32C3: 20 Oscillators in 20 Minutes

In terms of implausible stand-up comedy, [Darsha]’s “20 Oscillators in 20 Minutes” is pretty far out there. First of all, she’s sitting down, with googly eyes on her multimeter, and five breadboards and a mess of 9V batteries laid out in front of her. “Has anybody built electronics before? Has anybody built electronics in front of this many people before? Yeah, so you’d better f**king be nice.” And she’s off!

twenty_oscillators-shot0012“Square waves are really good for your speakers.” And a few seconds later, a lub-dub beat-frequency oscillator filled the hall. And then there’s the stand-up clichés: “Anyone in the audience from Norway?!” And “Anyone know what chip I’m using here?” (The 555.) A heckler, or participant, shouts up “What are you doing?” She responds “Building this!” and shows a sketch of the basic layout.

She baits the audience — “Do you want to ask me about duty cycles?” — and tells stories: “And then one time the solder fell in my lap and burned through my crappy jeggings. Who knows what jeggings are? Whooo!!” All the while the clicking gets louder and more complicated.

Then there’s the suspense. “11 minutes left? Shit, I dunno if I’m going to make it this time!” She’s visibly panicked. A question: “How do you protect the outputs from overvoltage?” “I don’t. (pause, laughter) I use some filter caps and just, well, hope that you guys have good insurance.”

Nearing the home stretch, there’s this quasi-rhythmic ticking and pulsing slowly building up in the background. She plugs in another capacitor, and the crowd spontaneously applauds. A little bit later, she shouts “Is it loud enough?” over the din and turns it down. At the end, the timing’s getting really tight, and she calls up someone to help from the audience.

We won’t spoil it, naturally. You’ll just have to watch it run to the end. We laughed, we cried. It was better than Schroedinger’s cats.

(We’d use hex inverters.)

ThingamaKIT: Make your own Thingamagoop

Bleep Labs’ Thingamagoop is a small synthesizer packed with wacky controls for generating unique sounds; you can now build an expanded version yourself with the ThingamaKit. Made “because there are not nearly enough beeping, zapping, bixxerfouping, anthropomorphic synthesizer monsters in the world,” it generates sounds of different pitches depending on the type and intensity of light hitting a photocell on the front panel. It’s most unique feature, is its LEDacle, which is something like a tentacle with an LED on the end. This can be pointed towards the photocell to modulate the sound. Output is through a 1/4″ audio jack.

Bleep Labs sells fully assembled Thingamagoops for $100, but the new DIY kit is available for half price. The kit version of the Thingamagoop has more controls, two photosensors, and two LEDacles. You can buy it with or without the case, and it doesn’t require any complex wiring. Look after the break for video of some Thingamagoops in action.

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