WIW#1 : Pulse sensor – Teensy – Vizor

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This is the first workshop in series “Wow – it works!?”. The idea of the series is to explore technology and our relationship with it by hacking something (somewhat) functional together, using inexpensive and accessible materials. Besides common sense and natural curiosity, no special skills should be required. Let’s see how it works. This page is a collection of resources for the workshop participants, not a guide documentation as such.


Wiw! I can hear and see my heart beat in virtual reality!

Let’s connect a hear beat sensor to small microcontroller, make it to act like a keyboard and send signals to virtual reality software, that pumps a 3D heart on a cheap cardboard VR goggles – shall we.



• Pulse sensor
• Breadboard
• Teensy 3.2 microcontroller
• Usb OTG cable
• Android smartphone
• Vizor – online VR authoring tool
• Cheap VR goggles


Disclaimer: I’ve done this without blowing up any parts or doing any damage to the phone. However, while it’s very unlikely to harm yourself doing this experiment, it’s quite possible to fry all the electronics used here, by wiring them incorrectly, including the most valuable part, your phone. Pay attention on the instructions and proceed with your own risk.


How to hack it together

  1. Plug the Teensy on the breadboard.
  2. Learn how to upload patches (code) on it
  3. Check out Teensy pin-out and learn where are pins: A0, GND and 3.3V out
  4. Wire the pulse sensor on the breadboard based on this info
  5. Upload this code on Teensy (reading heart beats and blinking a LED)
  6. Add few lines of code (making Teensy act like a keyboard and send keypress “g” on every heart beat). See below.
  7. Open this patch on Vizor on Chrome browser on your Android phone and put it on VR mode
  8. Put your phone on your VR goggles and plug the teensy on the phone using micro USB and USB OTG adapter
  9. Clip the sensor on your ear, put the goggles and headphones on and see&hear the 3D heart beat on your pulse
//  Where the Magic Happens
void loop(){
    serialOutput() ;       
  if (QS == true){                        // A Heartbeat Was Found
                                          // BPM and IBI have been Determined
                                          // Quantified Self "QS" true when arduino finds a heartbeat
        Keyboard.press(KEY_B);            // Send key-press "g"
        digitalWrite(blinkPin,HIGH);      // Blink LED, we got a beat. 
        fadeRate = 255;                   // Makes the LED Fade Effect Happen
                                          // Set 'fadeRate' Variable to 255 to fade LED with pulse
        //serialOutputWhenBeatHappens();  // A Beat Happened, Output that to serial, disabled     
        QS = false;                       // reset the Quantified Self flag for next time 
        delay(20);                        // Small delay
        Keyboard.release(KEY_B);          // Send key-release "g"
  ledFadeToBeat();                      // Makes the LED Fade Effect Happen 
  delay(20);                             //  take a break

PIKSEL11, Bergen

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(report originally for Pixelache)

The 9th edition of the Piksel Festival took place on November 17th-20th 2011 in Bergen, Norway. The festival was subtitled this year as “re:public” for rethinking and redefining public space, both as a concrete physical space, and in a larger social and political context. As previously, through the nine-year history of the festival, Piksel is firmly grounded on free/libre and open source.

Read More

M.A.R.I.N. Sensing the Baltic Sea -residency

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Sensing the Baltic Sea is the first part of the Camp M.A.R.I.N 2011 residencies starting on Kemiö island, continuing on two small islands in Naantali & Åvensor archipelago in Finland, and returning via Kemiö to finish with a workshop in Tallinn, Estonia.

The theme, Sensing the Baltic Sea refers on the one hand to how we perceive it via history, romantic or leisurely perception of the Sea and how this can be juxtaposed via looking below the surface, to understand the sea as an ecosystem. How can environmental sensors produce, besides a sea of information, potentially relevant research or experiences that may alter one’s perception of the marine environment? How can common sense be sensitized to alter practices that have environmental impacts? How can the biological and wider ecological state of the Baltic Sea be observed subjectively and technologically, and mediated through visualization, sonification, narratives, or simply, via different tactics.

Sensor Semaphore

Besides hosting the first week in Kemiö, I explored an idea of wireless sensor data “physicalisation”. My floating proto-buoy was solar charged, ArduinoFio and transmitted three temperatures, air, surface water and 1m deep water temperatures via Xbee to on-shore receiver and data visualisation unit, the semaphore.

M.A.R.I.N. Concept

M.A.R.I.N. – Media Art Research Interdisciplinary Network – is an initiative integrating artistic and scientific practices in researching cultural and environmental ecosystems.

For the first three years M.A.R.I.N.’s operational focus is a mobile residency and workshop program looking at marine environments, sustainable mobility, and various methods & technologies for field work.

In 2009 we realized a 3-month residency and workshop programme at the Irish Sea, working in particular around Belfast, the Cumbrian coast and Liverpool. Operations were carried out from a 12-meter catamaran sail boat and working with partners in harbour cities. We used environmental sensors and existing data sets, integrating them with artistic projects.

Participants were Andreas Siagian (HONF, IN), Nigel Helyer, Daniel Woo, Michael Lake (Audio Nomad, AU), Tapio Mäkelä (FI) with the main focus on research project Ecolocated – Littoral Lives.

In 2010 a Hacklab at the Sea took place in the Baltic Sea Finnish archipelago. Mostly working with Arduinos and Xbee networks we experimented with field work doing sensing and operating with solar power. Participants were Marije Baalman (NL), Tuomo Tammenpää (FI), Dave Griffiths (UK/FI), Jim Bollansee (BE) and Tapio Mäkelä (FI).

In March 2011 M.A.R.I.N. hosts an advanced workshop on environmental sensors and sensor networks at the Pixelache Festival on Suomenlinna island, Helsinki, hosted by Marije Baalman, Tuomo Tammenpää, Mikko Sivuoja and Tapio Mäkelä. In June, a one-month residency “Sensing the Baltic Sea” is organized at on three different islands in Finnish archipelago ending with a workshop in Tallinn, Estonia. In August another set of participants will join a residency on Cartography and Everyday at the Sea that starts in Stavanger, Norway, continues to Öland in Sweden and finishes on a Baltic peninsula in Lithuania. In November a writing workshop is organized in Riga. Main partners are Pixelache, Plektrum, i/o Lab, Kultivator, Artist Colony Nida and Rix-C.

The initial idea for the project grew out of experiences of Polar Circuit workshops in the Finnish Lapland (1997-2000), Solar Circuit residency in Australia (2002) and an idea to research the Baltic Sea using islands as field camp sites. These initiatives have been moderated by Finnish media artist Tapio Mäkelä. Marko Peljhan, with a long history in Makrolab projects joined Tapio to draft the initial M.A.R.I.N. concept. Marko had wanted to equip a boat using sustainable technologies.

While Marin association is still looking into options of building or modifying a boat as a research and residency hub, several practical experiences out of summer 2009 suggest that working in a more hybrid way makes more sense. The connected islands method of 2011 summer is based on a flexible camp + lab architecture that connects with existing facilities, mostly off-grid. It enables better concentration on the research at hand. In 2009 we discovered that sailing consumes far more energy and time from the actual research than we had anticipated. The boat would need to be much bigger to enable efficient work and living on board for more than five people.

Thus the main research strands are currently:

– Environmental sensors and sensor networks
– Cartography, mapping practices at sea and in the littoral zones
– Alternative energy production using solar, wind, hydro power
– Low power and distributed computing + DIY
– Field Camp architectures

And a side strand of:
– Designing a boat based research and residency vessel

2011 events are produced by Tapio Mäkelä and Kati Åberg, with the partner organizations, and Tuomo Tammenpää and Susanna Koskinen as co-moderators.

CAMP2011 blog
M.A.R.I.N website

Kolvi ja Koodi workshop at Lapland Uni

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The “Soldering-iron & Code” -workshop started a series of exploration of reactive space & intaraction within the Design Laboratories program of University of Lapland in Rovaniemi.

A bunch of audiovisual media MA students gathered for an introduction to physical computing with me for a couple of days. We started with the breadboard and NANDsynth for quick intro on electronics followed by bit of a soldering. Next day we hooked Arduinos and controlled the synth. Routing serial from Arduino to Flash lead to bit of a frustration – one simple-to-configure proxy to this one and I _will_ click the donate button. Some rescued toys from flea market got gutted and suddenly we had the inevitable creative chaos on the table. Here it got bit messy. I still have the tendency of focusing on emerging details when overall structure is needed.

The enthusiasm of the participants brought that. We decided to do make a demo at oh-so-lovely Kauppayhtiö -club on saturday evening. Accelerometer in an eightball was connected via Arduino to Quartz Composer on laptop which rendered the Magic Eightball -answers on retro-TV for curious audience. Hours of fun, for ages 18andUp. The Shy-guy rotated towards anyone who approached it with trembling behaviour. Surprisingly humane piece of plastic. Few bent toys to play with and we had nice demo set-up for the evening crowd.

I had great time. Quartz Composer was a new environment for me so I learned a lot too. Superior multilayer rendering of visuals compared to Jitter / Gem. Definitely my new weapon-of-choice for next resource-intensive graphics. Thanks TomTom and Aku for great intro on that one.

Apologies for anyone who feel this was a waste of their time. I’ll try to improve my workshopping skills with every iteration but every setup is unique. This one was bit too unstructured from my part. Still, I feel the flux nature enabled other opportunities. Strict format is not always the best either.

Thank you Rovaniemi. Thank you friends, the old & the new. I’ll be back.

GOSH! – Grounding Open Source Hardware @ Banff, July 11-18, 2009

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GOSH – summit & workshop was one intensive gathering of diverse thinkers & makers around the still fluid topic of open hardware. Three-day summit followed the five-day workshops and indeed grounded open hardware from various angles from practices to licensing.

Above Brian Evans’ Modified Pico, Arduino -compatible microcontroller we managed to assamble.

The workshops were run by the participants and catered us rich buffét of ongoing open hardware projects, hands on tools&skills sessions and discussions. The summit program gathered more experts around and presented more academic insight on the subject matter. Inspiring, almost overwhelming in the middle of spectacular Canadian Rockies.

Ravi, Gisle, Susan, Jon, Chris, Bengt, me, Jürgen, Daniel, Jessica, Brian, Alex (out of >30 of us)

Some of us hit our heads together for tackling the somewhat complex issue of open hardware repository and the licensing schemes that it would require. With the help of Ravi’s knowledge on copyright law and trademarks we gradually sketched down a membership based community where different license options are available for OSH -projects & products. Community would be open to everyone who accepts the terms of use. Documented open hardware projects would available in three different categories, free (no limitations), open (eg. for non-commercial use) and accessible (for proprietary, but useful information like electronic manufacturers documentation). Jürgen further consulted CC lawyer for valuable improvements for this proposed model. Community was named as OHANDA – Open Hardware and Design Alliance. Ohanda would act as a certificate, like Fairtrade™, on open hardware products, in quite the opposite way from the warranty-void stickers, challenging and provoking for opening the product and improving it.

Hopefully soon something will be up and running for dialogue and development with the rest of all you who are interested. For now, GOSH!-wiki is the forum.

Pop-up Landscapes, Bristol

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Pop-up Landscape Phase-1 was wrapped up in Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol with a seminar and workshop day. We got good feedback and encouragement for continuation and some nice presentations from artist Duncan Speakman, Dr. Simone Abram and Dr. Constance Fleuriot. Big thanks for the Peter Tattersall for wikiplanning workshop, pmstudios, participants and the Finnish Institute in London once again from their support.

Workshop @ NYC

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Tables were full when young makers of New York started beeping with solar energy and electronic sound. Yet again without prior knowledge of electronics they quickly figured out the breadboard logic and the basics of solar energy. The duration and the complexity was almost perfect this time since no soldering was involved. In the end of the afternoon we recruited bit older kids as well.

Playkka @ NYC

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Playkka is being exhibited in New York Design week as a part of Playful – New Finnish Design exhibition at Meatpacking district until monday 18th. The Finnish invasion spreads around the district in cargo containers filled with fresh projects from Finnish designers with a focus on play and creativity as elementary forces in human life.

Apart from my screen almost melting under the sun, the first day was well nice. Lot of people flaneured on the streets in über-trendy Meatpacking and bumped in to us & our containers. Still bit struggling to filter genuine interest from many Americans who seem to be so amazed after every sentence said so not quite sure is Playkka really that wonderful. Tomorrow we give a solar sound workshop for kids with Dan. Bit worried on the clouds in the sky and the grim forecast.

The nice but sweaty first day got a perfect ending in a rooftops of Williamsburg chilling with good friends.

Pop-up landscapes, Mação, Portugal

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Pop-up landscapes toured to rural town of Mação in Portugal for set of workshops and showing the installation. Mação is situated between the transitional climate zones of the Atlantic and Mediterranean. The area is famous for its pre-historic art examples some of which are the richest in Portugal and in Europe. Over the last ten years the region has suffered from severe droughts, which have radically changed the landscape. In addition the area not only suffers from a physical desertification but also from human desertification. The region has approximately 8,000 people, spread over 400 sq kilometers, the majority of which are over 50+ years. In the 50’s and 60’s a combination of influences resulted in massive migration towards Lisbon and decreased use of land for pasture and agriculture.

In Mação we focused on developing a set activities with members of the community (senior citizens, master archaeology students and primary school children). The aim of these activities was to gain a greater awareness of how a community would transmit a sense of its place. For example, what sites would it choose to show to someone as an example or memory of Mação? What changes have occurred in the town? What have people been happy to lose? What would they like to preserve?

Working with the photo archives collected by the Museu de Arte Pre-Historica e do Sagrado no Vale do Tejo we used these images as a starting point. We selected a general vista image taken in the town 70-100 years ago and along with other archive images used discuss with the senior citizen their memories of changes in the town. We also asked the senior citizens to select a place in Mação their favorite place, which they would like to preserve and show to others from outside of the town. Five sites were selected from which we choose one of the most popular the Praça Gago Coutinho to work on in more detail.

Taking the Praça Gago Coutinho as the main site selected by the senior citizen, we presented the archaeology students with two snap shots –  one past image and one current day image. We also presented the project aims to the student and asked them to carry out a visual analysis of the present day image from an archaeological perspective. This resulted in a deeper awareness of some of the key transformations that occurred in Mação. The analysis also provided the stimulus for discussing the students experiences and personal accounts of living in Mação.

Taking the current day image of the Praça Gago Coutinho and blowing this up to A2 size we described to the young people the process of how this image was selected by the senior citizens and analyzed by the archaeology students. We asked the young people to image that they were living in 2109 and sending a postcard from Mação of this spot. What from their perspective what would survive in this site, what kind of culture would exist and lifestyles would exist?

The outcomes of the workshops and our period of research and development in Mação was exhibited in a beautiful former primary school. We used the archive images, current day photo impressions and the young people’s future imaginations of Mação as the timelines, which we played in the Pop-Up Installation. Exhibition was a success, opening apparently new perspectives even for the city mayor. Most importantly we managed to connect different generations of the citizens together around the theme of their environment.

Portugal and Mação treated us with warm hospitality. Special thanks to Casa Velha’s Donna Mena for The Food. Obrigado e adeus.

pop-up-landscapes flickr feed
• my flickr feed

Unbearable Cuteness of Skåne

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Artists in the Archipelago (AiA) delegation of ours toured eastern Skåne in Sweden for a couple of days, visiting their Konstrundan. Dating back to 1968 ÖSKG Konstrundan has grown to a nine-day event and draws tens of thousands of visitors every year. The concentration of artists and crafters in relatively small area is amazing although they represent quite a traditional set of methods and subjects. Newer artforms are missing, even photography and video seem to be too contemporary or perhaps just more difficult to sell. Mixed media and installation art are also mere curiosities in the pictoresque gardens.

Indeed, life seems overly happy under blossoming magnolias of Skåne. When the world around us is spinning downward in ecological and economical crisis, there is little of that visible in their art. Shouldn’t reflection of the world be integral part of art? Beauty and hope are absolutely necessary but we should not escape the reality. Not us, we who can make the invisible visible and document our time with so diverse voices.

But beauty we saw, some great humor as well, Sven-Åke Ekbergs amazing miniatures to name a favorite of mine (Kassa Balans, Cash Balance, pictured above). And the houses and gardens, tasteful, rustic and prosperous, just like in the magazines.

But just when we are about to announce in unison our intentions to move all here immediately and live happy ever after eating apples we gaze out to the open Baltic Sea and one thing stands out. There is no archipelago! Welcome to Finland we say.

Still, a word of appreciation, Thank you Skåne for all the positive energy we got from you.

ClimateHack workshop at Transmediale09

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The formal manifesto:

The Climate Hack workshop brought together a team of researchers, designers and artists dedicated to reframing the international political climate using means well-outside the traditional political rhetoric. Driven by the often-absurd nature of politics and the collective creativity often generated from equally absurd artistic mediums, the workshop rallied around the task of hacking Cotton Candy machines. Custom and hacked electronics, connected to live political news and weather feeds, informed and animated the project.

We have documented several different methods for manipulating candy floss which we discovered during the workshop and during the several weeks of experimentation that took place beforehand. The methods that we will be demonstrating at Transmediale Salon include the Candy Floss Tornado, Candy Floss Crystals and Candy Robot.

In my own words – it was even better. The dynamic Kibu team (Adam Somlai-Fischer, Melinda Sipos, Eszter Bircsak, Christopher Baker, Marton Juhasz and Simon Forgács) had done an outstanding prep-work by hacking and experimenting with candy floss more than a month prior to the workshop so it was a flying start. Massimo Banzi & John Nussey from tinker.it and Bengt Sjölen from Teenage Engineering injected their experience in and we were boogie. The Pixelache posse from Deep North, included Juha Huuskonen, Aleksi Pihkanen, Miska Knapek and myself.

Intense three-day period prior to TM09 event involved climate data research, both environmental and political, candy floss machine hacking, robotics, design work and loads of hot sugar in the air. We experienced through numerous possibilities how to route external data in to the process. Due to somewhat chaotic and most importantly quite slow process of floss cumulation, none of the tests produced results that would be realistic to realise in workshop context: automated, data driven floss making that is. That did not let us down one bit. We continued with three discoveries that emerged from the process.

1. Sugar Crystal Accumulation (SCAâ„¢)

Chris discovered interesting and more controllable side effect on our floss process. The spinning sugar cumulates to any surface around the machine. By gradual motion of the capturing surface, any realtime data could produce fragile layers of melt sugar.

2. Sugar Twister and the Disasters (< - free glam-punk band name, anyone?) Aleksi, our aerodynamics engineer developed a turbine cylinder, which with the power of two candy floss machine, produced enough lift to make continuous stream of floss propel up. This alone was quite an aesthetic performance and a subtle reminder of fragility and systems, but even more so with our tagline: "Energy Talk = Sweet Hot Air" made a link to the absurd "Carbon Jargon" in the times when action is needed.
3. The Church of Carbon Syndicate

Since the act of making your Candy Floss and eating it is quite rewarding performance, can this be used as symbolic action for our cause. Yes. Based on your carbon footprint, even an average, your debt to the planet can be calculated. If you are not exhausting the earths resources, you get a dose of sugar that produces normal size candy floss. Anything more wasteful increases your “measure of sugar” leading to lengthy process of contemplation when the floss is building up, not to mention the confrontation and eating of the mother-of-all-sugar-döners on your hand.

For me, the candy floss as a material and as a process combined with the theme of (political) climate discourse were most rewarding as performances. We were quite aware of our climate debt just as a result of flying to Berlin, with the little extra consumption of the hot machines themselves, let alone the impact from the sugar industry. However, creative beings, us all basically, will need to live and to meet in order to innovate. Billions of us will still more likely stumble on some quite serendipitious environmental innovations than all the scientist in the world. Otherwise we just end up in the grim deduction of “killing ourselves for saving the planet” as pointed out in the Environment 2.0 talk in when the meaningfulness of artists solving the climate crisis was questioned.

Thanks again for all the sweet fellow hackers and see you in Pixelache09 for continuation!

WLT Salon 2008

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We Love Technology Salon, by BASE in Huddersfield once again brought together nice pack of thinkers and makers. Creative misuse of technology, spatial mapping of social networks, worlds first “Satcom”, artificial creativity, “Inverted Pyramind of Stuff” among others were visited through snappy presentations, leaving one quite overwhelmed in inspiration while me and Dan presented a glimpse of our RFID projects in process.

Meeting Yuri Suzuki was particularly interesting due his line of work. Beautiful, funny and playful musical things and his work with oh-boy-are we-fanboys Maywa Denki. Hope to see some collaboration in future with him.

Lisa Roberts from Blink is the lady behind this wonderfull event. Make friends with her, little bio below:

When she isn’t organising We Love Technology and programming the Social Technologies Summit for Futuresonic, Lisa designs socially-inclusive mobile technology initiatives using SMS, MMS and Bluetooth. As the codirector of Blink, since 1999 she has collaborated with Andrew Wilson on a raft of short film initiatives including NESTA-funded, made-for-mobile short film production fund Pocket Shorts which for two years helped new filmmakers explore the impact of mobile technology on the future of film making and distribution. In 2005 Lisa co-developed Bluevend, a unique Bluetooth vending machine designed for the wireless distribution of made-for-mobile phone content which went on to tour Film and Video Umbrella’s Single Shot film commissions across the UK after opening at Tate Britain. Lisa is currently working on Blueloci, a new Bluetooth system which will provide visitors with a deeper understanding of key works at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Lisa Roberts is a founder member of BASE.

Altparty 2008, Helsinki

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My first encounter with Alternative Party, demoscene get-together was a nice surprise. Quite impressive event with geekiness, dedication and pure laid-back fun. I did demonstration with Koelse in bending and electronic noise, great fun. Tried also streaming video from phone to Bambuser from sunday ceremonies, bit useless footage, nice service though.

Random niceness:

sunlight vs children of the night


Janne Pulkkila / Radioactive music (scroll down)

… and a wonderful software from Kitchen Budapest Animata

Pop-up landscapes, FI08

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Pop-up landscapes project started properly when Teresa and Pedros from LOK workshopped in Finland. Intensive week started with a few days in Suomenlinna residency in Helsinki where we defined the common ground for our working. Overwhelming, but highy educative for me was to open up and deconstruct abstractions behind architectural mechanisms. Some excellent examples from existing work was shown, links to their work in the end.

From Suomenlinna we traveled to Turku to meet Turku2011 coordinators and present Pop-up for potential collaboration with them. Next stop was Turku University Geographical department and a discussion with Dr. Niina Käyhkö explaining us some academic threads behind landscape research in Finland, most inspiring session. From Turku we continued to Kemiönsaari and three days of concentrated writing and modeling the first drafts for Pop-up experiments.

Project description

Pop-Up Landscapes is an intermedia art and research project about interdependence and survival. The project is currently at an early stage of conceptual development and will be realised in various stages, over the coming years (2008-2011). The core aim of the project is to create a public intervention which connects two landscapes together (e.g., Finland and Portugal). Within this intervention, people can explore their interdependencies to each other and their environments. Alongside the proposed public interventions other outputs will include exhibition, workshops, DIY project templates and publications. The project has been initiated and is lead by artist-researcher, Teresa Dillon (IRE/UK) and realized in collaboration with designer and media artist Tuomo Tammenpää(FI) and lok Arquitectura (PT/ES).

Concept diagram pdf

LOK arquitectura
Polar Produce


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Pachube is a web service for routing dynamic data-feeds between user-made input&output nodes. I can for instance start to feed by home temperature to Pachube and someone somewhere can use that in realtime for pitch control. Why, why not? Or I could grab the price/oil barrel feed from those available and make a twisted connection to my radiator for anticpating the rocketing electric bill.

Configuring Pachube with Processing and Arduino with Firmata seemed first bit overwhelming after a quite a break from these apps. But it went surprisingly smoothly. Strangely enough, my biggest problem was just to upload the Firmata to Arduino. I’m using one of the earlier Arduinos and just loaded the latest software (012) which produced some undefined reference to timer0_overflow_count. After random googling, just a bit older version (009) uploaded the Firmata smoothly.

Edit: Indeed, as pointed out in this thread, I also followed the instructions blindly and managed to replace the working firmata included in Arduino 12 with older version. Now all seem to work nicely: Older Arduino (Arduino Extreme 2 I think) + Arduino 12 + Processing 1.0.1

The Pachuino example file worked nicely, some hassle with port forwarding with our ADSL and the pipeline between my tiny LDR and the world was clear.

Sauma @ Copenhagen

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Sauma -exhibition opened at DDC with TileToy in it. The show will be open until January 2009 so plenty of time for that this time. We, me and Dan, are still looking for opportunities to make the needed next generation prototype, the one that could actually be manufactured. Waiting for that, some new nice design interventions have been added to Sauma show:

Bugia by Arihiro Miyake

“Tanssitossut” by Aamu Song & Johan Olin

by Ilkka Suppanen

SummerSchool & Konstrundan jamboree

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(photo: Nathalie Aubret)

Pixelache SummerSchool’08 took place August 7th-9th in our Kimito-Dojo. Ten creative minds played two day and nights with solar panels, analog electronics and hacked toys. The rainy days prevented the planned garden soldering but we rewarded ourselves with an assault to local flea market and among it’s goodies. The result: avant gardened singing horticulture, solar powered dinosaur, lullaby-toy on acid among others. Thank you very much Nathalie, Ami, Juha, Toni, Pinja, Jari, Richard & Robert, top job all of you!

some photos from:
Tuomo, Nathalie & Toni

The hectic workshop continued with Konstrundan 08 event and more soldering and solar panels, this time by kids. There was also a strange breed of solar animals spotted in our forest. Do they come in peace, what is their objective, we shall see.

“Playkka” at Naantali contemporary art summer

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My newest work-in-process, “Playkka” -play prototype is exhibited in Naantali Vanha Raatihuone from July 1st to 15th. Playkka is a play-test -platform to study play process with tangible interface, namely tagged objects. It is a table with four RFID readers, screen, audio and a pile of play items. The current alpha-alpha version does very little but might lead to new discoveries in “smart” play environments. Far from unique approach, the excellent and inspiring research by Timo Arnall and his students to name one source of inspiration.

Process description
(in Finnish)
Article in Turun Sanomat (in Finnish)

Pixelache Summerschool 2008

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I’ll be hosting The first Pixelache Summerschool in our school on the magical Kimito-island. Join us for some outdoor electronics with makers, shakers & breakers. Preliminary date August 7.-8. 2008 + the weekend for cultural wonders of Konstrundan. Accomodation?: tent, floor, tree, sauna, shed, Transport?: Save the nature and take a bike to the train and see the wonders of Finnish archipelago. +20% more.

Google map destination.

First CNC experiment

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First experiment of routing 2D graphic with High-Z S-400 CNC mill. The line graphic was exported as generic EPS from Freehand, converted with Cenon to HPGL format which opened to WinPC-NC milling software. Some hassle was with defining machine & workpiece coordinates and the end result was quite a bit off from 1:1. My short visit to Dan’s über-equipped “Polymer Technology Laboratory” restricted me from further studies this time. However, I hope I can get my own CNC building project back on track now.

Microcontrollers & modules

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Basic Stamp


http://www.stepsystems.fi/tuotteet/picaxe.php (FIN)

http://www.esutech.com/OOPic/default.shtml (FIN)

Arduino (open hardware project)
check the clones as well

CATKit (open hardware project)

Check also:
• Atmel microcontrollers
• Texas Instruments microcontrollers

Beeps in the ForumBox

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My latest DIY electronic instrument workshop took place two days after the Osasto-G opening. Most of the participants turned up and all got their Nandsynths made during the short intensive day. Lot of first time solderers again so nicely done indeed.

The fixed tutorial doc is here and I posted some useful links on the resources category under the Workshops. I’ll keep adding new stuff there so stay tuned.

Osasto-G | Gizmo Asylum at ForumBox

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My latest installation Osasto-G is now up and running in ForumBox with media installations from Hanna Haaslahti and Heidi Tikka. Opening was a success, lot’s of people turned up so warm thanks for all of you who made it! Due to our big move to our new house, I have to postpone more detailed writing on the work and the process after the things settle down. The show runs until December 29th, check it out!

More photos on my Flickr. Video here.

Sellers & sources for components & stuff

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Bebek (FIN)
Radioduo (FIN)
Yleiselektroniikka (FIN)
Partco (FIN)
Biltema (FIN, tools)
Clas Ohlson (FIN, tools)
Maplin (UK)
Radioshack (US)

Kouluelektroniikka (FIN, check this first, nice prices, quick delivery / store in Rauma)
SP-elektroniikka (FIN, store in Oulu)
Farnell (needs account, pricey, next day delivery, massive catalogue)
DigiKey (US, import taxes added, probably even bigger catalogue than Farnell)
Robot electronics (UK, sensors, servos etc.)
Active robots (UK, all robotics, radio, sensors, kits)
MUTR (UK, smart materials!)

DIY, electronic instrument -workshop

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// workshop is full //

Electronics crafts day with cheap components and soldering. We’ll build an “analog synthesiser” with just a few parts and take a peek inside electronic toy instruments to make some noise out of them. You don’t need prior experience on electronics but it would be useful. You can bring your own small electronic toy instrument if you want to see it’s dark side, but email some info on it before the workshop.

Keywords: square wave, CMOS, circuit bending, hacking

Workshop by: Tuomo Tammenpää

Time: Saturday, 1.12. klo 10 – 17
Location: ForumBox, Helsinki
Workshop is free, material cost possible
Participants: 10

The workshop is supported by Pixelache University

OFFLOAD, sysems for survival, Sept. 13.-16. Bristol, UK

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“OFFLOAD is the UK’s first network media and systems arts event on nature, sustainability and ecology. The event brings together international, national and local artists and practitioners interested in creating work that use new and existing media. OFFLOAD is interested in interactive, playful, participatory and socially aware practice.”

I’m presenting Mouse Labour here with Juha and took part on a panel: “THINGS TO COME: Designing New Tools for Action” with Kate Rich and Nicolas Henninger / Exyzt.

MemPot v1.0, potentiometer with a memory

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MemPot was developed by Dan Blackburn and me as a control interface for circuit bent instruments and sound generators. MemPot is a built around PIC 16F819 microcontroller that reads analog resistances, records them to memory and plays them back via digital potentiometer DS1267 chip. The memory buffer size and the playback speed can be adjusted.
The first PCB

MemPot was the first circuit design we finally got one proper PCB made for us. That was rewarding experience, although not without any problems. I learned myself the widely used Eagle CAD software during the design process and there are couple of things that I missed. Firstly, by mistake I chose too small resistor packages from the library, so the 6mm long, most common resistors, don’t fit horisontally but must be soldered vertically. Not a big thing luckily. The other is bit more inconvenient. I forgot to put extra solder points for GND and +5 used in the interface (outside the board) so when wiring the switches and pots, the GND and +5 must be wired to exposed points on the board. Coincidentally the exposed legs of vertically soldered resistors turned out to be just fine for this, so the first mistake kind of solved the second one.

Making it

Making the MemPot with the PCB is straightforward. Solder the parts in any oder you like, I have usually done the chips first. There is a ICSP socket for updating the PIC code, so using IC socket is not necessary. If you are concerned of damaging the chips, use sockets for the PIC and the digital potentiometer chip. If you don’t have PIC programmer with ICSP port, you naturally need to flash the PIC first and use socket in order to update the software.

When you are done with the board, you can test some of it before doing the interface. If you power the board, the LED for indicating setup mode blinks few times and then turns off. Next is the interface. Before wiring the switches and pots, you need to make some decisions for the case and see how long wires you need from the board to the panel. Drill the holes for the pots, switches and the LED and attach them to the panel. Wiring them to the circuit is easier when they are fixed in place on the panel. Solder the wires according to the diagram below.


Using it

MemPot is a controller, so you need something to control. Simple sound maker like the NandSynth or APC with resistance controlled pitch will do. If you have some circuit bent instruments with pot or LDR controlling something, hook MemPot to that. This first version of MemPot has two outputs of 100K resistances of which we are using one. You can put larger physical pot in series with the digipot output to change the range, to 500K-600K instead of 0K-100K for instance.

Power up the board and the preset buffer should play, linear ramp of 0-100K resistance in loop. Adjust the playback speed from the speed pot. Hold down the rec button and tweak the rec pot, LED starts blinking. When you release the rec button, the recorded tweaking should loop. MemPot overdubs, so when the buffer gets full, it overwrites the memory from the beginning. You can change the buffer size by entering to setup mode from the toggle switch. LED lits when in setup mode. Now you can use the speed pot to change the buffer size. Try very short by turning the pot almost all the way counter clockwise. Exit setup mode from the toggle switch, the very beginning of the previously recorded buffer should play.


The indication of speed and buffer size does not exist. I have used serial LCD screen or PC to debug the values, but simple gauge from few LED’s would do as well. For closed case, a power switch and power LED would make sense. Toggle mode for overdubbing vs one-time recording would be useful together with sync signal from one extra pin on every pass of the starting point of the loop.

Osasto-G (FIN)

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Osasto-G | Gizmo Asylum on diorama unohdetuille elektronisille esineille. Rakastetut ja vihatut elektroniset laitteet viettävät ansaittuja eläkepäiviään kaltaistensa saurassa, museoituina, mutta myös viritettyinä kommunikoimaan keskenään. Heitä pällistelemään tulevat ihmiset, entiset käyttäjät ovat enää katsojia, mutta samalla myös katsottuja.

Onko elektronisilla esineillämme myös salainen elämänsä. Ne näkevät etäisyystunnistimin ja kameroin, ne kuulevat mikrofonein ja tuntevat nappiensa painallukset. Ne reagoivat ja prosessoivat tuntemaansa ja kommunikoivat meille takaisin. Juuri heidän ohjelmoitu logiikkansa tekee elektronisista esineistä erityisiä esineitä. Niiden ulkoisen olemuksen, muotoilunsa lisäksi, niillä on oma käyttäytymisensä. Tämä käyttäytyminen on usein merkittävämpi tekijä meidän ihmisten suhteessamme niihin, heihin, kuin ulkoinen muotokieli. Tiedämme, ettei heillä ole omaa oikeaa identiteettiään, mutta mielellämme mielessämme luomme heille sellaisen. Toivomme ja projisoimme tietokoneisiimme, puhelimiimme ja robotteihimme inhimillisiä piirteitä.

Installaationi koostuu eilispäivän elektroniikasta: tutuista leluista, soittimista, mikrotietokoneista, peleistä, puhelimista, televisioista, radioista ja kameroista. Teknisiä vempaimia joita on käytetty tunteella. Niitä on rakastettu ja niille on annettu lempinimiä, niitä on yritetty ymmärtää ja ne on paiskattu seinään kun siinä ei ole onnistuttu. Nämä esineet esitetään galleriassa kuin täytetyt eläimet eläinmuseossa. Ne on luokiteltu ja niistä on esillä tekniset spesifikaatiot, mutta toisin kuin täytetyt kolleegansa, ne elävät.

Olen laajentanut esineiden ohjelmoitua logiikkaa kuuntelemaan ja näkemään eri tavoin, vastaamaan toisilleen, ja tilassa liikkuville ihmisille liikkeen, äänen ja valon avulla. Dramaturgia perustuu havaintoihin ja eri reagointivaihtoehtoihin. Koska joukossa on useita esineitä, näistä vaihtoehdoista koostuu monimutkainen verkosto, johon katsoja alkaa kiinnittämään vaistomaisesti syy ja seuraus -suhteita sekä inhimillisiä piirteitä. Se tulkitaan vuoropuheluksi, joka näyttäytyy omaehtoiselta kun vaihtoehtoja on riittävästi.

Temaattisesti teos käsittelee esinekulttuuria, kulutuskulttuuria, muistojamme ja suhdettamme esineisiin sekä ennenkaikkea teknologiaan. Osittain teos perustuu Anthony Dunnen ajatukselle käytön estetiikasta (“aesthetics of use“), minkä mukaan elektroniset esineet rikastuttavat elämäämme jos niiden (tietokoneohjattu) vuorovaikutus on valjastettu edistämään alati kehittyvää ja vivahteikasta suhdetta kanssamme, toiminnallisuuksien ja käytettävyyden lisäksi tai jopa niiden sijaan. Näin käytön estetiikka käsittelee esineen ulkomuodon sijaan sen käyttäytymistä.

Taustalla ovat myös toiveemme jaetusta elämästä älykkäiden robottien kanssa. Robotiikan todellisuus on tänäpäivänä jo ällistyttävän pitkällä mitä motoriikkaan ja koordinaatioon tulee, mutta emotionaalisuus ja erityisesti todellinen älykkyys on vielä tavoittamattomissa. Haen emotionaalista kontaktia enemmänkin elämää imitoimalla, tai tarkemmin hyvin pienen elämään liittyvää tunnetta mallintamalla. On selvää että esineeni eivät ole älykkäitä, mutta niihin samaistuminen voi tapahtua hyvinkin vaatimattomilla eleillä. Mekaaniset, itseohjautuvat esineet muistuttavat meitä ajankohtaisista turvallisuuteen, valvontaan ja sotateknologiaan liittyvistä ja tiheeän uutisoiduista innovatioista. Arkipäivään ilmestyy vähitelleen yhä monimutkaisempia ja kyvykkäämpiä laitteita miehittämättömistä lentävistä pikkuroboteista silmäleikkauksia tekeviin apukäsiin, joille annetaan vastuuta enemmän ja enemmän. Pian kohtaamisia tai törmäyksiä näihin apureihin alkaa ilmetä arkielämässämme.

Teos sivuaa myös tavara- ja kulutuskulttuuriamme, esineiden käyttöikää ja kierrätystä. Uusien laitteiden käyttöikä lyhenee, ne piiloutuvat teknisen monimutkaisuuden taakse, emme saa emmekä osaa niitä enää avata saati korjata. Kun ensimmäisiä koneita rakennettiin, olivat mekaaniset osat usein näkyvillä ja koneen toiminnan logiikan ymmärsi sitä hetken katseltuaan. Nykyään kone on pienentynyt mikropiiriksi ja sen logiikka on piilossa monimutkaisissa virtapiireissä ja patentein suojatuissa salaisuuksissa. Auto korjataan palauttamalla piirilevy tehtaalle, ei autotallissa jakoavaimellla. Kärjistäen, teknologiset laitteet toimivat mystisesti ja niitä ymmärtävät vain niiden suunnittelijat, pitkälle erkoistuneet insinöörit. Jotta elämä elektronisten laitteiden keskellä, ei vain laitteet, voisi kehittyä, on ihmisillä on oltava pääsy osaksi suunnitteluprosessia, ei testiryhminä tai kuluttajina vaan suunnitteljoina, kokijoina ja kertojina.

“When an objects use is subverted, it is as though the protagonist is cheating the system and deriving more pleasure than is his or her due. The subversion of function relates to a breakdown of order; something else becomes visible, unnameable, unable to find a correspondence in the material world.”
– Anthony Dunne, “Design Noir – The Secret Life of Electronic Objects”

Beeps workshop outcome

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Beeps, waves and bass lines workshop took place in DRU studio in Bates Mill, Huddersfield. Six participants plus me and Dan had intensive three days with making electronic instruments namely the Nandsynth and MemPot controller. Feedback was positive from the participants regardless of some dark moments of debugging the circuits.

For improving the workshop a few remarks: Working with stripboard vs ready-made PCB for first soldering job is bit challenging. Since making PCB’s is an extra expence, pre-cutting the strips and marking the component places will solve this equally. Again, I think I underestimated the time needed for completing work in workshop context. Keeping the workshop schedule on time while solving unavoidable problems is more difficult point of improvement. I feel my time management is still not in balance. All suggestions from the participants are most welcome here.

Workshop material is online and I will publish the revised tutorial sheets as soon as I check the changes.

Thank you again, Rob, Frank, Dave, Rees, Jordan, Robert and Dan!

MemPot PCB

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The first batch of MemPot PCB’s arrived. This was a Eagle learning process and there might still be mistakes in the design. The learning curve for Eagle was a bit steep, with three different editors: library, schematic and board, all interconnected. Good tutorials are available and after a days slow reading while doing paid off and it started to make sense. Lot of the work was finding correct libraries for different components and making some of myself. Due to the fact that many libraries seem to be done by the Eagle users, there are some inconsistencies with naming, package, wire and pad sizes. This, and the various requests from the PCB manufacturer was quite confusing but it seems that they matter mostly when doing delicate multilayer design with very small / sensitive components. Big old-skool DIL design with microcontroller and few resistors and caps is more forgiving. Still, one PCB needs to be soldered to see if it really works.

The Eagle CAD files are here. I hope I can post the final verdict on the success of this design later this week.

Quad NAND Gate – synth, the Nandsynth

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This experiment is based on an example in Nicolas Collins’ book: “Handmade Electronic Music, The Art of Hardware Hacking”. The motivation for this experiment is to learn IC logic chips and to prepare inexpensive experiments for sound making electronics workshops. This is a first version, please be aware of possible errors. All corrections and contributions for improvement are highly appreciated. This post will be updated.

The misuse of Quad NAND Gate 4093 chip makes simple & cheap way to synthesise modulating square waves. Misuse, since the 4093 chip was not designed to make sounds but to do boolean logic, as a member of highly successful CMOS 4000 series IC chips form late sixties.

A single NAND gate has two inputs and one output. The 4093 chip has four NAND gates, hence the name QuadNAND gate. The NAND stands for one of the common boolean logics (Not AND) where two input states, highs(ones) or lows(zeros), define the state of the output. In NAND case, if neither of inputs are high (being low) the output keeps high. If both of the inputs are pulled high the output inverts to low. If one of the inputs is low the output is always high. The chip uses Scmitt Trigger comparators, which provides noisless & direct swapping of the states.

To turn this to sound it helps to understand basics of the sound. To put it very short, when there is changing states there is frequency. If the frequency oscillates through air and is in the range of hearing, there is sound. If we do the above mentioned state swapping we generate oscillation, a square wave signal of highs and lows, which can be amplified and heard.

Basic square wave can be made with just one NAND gate. The first input is connected high(+5 to 15V) the second is connected low(GND) via capacitor and the output is fed back to the second input via resistor. The chain of events in a fast loop:

  • input1 is driven high, the input2 is low, making the output high
  • the high output recharges the capacitor in time affected by the feedback resistor
  • charged capacitor pulls the input2 high, output goes low, capacitor discharges
  • back to the beginning

The frequency generated is based on the capacitance and resistance of the components menitoned above. Increasing the resistance with eg. a potentiometer, less current will flow to capacitor, slowing the “swapping”, lowering the pitch. The higher the capacitance, the longer it takes to recharge, forcing the range of the sweeping pitch lower. This experiment uses 100k pots with 0.1uF and 2.2uF caps. The big cap keep the range very low, in rhythmic clicks, where the small one takes the range high in clear pitch frequencies.

NAND gates can modulate each other. By connecting the output of gate1 to the input1 of gate2, the swapping high-low cycle enables and disables the second gate very fast while the the second gate produces its own frequencies. This can be fed further to the gate3 and so on. This results to complex square wave modulations worth experimenting so read on.


Making it

This configuration can be done with breadboard, which is highly recommended for experimenting the logic first. For this first version, I used stripboard and connectors for changing between two caps and inserting variable resistors. Wiring here can be simplified. I have all wires on component side for clarity. This circuit works for me, this explanation is not proofed, build it with your own risk and please report any errors to me.


1. Solder the 4093 chip with enough space on the sides. Using socket is always wise. I chanced it here. Old CMOS chips are sensitive to static so be aware. Solder the GND(black) wire to pin7(lower left) and the +V(red) to pin14(top right) notice the chip orientation from the marker on the top. Remember to cut the strips from the solder side between the pins, see 3b.


2. Solder the two caps between input2(pin2) and gnd. Put the smaller cap closer to the chip, break the connection from bigger cap to ground and solder jumper pins over that break. When jumper is connected the bigger cap goes in parallel with the smaller cap, “overriding” the smaller cap and switching the pitch range to very low end. Solder the output1(pin1) to +V. This connection can be replaced with jumper/switch if you want to trigger the synth sound externally. If you use the same stripline for the cap gnd and the pin1, remember to break it on the solder side!


3. Solder the 4way connector (or wires) to the pins2-5, right besides to the chip. This gives us resistor insert points for gates1&2. Wire the output of gate1(pin3) to the input1 of gate2(pin6). Solder the main power pins or battery clip to +V and GND strips on the top. At this point you can try to test the first gate by putting a resistor in the socket between the pins 2&3 and taking signal from pin3 to the tip of the audioplug and commong GND from the board to the sleeve. Notice the warning of using mains connected amp in section 6 below.


3b. Remember to cut the “multiused” strips from the solder side if using stripboard or wire all the necessary connections if using dot-board. (Sorry for the blobby soldering, I’m still struggling with my new leadfree solder.)

At this point you can try to test the first gate by putting a resistor in the socket between the pins 2&3 and taking signal from pin3 to the tip of the audioplug and commong GND from the board to the sleeve. Notice the warning of using mains connected amp in section 6 below.


4. Solder the caps to the gate2, between pin5 and GND, same jumper break as before. Solder the output of gate2(pin4) to the other side to input1 of gate3(pin8).


5. Solder the caps, jumpers and sockets for gates3&4 accordingly. Check the 4093 specsheet for pin order. Solder the header pins to all gate outputs (pins3,4,10,11), the green headers in the image. Notice, these are the signals for the tip of the audio plug to amp. You need to take the common GND from the board to the sleeve of the audio plug.


6. Wire the pots / resistors / LDRs to the sockets. Double check the solder points for shorts to strips next to them and use magnifier to check that cutted strips are properly disconnected. Power up the board, feel if the battey or the chip warms up, if so disconnect and look for shorts. Take the audio signal from gate4 output(pin11) to amp together with common GND. Signal is loud, be aware. Caution! Broken amp connected in mains can give an deadly electric shock when using exposed wires. Build simple battery powered amp with LM386 chip like this, or use battery powered active pc speakers if unsure of your amp.

Using it

Start with the first gate, varying the resistance between pins2&3. Take the audio out from header in pin3. Try the difference with a jumper enabling the bigger cap in gate1. Move to gate1 modulating gate2. Put another pot between pins 4&5 and move the audio out signal to pin4 (gate2 output). Experiment with the pots and cap jumpers. Carry on to gate3 and gate4.

Instead of a potentiometer as a controller, you can try different variable resistors. Slider, like mixer fader gives very quick interface of varying the resistance, close to scratching speed. LDR or photoresistor can give gestural control when blocking and revealing light hitting to it.

If you want more automation, you can build the Memory Pot from our earlier examples, where the pot turns are recorded and playdback with variable speeds.


Or you can build simple sequencer varying the resitance in discreet steps like in the SwitchSequencer example below. Check also the videos of our experiments.


We Love Technology

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Thursday 12 July 2007
The Media Centre, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

Compered by Matt Locke
Commissioning Editor for New Media and Education, Channel 4

Led by pioneering technologists and artists working in areas such as interactive architecture, sound and games, We Love Technology presents the latest adventures in the creative use and misuse of technology. In a bid to encourage a more human-centric future WLT07 presents a full day of informal presentations, workshops and performances and experimentation in the creative control over technology.


MemPot, the prototype

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MemPot is a small controller circuit where potentiometer (or any variable resisor) is read and recorded with PIC (16F819) microcontroller. PIC stores a sequence of values from the user turning the knob and plays the same sequence back via serially controlled digital potentiometer (DS1267) chip. The playback speed and recording buffer can be controlled. This is a handy tool for performing gestures with electronic instruments with variable resistors as controllers.

Same circuit can naturally be experimented with other variable resistors or analog sensors as inputs. LDR’s, bend sensors or even accelerometer movements could be recorded and played back similarly. If the resistance changes are not continuous but in steps, the playback resembles simple step sequencer. Follow the various experiments from the oikosulku-blog:

MemPot was developed by me and Dan for our circuit bending activities and to use as a workshop project on analog sound synthesis. We can hopefully include the making of MemPot for our next DRU workshop in July.

MemPot documented here.

#3 Beeps, waves and basslines -workshop materials

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(DRU July 2007 workshop materials page, participate! and check for updates)





  • “Handmade Electronic Music : the art of hardware hacking” by Nicolas Collins
  • “Timer, Op Amp, and Optoelectronic Circuits & Projects” by Forrest M. Mims III
  • “Physical Computing” by Dan O’Sullivan & Tom Igoe


#1 Beeps, waves and basslines -workshop program

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(Draft 1, subject to change)

Day 1.

  • introduction to workshop, background
  • creative misuse of cheap logic chips for sound/noise making
  • square wave & modulations from CD4093 NAND gate, schmitt trigger
  • square wave & modulations from 555-timer (aka Atari Punk Console)
  • options for additional modulations, interference and filtering
  • experimenting on breadboard, notes for own instrument

Day 2.

  • planning own instrument based on previous experiments
  • soldering own instrument on stripboard
  • soldering simple amp&speaker unit
  • testing & debugging

Day 3.

  • introduction to MemPot, Potentiometer with memory
  • soldering MemPot PCB kit
  • using MemPot for controlling own instrument
  • the most annoying jamming session ever
  • where next

#0 Beeps, waves and basslines -workshop call

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Beeps , waves and bass lines

The Media Centre / Price : £30 (to cover materials cost only)

Tuomo Tammenpää + Daniel Blackburn

Three-day workshop on using and misusing analog and digital electronics and controllers for sound synthesis. By the end of the workshop you will be given all you need to take home your own electronic instruments of bleeping strangeness. Breadboard prototyping, PCB-soldering, simple PIC programming and most annoying jamming with kilo hertzs. Some previous skills on electronics will help but not absolutely essential.