The personal website of Scott W Harden

Prime Prototype Construction

Now that I've worked-out the software side of the microcontroller-powered prime number generator, it's time to start working on the hardware. I want to make a prototype which is far smaller and simpler than the final version but lets me practice driving lots of LEDs (30). I expect the final version to have around 80. Also, the heart of this project is an ATTiny2313 microcontroller, and for the full version I'd like to use an ATMEega8. I picked up an unfinished wooden box with a magnetic latch from Michaels. It's delicate and tends to chip when you drill it, but moving slowly I'm able to make nice evenly-spaced holes.

This is the circuit concept. The chip is an ATTiny2313, sourced with 5V, where the left pins control the columns (by providing current) and the right pins control the rows (by providing ground). The "holes" at the top of the circuit represent where I hook up my PC and external power for testing purposes.

Thoughts from Future Scott (10 years later, August, 2019)

A+ for enthusiasm and construction but your design is... just no!

Why are you using an external crystal?

The schematic for the crystal is wrong: those capacitors should be to ground not in series!

You made the circuit diagram in InkScape!

You shouldn't drive current directly out of the microcontroller pins.

The majority of the microcontroller CPU cycles will go into managing multiplexing of the display (not calculating primes).

After a little more work I have a functional device and it looks better than I expected. There are a few more features I want to add, and I want to work on the code some more, but I hope to be done tomorrow. The coolest part is that I've included an internal button which drives a pause/resume and speed-controller menu based upon the length of button presses! There's a lot of awesome stuff I want to write, but once again, I'll save it for the completed project page.

I rendered the cover sticker wrong and all the LEDs are mislabled. The first LED should be 2^0 (1), and the second should be 2^1 (2), etc. Also, 2^22 and 2^23 are mislabeled - oops! But the thing really does generate, differentiate, and display [only[ prime numbers. Once again, videos (including demonstration of the menus and the programming options) and source code will be posted soon.

This article's source was last edited on September 10, 2020.
Have something to say about this article? Let me know!
⚠️ Warning: This article is obsolete.
Articles typically receive this designation when the technology they describe is no longer relevant, code provided is later deemed to be of poor quality, or the topics discussed are better presented in future articles. Articles like this are retained for the sake of preservation, but their content should be critically assessed.

Prime Number Generator Prototype

In my quest to build a hardware-based prime number generator I built a rapid prototype to assess how quickly primes can be found with an 8-bit microcontroller. There is a lot of room for improvement, but the code works. Instead of messing with tons of little LEDs, this design displays numbers on an LCD. Interestingly the library to run the LCD takes up about 90% of the memory of the chip leaving only a handful of bytes to write the prime calculation code in!

#define F_CPU 1E6
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <avr/io.h>
#include <math.h>
#include <util/delay.h>
#include "lcd.h"
#include "lcd.c"

const unsigned long int primeMax=pow(2,25);
unsigned long int primeLast=2;
unsigned long int primeTest=0;
unsigned int primeDivy=0;

void wait(void);
void init(void);
void updateDisplay(void);
char *toString(unsigned long int);

int main(void){
    init();
    short maybePrime;
    unsigned int i;
    for(primeTest=2;primeTest<sqrt(primeMax);primeTest++){
        maybePrime=1;
        for (i=2;i<=(sqrt(primeTest)+1);i++){
            primeDivy=i;
            updateDisplay();
            if (primeTest%primeDivy==0){maybePrime=0;break;}
        }
        if (maybePrime==1){primeLast=primeTest;updateDisplay();}
    }
    return 0;
}

void updateDisplay(void){
    lcd_gotoxy(12,0);lcd_puts(toString(primeLast));
    lcd_gotoxy(5,1);lcd_puts(toString(primeTest));
    lcd_gotoxy(16,1);lcd_puts(toString(primeDivy));
    return;
}

void init(void){
    lcd_init(LCD_DISP_ON);
    lcd_puts("PRIME IDENTIFICATIONn");
    _delay_ms(2000);
    lcd_clrscr();
    lcd_puts("LAST PRIME:n");
    lcd_puts("TRY:");
    lcd_gotoxy(14,1);lcd_puts("/");
    return;
}

char *toString(unsigned long int x){
    char s1[8];
    ltoa(x,s1,10);
    return s1;
}
This article's source was last edited on September 10, 2020.
Have something to say about this article? Let me know!
⚠️ Warning: This article is obsolete.
Articles typically receive this designation when the technology they describe is no longer relevant, code provided is later deemed to be of poor quality, or the topics discussed are better presented in future articles. Articles like this are retained for the sake of preservation, but their content should be critically assessed.

A Prime Idea

I'm completely drained of energy. I visited my wife's family in Tennessee last week. I left Thursday and came back Tuesday (yesterday). I drove a total of 2,180 miles. The drive to Humboldt, TN (the destination) and back is only 1,658 miles. That means that I drove over 520 miles over the 3 days while at my destination. That's about 174 miles a day. At 50 MPH average speed that's about 4 hours in the car. So, 13 hour drive (each way) to get there, then 4 hours in the car every day I was there. That's a lot of car time!

While speaking with my brother-in-law (who just got a BS in computer science with a minor in mathematics) I learned that a faculty member at the university challenged him to write a computer program which could find the N'th prime number (up to 10^15) for a graduate school project. I was fascinated by the idea project and the various techniques, and workarounds related to it. After working on the theory behind the software (which I tested in Python) for a few hours, I had the idea to attempt to perform a similar task at the microcontroller level.

Here's the project I want to begin: I want to build a microcontroller-powered prime number generator which displays results in binary. The binary-encoded output is similar to the binary clocks which are nothing new. My project will calculate prime numbers up to 2^25 (33,554,432) and display the results in binary using long strips of 20 LEDs. There will be 3 rows of LEDs. The middle row (red) will simply count from 0 to 2^25. Every time it gets to a new number, the bottom row (blue) counts from 0 to the square root of the middle row. For every number on the bottom row, the remainder (modulus) of the middle/bottom is calculated. If the remainder is 0, the middle (red) number is divisible by the bottom (blue) therefore it is not prime. If the bottom number gets all the way to the square root of the middle number, the middle number is assumed to be prime and it is copied to the top row (green). The top row displays the most recent number determined to be prime.

Technical details of the project further reveal its dual simplicity/complexity nature. I'll add some buttons/switches for extra features. For example, I want to be able to start the program at a number of my choosing rather than forcing it to start at 0. Also, I want to be able to adjust the speed at which it runs (I don't want the blue row to just flicker forever). The ATTiny2313 (my microcontroller of choice because I have a few extra of them) has 18 IO pins. If I get creative with my multiplexing techniques, I can probably run 81 LEDs from 18 pins (9 rows of 9 LEDs). I've specifically chosen against charlieplexing because I will be lighting many LEDs "simultaneously" and I think the degree of flicker would be far too great to satisfy my sensitive eyes, even though I could do it all with only 10 pins.

I've decided to transistorize the entire project to provide a greater and more constant current to the LEDs. I'll use a set of 9 transistors to set the row that gets power (when the microcontroller powers the base, the row gets power) and another set of 9 transistors to set the LEDs in each row that light up (when the microcontroller powers the base, the LED gets grounded and lights up). To have consistently-bright, non-flickering LEDs which don't dim as more LEDs illuminate, I will add a resistor to every LED. Maybe I can get creative and utilize 10-pin resistor networks (one for each row) immediately after the row-selecting transistor! That will save me so much time. (I just came up with that idea - just now!) Anyway, that's my project idea.

I'd love to make this project look nice. All of my other projects were housed in junky plastic or cardboard boxes (if they were housed at all!) and this is something I want to keep. I start dental school soon, and I've love to have a fancy-looking piece of artsy/geeky/electrical memorabilia so I'll never forget who I am, my roots, and my true interests. Plus, it will give me something groovy to stare at when I come home after a long day cleaning the teeth of manikins and wondering why I went to dental school [sigh].

Update (nextday): I've been toying over some various layouts for the LEDs. I most like the rectangle and hex-rectangle configurations, and am already working on assembly of the "mini" (prototype). Here are some random images of my thinking process.

This article's source was last edited on September 10, 2020.
Have something to say about this article? Let me know!
⚠️ Warning: This article is obsolete.
Articles typically receive this designation when the technology they describe is no longer relevant, code provided is later deemed to be of poor quality, or the topics discussed are better presented in future articles. Articles like this are retained for the sake of preservation, but their content should be critically assessed.

Graphing Computer Usage

I enjoy writing Python scripts to analyze and display linear data. One of my favorite blog entries is Linear Data Smoothing with Python, developed for my homemade electrocardiogram project. I installed a program called TimeTrack.exe on my work computer. It basically logs whenever you open or close a program. The data output looks like this:

"Firefox","Prototype of a Digital Biopsy Device - Mozilla Firefox","05/19/2009  9:45a","05/19/2009  9:45a","766ms","0.0"
"Firefox","Dual-Channel Mobile Surface Electromyograph - Mozilla Firefox","05/19/2009  9:46a","05/19/2009  9:46a","797ms","0.0"
"Windows Explorer","","03/24/2008  9:30a","05/19/2009  9:48a","49d 6h 9m","20.7"
"Windows Explorer","09_04_07_RA_SA_AV","05/19/2009  8:48a","05/19/2009  8:48a","1.0s","0.0"
"Windows Explorer","Image003.jpg - Windows Picture and Fax Viewer","05/18/2009  4:03p","05/18/2009  4:03p","1.2s","0.0"

I have a 13 MB file containing lines like this which I parse, condense, analyze, and display with Python. The script finds the first and last entry time and creates a dictionary where keys are the hours between the 1st and last log lines, parses the log, determines which time block each entry belongs to, and increments the integer (value of the dictionary) for its respective key. Something similar is repeated, but with respect to days rather than hours. The result is:

The code I used to generate this graph is:

# This script analyzes data exported from "TimeTrack" (a free computer usage
# monitoring program for windows) and graphs the data visually.

import time, pylab, datetime, numpy

# This is my computer usage data.  Generate yours however you want.
allHours = ['2008_10_29 0', '2009_03_11 5', '2009_04_09 5', '2008_07_04 10',
'2008_12_18 9', '2009_01_30 12', '2008_09_04 7', '2008_05_17 1',
'2008_05_11 5', '2008_11_03 3', '2008_05_21 3', '2009_02_19 11',
'2008_08_15 13', '2008_04_02 4', '2008_07_16 5', '2008_09_16 8',
'2008_04_10 5', '2009_05_10 1', '2008_12_30 4', '2008_06_07 2',
'2008_11_23 0', '2008_08_03 0', '2008_04_30 4', '2008_07_28 9',
'2008_05_19 0', '2009_03_30 7', '2008_06_19 3', '2009_01_24 3',
'2008_08_23 6', '2008_12_01 0', '2009_02_23 6', '2008_11_27 0',
'2008_05_02 5', '2008_10_20 13', '2008_03_27 5', '2009_04_02 9',
'2009_02_21 0', '2008_09_13 1', '2008_12_13 0', '2009_04_14 11',
'2009_01_31 7', '2008_11_04 10', '2008_07_09 6', '2008_10_24 10',
'2009_02_22 0', '2008_09_25 12', '2008_12_25 0', '2008_05_26 4',
'2009_05_01 10', '2009_04_26 11', '2008_08_10 8', '2008_11_08 6',
'2008_07_21 12', '2009_04_21 3', '2009_05_13 8', '2009_02_02 8',
'2008_10_07 2', '2008_06_10 6', '2008_09_21 0', '2009_03_17 9',
'2008_08_30 7', '2008_11_28 4', '2009_02_14 0', '2009_01_22 6',
'2008_10_11 0', '2008_06_22 8', '2008_12_04 0', '2008_03_28 0',
'2009_04_07 2', '2008_09_10 0', '2008_05_15 5', '2008_08_18 12',
'2008_10_31 5', '2009_03_09 7', '2009_02_25 8', '2008_07_02 4',
'2008_12_16 7', '2008_09_06 2', '2009_01_26 5', '2009_04_19 0',
'2008_07_14 13', '2008_11_01 5', '2009_01_18 0', '2009_05_04 0',
'2008_08_13 10', '2009_02_27 3', '2009_01_16 12', '2008_09_18 8',
'2009_02_03 7', '2008_06_01 0', '2008_12_28 0', '2008_07_26 0',
'2008_11_21 1', '2008_08_01 8', '2008_04_28 3', '2009_05_16 0',
'2008_06_13 5', '2008_10_02 11', '2009_03_28 6', '2008_08_21 7',
'2009_01_13 6', '2008_11_25 4', '2008_06_25 1', '2008_10_22 11',
'2008_03_25 6', '2009_02_07 6', '2008_12_11 4', '2009_01_01 4',
'2008_09_15 2', '2009_02_05 12', '2008_07_07 9', '2009_04_12 0',
'2008_04_11 5', '2008_10_26 4', '2008_05_28 3', '2008_09_27 14',
'2009_05_03 0', '2008_12_23 5', '2009_05_12 10', '2008_11_14 3',
'2008_07_19 0', '2009_04_24 8', '2008_04_07 1', '2008_08_08 11',
'2008_06_04 0', '2009_05_15 12', '2009_03_23 13', '2009_02_01 10',
'2008_09_23 11', '2009_02_08 3', '2008_08_28 4', '2008_11_18 9',
'2008_07_31 7', '2008_10_13 0', '2008_06_16 9', '2009_03_27 6',
'2008_12_02 0', '2008_05_01 7', '2009_04_05 1', '2008_08_16 9',
'2009_03_15 0', '2008_04_16 6', '2008_10_17 4', '2008_06_28 5',
'2009_01_28 10', '2008_04_18 0', '2008_12_14 0', '2008_11_07 6',
'2009_04_17 7', '2008_04_14 7', '2008_07_12 0', '2009_01_15 7',
'2009_05_06 8', '2008_12_26 0', '2008_06_03 7', '2008_09_28 0',
'2008_05_25 4', '2008_08_07 8', '2008_04_26 7', '2008_07_24 1',
'2008_04_20 0', '2008_11_11 4', '2009_04_29 0', '2008_10_04 0',
'2009_05_18 9', '2009_03_18 4', '2008_06_15 8', '2009_02_13 6',
'2008_05_04 5', '2009_03_04 2', '2009_03_06 3', '2008_05_06 0',
'2008_08_27 11', '2008_04_22 0', '2009_03_26 6', '2008_03_31 9',
'2008_06_27 5', '2008_10_08 4', '2008_09_09 4', '2008_12_09 3',
'2008_05_10 0', '2008_05_14 5', '2009_04_10 0', '2009_01_11 0',
'2008_07_05 8', '2009_01_05 7', '2008_10_28 0', '2009_02_18 11',
'2009_03_10 7', '2008_05_30 3', '2008_09_05 7', '2008_12_21 6',
'2009_03_02 6', '2008_08_14 5', '2008_11_12 5', '2008_07_17 8',
'2008_04_05 6', '2009_04_22 11', '2009_05_09 0', '2008_06_06 0',
'2009_01_03 0', '2008_09_17 6', '2009_03_21 3', '2009_02_10 7',
'2008_05_08 4', '2008_08_02 0', '2008_11_16 0', '2008_07_29 12',
'2008_10_15 5', '2008_06_18 5', '2009_03_25 2', '2009_01_10 0',
'2009_04_03 5', '2008_08_22 7', '2009_03_13 11', '2008_10_19 0',
'2008_06_30 8', '2008_09_02 9', '2008_05_23 4', '2008_12_12 7',
'2008_07_10 11', '2008_11_05 8', '2008_04_12 4', '2009_04_15 7',
'2008_12_24 1', '2008_09_30 0', '2008_05_27 2', '2008_08_05 10',
'2008_04_24 6', '2009_04_27 6', '2008_07_22 3', '2008_11_09 1',
'2008_06_09 6', '2008_10_06 14', '2009_03_16 7', '2008_05_22 5',
'2009_01_29 12', '2008_11_29 4', '2008_04_09 7', '2008_08_25 12',
'2009_02_15 0', '2008_03_29 7', '2008_06_21 7', '2008_10_10 9',
'2008_05_12 6', '2009_02_16 10', '2008_09_11 11', '2008_12_07 0',
'2008_07_03 6', '2009_04_08 3', '2009_01_23 7', '2009_01_27 5',
'2008_10_30 0', '2009_03_08 0', '2009_01_21 8', '2008_12_19 0',
'2008_05_16 2', '2009_01_25 1', '2009_02_26 5', '2008_09_07 2',
'2008_04_03 1', '2008_08_12 6', '2008_04_13 10', '2008_11_02 0',
'2008_07_15 0', '2009_04_20 3', '2009_02_24 10', '2009_05_11 8',
'2008_12_31 8', '2008_04_15 7', '2008_09_19 10', '2009_01_19 0',
'2008_11_22 3', '2008_07_27 2', '2009_02_04 7', '2009_03_31 1',
'2008_05_24 3', '2008_10_01 8', '2008_06_12 6', '2009_01_12 11',
'2008_11_26 8', '2009_04_01 10', '2009_02_28 0', '2008_08_20 6',
'2008_10_21 10', '2008_06_24 4', '2008_03_26 4', '2008_12_10 0',
'2008_09_12 0', '2008_05_09 7', '2009_02_17 7', '2008_07_08 6',
'2008_10_25 5', '2009_04_13 9', '2009_05_02 0', '2008_12_22 8',
'2008_09_24 9', '2009_01_20 5', '2008_11_15 6', '2009_04_25 10',
'2008_08_11 9', '2008_04_06 8', '2008_07_20 1', '2009_03_22 3',
'2008_06_11 6', '2008_09_20 3', '2009_05_14 10', '2008_11_19 0',
'2008_08_31 2', '2009_02_09 8', '2008_10_12 0', '2008_04_25 5',
'2008_06_23 4', '2009_01_07 8', '2008_08_19 0', '2008_12_05 2',
'2008_07_01 8', '2008_10_16 6', '2009_04_06 3', '2009_03_14 5',
'2008_09_01 2', '2008_12_17 14', '2008_05_18 7', '2008_04_01 2',
'2009_04_18 0', '2008_04_17 0', '2008_07_13 0', '2008_06_02 10',
'2008_09_29 6', '2008_12_29 0', '2009_05_05 8', '2008_04_19 0',
'2009_04_30 8', '2008_08_06 4', '2008_11_20 0', '2008_07_25 6',
'2009_02_06 6', '2009_03_29 3', '2009_05_17 0', '2009_03_19 7',
'2008_10_03 1', '2008_06_14 3', '2008_05_07 5', '2008_08_26 3',
'2008_11_24 9', '2008_04_21 8', '2008_04_23 4', '2008_10_23 11',
'2008_06_26 4', '2008_03_24 8', '2008_12_08 5', '2008_09_14 2',
'2009_01_02 6', '2008_04_08 0', '2008_10_27 6', '2009_04_11 0',
'2008_07_06 0', '2008_12_20 3', '2009_04_23 6', '2008_09_26 9',
'2008_05_31 0', '2008_07_18 4', '2008_11_13 6', '2008_08_09 2',
'2008_04_04 0', '2009_03_20 5', '2008_09_22 7', '2009_05_08 9',
'2008_06_05 7', '2008_07_30 7', '2008_11_17 10', '2008_05_03 0',
'2008_08_29 3', '2009_02_11 12', '2009_01_08 8', '2008_06_17 0',
'2008_10_14 7', '2009_03_24 11', '2008_08_17 6', '2008_12_03 0',
'2009_01_09 4', '2008_05_29 5', '2008_06_29 9', '2008_10_18 5',
'2009_04_04 0', '2008_12_15 10', '2009_03_12 0', '2009_03_05 7',
'2008_05_20 4', '2008_09_03 7', '2009_03_07 8', '2009_01_14 6',
'2008_05_05 5', '2008_11_06 7', '2008_07_11 6', '2009_04_16 9',
'2009_02_20 0', '2008_12_27 0', '2009_01_17 0', '2009_05_07 7',
'2008_11_10 5', '2008_07_23 11', '2009_04_28 0', '2008_04_27 2',
'2008_08_04 0', '2009_03_01 11', '2008_10_05 0', '2008_06_08 8',
'2009_05_19 5', '2008_04_29 4', '2008_11_30 0', '2009_01_06 8',
'2009_02_12 3', '2008_08_24 2', '2009_03_03 10', '2008_10_09 6',
'2008_06_20 2', '2008_05_13 10', '2008_12_06 0', '2008_03_30 7']

def genTimes():
    ## opens  exported timetrack data (CSV) and re-saves a compressed version.
    print "ANALYZING..."
    f=open('timetrack.txt')
    raw=f.readlines()
    f.close()
    times=["05/15/2009 12:00am"] #start time
    for line in raw[1:]:
        if not line.count('","') == 5: continue
        test = line.strip("n")[1:-1].split('","')[-3].replace("  "," ")+"m"
        test = test.replace(" 0:"," 12:")
        times.append(test) #end time
        test = line.strip("n")[1:-1].split('","')[-4].replace("  "," ")+"m"
        test = test.replace(" 0:"," 12:")
        times.append(test) #start time

    times.sort()
    print "WRITING..."
    f=open('times.txt','w')
    f.write(str(times))
    f.close()

def loadTimes():
    ## loads the times from the compressed file.
    f=open("times.txt")
    times = eval(f.read())
    newtimes=[]
    f.close()
    for i in range(len(times)):
        if "s" in times[i]: print times[i]
        newtimes.append(datetime.datetime(*time.strptime(times[i],
                                        "%m/%d/%Y %I:%M%p")[0:5]))
        #if i&gt;1000: break #for debugging
    newtimes.sort()
    return newtimes

def linearize(times):
    ## does all the big math to calculate hours per day.
    for i in range(len(times)):
        times[i]=times[i]-datetime.timedelta(minutes=times[i].minute,
                                             seconds=times[i].second)
    hr = datetime.timedelta(hours=1)
    pos = times[0]-hr
    counts = {}
    days = {}
    lasthr=pos
    lastday=None
    while pos1:counts[pos]=1 #flatten
        if not daypos in days: days[daypos]=0
        if not lasthr == pos:
            if counts[pos]&gt;0:
                days[daypos]=days[daypos]+1
                lasthr=pos
        pos+=hr
    return days #[counts,days]

def genHours(days):
    ## outputs the hours per day as a file.
    out=""
    for day in days:
        print day
        out+="%s %in"%(day.strftime("%Y_%m_%d"),days[day])
    f=open('hours.txt','w')
    f.write(out)
    f.close()
    return

def smoothListGaussian(list,degree=7):
    ## (from an article I wrote) - Google "linear data smoothing with python".
    firstlen=len(list)
    window=degree*2-1
    weight=numpy.array([1.0]*window)
    weightGauss=[]
    for i in range(window):
     i=i-degree+1
     frac=i/float(window)
     gauss=1/(numpy.exp((4*(frac))**2))
     weightGauss.append(gauss)
    weight=numpy.array(weightGauss)*weight
    smoothed=[0.0]*(len(list)-window)
    for i in range(len(smoothed)):
     smoothed[i]=sum(numpy.array(list[i:i+window])*weight)/sum(weight)
    pad_before = [smoothed[0]]*((firstlen-len(smoothed))/2)
    pad_after  = [smoothed[-1]]*((firstlen-len(smoothed))/2+1)
    return pad_before+smoothed+pad_after

### IF YOU USE MY DATA, YOU ONLY USE THE FOLLOWING CODE ###

def graphIt():
    ## Graph the data!
    #f=open('hours.txt')
    #data=f.readlines()
    data=allHours
    data.sort()
    f.close()
    days,hours=[],[]
    for i in range(len(data)):
        day = data[i].split(" ")
        if int(day[1])&lt;4: continue
        days.append(datetime.datetime.strptime(day[0], "%Y_%m_%d"))
        hours.append(int(day[1]))
    fig=pylab.figure(figsize=(14,5))
    pylab.plot(days,smoothListGaussian(hours,1),'.',color='.5',label="single day")
    pylab.plot(days,smoothListGaussian(hours,1),'-',color='.8')
    pylab.plot(days,smoothListGaussian(hours,7),color='b',label="7-day gausian average")
    pylab.axhline(8,color='k',ls=":")
    pylab.title("Computer Usage at Work")
    pylab.ylabel("hours (rounded)")
    pylab.legend()
    pylab.show()
    return

#times = genTimes()
#genHours(linearize(loadTimes()))
graphIt()
This article's source was last edited on September 10, 2020.
Have something to say about this article? Let me know!

Audio and Video on an ATMega88 Microcontroller!

At least 99% of my blog entries contain original content I created. However, I was so impressed by something I stumbled upon tonight that I absolutely cannot resist sharing it. It's a project which aims to output audio and video simultaneously from a single microcontroller. The author's site has all the details, but if you watch the video below you'll be amazed. (Just get through the 30 second narration at the beginning) Apparently the guy rendered video in horizontal lines from the software and outputted audio signals between horizontal lines! Amazing!

On second thought, this was no big deal in the 80's, so why am I so impressed by it now? The 8-bit microcontrollers this guy is programming is likely on par with the PCs of the 80's. I guess that in the 70's this would have been amazing because it was cutting edge. In the 80's this would have been boring because it was commonplace. In the 2000's, this is amazing because no one in my generation is old enough to remember how amazing this was in the 70's and 80's!

After researching some similar projects I realized I'm becoming fascinated with chiptune synthesizing code, hardware, and music. It's basically a type of code to tell a synthesizer how to synthesize the music, rather than having it play pre-recorded music. It's like a merge of a programming language and MIDI. For non-technical people, it's like giving a microchip the sheet music for all the different instruments of an orchestra and having the microchip play everything from the sheet music, rather than giving it a CD to play. Here's some video of a PC-based front-end to the audio creation process. Notice how each line represents a time, and how certain codes in certain channels represent notes (hence the MIDI aspect). Numbers on the far right represent the location of the memory, and notice also how it goes back and forth, replaying certain areas when necessary (to safe space, hence the coding aspect).

I can't describe my emotional state right now. It's like I have an extreme nostalgia for an era I never even lived in. This chip level audio synthesis stuff sounds amazingly fun to me. (I've already bookmarked nolife-radio.com and 8bitFM.com) I feel drawn toward it... but I'm scared to get sucked in. I wish I were a college student in the 80's studying electrical engineering. Here I am, having just gotten a master's in molecular biology and microbiology, and I feel like I wasted six years of my life in the process. I'm about to start dental school in August. Hopefully when I look back from the future I won't feel like I wasted another four years doing that.

Either way, I have an endless supply of possible projects to do this summer (not even going into the small list of projects I'm trying/expected to complete in the cardioneurophysiology lab I work in). I feel like I'm running out of time. I start dental school in August, and I dread the date. Not necessarily because I expect it to be difficult, but because I feel [however illogical, irrational, or ridiculous] that I'm actually doing something significant, working with my hands and working with my brain to do things that [almost] no one has done before, and doing things in a way that no one has ever thought of doing them. I feel like when I start resume classes, it's another four years of people telling me how I should do things so I can be exactly like everyone else. How can you exercise creativity as a dental student? I'm sure there are ways, but it's certainly leagues away from the projects engineering college students work on. As far as the career goes, if you're an engineer the best case scenario is that you do something no one has ever done before. If you're a dentist, the best case scenario is to do things exactly as everyone else does them. Maybe I'll go crazy and change the wallpaper in my office every few months.

This article's source was last edited on September 12, 2020.
Have something to say about this article? Let me know!
page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6, page 7, page 8, page 9, page 10, page 11, page 12, page 13, page 14, page 15, page 16, page 17, page 18, page 19, page 20, page 21, page 22, page 23, page 24, page 25, page 26, page 27, page 28, page 29, page 30, page 31, page 32, page 33, page 34, page 35, page 36, page 37, page 38, page 39, page 40, page 41, page 42, page 43, page 44, page 45, page 46, page 47, page 48, page 49, page 50
All Blog Posts