Arduino makers project - émile


émile is a writing machine using the Baudot code - a binary 5 bit code, predecessor of ASCII and EBCDID - intended for telecommunication and electronic devices, representing the entire alphabet. By translating the bauds (/ˈbɔːd/, unit symbol Bd) into moving objects that are being sent over physical tracks, a simple computational process of 5-bit binary information transmission is illustrated.

Advisor: Ralf Baecker 

Design & Prototyping: Irena Kukric, Jasna Dimitrovska

Physical Interaction & Programming: Julian-Anthony Hespenheide, David Beermann

Digital Media course at HFK Bremen, Germany 2015


What have you made?

This machine is an homage to Émile Baudot (1845-1903), inventor of the Baudot code. It looks and plays like a pinball machine, but is used to transfer bits in forms of marbles along transmission line tracks. With the help of punch cards (for each letter in the alphabet there is one card), a visitor can start to write out sentences - very slowly.

What gave you the initial inspiration?

When were talking about "Unboxing Black Boxes" in a workshop, our group wanted to find out what is the most simple yet crucial interaction in modern communications.

What is the original idea behind this project?

While typing on our keyboards, we found out that just a simple key press, e.g. A, is already a whole world that is just beneath our fingers. So we took that out, started to do some quick research where everything started and ended up with the Baudot code and the first telex and telegraphy machines. Fascinated by this discovery, we wanted to build a machine that was "warm" yet "descriptive" in what it was doing.

This machine is dedicated to Émile Baudot!

How does it work?

- Take a punch card with the letter you want to write

- Put that punch card into the punch card slot

- Pull back the marble lift-of bar

- Five switches at the end wait for input. If one switch is triggered, the Arduino waits a certain amount of time before decoding the inputs

- After the waiting timer runs out, the Arduino interprets which switch was hit and which not and displays the corresponding character on a little screen

- When shooting a 1 1 1 1 1 (all marbles, no punch card) the display will reset

How long did it take to make it real?

The workshop with Ralf Baecker was 8 days long and it took us six days from start to finish. No sleepless nights, since everyone knew what they could do the best and contribute that from the very beginning.

How did you build it?

We split our team into two sub-teams: Construction & Interaction

In construction, we started with some simple prototyping where we would shoot marbles with the help of solenoids and springs of a simple cardboard rail but after some trial & error we just worked with rubber bands and got the right amount of power to drive some simples marbles up a slope. Then after some more sketches we found the form we wanted to have in the end that was not just functional but also appealing to the eyes. This design then was built in our school wood workshop.

In Interaction we split into programming a SSD1306 LiquidCrystalDisplay, working out timers for the switches and programming a simple punch card PDF generator in Processing, which could read in a Baudot Code Table, like this [ ·· •·· A ] and generate an associative array to be used on the Arduino, but also to print out the punch cards. After we figured out everything, we sanded the wooded, glued and screwed everything together and soldered our cables to the back of a prototyping shield on the Arduino and were done.

So émile contains an Arduino Uno Board, a SSD1306 LCD, 5 switches, some cables, 5 marbles, rubber band, screws, spruce wood for the construction, plywood and translucent plexi glass for the laser cut parts.