Tiree Tech Wave Primer

On Wednesday next week I will be departing from Cardiff on a minibus full of creative and nerdy people on a mission to the island of Tiree, to attend the March 2017 Tiree Tech Wave event. There is no real agenda other than to create a micro industrial tech complex for a week, and to see where that leads.

I know little about the event, and I have never been to Scotland! But some of the peoples I am travelling with have past experience from previous Tech Waves, and so far I have gathered that the main event takes place in a cattle shed and the entire islands internet connection runs down a single orange coloured cable. The group I am travelling with are all students or staff at Cardiff Metropolitan University, and the University has kindly sponsored our trip.

I hope to get involved in as much as possible, but I am heading to Tiree with a project plan in mind. The project is something I have wanted to do for a while and in some respects it is something I have already been working on, a hardware sequencer for music making. I could write plenty about the ideas and work I have done to date, but I will try and work that into blog posts over the next week. Here is a run down of my plan:

I recently picked up an Arduino Due which is a supercharged Arduino built around the SAM3X8E. The Due is very interesting because it is very fast compared to a standard ATmega328 based Arduino, it has more IO pins of every type, the Analog and PWM pins are capable of sampling at 12bits of resolution (that is 4x more resolution than an Uno) and the board also has built in DACs which can generate a waveform with 12bits of resolution. These features are all great for the project I have in mind.

The basic idea is to create a 2 channel multi function sequencer around the Due core. For Tiree I am focussing on having a MIDI output from the Due which I am going to use to control a miniature synth, but I would later like to add in analogue sequencing as well (I don’t want to take this on at Tiree as it will involve some degree of voltage scaling, which isn’t complicated but will probably require obscure resistor values and a more complicated power supply). The different modes are not totally defined just yet, but I would like a nice mixture of traditional and esoteric ways of generating musical notes. Over the last week I have been doing a little preparation with the hardware for the project, as I’m not sure what tools will be available (as it turns out, the group I am going with are taking some pretty extensive fabrication hardware). I laser cut the front panel at Fab Lab Cardiff, and put it together at home. The panel layout is fairly traditional, it will work well as an 8-step sequencer, but that’s boring so the challenge is to find interesting ways to rethink this traditional setup:

Truth Serum - 1

Truth Serum - 2

Truth Serum - 3

It is so damn impossible to work with acrylic and not get finger prints all over it! The panel hardware is made up by 8 potentiometers, 2 encoders (left), 4 buttons, 16 3mm yellow LEDs, 2 5mm RGB leds and 8 switches to play with. Two buttons are designated as “mode” buttons to change the function of other controls, and the main sequence algorithm. As you can see I built a little jig for the 3mm LEDs which will make wiring a little less painful. I also have a MIDI DIN socket and power jack to tack on to the plastic body somewhere.

This post is getting long so I am going to bring it to an end now and say that I will be posting daily blogs of what’s going on at Tiree Tech Wave, and I would like to write about this project in plenty of detail within that. If you read this far I guess you are interested so please, watch this space! 🙂

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