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Circuit bending: Hacking a Furby in the name of music

November 30, 2019


– Play with me – I am playing with you, buddy. – [Furby] Yeah. (electronic noises) – [Dani] Yeah. – [Sam] That was good. – [Dani] That was- – [Sam] That was a big burp. (laughing) (Furby makes electronic squeaking sounds) – And there we go. – [Dani] Yay. – That is the beginnings
of circuit bending. – [Dani] Futuristic
doesn’t have to mean new. It can also mean using old tech in a way that hasn’t been done before. We’re here in the seaside town of Margate to visit Sam Battle. Sam is also known as Look Mum No Computer. He’s a musician and circuit
bender who breaks apart old toys and synths to
create his own instruments. Some of his creations include
a musical flame thrower and a Furby organ. (Furbies chattering] He’s invited me into his
studio so I can check out some of his creations for myself. And so we can break open a toy
and circuit bend it together. My name is Sam. And I do a project called Look Mum No Computer, which is basically like repurposing things and making silly
inventions that are loosely based around music. And I do do some circuit
bending and things. – What is circuit bending? – Circuit bending is basically
taking machines and toys and cheap things from the
past or even nowadays, and just making them do things that they’re not intended to do. Usually, let’s say in the
70’s somebody’s got a toy in their attic, a Speak & Spell, like those orange and yellow toys, somebody’s like, “I wonder
what it’s like inside there?” They pull it apart, they see all these circuit bits, lick their fingers because
it’s only got two batteries, you’re not going to electrocute yourself, (makes electrocution
sound) no, I’m joking. And then it makes, you find
that it makes different sounds or you can change the pitch
if you touch the ground with one finger and like
a certain bit of the chip goes, like, (makes electronic sounds), and like you’re making
it do unintended things, and it’s maybe, it began probably as
something that was fun. And then it quickly evolved into something musicians use to make new sounds. – [Dani] At its height,
circuit bending spans several musical genres with artists like Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Beck and Danny Elfman all using circuit-bend
instruments in performances. While it’s not as popular anymore, there is still something
about Sam’s creations that’s just really cool. They’re massive and insane. – 44 circuit-bent Furbies. All circuit bend in sequence. Around the back, it you
look really carefully behind it, like you’ll see behind them- – [Dani] Yeah, yeah, yeah. – [Sam] They’ve got like, you can see all the wires and stuff. Have a little peak in there. – They make a lot of noise. – They are noisy. – Yeah
– Now you miss it. Now you miss the sound. – I do kind of miss the sound. How long did it take
you to build this thing? – I built this in about
two weeks of not sleeping. However, I’ve been planning
it for seven years. And then, it took me about a year to find all of the Furbies. This is like Gordon Ramsey, but Furbies. So what we’ve got to do is
we’ve got to get it ready by removing its protective cable tie. Then you got to be a bit forceful. So there we go. – [Dani] Oh, wow, okay. – Da, da, me scared. (laughing) – [Sam] So now we’ve got- – I would be to. – [Sam] Now what you’ve got to do, is you get that and have a fiddle. There’s no right or wrong. – [Furby] Larry. (electronic noises) And there we go. – [Dani] Hey! – And then what you do, is
you find something like that. – Yeah. – And then you put some sort of thing that would make this permanent or not. So you snip that and
you put a switch on it, so you can choose those points. – So you can have control
over it making that noise. – Yeah, yeah. Now you
just see what it does. Sit back and enjoy. – [Dani] Oh, that is so cool. (organ music playing) – [Sam] I mean I’ve always, I’ve circuit bent Furbies
a lot from when I started because they were quite cheap
for how advanced they were in what they did. Apparently, ever since they came out, there was a people that
wanted to, you know, fiddle with them and
see what’s inside them. – Circuit bending really was, it was this exploitation of
this little window of time when the scale and complexity
of electronics was just right. You know, it was complex
enough to do wild stuff, but simple enough that a
little hack could make it, you know, malfunction in cool ways. – [Dani] That’s Peter Edwards who founded Casper Electronics. He’s a circuit bending expert, who has built custom
instruments for bands. – The consumer electronics we have in our lives have evolved in a way that’s completely oblivious
to these hacking practices and have moved away from hackability. I was teaching circuit bending
workshops for about 10 years and then I stopped
because eventually no one in the workshop could hack anything. There was nothing to bend, because the circuits just
weren’t bendable anymore. So yeah, is there a future
for circuit bending? I think from the perspective
of modifying kids’ toys, I think, no, not really. But from the perspective of
people approaching, you know, consumer products and electronics
with an adventurous spirit and finding new ways to
use them, like, absolutely. – [Dani] And Sam is one of these people, who is pushing the medium forward and finding new ways to make music through hacking electronics. (electronic music) – What. It’s like a Daft Punk bike. – [Sam] Yeah. (laughs) (synthesizer music with cymbal beat) – Hit that, hit that. (electronic air horn sounds) – Every, synth bike needs an air horn. This one’s even got a head. It’s got a face. Look, every synthesizer needs a face. His name’s Cosmo, or her. I don’t know. Right now we’re going to control it with this solar panel. So I’m going to patch in a
solar panel into the parameter that controls the mouth. So I’m going to get the solar panel. Are you ready? How are you doing, man? I’m okay, how are you? (makes laughing sound) You’re so funny. (electronic music plays) – So to be fair with circuit bending, it’s not nearly as
popular as it used to be. There aren’t a lot of people
that do it as much anymore, but you are over here
doing the absolute most that you could possibly
do with circuit bending and doing these gigantic projects. – Yeah, yeah. I feel it’s evolved a bit. The kind of people that
did circuit bending are into building,
like, modular synths now and stuff like that. The problem with modern toys
is they’re not as hackable as the old ones. However, you can still hack them, but they require a different way to do it, and it’s not usually as obvious. But I love it, and I just, I’m trying to take it to different levels. And like right now I’m trying
to take existing projects that I’ve had in my
head and just make them larger. – But why? When everything
has evolved so that you do it on a laptop and there
are digital replications of most hardware instruments
that are out there- – Yeah. – Why put in all the
effort and time and money into creating things like this? – That is so tough. I mean, the only answer I
have is, why not, I guess? I’m just deeply curious. – Do you make music at all
digitally at this point or are you really committed
to just using hardware? – I think it would be
crazy to just do hardware. I mean, like, computers are
very enabling for people. I do a lot of work with other artists and I tend to be stuck
in front of a computer for that stuff anyway. I shot myself in the
foot with the name, like, Look Mum No Computer. I can’t really use a computer, but at the same time, whatever. I make the rules, I make
the rules for my projects, so you can’t tell me if I
can use a computer or not because I made the name. (laughs) – Tech and music runs the gamut from futuristic technologies, like AI on one hand, to circuit bending old
electronics on the other. Circuit bending has fallen
out of style a little bit but that doesn’t mean
that it hasn’t continued to evolve and progress. Creativity doesn’t require new technology, but rather a new way of looking at the things that you already have. (light music plays) This video is presented by Aloft Hotels: Different. By Design. If you enjoyed this, please subscribe to our YouTube channel.

26 Comments

  • Reply The Verge September 14, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    What toy or household object would you like to circuit bend?

  • Reply SharkanC02 November 1, 2018 at 11:22 pm

    N O F U R B Y H A R M E D I N T H I S V I D E O

  • Reply Daniel Bencomo November 3, 2018 at 1:03 am

    Machines are so going to kill us

  • Reply Keirebuu Ishi November 5, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    In before Robots have human rights

  • Reply blewyd November 10, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    Nice like to dislike ratio. Seems like s good video hub

  • Reply DrXshock November 11, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    You should Circuit Bend Zucc

  • Reply Wintermute November 11, 2018 at 10:31 pm

    I thought this was really interesting. Dude is crazy, though.

  • Reply Gref Steel November 15, 2018 at 7:40 pm

    I'm sure this goth chick slays vampires

  • Reply Andreas Christou November 17, 2018 at 9:42 am

    Can someone please open the stopwatch in his pocket? That's Doctor who trapped in a human body XD

  • Reply Cynnabuns December 2, 2018 at 5:16 am

    Am I the only one who feels bad for the lil guys?

  • Reply Awesome Dude December 7, 2018 at 8:28 pm

    OH, like the TV show Avatar the last Air Bender.

  • Reply W.D Gaster December 28, 2018 at 8:34 am

    the last circuit bender

  • Reply Draggy B Dragon December 29, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    Really great video. Learned stuff, saw crazier stuff. All round good job!

  • Reply JuiceTime January 12, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    does anyone know why it has 1.4k dislikes or did someone bot it?

  • Reply Max pro Foxy Minecraft and roblox January 14, 2019 at 11:29 am

    Best hack ever

  • Reply Requiem Blanchett February 12, 2019 at 7:49 am

    why are there so many dislikes? i don't see anything wrong with this video.

  • Reply Serena Meep February 19, 2019 at 8:49 am

    Oh a video by the Verge, quickly skipping by!

  • Reply Sebastien Hohmann March 9, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    You are a silo pathe furbys army your slave😵👎🤬🤬🤬🥵🥵🥺😭😭😤😡🤬🤬😫😫😫😩😩🥺🥺😣😣🥵🥵🥵🤬🤬🤬👎👎👎🖕🏻🖕🏻🖕🏻🖕🏻

  • Reply Andromeda Nightcore April 13, 2019 at 5:52 am

    I staarted crying when it went ‘Dada me scared’ 😂😭

  • Reply JaydenWithD entertainment May 21, 2019 at 3:08 pm

    Wow furby piano

  • Reply little,l studios June 25, 2019 at 8:54 pm

    Me and my friends at 0:44

  • Reply thomas19935 r689i July 7, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    Circuit band vintage version of Teddy ruxpin

  • Reply State Zero August 20, 2019 at 6:35 pm

    Nice

  • Reply Badoo Renc September 6, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    🙂

  • Reply Nithin Ravi September 21, 2019 at 5:42 am

    What's with the dislikes ??
    Are everyone so narrow minded ??
    This video is well produced.

  • Reply blacKcat October 27, 2019 at 10:54 am

    "the future of music"—–> doing a 40 yeas old activity like Circuit Bending?

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