Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Toy Torture and Bad Karma

After gaining a greatly increased workload over the last few months, I began looking for ways to blow off some steam. One day, while browsing YouTube videos, I found a new pastime, called circuit bending. This is a process by which LOW-VOlTAGE, BATTERY OPERATED, electronic audio devices are short-circuited to create new musical devices or sound generators. A fellow named Reed Ghazala is one of the pioneers of this practice, he has even written a book called Circuit-Bending: Build Your Own Alien Instruments, which is a very worthwhile read if you are interested. Some of the instruments of choice are old Speak and Spells, and Casio keyboards. I have an old Casio keyboard which I was fully prepared to exploit, but it wouldn't even turn on, so that was out. I have saved it to harvest some of its switches,circuits and potentiometers for later projects. The poor toy in the above video was my child's. It was useful to him about two years ago, but hasn't been seen since then, until I raided the storage room looking for something to tear apart and practice on. All I did was take the back off, lay out the circuit board and go along with a screwdriver in each hand (holding them by the metal parts) touching separate wires with each screwdriver, while holding a button down. When I found a good connection where the sound was altered, I soldered a wire to each spot. Then I took each wire and soldered the opposite ends to the bolts that I had screwed into the case. Now by varying the pressure, body surface and moisture level to the "body contacts", I can change the sound drastically. This is a very very simplified project compared to what other people are doing, but was still a very enjoyable waste of time. Now you ask, 'what does circuit bending have to do with bad karma?' Well, posting this video to YouTube was one of the last things I did with my laptop before it decided to bend its own hard drive ciruits in a fatal show of solidarity for its fallen electronic contemporaries.

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