Sunday, May 27, 2007

Circuit-Bent Speak & Spell

Last week I was finally able to get a reasonably priced 1978 Texas Instruments Speak & Spell from ebay. Shortly thereafter, I was fortunate enough to find the time to tear it up. I wouldn't really say I tore it up because it still works like new; I just modified it to make it better. I pretty much went by the plans for circuit-bending this model laid out by Reed Ghazala in his book on the subject (Circuit-Bending: Build Your Own Alien Instruments). This is also called an incantor and the instructions for building one are laid out in this article by Reed Ghazala except that it uses a Speak & Read.

Here are some before and after pictures of my project:

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Here's how it looks on the inside:

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The main ways my incantor varied from the plan in the book was that I could not get the potentiometer to control the pitch. The circuit he described and every nearby point either did nothing or it locked it up. Hopefully I can work that out soon; I would appreciate some suggestions. Here is a close-up of my board:

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While trying to find a pitch control circuit, I did find a different bend that turned out to be really good. I put a rollerball switch on the inside and ran it through the potentiometer, so that it takes effect only when the machine is turned over or shaken. The pot doesn't really make much noticable difference.

Here is a demo of the performance of this Speak and Spell Incantor. I have more posted and some links on my circuit bending page.

My only advice at this point is to keep in mind that this activity is for small battery powered electronics only. Also if you are planning on buying a soldering tool, a battery powered one may not be the best choice. I used a Weller BP645 and I noticed that I only got a few good hits on it then it wouldn't get hot enough and caused some sloppy soldering. I had to replace the batteries (3 AA), which were still fine for other uses, three times before finally going and buying a regular one with a cord.

Update 6/4/07: I have added some downloadable normal and bent sounds from this speak and spell incantor in both mp3 and wav format.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Curlin Wins Preakness Stakes!

Although this is not a sporting news service, I cannot help shouting the headline. I feel vindicated after posting my pictures of this crazy fast horse from the Arkansas Derby with the expectation that he would win the Kentucky Derby. It looked like Street Sense had Preakness in the bag after he pulled ahead during the final turn, but then Curlin cranked it up in the final stretch and won by a nose, tying the Preakness Stakes record with a time of 1:53.46. This record was previously set by Louis Quatorze (1966) and Tank’s Prospect (1985). What a race!

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Snakes Eating Things

Last weekend while I was fishing with my family, we ran across this water snake eating a fish. I made everyone move away and fish elsewhere while I filmed. The footage is a little sketchy because it was taking so long and I knew I would run out of memory on my digital camera if I let it run continuously. The total time from when I began filming to the end was 24 minutes. In the second to last segment, if you listen closely, you can hear my wife cheering for my 2 1/2 year old son as he catches his first fish ever all by himself. Of course, I took a scolding for filming the snake and fish scene instead of that precious moment, but what is a fella to do?

Here are a couple of pictures of the scene that are a little more clear:

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I found this next video while getting ready to post my own. This is a snake eating a toad, essentially from start to finish. There is a little more action in this video, but it lasts 10 minutes. The dialogue from the "camera crew" makes it a little more worthwhile as well.

Good job fellas.

Don't forget to check out Modulator's Friday Ark!

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