Palimpsest Series #2

For the second Palimpsest series I scanned a new typewriter roller that contained highly legible text. By legible I mean the letter forms are easier to see (although the text content seems to be totally random). This sits in contrast to Series #1, where the nearly invisible letter forms contain recognizable words and phrases.

OpenKnit build underway

Dieter Kirkwood and I are building an OpenKnit this summer with financial support from Columbia College Chicago.  OpenKnit is an awesome open-source project with a really generous instigator, so we’ve been emailing back and forth with project leader Gerard in Madrid to get things off the ground.  We’ll be converting the BOM for Americans, making design improvements, and having a good time.  All the data we generate will be redistributed online.

Fun fact!  Gerard initially got a takedown notice for the video above because his project documentation included visible commercial logos.  He contested and the video was restored.  Fight the power!

SHKB v3 tech notes

Older versions of SHKB were dependent on a hacked keyboard logic circuit.  For this rebuild I moved to an Arduino Leonardo.  Programming behaviors from scratch gave me much more control.  What’s more, the Leonardo is automatically identified by the computer as a keyboard, and there are plenty of related libraries to get you started.  With this build I also moved to actual heavy duty switches as opposed to embedding strips of copper in my silicone casts.  We’ll see how long they last…

SHKB v3

The third major rebuild of SHKB is based on the ITU E.161 international keypad standard.  This allowed me to shrink the overall size of the device while still maintaining its monolithic aspect.  In addition to A-Z, v3 can make a space, and exclamation point and a smiley.

P.B.D.B. tech notes

The P.B.D.B. figurine is a solid aluminum cast that I had laying around from my foundry days.  I used it as a capacitive sensor so that I wouldn’t have to mount a big ugly button on the belly.  The sounds come from an Adafruit WAV shield, and the water is moved via windshield washer pump.  I was amazed by how much current those things draw – I had to put a 5A power supply in the box to get it running.

Palimpsest

Palimpsest, 2013
Digital prints
Dimensions variable

Our generation is characterized by a growing, worldwide paranoia about the security of our personal data. Indeed, governments and corporations are already using technology to examine and predict our behavior. We can debate the legality such intrusions, but the fact that we each leave a trail of information in our wake cannot be argued or avoided. Though digital technology makes such tracking faster and more accurate, older technologies have been revealing our data to prying eyes for thousands of years.

The original term “palimpsest” refers to ancient documents that contain multiple texts. Due to the scarcity of Medieval writing surfaces, a parchment might be washed and reused many times. In some cases, the erased text is still legible and of greater interest than the more recent writing.

Palimpsest is a robotic device that scans old typewriter rollers for accidental text. It works like a printer in reverse; when connected to a computer via USB, Palimpsest inputs, rather than outputs, formerly hidden words and phrases. The first roller in the Palimpsest series was found in a dumpster, and contains phrases like “EACH DEPARTMENT”, “OFFICE SKILLS” and “PLASTIC BACK BONES”. No individual is revealed through the investigation of the roller. Instead, Palimpsest collects and displays information about the former relationship between a group of people and a piece of now obsolete technology.

This project is partially supported by an Individual Artists Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events and Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.