No. 56 - Printed Circuits ⫶ Papier Machine ⫶ Expressive electronics
A circuit board is a meeting point between humans and electricity
My name is Linda. I write a bi-weekly newsletter about computer science, childhood and culture - and there are 9655 of you listening. If you enjoy this issue, please share it with anyone you think may find it useful.
I've followed Jennifer E. Roberts on Instagram for a while. The first thing I saw from her was this captivating story on how scientific data, pastel work, and analog/digital work collide in a 1965 drawing. I was hooked. When Dr. Roberts announced an upcoming lecture on A Circuitous History of Print, I knew it would make new connections in my brain.
The talk is over an hour long and maps the connections between printmaking and electronics, book-binding and PCBs, ornaments and Paolozzi. I love research that recenters history and introduces new cast members. In this case, Paul Eisler, the forgotten person behind printed circuit boards. The talk also includes a bit on twistronics and moiré pattern (achingly good!), screen printing and armory, Durer and engraving, lithography and Babbage..
Roberts has a fantastic way of braiding together separate strands of history - like how electronics and religious paintings are places that both engage the participation of non-human forces (religious and electronic!). "A circuit board is a meeting point between humans and electricity." Boom.
Most of all, I love Roberts' style. "What is this doing? How can we talk about this kind of line?" are questions you hear certain kinds of engineers ask, but mostly not. She also briefly mentions how engineers come from a tradition of working knowledge, unlike art historians with interpretive knowledge. "There aren't books about the aesthetic of circuit design. You've gotta go read the technical manuals written by the people that design them and talk to the people that design them", Roberts explains. I for one wish more art historians would start these exchanges of interpretive knowledge.
There is also an entire lecture series on printmaking recommended by Robin Sloan. I'm looking forward to watching later in the summer.
I hope to teach again this fall; I miss running longer courses for teachers in training. Electronics meets early childhood pedagogy meets art education. Might make for coherent course syllabus. As the final project, we would look at concertina books, lego plate printmaking, and collagraph and pair them with PCBs, electronics, and circuits.
In computer science, a linked list is a linear collection of data elements whose order is not given by their physical placement in memory. But here it is a selection of things I’ve been reading lately.
Paper circuits. For simple paper circuits, one needs only copper tape, a coin cell battery, and LEDs. Exploratorium has the best getting-started guide.
Papier Machine: a book/toy printed with silver ink that conducts electricity. From the beautiful brain of the Pinaffo & Pluvinage duo. I remember backing this project on Kickstarter, and it’s also available on the Papier Tigre website (they have a lovely Marais boutique I visit often!).
Chibitronics. Jie Qi is the person I would first ask for advice with paper and electronic. Chibitronic, her company, makes these lovely circuit stickers to make “expressive electronics” (gosh, I love that!).