Dot Matrix Synth

dot matrix synth

This project initially started as an attempt to build a Mellotron, a tape based sampling synth. Paul Slocum recorded samples using a tape recorder and then taped the segments to the printer’s feed drum. The samples were then played back by varying drum speed and read head location. Later versions of the printer synth used a hacked EPROM and generated sound using the noise of the firing print head. The site features plenty of sound samples which are slightly more pleasant than my parent’s Panasonic “quiet” series dot-matrix printer.

12 thoughts on “Dot Matrix Synth

  1. Nice hack, but I wonder what you could do if you attached tapes along the long access of the roller? That way you could almost scratch the sound by moving the print head, and access a number of instruments! Maybe if you could encode on a magnetic tape which covered the whole of the roller, and offer a whole sound scape.

    This also reminded me of theses guys

    http://www.theuser.org/dotmatrix/en/intro.html

    I saw them at the ICA a few years back, they basically work with different models of printers. Each printer will contribute a part to the whole piece. I was conscious of grinning ear to ear as it reached the peak of the performance.

    Got to love dead tech.

  2. Man, I wish I had access to the stuff needed for this kind of hack. I’m a solo industrial recording artist; Something like this would be right up my alley :)

  3. I’ve known about this site for some time, in fact its in my favorites, and I’ve corresponded with Paul a few times in the past about this hack. He spent many long hours with a logic probe and an oscilloscope tracing logic patterns in the software to allow him to program it. he also has some sweet Atari and c64 hacks, but should you wish to attempt a dot matrix synth hack yourself, remember you are in for a long haul.

  4. Oh, and BTW. Track 7 is a homebrew C64 synthesizer program, if you put the audio on a cassette tape and use the tape deck interface. Bonus.

  5. Man or Astroman was playing dot matrix songs in concerts ten years ago. Not certain how they created the source, but not terribly novel either way.

  6. paul slocum rocks! i caught tree wave in dallas late last year opening for the trachtenburg family slideshow players, and i picked up their ep. it’s great stuff! and after i looked into paul, it’s even cooler :P

  7. paul slocum rocks! i caught tree wave in dallas late last year opening for the trachtenburg family slideshow players, and i picked up their ep. it’s great stuff! and after i looked into paul, it’s even cooler :P

  8. Man or Astroman’s song “A SimpleText File” was played using… exactly that. A SimpleText file running from an old all-in-one Mac to a dot matrix printer. The big question is, what exactly were they printing? Somehow, they figured out a pattern of characters that would give them the tones they wanted out of the printer. Seeing it live, though, they really needed the audience to be quiet and have good mics, because it was terribly quiet.

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