Archive for the DIY Category

Dot Matrices

Posted in art, culture, DIY, tech with tags , on March 26, 2008 by Philonous

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:


Posted in art, craft, DIY, tech with tags on January 11, 2008 by Philonous

I’ve started a darkroom. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do I suppose, but now seemed the time to do it for some reason. Ok. So it’s not a proper darkroom, but then again it’s not just a dark room…

It’s a darkroom built for pinhole camera photography! But how does one take photos with a pinhole camera?! It turns out it’s actually reasonably simple. The basic principle is as follows. An image is formed in a pinhole camera just as in any other camera so all you have to do is put some film in the right place. The standard darkroom process involves developing your film, then putting the negatives you’ve just made into an enlarger, projecting them onto photographic paper and then developing the paper. On the film, parts struck by light become dark. The same is true of photographic paper so during the process, the colours are inverted twice, giving you the original again.

So, everything is peachy. Well actually no. Enlargers are *really* expensive (the cheapest one I found was about 160 pounds without an enlarging lens, timer easel etc etc etc…). Setting up a darkroom was therefore going to be out of the question. Until I saw podcast about pinhole photography. All you do is stick a pin in a box. Then you have a pinhole camera. So how do you take the photo? Actually, the process is exactly the same as for film except instead of using film, you use photographic paper and instead of using an enlarger, you contact print.

For a grand total of 30 pounds I was all set. Watching photos appear is perhaps the coolest thing I’ve seen for a long time. Highly recommended. To see the podcast, check out:

There are lots of other cool things on the site. I find that actually, his design isnt’ all that great. The best thing I’ve tried so far is a beer can as the container with a hole punched in the side.