high school section's incarnation of this thread, I think these systems may as well have no artificial constraints on how many units can be active at once.

Re: interest in buzzer system?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:34 pm
by grapesmoker
Different buzzer sounds should be no problem (me yelling is probably going to drive down potential sales though). No promises about seizure lights. The current design involves buzzers that can all be plugged into a central console individually and are handheld; I'm glad that other people seem to find those preferable.

Re: interest in buzzer system?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:37 pm
by Mike Bentley
I'd be happy with a system like the Anderson Officiator but with the following improvements:
-Better lights. The very tiny lights on the Officiator are currently hard to see as a moderator. Maybe you could combine multiple LEDs so you get the benefit of long-lasting LEDs while at the same time making things a bit brighter.
-Any lights on the console should be intelligently aligned. I find that both the Judge and the Officiator do a crappy job of correlating who buzzed in to what light lights up (for instance, the lights on the judge are often backwards from what you'd expect).
-It would be cool if there was an optional battery backup. It should be able to be plugged in for ideal use, but having a portable buzzer system is very useful for stuff like activities fairs.

Some features I really like about the Officiator that I'd like to see in an ideal buzzer system:
-Reliable daisy-chaining resulting in only having to plug in things once per team. I agree with Chris that it's a bit annoying when buzzers are connected to each other, but I think this gives the added benefit of making the system much faster and easier to set-up and makes it less likely that something is going to fall out of the console (if this does happen, everyone is going to notice immediately).
-Small and lightweight. My biggest annoyance with the Knot is that I had to drag it to practice everyday. This system fits in a small carrying case that I can easily bring in my carry-on luggage.
-Low cost - This system can be bought for $195 with a case.

Re: interest in buzzer system?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:40 pm
by cvdwightw
grapesmoker wrote:Different buzzer sounds should be no problem (me yelling is probably going to drive down potential sales though).
Clearly you need to offer a service where the sound played when someone buzzes is customizable if the customer sends in a short audio file of what the customer wants to hear. Standard options could be "the tone," "the quack," and "Jerry yelling."

Re: interest in buzzer system?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:49 pm
by dschafer
Not-actual-suggestion: plug in a USB key containing "1.mp3", "2.mp3", etc. in the root directory, and have it play those buzz noises for the appropriate player. That way, each player can have their own personalized buzzer noise!

Further-degeneration-of-this-not-actual-suggestion: 8 USB ports. Each player has their own USB key, which gets plugged in. The USB Key contains a text file with the player's name and the RGB color they would like the system to display when they have the buzz, an mp3 file to play when that person buzzes, and before unplugging, the buzzer system outputs a text file with all buzzes from that game (For example, "Dan 15.03 Trevor 15.07" would indicate that I beat Trevor to the buzz by .04 ms)

Actual suggestion: Either lights on the buzzer (discussed in other thread) or large lights with obvious player indicators on the main console. I strongly dislike the systems with tiny lights where you have to crane your neck to see if you have the buzz, or where you can tell *someone* on your team has the buzz, but have no idea who (even the judge suffers from this, in my opinion).

Re: interest in buzzer system?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:52 pm
by JackGlerum
My ideal buzzers would be rod-like, not boxes or pedals.

Re: interest in buzzer system?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:53 pm
by vcuEvan
Everything that's not "making a buzzer that works for more than a month at a time" should be a secondary objective.
EDIT: although a neg five button involving Jerry yelling would be great

Re: interest in buzzer system?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 5:03 pm
by grapesmoker
As regards suggestions of USB functionality:

One of the first things I considered was to make the entire buzzer self-contained and simply plug into a USB hub; however, the problem with that is that USB actually has quite a bit of latency, to the point where initiating communication with an item on the USB bus and sending data back and forth might actually impede the task of discriminating between who buzzed first. This is bad. So any USB functions, if implemented, will be of a "post-processing" nature and will be for the purposes of communicating with a computer system to do something like tell the moderator who buzzed first.

Re: interest in buzzer system?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 5:30 pm
by The Logic of Scientific Disco
I've always pined for rod-like handheld buzzers that light up individually (like box buzzers), which (as far as I know) is not a feature that's ever been implemented.

Re: interest in buzzer system?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 5:41 pm
by magin
I'll cast a vote for box buzzers/buzzers that lay flat on a tabletop over those rod-like buzzers; I find the former much more comfortable to use.

Also, anything that doesn't emulate the Judge is a good idea.

Re: interest in buzzer system?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 5:47 pm
by Sima Guang Hater
I personally like the paddle-style buzzers myself.

Re: interest in buzzer system?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 5:55 pm
by jonah
So what I'm seeing here is that there should be several types of compatible activation devices possible. Preferably on a position-by-position basis, so that wealthy programs (!) can purchase a wide variety of those devices to accommodate the whims of all players.

Re: interest in buzzer system?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 6:04 pm
by Skepticism and Animal Feed
I like modular buzzers, where you can plug in either a judge paddle or a thumb plunger. UChicago has had a system like this for years, and recently the officiator (I think) has come with this option. Also, as a producer, this is in your interest because then you can sell teams MORE buzzers (they might want to buy 8 of each).

Let's face it: we'll never reach a consensus on thumb plunger v. judge paddle. Give players the opportunity to use either.

PS: In the southern bible bowl circut they have buttocks-activated buzzers that can be plugged into the modular system that UChicago has.