Non-computer Hack

It’s fun to occassionally “hack” something not related to computers! Sometimes you just see something and immediately assume that it works a certain way and when you later find out that it doesn’t and at the same time realize that it may lay within your power to change, then if you’re like me, your inner “hacker” child takes over! I actually did this a while back, but just now decided to post it here.


My daughter came home with this Rayovack camping lantern that she bought from Walmart and gleefully showed it to me. I immediately looked it over and assumed “Cool, a dual-lantern that lights up bright white in the top AND has a soft glowing yellow night-light in the bottom half”. WRONG~! Turning on the switch quickly revealed that such was sadly not the case, only the top part lit up – rats! My engineering brain screamed that the bottom half SHOULD have a light too!!!!!

So, a quick examination of the switching mechanism (rotating cam design / levered switch); a trip to Radioshack for a 6v bulb, socket, and a 3-pole levered switch (I only needed the 2 poles for down=off, up=on); I took it out to my barn, got out my soldering iron, some wire, a metal bracket from a transformer core, and two tiny bolts; and hacked this thing to work the way I knew it should.

The hardest part was shaping the bracket by temporarily taping the switch onto the bracket and placing the entire assembly completely back together several times until I got both switches interfacing just right with the switch cam (<2mm tolerance), then drilling the holes for the bolts to attach the switch). There was enough area along the cam for the levers of both switches to interface properly with it. The cam is cut in half at one point to allow one side of it to rotate down and depress the lever of the original switch, but since it is cut in half, I mounted the add-on switch at a slight angle such that either side of the bisected part of the cam can depress it. This way, the switch is mounted such that one side of the cam depresses the switch when in the original "Off" position (the original switch is raised – both lights off). The switch is then rotated almost half way to the "On" position, rotating the cam enough to raise the added switch to it's "On" position, but not enough to depress the original switch to it's "On" position. This lights the new "lower" light only. Rotating the switch to it's full "On" position again depresses the added switch to it's "Off" position whilst fully depressing the original switch to it's "On" position. This switches off the lower light and lights the upper one. The result is that the cam-switch functions as a 3-position switch (lower,upper): (0,0 1,0 0,1). I could not find a way to light both lights simultaneously (1,1), but concluded that there was probably no need for that state anyway).

Here's the final result (shown with added lower light lit and switch in new middle position):

The actual mod is completly reversible since it requires no modification to the original assembly except re-soldering of two wire contacts. I sent the mod specs to Rayovack, but they took the “not invented here” angle~!

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