Autonomous Electro-musical Devices

Circuit-bending is tons of fun. The basic idea is that you take parts of any old electronic device, say a cheap toy keyboard, and probe all around with wires and resistors, disturbing its normal functioning and hoping to get something cool. And then you make art or music or whatever out of it. But that’s a lot of work. What you really need is a circuit-bending robot!

Or at least that’s what [Gijs Gieskes] needed, when he took apart a horrible Casio SA-5 and grafted on enough automatic glitching circuitry to turn it into a self-playing musical sculpture. It’s random, but somehow it’s musical. It’s great stuff. Check out the video below to see what we mean.

We also love the way the autonomous glitching circuit is just laid over the top of the original circuitboard. It looks like some parasite out of Aliens. But with blinking LEDs.

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Good Old-Fashioned Circuit Bending With Patient Alpha

For a lot of us some sort of audio circuit was our first endeavor into electronics. Speak and Spell, atari punk console, LM386 in a mint tin, sound familiar? If not, you should do yourself a favor and knock out a couple of those simple projects. For those of us who have done a bit of what the kids are calling circuit bending, [Nickolas Peter] brings us a familiar hack with his Patient Alpha project. You can see a time-lapse video of the build process and a short demo in the video after the break.

[Nickolas] did a few mods to his 2013 Executor key fob; the obligatory potentiometer for resistor swap is always a crowd pleaser. Adding an audio out via 3.5 mm jack is something that some of us wouldn’t have thought to include, but it lets the Executor scream into your serious audio gear for maximum eargasms. It’s worth mentioning that [Nickolas] does a good job with this hack’s finished look, albeit he started with a product in an enclosure he still goes to the trouble of custom fitting all his bits in an aesthetically pleasing way. And then he made a second.

We have covered circuit bent projects aplenty: from an old school take on circuit bending to one with a ratking of wires built on a proper bit of audio kit. Dig out your soldering iron and dig in.

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The Kraakdoos — Musical Abuser of an Ancient OpAmp

A friend from the newly founded Yeovil Hackerspace introduced me to a device known as “The Kraakdoos” or cracklebox.

The cracklebox is an early electronic instrument produced by STEIM in the 1970s. The instrument consists of a single PCB with a number of copper pads exposed on one side. The player touches the pads and the instrument emits… sounds which can perhaps best be described as squeeze and squeals.

While the cracklebox was original sold as a complete instrument, the device has been reverse engineered, and the schematic documented. What lies inside is quite fascinating.

The heart of the cracklebox is an ancient opamp, the LM709. The LM709 is the predecessor to the famous LM741. Unlike the 741 the 709 had no internal frequency compensation. Frequency compensation is used to intentionally limit the bandwidth of an opamp. As input frequency increases, the phase shift of the opamp also increases. This can result in undesirable oscillation, as the feedback network forms an unintentional phase-shift oscillator.

Most modern opamps have internal frequency compensation, but the 709 doesn’t. Let’s see how this is used in the cracklebox:

krackdoos_schRather than using the frequency compensation pins as intended the cracklebox just routes them out to pads. In fact the cracklebox routes almost all the pins on the opamp out to pads, including the inverting and non-inverting inputs. A single 1MOhm feedback resistor is used in a non-inverting configuration. However reports suggest the instrument can work without a feedback resistor at all!

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Ultimate Circuitbending

Circuit bending is the process of taking a small electronic toy or musical instrument, soldering wires to pads on the PCB, and hoping the sounds it produces will be cool. It’s not a science by any means, and any good, weird sounds you’ll get out of a Speak ‘N Spell or old MIDI keyboard are made entirely by accident or hours and hours of experimentation.

[Alpha Charlie]’s entry for the Hackaday Prize is the most technologically advanced circuit bending you’ll ever see. He’s using an old digital beat box, the Roland TR-626, with computer-controlled wires between random pads on the PCB.

Until now, you could tell how technically adept a circuit bender was simply by how many switches were on the circuit-bent instrument. [Alpha Charlie] doesn’t need switches. Instead, he’s using a few crosspoint switch ICs to connect different pins and pads on the TR-626’s PCB with an Arduino. All of this is controlled by a touchscreen display, and experimenting with the circuit is as simple as pushing a few buttons. Each ‘bend’ is computer controlled, and can be saved and recalled at will.

Of course, circuit bending doesn’t do anyone any good if it sounds like crap. [Alpha Charlie] doesn’t have to worry there. In the video below, he’s getting some very unique sounds that sound like a choir of angels to dorks like myself that listen to Nintendo music.

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Digitally Controlled Circuit Bending

Circuit bending doesn’t get a lot of respect around some parts of the Internet we frequent, but there is certainly an artistry to it. Case in point is the most incredible circuit bending we’ve ever seen. Yes, it’s soldering wires to seemingly random points on a PCB, but these bend points are digitally controlled, allowing a drum machine to transform between bent crunchiness and a classic 1980s drum machine with just a few presses of a touch screen controller.

All circuit bending must begin with an interesting piece of equipment and for this project, [Charles], the creator of this masterpiece of circuit bending, is using a Roland TR-626, a slightly more modern version of the TR-606, the percussive counterpart of the infamous TB-303. The circuit is bent in the classical fashion – tying signals on the PCB to ground, VCC, or other signals on the board. [Charles] then out does everyone else by connecting these wires to 384 analog switches controlled by an Arduino Mega. Also on the Arduino is a touch screen, and with a slick UI, this old drum machine can be bent digitally, no vast array of toggle switches required.

[Charles] has put up a few videos going over the construction, capabilities, and sound of this touch screen, circuit bent drum machine. It’s an amazing piece of work, and something that raises the bar for every circuit bending mod from this point on.

Thanks [oxygen_addiction] and [Kroaton] for sending this one in.

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VISUALIST – a hardware visual effects synthesizer

[Berto] wrote in to tell us about the visual effects synthesizer he built. It works as a pass-through for a video signal, rendering crisp clean images into a more psychedelic flavor like the one seen above. On the one hand this does a dishonor to the high-quality video devices we carry around in our pockets these days. On the other hand it will make some really interesting background video at a party or at your local dance club.

This is not a filter for a PC, or an FPGA-based processing system. A set of analog parts alter the incoming composite video (NTSC or PAL formats) and pipes the result to a television or projector. [Berto] included controls to alter the effects. They’re mounted on a panel and everything is given a home inside of a handy carrying case. Check out the video clip after the break to get a better idea of the video manipulations this things can pull off.

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Hackaday Links: April 11, 2012

This hurts our head

You know you can ‘freeze’ drops of water in mid-air by flashing a LED at the right time, right? Well, according to this video you don’t even need a strobing light; just use the frame rate of the camera. Much cooler if you don’t know how it works, in our humble opinion.

Now do Junkyard Wars!

[James Cameron] and [Mark Burnett] (the guy who created Survivor) are bringing Battlebots back to the Discovery Channel. The new show is called Robogeddon and calls upon the current talent in the fighting robot world. Our prediction? Someone is going to build an amazing piece of art that will be completely destroyed in the first round; a wedge with wheels will take the championship.

A steam engine made out of rocks

[Hansmeevis] just spent 230 hours hand carving a steam engine out of gems. It’s called “Dragon’s Breath” and it’s an amazing piece of work: the cylinder is carved out of quartz, while the flywheel, mount, and base are carved out of jasper, onyx, zugalite, and other semi precious gems. Amazing artistry and it works.

Don’t lose a finger on all that science over there

[Dr. W] is a science teacher in Saint-Louis, France. Next year, his students will be learning about reaction propulsion and impulse conservation. To demonstrate these properties, [Dr. W] hacked up an old vacuum cleaner in to a jet engine and built a Pitot tube to measure the 140 km/h wind speed. Google translation.

Circuit bending a Sega Saturn

Making cool glitched-up graphics from Ataris and Nintendos is old hat, but not much has been done with circuit bending slightly more modern consoles. [big pauper] found his old Sega Saturn in his grandma’s attic and wondered what secrets this forgotten box held. It turns out he can make some pretty cool sounds and even cooler glitched out graphics. The pic above is from Virtua Fighter; done correctly these glitched low-polygon graphics could easily find themselves in a very stylistic indie game.