everything works!

Its 02:00 in the evening when ive finally set everything up the way its supposed to be
and im happy to find out that everything works! The next day, a few people from Casa de Pauw, where i have been building the installation are happy to try out and test my installation, which is now ready for transport to the cold north :)

last bits

Its been a few exiting days of getting everything finished. Tomorrow im leaving for Norway with the installation. Ofcourse there is allways some last minute trouble; right now im soldering some wires from the trackball that got broken and also the flightcase wheels fall off. Adriaan fixed the last bug and im putting the construction together with loes. We find a way to put the whole thing togehter in a way that it can be taken apart when needed easily.

Nearly getting there

Me, Adriaan and Paul meet up for the last time (for now) the comportproblem got fixed but now there are still some last errors with the arduino that cannot send out the number ten, Adriaan is looking for a solution. Its been great working with both Paul and Adriaan + a big thanks to both Nerdlab and Casa de Pauw for letting me build the installation there :)

Making a beambox

Today i painted the box for the projector, since the projector is part of the installation i thought of decant ways to mount it and yet be portable. Because i know that the installation will be travelling around and be in diffrent kinds of spaces, there will not allways be a possibility to mount it. Since it doesnt have to be high up, and its risky to put it on a tripod behind the installation i figured it would be best to have a small box for it, a little lower then the sequencer, so it can stand before the installation and i can mount the projector to the box for stability. Ive also been gleuing the hardfoam in the flightcase, and as Loes shows here a human can fit in the cabinet ;-)


Adriaan spends another day (and night) programming the arduino & flash. Some errors got fixed and just when we thought we were about to finish up, we got major trouble. The files that Adriaan programmed are now on my Intel Mac (and Mac Mini) but somehow the serial communication from flash to the arduino fails. Something with com ports and the mac not understanding them, it somehow has to emulate them or something and thats what keeps on failing. Adriaan is digging through all kinds of solutions, meanwhile we are enjoying his neighbours downstairs playing bad and loud music, its 03:30 when we decide to stop and continue on sunday.

Testing the mini

Ill be using a G4 MiniMac and i bought Gamepad Companion as a driver for the trackball and button that seems to work fine. Both my machine and the mac mini run Leopard so i can connect the two with a networksetup and networkcable and login using screensharing, this is handy so i wont need a screen.
But i panic a bit when the graphics seem to be very slow. I know i will need to upgrade the ram, but i was afraid the machine wouldnt have enough processorpower. Turns out the screensharing takes quite some processingpower and with that turned off it works fine, allthough the intell machine is much faster though, so i should probably try to get one. Paul and Adriaan are figuring out the testcode for the arduino and a way for the playhead to run

Keeping it simple

Adriaan is busy programming the arduino and getting more tasks done, meanwhile im making some more pixelanimations for the interface. Originally i thought of putting a lot of information about the consoles in the submenu-s with the sequencerpart, but now i decided to keep the submenu-s as simple as possible and have more background information about the consoles online. I figured that too much textual and graphic information in the interface will be disctractive for the kids, and they wont be able to tell the interactive from the non-interactive parts.


Im now making pixel characters and animations for the interface, drawing them pixel by pixel like real 8bit avatars in a max amount of colors; here is a preview:


Building a flightcase for the installation with Loes & Ruben, big enough to ship five sheep and a cow.


Adriaan, Paul and me meetup at the Nerdlab. Paul is going to test the electricity and circuits using an oscilloscope. This so the problems between hardware and software can be ruled out. When the hardware works, if an error occurs, its a software error and vice versa. Adriaan gets going with programming in Arduino, creating ways to test the interface and also starts bitshifting. Though its nearly midnight when we end our shift..

A little earlier Paul advised me to get an arduino breakoutshield, which i soldered today. A handy shield that plugs into an Arduino and provides all the Arduino pins as screw terminals. It is perfect for semi-permanent Arduino projects, because you can plug threads in and out very easilly.

Arcade Trackball

The trackball i ordered is basically an arcade trackball with a usb connector, meant for mounting in custommade arcades - looking something like this:


Back to the installation: Now that the circuitboards and lamps are functioning, Adriaan can get started with the programming. Instead of programming the on/off signals for the buttons in flash, he programs them on the arduino. The pushbuttons seem to work which is great - now its all gonna come down to programming the arduino and flash. We meetup to test everything.


I have some communication with Anders Carlsson (aka Goto80) who posts his ongoing research about chip music and 8-bit art, as well as the history of gameconsoles and their soundchips on his blog Chipflip; (including a usefull timeline)
C/P: "Chip music should here be understood as music with 1) sounds generated by soundchips 2) compositions made with computers or consoles (not keyboards, toys, etc)"
I ask Anders advice on which consoles to include / exclude on my timeline. Focus on my project is after all the sounds that these gameconsoles created, not the games. Unfortunately i cannot list all gameconsoles, there are far too many to list, and i have to make a selection.
My focus is therefore first on the period the consoles were produced, second the soundchips and third popularity and easthetics (like the vectrex or arcade). I decided to stop the timeline after the gameboy in 1989. With the coming of the first playstation, gameconsoles basically sound generic and its therefore not really usefull to include it. Im beginning the timeline with the Odyssey, allthough there were more gameconsoles before 1972, the Odessey was the first commercially available gameconsole. I also decide to include the ZX spectrum and Sega Master System to the timeline.

More Soldering

Every button needs wires for both the data and electricity / lamps, im soldering the cables on crimps with diodes inbetween. Paul is very experienced at soldering and shows me how to do it. The first soldering looks disastrous but the more i do it the better it goes. Paul finishes soldering the chips on the circuitboards and test the electricity.


More testing @ Nerdlab. Putting together the buttons and cables with crimps, we need wires for both the electricity / lamps and for the data that will eventually send input and receive output from the arduino.


Painting the cabinet with primer and laque. I figured bleu would be a nice "calming" (!?) colour for kids. Allthough i doubted between that and neonpink ^_^

Drilling & Soldering

Working t the Nerdlab in s-Hertogenbosch. Paul etched the circuitboards. Im drilling holes
in them so we can connect and solder the chips and wireholders on them.
Its a few long days of soldering, cutting wires and more soldering.


First construction of the kabinet, which is 65 cm wide 80cm long and 75 cm high. Also the top has holes in it for the pushbuttons and trackball, the top is deconstructable so that all the parts can be mounted on easilly and can easilly test everything.


Some trouble after i get the news that the hard-to-get 45 pushbuttons ive been eagerly waiting for 6 weeks now from suzo, were transported in a truck that got stolen! ..on Christmasevening! I somewhat paniced but after a gazillion phonecalls and long cardive -to France!- i manage to get new parts. ...Some kid better get 45 illuminated arcade pushbuttons for christmas.

Making the buttons talk

Since the interface will be built in flash and the sequencer will be made from hardware buttons, the challenge lies in connecting these two.
Simply said, the communication for the sequencer part needed is between the pushbuttons,
arduino and flash. Arduino being the controller for the lamps inside the pushbuttons as well
as the on/off signal for the sample in the sequencer.

Paul from the CBK Nerdlab makes a schematic on how to manage the electricity for the lamps and how to send & receive data. He makes two custommade circuitboards that should control the in and outputs for the 40 lamps inside the pushbuttons, and also manage the datasignals that should go to and from the arduino when the buttons are pushed.

First Interface steps

The plan is to create an interface for kids using buttons, knobs and a trackball as large as possible. After a long search on the web i find the parts i need - illuminated pushbuttons and the trackball. For the buttons i need to communicate with an arduino between the software and hardware. Since we are using usb with osx i order a Arduino Duemilanove, aka a USB Aduino. I have no trouble hooking it up to my mac. Adriaan Wormgoor, who is going to be responsible for the programming in flash tests the arduino with flash by making a test with an LED grid, which works ^_^


Before i start this blog im gonnna start with an introduction of the project "Computermusic4kids". It all started with a small project that i got commissioned to do for the Novembermusic Festival in s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands quite a while back. The festival asked me what would be a fun yet educational project to do for children with the focus on sound. I suggested to create an interactive installation introducing children into the history of computergames, and computergamesound.
For this project i selected a few classic gameconsoles and soundsamples and made a gamepadcontrolled interface with a sequencer that kids could use to create small soundtracks. Furtermore i also invited Julian van Aalderen (aka the C-Men) to show his selection of classic gameconsoles produced between 1970 and 1995, and let kids play with them so they get formiliar with the history of the games and gameconsoles they are playing today.

Quite a while after this project i start to think about ways to take the navigation and controller a step further. After some talks with Trond Lossius(soundartist and director at BEK) I designed a plan for a hardware interface that kids can use to controll the interface using a real large sized sequencer, using the sounds from classic gameconsoles.

Which, in the end, should look like this: