Thingamakit

Bangsplat hearts Bleep Labs.

http://bleeplabs.com

I found out about them in early 2008, when they were selling a cute anthropomorphic synthesizer called the Thingamagoop. I bought one right away, and it is extremely cool.

Shortly afterwards, they released the Thingamakit, a kit synth that is like a super-powered Thingamagoop – two LEDacles, plus more switches and knobs. I bought one right away, excited to build it, but I wasn’t excited about the stomp box enclosure they offered.

So, for the last 18 months, I have been looking for the perfect enclosure for my synth. I found it last weekend.

I accompanied the missus to “Three Apples” – a 35th anniversary Hello Kitty exhibition at a gallery in Culver City.

When I saw the Hello Kitty I Heart Nerds lunchbox in the gift shop, I immediately knew it was my Thingamakit.

I built most of the Thingamakit circuit board last night. The kit was missing two capacitors, unfortunately. They don’t make the kit any longer, and it’s been a year and a half, so I can’t really ask Bleep Labs to replace them. After a trip to Fry’s today, I finished up the circuit board. And it works!

Tomorrow, I’ll drill the holes in the lunchbox and install everything. The photocells will go where her eyes are. The LEDacles will come out of the top. The controls will be on one side, and the volume control and output jack on the other. The beauty of using a lunchbox is that it opens up for easy access to the battery and wiring.

***

Last Christmas, Bleep Labs and Loud Objects partnered to bring us the Bit Blob. They only had 30 for sale, but suggested that there might be another edition. That edition never happened, and I was lucky to get number 15.

The Bit Blob was a beaker with a glowing blob inside. The top is a circuit board with a sound chip of some sort and tall screws sticking out. The screws are connected to points on the circuit that are useful for circuit bending. It comes with a series of alligator clips, LEDs and photocells to connect to the screws. By connecting LEDs to the screws the Bit Blob can interact with a Thingamagoop.

This Christmas, Bleep Lab’s gift is the Thingamagoop 2. They’ve announced that only 200 will be available. It is also the reason that they no longer sell the Thingamagoop or Thingamakit.

The Thingamagoop 2 looks pretty awesome. It’s got the controls of the Thingamakit (though there is only one LEDacle). But the best part is that the Thingamagoop 2 is based on a programmable microcontroller. Which means that you can re-program it to do whatever you want. Very much like the Loud Objects Noise Toy.

Microcontrollers such as the AVR and Arduino have been embraced by the DIY Maker communities as the basis for electronic and robotic projects, such as the Makerbot.

I’ve been reading about these microprocessors for some time now, and have wanted to learn how to use them. But I could never come up with an application for it that was interesting. Normally, microcontrollers are used to control physical objects, like motors and switches. It never occurred to me that they could be used to generate sounds. I’m now thinking of lots of things to do.

I’ve ordered a programmer for the Loud Object Noise Toy. The Thingamagoop 2 is going to ship in a couple weeks. So I need to get my Hello Kitty Thingamakit synth working first so I can start learning to program the microcontrollers on my new toys.

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