It’s an edge-of-your-seat race against the 555.

Our friend Darsha Hewitt went up in front of one of the world’s nerdiest crowds: the Chaos Computer Club’s Chaos Communication Congress gathering in Germany. Whereas some people guzzle bubbly and lean in for kisses and watch balls drop at the turn of a new year, the legendary geekfest involves a marathon of hard-core hacking and discussion, political and provocative.

And Darsha didn’t make it easy for herself. She set out to build twenty analog oscillator circuits in just twenty minutes. Maybe that’s not so hard if no one’s watching, but try doing it under watchful eyes, narrating all the time.

Now, before someone makes the usual “CDM is just about fart noises” complaint, you’re missing the point. Any oscillator on its own won’t sound like much. It’s like tasting the salt from a soup and declaring it’s no good… it’s just one ingredient. So the exercise here is more about calisthenics for electronics than it is about producing a musical instrument. In fact, that got me thinking – I’d love to hear some discussion about what other time-challenge circuitry you might try. (Some might indeed produce something musical.)

But that isn’t to say this isn’t fun to watch. With square waves clicking away, it all gets reasonably exciting.

20 OSCILLATORS IN 20 MINUTES is an experimental music performance/technical challenge/standup comedy act where I attempt to build twenty sound generating square wave oscillators in twenty minutes. This involves fabricating small electronic circuits with wires, chips, small components and nine-volt batteries under the pressure of limited time and expectation. This is a test of my technical abilities and an experiment in working with live troubleshooting as a method of musical improvisation.

And Darsha is funny to watch. I won’t repeat hackaday’s nice color commentary – as they rave, there’s “implausible stand-up comedy.”

You’ll be hearing more from Darsha soon. Among other things, she and I are co-hosting a Hacklab in Belgium next month. (We’re pouring through your applications now.) It’s a tragedy that I’m actually not a very good electronics nerd. But I play one on TV. And I’m honored to get to host with her.

More of this, please.

https://media.ccc.de/v/32c3-7549-20_oscillators_in_20_minutes

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  • Robert Marsanyi

    Thanks for this. Reminded me of a piece/performance I did in the early 90’s trying to drive self-modifying DSP code on the fly, which in the first few performances fried the hardware generating illegal instructions (thanks, Motorola!)

    http://ifmbanm.com/blog/?p=256