Thursday, 19 June 2014

Walkabout on the beach

I was fortunate to spend last week on the beach at Aldeburgh, Suffolk. I took my FT817 and Walkabout II Antenna, hoping to work some /p.

Well - I have to report a pretty poor show - I logged only one contact (with Richard, g0iln, in Bexhill, who also was running an FT817, but into a "real" antenna). I was only trying to work G stations - mainly FISTS calls. Perhaps I would have done better to turn my attention to the continent, where I've had better luck with the same portable equipment before.

Nil desperandum  -  band conditions were the least of my problems...

Packing away one day I accidentally bent the telescopic section of the antenna, which promptly snapped...


I thought that would put an end to the week's activities on 40m (the Walkabout II needs the full length of the telescopic section to tune up on 40 metres) but the good folks at MCT Electrical on the High Street kitted me up with an off-cut of garden wire which I could stuff inside the broken antenna and I was back on air.


All their kind efforts were in vain for, try as I might, I could not raise a further contact. I reverted to a different interpretation of "Walkabout", which turned out to be infinitely more fruitful...

Aldeburgh's beach is graced by two conspicuous "Lookout" buildings, once operated by two rival companies (known, as I discovered in the interesting little museum in the Moot Hall, as the "Up-Towners" and the "Down-Towners").

The Southern Lookout is now owned by Caroline Wiseman...


This ecclesiform curio, with its west tower and its east opening to the dawn, lives up to its billing of a "tiny temple of inspiration for artists, poets, writers, performers and thinkers".

It drew me in when I wandered by, because it was playing host last week to a collaboration entitled "The Awe of the Other"...



The collaboration was between Pauline and Matthew Bickerton and Thomas Garnon. Most of their work soars high above the scope of this mundane blog. But Matthew's practice embraces some technologies of real interest and significance to us...

The "Otherness" implied in the "Awe of the Other" title refers (in part) to impromptu conversations between members of the public who choose to sit on two larger-than-life chairs placed some 100 metres apart on the beach, facing the horizon (seen in the images above). Snippets of these conversations have been recorded and assembled into a work which was exhibited on Saturday, 14th June, in the Lookout. Part of this "performance" was delivered through a modified radio.

Matthew took an old domestic radio and fitted a custom media player, which he built around an Arduino-compatible system. The host radio and the new internal media player is seen here...


The tuning mechanism (which originally drove a ganged variable capacitor) has been retained but modified to drive a potentiometer and so generate a voltage, which is sampled to allow the user to select 1-of-n saved sound files (rather than to tune the radio to a station). 

Matthew's custom media player is seen in close-up here...


It uses a Teensy 3.1 (which itself has a ARM processor - similar to that on the Arduino DUE), sitting atop a Teensy Sound Card (which hosts a MicroSD Card for Mass Storage - just visible in the photo) and a digital power amplifier, seen on the blue evaluation board to the left of the photo.

It turns out that Matthew is no stranger to bringing bespoke technology and art together in exciting new ways, as is exemplified in the Guerilla Dance Project.

 Great to see people making beaches MORE beautiful for a change!

 ...-.- de m0xpd

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