Retrotechtacular: AT&T’s Hello Machine

1ESSHow many Ma Bell employees does it take to build an ESS mainframe? This week, Retrotechtacular takes you into the more poetic recesses of the AT&T Archive to answer that very question. This wordless 1974 gem is an 11-minute exploration of the construction and testing of a Western Electric 1ESS. It begins with circuit board population and ends with lots of testing.

 

 

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The film is really quite groovy, especially the extreme closeups of wire wrapping and relay construction. The soundtrack is a string-heavy suite that moves you through the phases of bringing up the 1ESS while drawing parallels to the wires of communication. You may lose count of the punch down blocks and miles of cables, but there are surprisingly few mustaches.

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[Jeri] builds a c64 bass Keytar

[Jeri] built this really cool C64 bass Keytar from a commodore64 and a cheap bass guitar. She’s using an FPGA to do the string detection and the key scanning, it then sends everything to the original 8bit sound chips. The reason that she is using a bass guitar is that the commodore sound chip only has 3 channels. There’s an interview with her from the maker faire, and if you keep watching, there are some other interesting projects too.

She notes that the implementation she went with has many performance issues due to the overtones the strings create when played. If she did it again, she’d go another route. Since [Jeri] has previously created the fully functional C64 games on FPGA, maybe she’ll add some video synth to this down the road.

Mechanical mustache envy

While this mechanical mustache isn’t made for a Halloween costume, it certainly looks like part of one. Copper clad, brass, cable, and a few other bits come together in a similar style to tension based hands; the piece is then worn much like a Mardi Gras mask. To complete the rustic “old tyme” look [John] was after, the copper was tarnished using the vapor from a vinegar and salt solution. The finished assembly is steam punk delicious, but we’re saddened by the lack of steam punk eye brows to complete the look (or steam punk mutton chops, or steam punk goatee, or…)

[via Boing Boing]

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