8 Bit Message In A Digital Bottle

As seasoned data-travelers, we’re used to wielding the internet to send messages and communicate to others without any limitations. No one has to be stranded on a figurative island blowing smoke signals… unless of course they wanted to be. What [Harm Alexander Aldick] has done with his project “Lorem Ipsum”, is create a situation where others can only communicate to him through a sort of message in a bottle. The bottle in this case is an electronic widget.

In this social experiment, [Harm] has stationed a small Ikea picture frame at his desk, which shows images and text sent to him in real-time from others in the world. With an Arduino as the brain, a small 8×8 LED matrix mounted at the bottom right of the frame displays the data received by means of an ethernet module. Anyone can use his web interface to modify the pixels of the matrix on a virtual version of the installation. Once sent, the message is transmitted through an IPv6 internet connection and is translated to UDP which the unit is controlled by.

[Harm]’s project investigates how people react when given the chance to send a message in complete anonymity to someone they don’t know… in of all things, the form of something as limited as 64 pixels. The project name “Lorem Ipsum” refers to the filler text used in graphic design to hold the place of what would otherwise be more meaningful information, so that it doesn’t detract from the experience of viewing the layout. Curious about what sort of ‘graphical experience’ I would come up with myself, I took a shot at punching away at [Harm’s] GUI. I got momentarily lost in turning the little red dots on and off and eventually turned out this little ditty:


It was supposed to be something of a triangle, yet turned into a crop circle… or pronged nipple. After it was sent, I wondered whether or not [Harm] actually saw it. In the case that he did, I can only imagine what I communicated to our fellow hacker abroad with my squall of dots. All of these thoughts though are the whole point of the project. Awesome work!

20 thoughts on “8 Bit Message In A Digital Bottle

  1. Lorem Ipsum isn’t just random text.
    “Lorem Ipsum comes from sections 1.10.32 and 1.10.33 of “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum” (The Extremes of Good and Evil) by Cicero, written in 45 BC. This book is a treatise on the theory of ethics, very popular during the Renaissance. The first line of Lorem Ipsum, “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet..”, comes from a line in section 1.10.32.”

      1. We in Italy have to study latin in some kind of high school, like science or language high school. Of course, they should have taught me better english instead of teach me latin :)

      2. judging by your name I hope you’re not french to say such things cause I am and I did learned it like most “grade A ” kids . and of course it’s still taught today. Besides “Lorem Ipsum” used for computers is NOT Latin . sure few words are but the whole thing has no meaning.

    1. From memory, I believe that Lorem Ipsum (or similar nonsense) is used to provide a feel for a filled out design (website, newspaper, program, …) without distracting the customer with actual articles. The Latin forces the eye to focus on how the words look, rather than what they say. “Test test test test test” also prevents distraction, but doesn’t convey how the design looks with real articles.
      Apropos whether it’s Latin, the answer is: kinda. Lorem ipsum is derived from a real script, but the text you run across on sites is often procedurally generated to provide some number of nonrepeating paragraphs.

      1. People, project owners in particular, cannot from experience create the abstraction layer needed without Lorem Ipsum when reviewing a prototype. They’ll get hung up in useless dead ends like “why does it say ‘Product 1, headline placeholder’, it just looks wrong”. Does that sound stupid to you? Then guess how many brain cells die every time we’re asked to change placeholder text because it “looks wrong”. Therefore Lorem Ipsum is used.

  2. Unfortunately that lorem ipsum is not Latin anymore, I’ve never seen a Y in a Latin word until today, and I’ve read Latin for a few years (here in Italy you get to study Latin in most high schools); anyway, nice little project! I’d definitely send a message to him! :D

  3. @Sarah: nice write-up. Thanks! I indeed saw your little dotted thingy for a while. I like the analogy to the message in a bottle. It really is like that. And it brings new ideas for improvement to my mind.

    Also thanks to all nice messages that came in after this post went up. I learned a lot of ways to paint penises in 64 pixels. But there are a lot of hearts, smileys and kind words coming in, too.

    Looking forward for more messages to come in – oh someone is updating it right now. :D

    1. Harm, thanks for replying to the article and letting me know you saw my little drawing. I like the idea behind your project and was excited to tell others about it! =]

      I’m sure you get some weird messages from the ether, but I’m happy to know you also get a few gems! Are you recording or storing the images you receive in any way for later documentation? It’d be kinda neat to see a whole page of things received. Again, awesome work!


      1. There is no storage at the moment. I thought of that some time. But I liked the idea most, that texts and images only live until the next update is coming.

        But there will be a bigger version with RGB colors and a gallery with the latest images and animations. As always, I keep hackaday posted.

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