~e; on learning basic electronics

From human being <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Wed, 14 May 2003 23:40:02 -0500

  Early last decade there an idea was pursued about how the
  American-English alphabet had a common structure. It is not
  known exactly how this idea arose, only that it related directly
  to works of art that explored similar ideas (Jasper John's super-
  imposing of numbers atop one another and alphabets; Jenny
  Holzer's scrolling LED displays with multiple languages). This
  common structure in language was related to ideas of structure
  in buildings which was a focus. In an attempt to explore this idea,
  the alphabet was graphically diagrammed as a 4 dimensional
  object in 3D space with temporal change, in that the alphabet
  would be flipped and twisted on a set of axes, in search of...

  Sure enough, weird stuff was realized such that Plato wrote about
  this idea of reflecting letters and numbers, their materiality. And so
  too, the alphabet had a few major surprises, taken out of its major
  context of linguistic definition- a common symbol was found that is
  a more square version of that which is in the Union Jack of the UK,
  otherwise known (online) as HIOX as these four letters are able to
  exist almost the same in 4D space-time. Oddly, the symbol was to
  be realized when searching for the common structure, it was not a
  predetermined or even known symbol, it was just a hypothesis that
  there may be a structure. John's work asked the question, Holzer's
  work demonstrated that in technology this must have been dealt
  with (for use in electronic signage) and thus, looking for patterns
  in digital/light-displays on elevators and in LCDs was part of the
  search for patterns. Yet it was always conceived that it only was
  to exist in a dot-matrix existence, of separate bulbs of information
  presented as a symbol. While a more richly symbolic HIOX existed
  as a geometry in early Western classical architecture and present-
  day (.US) federal architecture, amongst other places.

0 through 9, Jasper Johns, 1970, embossed lead, Walker Art Center*

[*I never saw this piece, only a painting of this same idea, which has
been logically concluded in the 7 segment light emitting diode display.
It is unfortunate all of these alphabetic works are not available  
Also, Jenny Holzer's electronic work is not available via imagery now.]

  This idea was only barely investigated as it was so abstract and
  of no utility other than logic and generative patterning, aesthetics,
  and a thesis about language and mathematics that it was mainly
  ignored because it was too weird to talk about. If life was different
  there would have been Schroedinger's Cat logical models using
  this HIOX model to demonstrate 'paradoxical logic' beyond in the
  everyday experience, by having these rotating alphabets running
  in 4D via electric motors, so one would question if it was a 3 or E
  that presented itself, an M or W, a Z or S or N. It seems very sad
  to write about what-if's, what might have happened, yet underneath
  the effort to learn basic electronics was to create a manual model
  of the HIOX in LEDs, and then to manually use switches and a lot
  of arcane amounts of wires and power to make this array of lights
  create this dot-matrix-like symbol, which would then be a way to
  begin discussing this idea, as one of the 40+ switches could show
  that the alphabet and numbers all exist in one common symbol,
  in a caveman-meets-electronics aesthetic. (In these examples it
  is jewelry, but it could be cryptographic I have always imagined).


  So, working on this idea, not overtly or even consciously, though
  in relation it is something which caused interest in this direction
  of skill building.  So it was to my great surprise when sometime
  last week after having gone electronics-surplussing that all the
  LEDs and strange 5 position giant switches and diodes and the
  resisters that were gathered for this sketch of an idea become
  instantly irrelevant when the actual HIOX symbol was found to
  be already in existence, yet not easily available, it was located
  online, and local shops do not carry this alphanumeric display.
  The first time I saw this HIOX shape in a manufactured one-piece
  LED alphanumeric display was, at first, completely beyond belief.
  And then, I realized it was a lack of information about electronics,
  and having seen enough to realize that there is a genealogy to
  the development of technologies, and if there is a 7-segment
  display for generating the numbers 0-9 using 7 segments of
  Light Emitting Diodes, then how would they do the alphabet?
  It is referred to as a 16 segment display, in some instances.


( click 'larger display' to see the HIOX pattern. there is also a single
version but the symbol is less visible. for a lot more types of these
alphanumeric LED (and LCD) displays at http://www.digikey.com/ )

  In any case, as soon as I found out about this, it was realized it was
  not one of a kind technology but has been around (and likely will
  someday be replaced by LCDs and eventually OLEDs as a display
  technique, etc.), as they are seemingly rare for local electronics  

  I asked someone, actually two people, about this technology and they
  told me to get the specs (which I found at digikey for many other  
  and it seemed to be 'do-able' in the sense that I would not have to  
  the HIOX icon myself, as it is already in existence, and then the idea
  could move on to making the letters and numbers in this common symbol.

  First chance, calls were made locally to find out that the main places  
  surplus and electronics carried only the seven segment numerical LED
  displays, and not the alphanumeric ones, as they were said to be rare,
  or at least not in demand. After going on a journey the seven segment
  display was obtained for an experiment, to learn how such displays  
  And there was another surprise. Having worked on learning basics of
  electronics, a pre-assemblage kit with workbook and solderless bread-
  board was worked with, to demonstrate fundamentals. A more intense
  digital kit awaits investigation as there is something about circuits  
  mathematics that makes it hard to just plug wires into circuit diagrams
  that are built on these boards, which may or may not work, and have
  no one to ask questions to that are not explained or in the book or  
  part of the approach, so trial and error and limited self-exploration  
  both the process and limitation, which was where things were at until
  trying to go beyond this with building something customized and then
  learning from it. All this to say that having earlier worked with one  
  (integrated circuit) in the kit, and seeing how it was a mystery device
  whose operations and abilities were undocumented and unknown- it
  just did what it did and 'worked' - it was in futzing with the  
  LED that much more became clear.

  If one places limited voltage on one of the legs that extend from the
  LED display, one section of the seven segments will light up, and
  these are mapped from their electrical connectors/contacts, to the
  LED segments which light up. So, this would be the same with the
  more complex HIOX/alphanumeric display, it is assumed. Yet, with
  great interest some testing of the numerical display indicated it was
  possible to 'drive' the display which was shown in an old handbook
  from years ago at a Radio Shack in California, which showed such
  a circuit which I am now trying to build with different parts that are
  available (some are not, thus experimenting continues). In any case,
  the important discovery was that the numbers 0-9 could be animated
  by a 'clock' that is run by sending electrical current through a  
  with an integrated circuit doing the counting and cycling of the  
  through all the numbers. This means that it may be possible there is
  another one of these ICs for driving the alphanumeric display through
  all the letters and numbers of the alphabet (upper and lowercase even)
  in one symbol, and doing this automatically without having to use all
  of the manual switches, potentially, should these chips exist and if
  they can be figured out (with help from others) in some basic way.
  An integrated circuit is like a small rectangular slab of dark ceramic
  or some material with metal legs that make it look to be an insect of
  sorts, which has transistors and diodes and logic gates built into it.

  Up until this point I was thinking that to drive the HIOX display would
  then require a custom programmed chipset, which it still may, and
  which would be out of the realm of the possible for the time being,
  yet eventually possible given infinite time and extremely better luck.
  And using a Mac OS X computer, the technology used by educators
  to teach this technology (Basic STAMP and Board of Education, URL:
  http://www.parallax.com/detail.asp?product_id=28102  and also
  http://www.parallax.com/html_pages/edu/index.asp ) was at first not
  possible (serial port communications to program a microcontroller
  chip) yet someone wrote code to make it work, thus it is not off-the-
  table for people with non-PC hardware and software to approach.

  To sum up the saga thus far, all the parts to make the HIOX display
  manually were found to be irrelevant as the industry needed such
  a display and manufactured it, and it has evolved beyond this yet it
  is critical proof that there is a common structure in the alphanumeric
  display of the American English alphabet and 0-9 number system.
  The approach to do this with a series of rather large slide switches
  has instead potentially been made irrelevant by the use of either
  integrated circuits to drive displays and-or microcontrollers (for the
  industry) and yet this may or may not be within the domain of the
  novice, to explore and have some success amongst likely failures.
  It is very exciting as it is to learn about technologies and ways of
  doing things that are hard to consider if they're invisible or not
  known about or never experienced. So in a sense, in approaching
  electronics one goal was to try to gain a materialistic understanding
  of how computer programming logic works on the (circuit) board,
  with transistors, but also to hopefully help in integrating hardware
  and software, and online and offline events. For instance, with a
  little knowledge in electronics, a crude prototype may be made
  which could demonstrate an idea for, say, an architectural device
  which would communicate as an infrastructure in an environment,
  or may create a type of space or experience using microphones
  and video and lasers and sensors to activate space, as has been
  done by installation artists before, but for other purposes/designs.

  It is this loop between the art and the science and technology that
  became more and more apparent, not the academic or ideological
  connect the dots which always seems to not have the guts of the
  subject in its definition, only on its surface theorizing. Yet in the
  realm of the hypothesis, when ideas may not work, where what is
  undiscovered or unknown or guessed, or simply questioned and
  for generations and in a way it is known but investigated and then
  known more or in different or more specific ways, it is this type of
  investigation and interrogating of electromagnetism that is in some
  way in relation to what is experienced in the development of today.
  That is, people are parsing data, making things, considering, and
  some questions remain unanswered and science and technologies
  and arts are swirling around these, and none of them capture the
  entirety of the moment in its essence, yet there are odd parallels
  where a 0-9 painting in the 1960s that is searching for a common
  structure in visual language is related to Plato's language calculus
  at the same time as being synchronous with the development of
  LED displays technologies and computing when the first digital
  watches and such technologies were just coming into existence.

  This is said not as a glorification of anything specific. Instead it is
  about an idea, and a type of archaeology of works that span a lot
  of different disciplines. And how interesting it would be if all of the
  people today who are so talented in one realm were to learn more
  of the other realms, so that the language would be related to the
  mathematics involved in making ideas real, where computer art
  is not separated from understanding of the hardware dimensions,
  but further, the electronics, and how internet artworks may relate
  by sheer structural genealogy to installation art and even the art
  created for world's fairs by the earliest 'lighting engineers' which
  made events and performances predating all current histories
  of where and when the modern gained its force, structure, form.
  Hopefully some day some of these connections, integrations of
  knowledges, and ideas in relation to their tangible and intangible
  aspects will be related, recontextualized, requestioned and even
  understood in a way unlike anything, yet as a tradition of culture.

  In this way, a simple approach and quite isolated struggle to learn
  the most basic thing about the most prevalent force in society is,
  in itself, informative and inspiring to the degree that meaning is
  found in this approach, and others' experiences and works seem
  to indicate it is not an isolated adventure, yet everyone is talking
  in different ways, with different approaches, and if there was a
  commonality, a basis, a shared interest, in learning, maybe it
  would be easier to learn about what already exists in other
  segments of the wold and society, maybe things could be done
  that individuals cannot do alone, and maybe the science can be
  informed more by the art, and educationally understood more
  creatively through the arts, raising awareness but also giving
  meaning to technical exercises so that something like robotics
  is about the ideas of robotics, not just making robots, so too the
  arts and sciences. And it is believed learning a bit more about
  electromagnetism would open up a lot of new possibilities for
  both those younger and older, if there was a way to begin to
  cross-pollinate the people, ideas, professions, and institutions.

  In any case, this is a lot of fun and quite scary to try to figure out
  on one's own,, and it is hoped a community will find organization.


  the electromagnetic internetwork-list
  electromagnetism / infrastructure / civilization