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17 september 2011

Composition in Electronic Components: Experiment I

A musical composition. A composition maybe made from the point of view of a computer or other electronic device.

Do computers like us? Do they like the interaction we have with them. 

We don't know. All we know is that we most probably slow them down with our presence, almost grind them to a hold.

There is a huge difference in the computational abilities between us. If we want to compute something, we need to go sit behind the keyboard and mouse, that slows down the computer. It needs to listen. Even if there where fast way's to interact, like speech or even brainwaves, it would slow the computer down.

This little experimental musical piece explores this. We got a little micro controller that happily sends it's serial communication to his companion, a little emulated SID chip. This serial communication consist of random registry entries so the SID can generate some random sounds.

But there is a opportunity for a human to interact with this micro controller, a PIR motion detector. If there is any movement registered this electronic circuit needs to slow it's activity down (by a factor of 10).

More info on the emulated SID chip can be found here ->

Maybe I will write down how I made this. But should be clear if you dig around on above mentioned website.

10 september 2011

Op Amp experiments I

Op Amp Experiments (necessities):

I been dabbling in electronics for a little while now, and of course I used Op Amps in a few circuits. A lot of those circuits were adaptations from what I found in books and datasheets.

However, I never fully understood how things worked.

So I set myself the goal to get a better understanding of Op Amps. What can you do with them, and how. Back to basic!

Also I decided to do these experiments with as few parts as possible. For the Op Amp I choice the lm358, readily available and cheap (and I had some laying around). A breadboard, wires, a few potmeter, some capacitors of different standaard values and some other knickknacks.

I use a DSO nano and cheap multimeters to measure things.

A while back I made myself a function generator from a xr2206 which I use for signal generation.

There is a little audio amplifier build into the function generator (well the function generator is build into the audio amplifier). I based mine of a circuit I found in an Elektor magazine from the ‘70’s (could be ‘80’s), but here you can find something similar.

SparkFun used to sell a xr2206 kit, but it’s retired now. The one I build is a little more involved. I can choose between DC offset or not and I can manipulate the symmetry and amplitude of the waves. Don’t have schematics laying around anymore but if I find them I will post. To be honest the xr2206 isn’t the easiest thing to find.

Maybe it’s time for someone to design a cheap and useful function generator kit based on more modern techniques.

One of the first things I want to explore is the use of positive voltage, negative voltage, ground and virtual ground with Op Amps. I always seem to screw that up when designing a circuit.

To do this I first needed a power supply that could deliver positive voltage, negative voltage and ground.

I found this nifty little circuit based on a 555 timer that could deliver just what I needed. It works well with a 12 volt DC walwart.

I found this circuit on my computer in a folder with hunderds of circuits. I unfortunately don’t know who the designer was. I believe I got it from somewhere. I just added a 7812 volt regulator to it on my prefboarded circuit.

The first experiment will be “How to amplify a sinusoidal signal with no DC offset (aka audio signal)”

24 mei 2011

The Logic of Life (improvement)

Some work has been done on the "The Logic of life" installation of artist Bill Spinhoven van Oosten (

The very dim green bright LED's are replaced by very bright white LED's. The Effect of the machine can now be viewed in more brightly lit rooms.

There were 1796 white LED's hurt in the process

21 maart 2011

Update: 555 Timer Trumpet

555 Capacitor Trumpet

UPDATE: The freakin' thing made it to the second round! Don't know why or how, other entries are far more awesome than mine.

I can only say that I'm honoured, and humbled. Judged by Chris Gammell and Jeri Ellsworth and now Phil Torrone and Windell Oskay. All people I really, really admire for what they brought to the world of electronics, Open Source Hardware and Make / DIY scene (and overall inspiration for how to life)!! And I don't even have a EE degree or something. Hell just started picking up electronics where I left it as a kid (demolishing stuff).

Warning to the people that want to make the contraption (Yes, it's an evil trap of joyfull procrastination)! It has a tendencie to hurt your ears after just a few minutes, and the batteries seem to last forever.

28 februari 2011

555 Capacitor Trumpet

555 Capacitor Trumpet

This is my entry (hope I can make it on time!!) for the contest. Had GREAT FUN making this thing over the last weekend (cost me just a few curses!). I just sat down stuck a 555 timer on a breadboard and started wiring.

Set myself a few goals, just 1 555 timer, really wanted to make the capacitor value used for timing variabel, line level audio output so I can hook the thing to my computer.

Really don't have much time to document the thing. I know some features are ineffecient, some even over the top (doesn't really need two photoresistors for instance). Overall I'm pleased with the outcome.

I really need to document it futher I guess for the contest. Some design decision may be questionable. But this setup sounded the greatest to my ears, and I just had one weekend to finish, so I did not had much time to think about things (overthinking is never a good thing I believe).

Breadboard stage

Breadboard 555 Capacitor Trumpet 1

Above is what I came up with and settled with as the final design. Photo isn't that clear so I used Fritzing to make a clearer version (don't like Fritzing much, very clunky on my Mac, but fast!).

Breadboard 555 Capacitor Trumpet 2

Every 555 IC needs a good home

Found this little toy amplifier at a dollar shop (I believe it's so called in the US? We in the Netherlands call it knakenwinkel).

Had everything I could wish for. A amplifier circuit, good sturdy plastic casing with enough room. And the thing runs on 3 AA batteries, enough to power my additional circuit.

Front view

Toy Amplifier Clean Front

Backside view

Toy Amplifier Clean Back

Inside view

Toy Amplifier Clean Inside

Really easy to hack!

Toy Amplifier Hack points 1

Power taps

Toy Amplifier Hack points 2

Audio in

Toy Amplifier Hack points 3

Let's work

Now I needed to fit the following schematics into the box:

Schematics 555 Capacitor Trumpet


Finished Inside View

I'm not a good documentation writer while I work on things.

Jet another 555 given a home

To prove there is really a 555 on board!

555 IC

The thing in action