Receipt Printers End It All In Moving Art Piece

Art is something that is always hard to classify, but by and large is most celebrated when it stimulates an emotional response for the intended audience. We’d say [Alexander Miller] achieved that in spades, with his elegant piece The Emergence and Decay of Computation.

An installation piece done for The School for Poetic Computation’s 2019 spring showcase, it consists of a series of receipt printers suspended from a height by their own paper. The thermal printers output a pattern from a cellular automata — a mathematical simulation that generates patterns that emerge from initial conditions, of which Conway’s Game of Life is perhaps the most popular. Fed data by an attached Raspberry Pi, as printing continues, the printers gradually lower themselves into a tank of water, permanently killing the hardware.

Watching a proud, brave printer slowly work itself into a watery grave is a sobering experience to any lover of stout commercial hardware, and one we won’t soon forget. What a shame to see them sacrificed so. We love a good art piece around these parts, after all. Especially when the hardware can be used in another project once the excitement of this one has waned. Video after the break.

54 thoughts on “Receipt Printers End It All In Moving Art Piece

  1. whats next doing one off the side of a skyscraper so when it reaches the end of the roll it drops to its death? some might consider this art i just consider it a waste of a pi/printer…

    1. Yeah I gotta agree with you on this one. I know art is subjective, but this is straight wasteful. Especially because the Pi 3 gets killed too, they could have at least made it so only the printer gets killed.

      1. Don’t think the Pi nor even the printer will be dead….if the water is just plain clean H2O and they were not left in the water for too long. Our tech used to use regular plain soap and water to clean off circuit boards. Just make sure they are completely dry before using them again.

        Hope he/she unplugs the power before reaching for the Pi and the printer, otherwise the video will turn into “The Emergence and Decay of an Art Student”. :-(

          1. As soon as current starts to flow, electrolysis (dissolution) sets on. This increases the conductivity.
            And I am absolutely sure the boards cleaned with soap and water were not powered. Then you can do this without problems.

          1. Who cares? It’s a cheap piece of hardware and this project is less cool if it doesn’t break.

            If you’re concerned about waste or the planet, focusing on this guy is probably the worst “bang for your buck” possible.

        1. So sticking your hand into water with a drowned device powerede by a 5V USB supply will electrcute someone more than just touching the dry components? Pleas educate me.

          1. “Electrocute ” is an absolute. There are no degrees. You were either electrocuted and therefore dead, or you received an electric shock and remain alive. Now, do you feel educated?

        2. The pi is supplied with 5V. That is not enough to endanger a human. But well enough to kill the hardware by electrolysis and electro corrosion. With 24V that happens nearly in seconds, with 5V it’s slower but it will destroy the BCPs. The process leads to a runaway condition of dissolving stuff, increasing conductivity and temperature, increasing rate of dissolution.
          The guy should have used non-conductive oil, that could be cleaned off afterwards.

    2. I agree. I’ll go with Webster here on the definition of art: “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects / also : works so produced.” So I guess it qualifies since the intent was clearly not functional.

      But I don’t think the result is satisfying. I watched the video thinking maybe it’s more interesting than it sounds but no.

      1. As far as I can tell, the purpose of art – at least, one definition – is to elicit a reaction. Any reaction. Positive, negative, doesn’t matter.

        You’ve (and I, and many other people here) have had a strong negative reaction… so … mission accomplished, I guess.

    1. The point is to show case the death of tech. Mineral oil won’t kill it. I agree with most people at this forum that it’s a waste. At least some, I guess non techie people, may find it artful.

        1. You could even choose a hydrocarbon of similar viscosity. E.g. decane – but it would smell like kerosene or diesel. :-) and be similarly flammable. A suitable fluorinated alkane would be an expensive but non flammable alternative.

  2. Well that’s probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen here on hacker day… And that’s a real prize. It’s the “ Computer science” Equivalent of rolling Cole or doing a burnout. Appeals to the monkey stupid I guess.

    It’s not even like it end in a big surprise. The computer stopped working and the printer stopped printing underwater… Who would’ve called that?

      1. Very true. I once went to a technology museum and found an old piece of tech in a big wooden cabinet. On the side of it I saw a phone number.

        I recognised the number as an office number I had decades before and then remembered the cabinet as something I had serviced many times in the distant past.

        We see tech that gets old then needs repairs and then obsolete and then dies.

        Humans are no different.

        1. I might add what the irony was for me.

          At the time I was no longer working , just like the cabinet.

          My health was declining.

          I had become obsolete just like the cabinet.

          So I realised in that moment that I wasn’t looking at the cabinets past, indeed I was looking at my own future.

  3. This is cool, and I have to thank you for posting since every time anything even remotely arty shows up on here a bunch of people who don’t – and frankly, can’t – understand flock to the comments to overexplain how and why they don’t get it.

    1. “Savages and modern artists are alike strangely driven to create something uglier than themselves. But the artists find it harder.” – G. K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News, 11/25/05

  4. It did remind me a lot of the thumb up scene where Schwarzenegger destroys the last chip in terminator 2.

    I love the free speech implications as well and the great times we’re living in. The artist is free to express. And so is the hackaday community.

  5. I think the killing the hardware at the end is the point here. Without it, it would not strike the resemblance to a human life.
    I consider this a very raw and touching art experience.

  6. The fact that so many people commenting here are raging about wasting and destroying the hardware means that the artist succeeded. When art induces emotions it’s basically doing its job.

  7. We have become a disposable civilization, technology itself propagates this mentality by providing something newer and better at a high rate. The garbage dump is full of the same waste as some of these comments have made, only difference is the garbage dump technology doesn’t give a message like this display can give, also proven by this comment section. Of course, you could perhaps extract a few different meanings from this piece of art, but I suppose…..

  8. Not necessarily dead. Pull them out and dry em off. Thermal printers fairly stout. Pi most likely needs a fuse or two replaced. Maybe. Saltwater or otherwise more conductive than tap water would likely cause more damage.

  9. Waste isn’t art. Art can be wasteful I guess. But aiming to elicit “any” reaction isn’t art – surely there must be intent. Otherwise you could argue that a kid knocking over a vase for attention is art.

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