Category Archives: Projects

[Not] Dead Tiny AVR Programmer

April 12 Update: Turns out the Tiny AVR Programmer is not dead. It was late, and I was tired and stressed and missed a crucial step. I needed to download hardware files for the programmer.

Tiny Programmer and ATtiny85 Chip
Tiny AVR Programmer and an ATtiny85 chip.

When I took this picture this evening, I had not yet learned that my Tiny AVR Programmer is dead. Yes, that’s right: After hyping the fact I was going to make a paper circuit microcontroller today, I’ve discovered that I have a dead Tiny AVR Programmer. This is all the more disappointing because I’ve not yet used the programmer. I took it out of its sealed bag for the first time this evening.

I thought it was dead because the LED wouldn’t light and because of the error message I was getting when I tried to upload a sketch to the programmer.

screen shot of an error message
An error message indicating that my Tiny AVR Programmer is dead.

All this means I’m not going to be programming the ATtiny85 chip tonight, and without the chip to run the microcontroller, there is no microcontroller. 

You can program a ATtiny chip just using an Arduino and a breadboard, but it takes a bit of time to connect everything together. The Tiny Programmer isn’t necessary; it just makes things simple. If I have a 10 uF capacitor on hand – I think I do, but having just started playing with electronics six months ago, I’m collecting components as I need them – or if I can pick on up at the Radio Shack down the street, I’ll try programming the chip tomorrow the old fashioned way and then use it to make the microcontroller.

Meanwhile, if you’re really curious or bored, here’s a Vine of a simple, two-LED paper circuit. Until you get into programming ATtiny chips, paper circuits are quite easy. Well, I can’t work with small surface mount LEDs without a pair of tweezers, but creating circuits with conductive copper tape and conductive paint is easy.

Invisible Work: Service to the Profession

As a member of the College Composition and Communication’s Committee on Computers in Composition and Communication (7Cs Committee),  the period between the CCCC and Computers and Writing conferences is often busy committee-wise.

For a number of years now I have coordinated the Technology Innovator Award, which is awarded at the annual Computers and Writing conference. With the nomination deadline approaching (April 28), I’m sending out nomination reminders and preparing incoming nominations for the awards committee. This year I’m also coordinating a 15+ person working group to redesign and update a too-neglected website.

Like a lot if not most service work, much of this is done out of the spotlight.

Making and the Physical-Digital Interface

As a technorhetorician, a media ecologist, and a digital humanist, I’m becoming increasingly interested in the physical-digital interface of physical computing and interactive programming.

A lot of this interest is playing out in my exploring both the Arduino microcontroller and the Processing programming language. Arduino programming language and integrated development environment (IDE) are based on Processing, the two work quite well together.  For instance, there’s the example project that interfaces an Arduino with Processing to creating an RGB LED lamp whose color is based upon word frequency within an RSS feed, or the much more simple example of simply turning on an LED by mousing over a Processing-created image, which I was able to do in just a few minutes. You can see the results in this Vine. Apologies for the shaky video – I held my phone with my weak hand as I used my better hand to control the mouse.

And then there’s these digitally interfaced physical books, from the basic MaKey MaKey + graphite + Scratch to Jie Qi’s Circuit Sketchbook

to Waldek Węgrzyn’s Elektrobiblioteka which uses conductive paint printed using silk screening and a small embedded microcontroller to create touch-senstivite illustrations that call up and interact with digital content.

While I’m still learning both Processing and Arduino, as a digital humanist I’m often thinking of the ways in which we might harness the ways in which visualization and generative art program like Processing can process and interact with text (for instance, this visualization of Goethe’s Faust and this “tube map” that’s created by inputting  text) with the codeable objects Processing library as well as the potential for interactive books making use of paper circuit technologies and embedded microcontrollers.

Three tasks I’m working on today is organizing a session on making, making pedagogy, and critical making & design and brainstorming a possible DIY craft and making workshop, both for CCCC 2015, and figuring out if I’m ready to propose a paper circuits workshop for THATCamp DC at the end of this month.

And later today, as a last-minute addition to today’s home schooling (as in decided about 10 minutes ago), we’re going to have our first go at programming an ATiny85 chip and using it to make this paper-based microcontroller:

You can find the tutorial at Jie Qi’s The Fine Art of Electronics.