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Crazy Cricket or Freaky Frog

Love the sound of crickets and frogs (and who doesn't)? Maybe you will revise your judgement after exposure to Crazy or Freaky - the (very) pesky cricket and equally annoying grenouille.

By John (Chirpy) Clarke

Designed to imitate the chirping noise of a cricket or the gentle croaking of a frog, Crazy/Freaky loves to sing in the dark and happily chirps/croaks away, much to the annoyance of others.

When disturbed by light, he immediately shuts up, remaining stealthy and silent. He keeps his location secret until conditions become favourable when he begins to chirp again.

To make life simple, we’ll just refer to Crazy – but remember every other time you turn him on he becomes Freaky.

He’s sneaky!

Click for larger image
Easy to build but hard to ignore - Crazy Cricket, shown here in 3D, chirps away in the dark and flashes his LED eyes... until you turn the lights on. Then he shuts up until it gets dark again. We've shown Crazy here with resistor "legs" coming from the underside of the PCB - while this is perfectly acceptable, they could just as easily come from the top side and bent over the edge of the board. Or indeed, they could have been made from tinned copper wire. The PIC micro is also programmed with Crazy's alter-ego, Freaky Frog. Each is selected in an alternate fashion on each supply power-up.

Crazy does not immediately begin to chirp when darkness falls. He may wait a second or two or he may delay his singing for up to 40s. By this time you may think he has (thankfully) moved away. But start to chirp (he eventually will) and you will then know that Crazy is a very happy little insect. Call him pesky, call him annoying but we just call him Crazy. 

You may think that this behaviour is just like any ordinary cricket or frog, but naturally Crazy is different. Ordinary crickets make sounds to establish their territory or attract a mate. And their chirping sounds are produced by rubbing a coarse section of one wing against a scraper located on the other wing. This process is called stridulation.

Crazy does not stridulate! Nor does he need to attract a mate (well, not that we’ve noticed). However, he does claim his territory. This territorial claim remains until he is discovered whereupon his final fate remains uncertain.

There may be search-and-destroy missions to locate Crazy but he is very elusive. One thing against him is that his eyes glint in the dark and this may reveal his position. More than likely though, his eyes will terrify the unwary.

While ordinary crickets are made from biological materials, Crazy is an all-electronic insect manufactured from numerous elements including silicon, iron, copper, carbon and silica. He also incorporates man-made plastics in his construction that are rather difficult to pronounce for a cricket.

When attempting to pronounce his material make-up he is sometimes heard expressing just the word “chip”. It’s derived from the longer expression “silicon chip”.

Whether this expression sets Crazy apart as being more highly evolved than his biological counterparts is unknown.

As Crazy says, he does include a silicon “chip” in his make up. In this design the chip is a PIC microcontroller and that vastly simplifies his circuitry.

Just as crickets evolve in nature, this makes this new design an evolutionary improvement over the previous but ever popular “Clifford the Cricket” from December 1994. In that circuit a CMOS hex inverter was used instead.

Further improvements over the previous 1994 design include reduced component count, smaller and more compact construction and significantly lower current drain.

This low current allows the use of a lithium 3V cell. That’s in contrast to the 1994 version that used a rather large 9V battery. That battery acted more like a convict’s ball and chain, with the weight often restricting Clifford from his annual winter migration northward to a warmer climate.

The 1994 chirping sound was rather limited and comprised a 2kHz tone modulated at 160Hz and at 25Hz. This didn’t simulate a real cricket.

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