Knitting ALUs (and Flipdots)

[Irene Posch] is big into knitted fabric circuits. And while most of the textile circuits that we’ve seen are content with simply conducting enough juice to light an LED, [Irene]’s sights are set on knittable crafted arithmetic logic units (ALUs). While we usually think of transistors as the fundamental building-blocks of logic circuits, [Irene] has developed what is essentially a knit crochet relay. Be sure to watch the video after the break to see it in construction and in action.

The basic construction is a coil of conductive thread that forms an electromagnet, and a magnetic bead suspended on an axle so that it can turn in response to the field. To create a relay, a flap of knit conductive thread is attached to the bead, which serves as the pole for what’s essentially a fabric-based SPDT switch. If you’ve been following any of our relay-logic posts, you’ll know that once you’ve got a relay, the next step to a functioning computer is a lot of repetition.

How does [Irene] plan to display the results of a computation? On knit-and-bead flipdot displays, naturally. Combining the same electromagnet and bead arrangement with beads that are painted white on one side and black on the other yields a human-readable one-bit display. We have an unnatural affinity for flipdot displays, and making the whole thing out of fabric-store components definitely flips our bits.

Anyway, [Irene Posch] is a textile-tech artist who you should definitely be following if you have any interest in knittable computers. Have you seen anything else like this? Thanks [Melissa] for the awesome tip!

6 thoughts on “Knitting ALUs (and Flipdots)

  1. Definitely a very cool project. I love it when people manage to combine art and technology to make something simultaneously rustic and futuristic, and totally fascinating.

    There’s no knitting here, though (and the website says nothing about knitting) – those relays are crocheted, and the flip dots are crocheted and embroidered on a woven fabric.

  2. When I saw the second picture, I imagined a shirt full of those dots running Conway’s Game of Life. It would make a very cool shirt, if it was functional.

    Yes, I realize that this is different from what this blog post is about. Also I realize that Game of Life works on a little different grid than what is in that picture.

    1. Conway’s does, but cellular automata tinkerers have experimented with all sorts of alternative layouts for grids. There’s usually working variants for any kind of topology.

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