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Technological Surrealism / Alec Nerds Out

Car MP3 player, Y2K edition; Culture Crawl

The Vancouver Eastside Culture Crawl is coming up — one of the best and most legitimately Vancouver events of the year, and I’m not just saying that because I’m in it. Seriously. Walk around Strathcona, check out the insane ant-nest that is 1000 Parker, or if you’re on the agoraphobic side, stick to the periphery.

And please drop in and say hi! I’ll be showing a lot of creations, many of them new for this year.

I recently moved, and in cleaning up it just so happened that four of five pieces of one of my oldest projects surfaced at the same time. I put it back together again for the first time in well over a decade, threw the switch — and it worked.

This is “NeoHessel”, my first car’s homebuilt MP3 player, so named because the earlier iteration was called “eHessel”. I’m not sure where that came from. I built it when I was 19 or 20 and starting to dabble with embedded Linux.

This one is controlled by a salvaged keypad wired into the printer port. I regret not saving the earler incarnation, which was controlled with a single Morse code key. I don’t think even photos remain of that. It was elegant simplicity coupled with impracticality, bonded together with a thick coating of nerdiness. It perfectly presaged many fascinations that I still have: music meets esoterica meets electronics meets software.

Whenever I get a new computer I dump my old hard disk into a spare directory, so generations of these backups have accumulated like Matryoskha dolls — and looking there I found the source code, both for the keypad and morse code variants. I’ve posted them to github for posterity. The code isn’t elegant, but hey, I was adolescent.

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