The Automaphone: A Picture Scanning Synthesiser

Music Technology
The Automaphone: A Picture Scanning Synthesiser
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Brian McNamara creates musical instruments. Generally he focuses on electronic instruments that make it easy and fun for pretty much anyone to play. The Automaphone is a fantastic example of that concept.


Feed this simple and elegant looking hunk of wood any picture and it will convert it to sound. The internals will feed the paper through while scanning the light and dark parts of the surface. It then converts these light and dark parts into the tempo, pitch, tone, and length.


For the Atomaphone Brian used 3 picaxe microcontrollers. One of them handles the scanning hardware and producing the beats. The other two handle the plethora of other sounds that need to be generated. If you would like to see more about the system, including many more pictures, you’ll have to check out his website.

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I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. find me at

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