Reed Ghazala, popularly accepted as the Father of Circuit Bending, writes us with his latest creation:

Long coming, here’s a finalized version of my Magnetic Patch Bay on the Fractal Oscillator prototype that I published last spring/winter (2007).

[It’s] a Yamaha PSS-6, circuit-bent, and with my magnetic patch bay added on the rear panel. The idea goes back to when I used magnets to hold a wire in place, bridging the 2 body contacts on my first bent synth (the Odor Box, c. 1967) so I could adjust the other controls (freeing my hands from the contacts). This patch system opens up lots of great alternatives for signal routing and mixing…

Fractal Oscillator with Magnetic Patch Bay [Flickr Set]

The magnetic patch bay in particular is an innovative design; I wonder if it’s a concept that could be developed in areas beyond circuit bending per se. Here’s how Reed describes it:

In this version I’ve captured rare earth mini magnets within steel mesh, the mesh then attached to the wire. Heat-shrink tubing covers this soldered connection point. Obviously, the instrument pads could be magnetized instead, the patch cords then terminated with conductive ferrous caps of appropriate shape instead of magnets.

For circuit-bending, this is a great leap forward in signal routing. While I’ve a utility patent filed and pending on this, don’t let that stop you from experimenting with the technique for your own use. I published it here (and last winter) so people could try it out.

If my theory of The Threshold of Invention holds true, even without my distributing all the pics last winter via internet, I’m guessing others will have originally discovered this by now, too. Heck – might even be patented already in the 1920’s (try a patent search yourself and see what you pay the pros for). All I know for sure is that you’ll like it, it feels great to use, and it’s SO much fun to play with! It should be a standard for single-conductor patching (like in contemporary circuit-bending or vintage voltage-control synthesis).

On a sadder note: Unfortunately, Reed is also the bearer of bad news. Back in October, he warned us that phenomena like Make Magazine aside, the surplus and DIY parts business was in trouble. Since then, it’s gotten worse:

My prior warning call about the weakening status of handyman-surplus orbits has been confirmed and re-confirmed many times since. Mendelson’s is trying to close down (20% off all stock now), Fair Radio (Lima, OH) confirms the problem (lots of surplus – not enough MAKErs). And etc.

Sad news, indeed. Fortunately, more great designs from Reed always lift my spirits.

Reed Ghazala’s flickr Set: From Circuit Bending to Digital Art to Generally Crazy Ideas
Keyboards with Eyeballs, Circuit Bending Info and Book