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.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

13 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: Ultimate Circuitbending

  1. Brian, I understand that you must make a living by editing 2-3 articles a day _no matter the cost_ like a battery hen, but supposing your readers have such a short attention span and less than 6 months buffered memory is slightly disturbing, if not disrespectful.
    “Content composter” sounds legit qualification in your case: take a 6-months old article from yourself, copy, paste, recycle it, put a video, next “article”.

    An algorithmic article generator would at least check if the subject had not been issued before.You should implement that in yours, or let it take full control and take a nap.

      1. It seems like a legit repost, for the purpose of entering it for a prize. Easy mistake. You love hack-a-day so much, you’re chomping at the bit to see more new content. Why don’t you help them along and share some of your own awesome projects?

    1. You’d be much more efficient at life if you just didn’t bother clicking on the link in the first place. Instead you spent time writing your post. You could have been doing better things, like scrubbing a toilet bowl or licking stamps.

  2. I hadn’t seen the original posting for this.. This project is really cool – and is the sort of idea that leads to truly unique music-creating possibilities.

    Ive noticed repeats are becoming more common – it has led to the assumption that these particular projects have hjad dramatic new work done, and the editors wish to draw attention to it.

    I think the users here need to brace themselves for a seemingly inevitable near future in which .io projects are given massive preference to off-site projects.

    The upside is that Hackaday appears committed to rewarding the .io community with prizes and other support.

    I like it over all – but maybe a ‘update’ tag or something would allow the ‘reposts’ without the consternation? Like if it was marked repost and had a link back to the original article.. Perhaps the original article should link to the new one also?

  3. It may be interesting from a technological view, but I swear this is one of the most awful things I ever had the displeasure of hearing ;)
    But still, I love the implementation and the user interface seems very efficient.

    1. The tr-626 is just one device that this machine could be used with.

      People do all sorts of crazy things to speak n spells, 8-bit computers (trs80, commodore), talking toys, and music toys of all types.

      This allows some degree of programmatic control – which is one thing missing from almost all circuit bent instruments.

      A few years ago this would have been a popular item on kickstarter.. Or maybe more like 8 or 9 years ago now.. Wow mid-2000s were a decade ago!

      1. It’s really unfortunate that people do that sort of thing, too, especially to increasingly rare devices like TI Speak ‘n Spells. These “circuit benders” (more like “circuit busters”) will buy up exceedingly rare, old devices for the purposes of, ostensibly, breaking them, thus making it all the less likely that someone in the emulation community will be able to get their hands on one and thus preserve it for history.

        1. Perhaps you missed the title of this website. HACK-a-Day. What did you expect? I’m a “circuit buster” (This is insulting BTW) and more often than not I rescue these rare toys from the landfill or from the depths of a dusty, leaky basement. Would you like to emulate these devices? We “circuit busters” are the guys to talk to because, believe it or not, we do the leg work to dig up schematics or find its obsolete parts that are even more rare than the toys themselves and do extensive write-ups on their reverse engineering (I’m in the process of trying to make a ROM dump from a Casio SK-1). We appreciate these devices WAY more than your average Joe and wouldn’t let them sit in silence on a shelf just to preserve the packaging. Also, there isn’t anyone on this earth more heartbroken to see one of these gems busted beyond repair than one of us “circuit busters”. And FYI, I just started hacking up a speak-and-spell yesterday. Surprise, it’s not broken. Nor is any of the other pieces I’ve done. Heaven forbid someone create a demand and purpose for old toys that doesn’t involve sitting on a shelf.

  4. As the author of this project I’d like to say thanks to Brian and to Hackaday for all of the positive attention this project has received! (and to those who saw it back in January apologies, but I somehow missed it and I built the darned thing ;-)

    Anyway, back then I wasn’t yet on Hackaday, and hadn’t open-sourced the project. So I guess the big change between then and now is that now you can follow along and build one at home if you like…


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