As electronics hobbyists we are grateful to our spouses and flatmates who gracefully tolerate all of our weird equipment and chaotic projects in their homes. But it takes a different level of dedication to share one’s home with a pipe organ enthusiast: back in the 1970s, one organist in Bristol went to the effort of installing a full-sized church organ into their house, effectively turning the modest dwelling into one giant musical instrument. Recently however, the house passed on to new owners who, understandably anxious to reclaim some space, listed the whole system on eBay.
Thankfully, the auction was won not by some scrap metal dealer but by [Look Mum No Computer], our favourite expert on odd musical instruments. He drove out all the way from Kent to help disassemble the organ and stuff the dozens of pipes, miles of cable and numerous valves, tubes, latches and switches into his van. Once back home, he faced the daunting task of reassembling the whole lot into something capable of playing music, which he’s currently documenting in a video series.
The organ’s new home is This Museum Is (Not) Obsolete, where it has its own room decorated in a style similar to the house it spent much of its life in. The first step to getting it working was to fire up the blower, which is effectively a powerful electric air pump together with a pressure-regulating mechanism. Once this was working, one row of pipes was added to test the actuation system. This consists of a set of solenoids that simply open or close the air supply to each pipe. [LMNC] still had an Arduino-based organ driver system from an earlier project, which allowed him to connect a MIDI keyboard to the partially-complete instrument and play a few notes on it.
Musical instruments come in all shapes and sizes. For sheer scale and complexity though, you can’t beat pipe organs. [Rob Scallon] visited the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago to look at their massive pipe organ which boasts over 8000 individual pipes. He also discovered that it has a MIDI interface, and off course hooked up his laptop to play the Mario Bros theme song.
This organ is actually the third one the church has had, and was completed in 2016. Its capabilities are impressive, but the engineering side of it is what really blew us away. Every pipe is unique to allow it to recreate the sound of almost an entire orchestra, and the “control station” looks a bit like the cockpit of modern airliner in terms of complexity. The organ covers multiple stories across multiple parts of the church and every single pipe and part needs to be accessible for tuning and maintenance, which is almost a full time job. Check out the first video after the break for a full demonstration and tour of this incredible machine by [John Sherer], the church’s music director and organist.
The second video after the break goes through the process of hooking up a laptop to the organ after getting a technician to completely wire up the MIDI interface. They go full music geek as they marry ancient and modern music technology. [Rob] says it multiple times, and we have to believe that you need to be in the building to truly experience the sound. Let us know in the comments if any readers have heard this organ in person.
April Fool’s Day is bad. April Fool’s Day is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. For one day a year, we’re inundated with pieces that can, accurately and without any sense of irony, be called fake news. YouTube is worse. But you know what’s worse than April Fool’s Day? A hundred children playing plastic recorders. But it’s April Fool’s Day, and things must get worse. Here’s a vacuum cleaner playing Africa by Toto.
This is the latest build from [James Bruton] or [Ecks Robots Dot Co Dot UK], who is the king of building just about anything with 3D printers. He’s got a BB8 and some of the cooler Star Wars droids, a Hulkbuster, and openDog. When it comes to confabulating robotics and 3D printers, [James] is the king. But this is April Fool’s Day, and if you’re a big YouTuber, you need to do something annoying. [James] is the king.
This build uses a Henry vacuum cleaner, a canister vacuum with a silk screened face, because why not, and you’re not truly living until you put googly eyes on your Roomba. Also, all vacuums in England are Hoovers, because reasons. In collaboration with [Mothcub], [James] adapted cheap children’s plastic recorders to a Henry vacuum cleaner with a few 3D printed parts, some servo-controlled valves, and a bit of plastic tubing. While using cheap kid’s recorders as the tone generator in what is effectively a pipe organ is interesting (the stickers over the holes are a great idea), this is something that should not be done ever. This idea should not be replicated. These recorders are not in tune and I don’t know how because they’re just one piece of plastic that came out of the same mold.
The servos, and therefore the entire pipe organ, are controlled via MIDI, which makes this the first DIY MIDI pipe organ we’ve seen. It’s a proof of concept, and a pretty good one. It also sounds terrible. This is proof that cheap plastic recorders don’t sound good. The video is below, and I highly suggest skipping the second half.
If you are a musician and you are also a Hackaday reader, there’s a good chance you’ll own at least one MIDI instrument. A synthesizer of some description, maybe a keyboard, or perhaps a drum machine. A pipe organ? Probably not.
If you answer to the name of [Wendell Kapustiak] though, you’d say yes to that question. He’s built himself a beautiful pipe organ from scratch, with hand-tuned wooden pipes, and for a modern touch he’s made it MIDI controlled. An Arduino Due sends its commands to a set of solenoid drivers, the solenoids then control the air flow from his wind chest through a set of plastic tubes to his organ pipes. Air supply comes from a shop vac in a sound-insulated box, with a pressure regulating chamber. The result is not perfect, he believes that the pipes are too close together and this somehow makes them difficult to tune, but to an outsider’s eye it’s a pretty impressive instrument.
Like ridiculously large electromechanical devices? [Fran] took a tour of the Wanamaker Pipe Organ in Philly, the largest fully playable pipe organ in the world. The scale is tremendous – 28,000 pipes in 463 ranks spread out over five floors of a department store.
The Nintendo Entertainment System is well over thirty years old now, and still there are only about ten or so games that require the Nintendo Zapper, the light gun so primitive you can use a light bulb to beat Duck Hunt. Now there’s a new game: Super Russian Roulette. Yes, it’s Russian Roulette with the NES Zapper. It’s actually a very advanced game for the NES, using a lot of Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) for real audio in the game. Of course it’s also Russian Roulette with a gun that doesn’t look like a revolver, making this the perfect game to introduce young children to the wonders of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Video demo.
Tektronix has a new logo! It’s not as cool as the old CRT flying spaceman globe thingy logo, but at least it’s not awash with 90s era corporate industrial design motifs.
The new logo is finally a logo and not just a serif typeface with a red slash below it. In keeping with every new corporate branding in recent memory, the new typeface is a sans-serif with a few bits cut off here and there. Is it a good logo? I’m sure it tested well in focus groups. Sometimes art is more of a science than an art. A lot of people don’t get that.
Normally you’d expect the sound of a pipe organ to come from something gigantic. [Matthew Steinke] managed to squeeze all of that rich melodic depth into an acoustic device the size of a toaster (YouTube link) which uses electromagnetism to create its familiar sound.
[Matthew ’s] instrument has a series of thin vertical tines, each coupled with a small MIDI controlled electromagnet. As the magnet pulses with modulation at a specific frequency, the pull and release of the tine causes it to resonate continuously with a particular tone. The Tine Organ is capable of producing 20 chromatic notes in full polyphony starting in middle C and can be used as an attachment to a standard keyboard or a synthesizer app on a smart phone. The classic style body of the instrument is made out of mahogany and babinga and houses the soundboard as well as the mini microcontroller responsible for receiving the MIDI and regulating the software oscillators sending voltage to the magnets.
[Matthew’s] creation is as interesting to look at as it is to listen to, so I’d recommend checking out the video below to hear the awesome sound it produces:
[Raphi Giandiulio] grew tired of designing expensive things for Texas Instruments, so he quit his job and built this organ. Now there is some back story here, [Raphi’s] dad was a professional musician and [Raphi] played trumpet through college. He is a mechanical engineer by trade and that’s where a lot of the expertise for the instrument design came from. The project and the website that documents it are very large in scope, detailing the design process (including CAD drawings), the build, and a tour of his woodshop. The instrument includes 250 pipes and took about four years to finish, concluding in 2007. We weren’t surprised to learn that [Raphi] now has a new job… building organs.