Retrofuturistic Hardware: Music, Gaming and Computing

2018 ~ Present | GT Library's retroTECH initiative; Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology


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

  • PCB Layout
  • 3D Printing
  • Real-time DSP
  • GUI Programming
  • Embedded Systems
  • Woodworking
  • Microcontrollers
  • Analog Electronics
  • User Interface Design

Academic Majors of Interest

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • General Management
  • Global Development
  • IT Management
  • Leadership and Organizational Change
  • Marketing
  • Operations and Supply Chain Management
  • Strategy and Innovation
  • Algorithms, Combinatorics and Optimization
  • Analytics
  • Computational Media
  • Computational Science and Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Cybersecurity
  • Human-Centered Computing
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • OMSCS asynchronous
  • OMSCS asynchronous, case-by-case
  • OMSCS synchronous
  • OMSCS synchronous, case-by-case
  • Architectural Technology
  • Architecture
  • Building Construction
  • Building Construction and Facility Management
  • City and Regional Planning
  • Geographic Information Science and Technology
  • Industrial Design
  • Music Technology
  • Urban Design
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Applied Systems Engineering
  • Bioengineering
  • Bioinformatics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Health Systems
  • Industrial Engineering
  • International Logistics
  • Machine Learning
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Medical Physics
  • Robotics
  • Applied Languages and Intercultural Studies
  • Chinese
  • Digital Media
  • Economics
  • Economics and International Affairs
  • French
  • German
  • Global Economics and Modern Languages
  • Global Media and Cultures
  • History, Technology, and Society
  • International Affairs
  • International Affairs and Modern Languages
  • International Affairs, Science, and Technology
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Literature, Media, and Communication
  • Public Policy
  • Spanish
  • Education
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Film and Media Studies
  • Music
  • Pre-Law
  • Applied Physics
  • Applied Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Neuroscience
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • Statistics

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

6:00-6:50 (SP22); 6:30-7:20 (FA22)
Meeting Location 
Van Leer 465 (SP22); VL 483B (FA22)
Meeting Day 

Team Advisors

Dr. Aaron Lanterman
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering

Partner(s) and Sponsor(s)

GT Library's retroTECH initiative; Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology

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