General Eccentric

“Where progress is our most important problem”

Average Clock (2013)

ATMEGA328, six DS1307 clocks, seven LED 4-digit displays

35.5cm x 20cm x 3cm (14 x 8 x 1.38 in.)

Source files

Shy Light (2012)

Dual ATMEGA168/Arduino, X-10 Power Control

26cm x 44cm x 42cm (10.25 x 17.3 x 16.5 in.)

Source files (Master)

Source files (Slave)

Video

Media Circus (2011-13)

Arduino MEGA, Sure Electronics 0832 LED displays

65cm x 10cm x 3cm (25 x 4 x 1 in.)

Source files

Video (prototype)

Video (final product)

Book (176 pages, full color)

Shy Dildo (2011)

Personal Massager, analog electronics, cloth, wooden box

18cm x 12cm x 9cm (7 x 4.75 x 3.5 in.)

Source files

Video (Testing)

Video (Presentation Version)

Northwest Passage (2010)

Arduino/ATMEGA8, Flow Sensor, Copper pipes

175cm x 38cm (69 x 15 in.)

Source files

Prototyping on Instructables.com

The Technology of Good Intentions

Average Clock (2013)

It's crowd-sourcing time!

Six clocks running independently, slowly diverging; a microcontroller tries to make sense of it all…

The quartz crystals that regulate most household clocks oscillate at 32,768 cycles per second. This frequency is used because it is equal to 2^15 cycles per second, and hence can be divided easily by computers using base 2 math. In practice, however, inexpensive crystals never run exactly at 32,768 cps. The discrepancy shows up over days or weeks and we have to adjust the time—from time to time. Crystals are also affected by temperature, aging, shock and even radiation.

Average Clock was developed on the premise that consumer-grade timekeeping crystals diverge in accuracy equally above and below the target frequency. Given enough inaccurate clocks, if they are inaccurate equally, the average time will be correct.

That's the theory, anyway.


Shy Light (2012)

“Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel...” UNTIL NOW!

An electric lamp doesn’t like anyone to see it when it’s turned on.
It hides under a bushel basket and when it’s exposed, it fades out.
When the basket is replaced, it lights back up.

Read a complete description and view the video.


Media Circus (2011-13)

You've heard of Marshall McLuhan? Meet General Eccentric!

In 2011 we celebrated 100 years since Marshall McLuhan’s birth by offering this project as a homage.

Media Circus is a scrolling marquee that displays amusing news headlines, such as these from July 2011:

  • Warship contract would bring sea constituent file-shredding
  • Autopsies reveal little on a crowded planet
  • Fatal crash in a life without sunshine
  • Economy shrank in urban orchards

Media Circus uses @generalxcentric’s daily tweets, which are actually cutups of contemporary news headlines from the CBC and the Toronto Globe and Mail.

A book featuring 365 tweets from General Eccentric in 2012 is NOW AVAILABLE at Blurb.com.


Shy Dildo (2011)

Does this remind you of anything?

The concept is simple: “Shy Dildo” is a 'personal massager' object on a box. The vibrator motor works when left alone but stops when it is touched.


Clock with Tics (2010-13)

This is an Arduino-powered digital clock that very briefly displays expletives at random intervals.

A clock ‘ticks’. A ‘tic’ (note the different spelling) can be a mental disorder and can manifest itself in a number of ways; most seriously, someone suffering from “Tourette’s Syndrome” will blurt out swearwords involuntarily. I had thought of titling this piece “Time for Tourettes”, but the clock itself is tasteless enough.

This artifact is part of my series “The Technology of Good Intentions“ which focuses on ‘failure’ in design. In this case, who has not had an electrical widget that has ‘gone on the fritz’ and suffers from momentary lapses?

Clock with Tics comes in two production models:

  1. Using the SURE 0832 module — the same module used in Media Circus
  2. Using the JY-MCU 3208 module

The SURE module is an LED matrix with a LED matrix controller built-in. A hand-wired board featuring an ATMEGA328 microcontroller, a DS-1307 battery chip with a button clock backup, and a 5v high-efficiency regulator drives the SURE module.

The JY-MCU 3208 also has the same matrix controller, but also includes an ATMEGA8 controller; no extra wiring is required except for a light sensor attached to a spare data input pin on the ATMEGA. The ATMEGA does time-keeping using interrupts, and the program is uploaded to the module using the built-in ISP connector. This is a bare-bones design that does not have a voltage regulator, so you must be diligent in selecting a power adapter that delivers regulated 5v to the unit.

My clock with the SURE module uses amber LEDS; these have been discontinued by the manufacturer however, and only red and green are currently available. I was able to snatch up the last six amber modules from a Swiss supplier in January 2013. The JY-MCU module is only available in red.

A clock on your mobile phone!

An online version for web browsers—if you're on an iPhone or iPad, a special mobile version is served—is available here or by way of the QR code (above).


Northwest Passage (2010)

“Northwest Passage” is an exploration of the difficulties and risks inherent in development and discovery. In the case of this piece, the end result is a water flow display. When there is no water flowing through the copper pipe, the display reads noFlow. When water flows, the display will read Flow. However, as experience has taught us, we can often get bogged down in solving a project's many small technical details and fail to resolve one major one. In this case, while the software and computer hardware have been thoroughly tested, the fatal flaw is in the placement of the sensor: it is positioned out of the way of the water flow.

As a result of this error, the display will always read noFlow. The title of the piece is a reference to the Franklin Expedition of 1845, which was lost in its search for the “northwest passage” from Europe to the Orient. The ships became trapped in ice and all perished.