So Todd, whats on the workbench at chez Narrat1ve?

edited June 2009 in Everything Else


  • edited June 2009
    So there are a couple things, some more exciting than others:

    Today I'm plowing through the PCBs for the second revision of the video synth I made in April and revised once last month. The new one takes some more clues from Paik-Abe and it also processes incoming video in both the digital and analog realms. And the analog video synthesis section is much expanded. Analog video is considerably more complicated than audio, and digital video is a lot of really fast data. Which means a fun project. I'm not sure this will be a kit, since it will involve a lot of expensive SMT parts, a four layer PCB, and maybe some calibration. But we'll see.

    With WTPA stock starting to get low-ish, I've turned an eye towards the next pressing. I've learned that I don't really sell much unless there's some big blog blitz on the site -- so this means that revisions are the only "advertising" I get, and I'm not sure how fast the last few WTPAs will go. But, that having been said I have two ideas:
    One: WTPA as it stands now seems pretty complete. There are no reported bugs per se (so far) but there are still some changes I want to make (some based on Forum input) to the hard/firmware, some code optimization, and maybe some more features. But probably nothing really huge.
    Two: I'm thinking about trying to redo WTPA as NOT a kit. When I originally designed it there were a lot of tradeoffs w/r/t cost and solderability vs ABSOLUTE BADASSERY. I nearly always took the side of badassery, but there were some big "what ifs" that I didn't pursue just because they wouldn't have been feasible in kit form. Taking the not-kit plunge will let me nerd that stuff out to the fullest (I'd like to bring the VCO back, make the bank multiply in hardware, add more buttons, permanent memory, some hardware distortion, arbitrary waveshaping via an external LUT, etc). Further, there are a lot of musicians I've spoken with who are curious about this device but who are definitely not going to get out a soldering iron let alone a dremel tool. I think WTPA is a pretty cool instrument (as well as a kit) and given what I've seen things like the monome and other boutiquey analog and limited edition gear selling for, I'd like to give it a try. Plus, it lets me design a badass enclosure which I've been chomping at the bit to do for awhile now (think glow in the dark). The WTPA9000 would likely not be a kit, but it would probably still be open source. I might even sell the bare boards.

    Lastly and unfortunately for everything else -- I just got a new "real" piece of work programming (get this) an iPhone app for a client. I took it because it meant a new computer with a million cores, and because it meant programming something outside of the 8-bit ghetto that I currently run a small streetcorner of. I've never been the strongest at high-level application programming (because I'm a hardware guy at heart) and this was a good chance to get paid to go WAAAY outside my comfort zone and learn to kick ass at something new. And also, well, because I gotta pay for coffee somehow. As the poet said: I am human, after all :-)

    As ever, I'm all ears for whatever you all think I should work on next.


  • Good to hear you're surviving, doing something that you like (love?) to do. That iPhone app stuff is becoming big business and it's a good path to follow right now.

    I understand your want to move on to something new, so thanks for sticking with the WTPA "House Party 1" version for a while. These DIY products usually have a very short support life because the creators are, creative, constantly thinking about the next thing. I'm a "musician" and almost never want to go back to tweak a track that I've finished.

    Anyway, on the subject of a non-kit WTPA: it's a great idea.
    Boutique manufacturers are all the rage these days. Little companies like the square wave parade (, Plan B, Flame, Metasonix, et. al are makin' bank and products they (and their customers) love.
    Thanks to a certain few boutique-friendly shops like Analog Haven ( and Big City Music (, distribution shouldn't be a problem.

    Good luck!

    I can totally imagine a hyped up version of the WTPA with a "proper" case and interface.
  • Thanks!
    Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere -- WTPA will be up and around for the forseeable future. Part of the fun of Narrat1ve for me is not just making cool stuff, but making the stuff as perfect as possible. Some of that is ego, for sure, but some of that is the desire to show people that you don't have to be a big company to design electronics which are complicated, powerful and ambitious, yet not buggy or corny. Designers shoot themselves in the foot a little when they get something out there and then just forget about it and split, I think. Some of perfectionism is gruntwork, but it's rewarding.
    I had a fancy job designing toy electronics for a long time. I still do toy work, but I left my old job because I really like designing more artsy circuits, and I really like learning new stuff. So no matter how much I get paid (and it's not that much, really) to do an iPhone app, I'll be back here with the dork show. It'll just mean whatever I make next for Narrat1ve takes a little longer.

    W/r/t a fancy version of WTPA, I'm glad you think that's cool. I'll always be about kits, because I love me some edjumucational tools. I also tend to prefer the aesthetic of "hands-dirtyism" to "collecting obscure and rare audio stuff" which is something about the boutique world that has always engendered a complicated response from me. Fortunately for me, there's a lot of dirty-hands-ism in making pretty stuff.

    And thanks for the links!
  • The iPhone thing sounds interesting :) I guess that means you get to play with a Mac then?! As I don't think the iPhone sdk works on PC's, or linux boxes.
    Theres definitely some healthy money to be made from iPhone apps. Even the crappy cheap apps (like the horrid fart apps) are making plenty.. I hope you'll be on a percentage of the takings?!
    iPhones are so much better since Apple decided to allow 3 rd party apps on them. I love mine!

    I don't suppose you are gonna make a sampling iPhone app per chance? I noticed theres pretty much a complete lack of them on the app store (there may be 1 bad one). Yet theres plenty of pretty good synth and sequencer type apps. I like Brian Eno's 'Bloom' app. And the 'DB-303' app is superb too.
    Come to think of it, there is even an iPhone monome type app. Called Haplome.

    Back to WTPA shenanigans though.. It would be nice to see that developed some more. Even if it means a ready built lump of hardware.
    A funky midi controllable hp filter would be nice. And the start/end loop points that has been mentioned before too. Along with maybe the ability to shift both the start & end loops points back & forth as one. So your loop stays the same length, it just loops a different section of audio as you shift both loop points about at once. Some samplers of old used to do this, but not so many these days.

    One thing I really like about the WTPA (besides the cool 8 bit thing, that is!) is that it can be controlled in such an analogue fashion, as it has a fair few knobs and buttons. Not only is that 1 in the eye for software samplers, but its pretty much a slap in the face for most of the old hardware samplers too. If the analogue control aspect could be built on further and retain midi control as well, then you are almost certainly on to a good thing!
    I'd certainly buy one :) Cost allowing of course..

    All the best, Paul
  • Oh, man. Please release some information about your video synth. I've been wanting to build one for ages and there just isn't anything out there right now. At least tease me with a video of the output.
  • Cool! Good to know.
    There's little goofy pictures in the main site (that fluorescent green thing is the first rev) but I'll post about it once I get something together. Right now it's a big airwire mess in Eagle.
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