Modern electronic devices are powerful but uninspiring; they are ubiquitous but ephemeral. We will design and fabricate devices for music production, gaming, and computing sparked by real-world designs from the past as well as fictional formulations of imagined futures. The black-and-white, utilitarian minimalism of modern laptops and cell phones that blight the aisles of Best Buy with boredom will be abandoned in favor of steampunk, dieselpunk, raygun gothic, and other retrofuturistic aesthetics, such as the atompunk of Fallout, the art deco of Bioshock, and the 80s nostalgia of Stranger Things.
Issues Involved or Addressed
Reverse engineering devices for which existing documentation is sparse with an eye towards resurrecting those designs with modern parts and/or emulating them via software with skeumorphic interfaces. Interfacing vintage computers and synthesizers with modern hardware, including archiving data stored in unusual formats. Creating custom controllers for unique video games that do not map well to more common controllers so that these may be authentically played via emulation. Developing arcade-style cabinets that allow modern audiences to experience early computer games in a convenient fashion amenable to modern usability expectations. Designing novel electromechanical games with integral tangible elements that cannot be effectively experienced on conventional portable or desktop computing devices.
Methods and Technologies
Academic Majors of Interest
Preferred Interests and Preparation
All majors: Broad interest in using, analyzing, repairing, preserving, and enhancing vintage computers, arcade games (standup, console, and handheld), radios, synthesizers, and/or recording equipment. Broad interest in imagining and realizing new cultural artifacts inspired by such vintage devices.
Electrical and Computer Engineering: Reverse engineering old electronics; creating new electronics emulating or inspired by old electronics; developing interfaces between vintage hardware and modern hardware. Experience with analog electronics, DSP, and/or embedded computer systems is ideal.
Computer Science, Computational Media: Writing software emulations of vintage or vintage-inspired devices with GUI interfaces that resemble such devices; crafting modern programming tools for old synthesizers and computers.
Mechanical Engineering/Industrial Design: Fabricating tangible interfaces and packaging motivated by retrofuturistic aesthetics.
Meeting Schedule & Location
- Electrical and Computer Engineering