Dot Matrices

Remember those old screetchy printers and the paper with the holes in the edges? Well they seem to be making something of a comeback, albeit in various guises.

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon a great project involving dot matrix printers used as synthesisers. Moving the head at different speeds produces different frequencies, so the idea is to computer control a printer to play electronic sounding music. Here’s a video with a push-button controller

Thank goodness someone finally harnessed the onerous noise-making capacity of dot matrix printers for good.

Dot matrix printers have also found their way into the world of protest and art in various new forms. In 2004 at the time of the Republican National Convention in New York, a student came up with a mobile dot matrix street writer mounted on a bicycle. The idea was to have people from all over the world write thought proviking slogans on the website and have them instantly written on the pavement somewhere in New York. This “Bike against Bush” was kitted out with a laptop, phone and some sort of GPS device as well as the custom chalk sprayers that made up the printer.

I remember seeing this at the time and decided to check up on the project to see what had happened since. I found the following video about the triumph of American free speech. It turned out that the Feds (or NYPD or someone…well let’s just say the man) had been tracking any signs of dissident activity from militant anarchists to church groups and anti-war protesters for a long time before with the intention of apprehending them before they had a chance to protest. Ah, it’s the world’s favourite democracy in all its characteristic glory.

The latest incarnation of dot matrix printers I’ve seen recently is Bit.fall by German artist Julius Popp. It’s a dot matrix printer for rain! The principle is the same as Bikes against Bush with a whole load of water jets with electronically controlled taps connected to a computer. Perhaps the artist could explain it better himself:

I suppose it’s all part of some sort of 80s revival…

Here are some links:

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