Workshop for the creation of a universal format reader

26th to 30th july 2010

Workshop led by Basurama-Obsoletos for the creation of a universal format reader

The universal reader is an ideal device for reading any paper, tape, cassette, card or disk used to store media and then translating the information they contain into a different language.

The construction of this machine, conceived to play old formats and digitalize information, is a long-term project whose end goal is to offer a public service for the digitalization of obsolete formats, a task currently undertaken by professional companies.

This workshop is a step further in the project involving continuous modifications and improvements of an existing machine. During the workshop, participants will learn how to operate the machine and make replicas, with a view to proposing possible enhancements and improvements for any of its parts, such as adding a new format, improving the graphic interface, the digitalization quality, etc.

The mission of this workshop is to create a more efficient, simple and fully equipped universal format reader. Said universal machine will be available for users of the Art Centre while the machine is operative and on show at the Almacén Sur room in LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial from July 30th to September 20th 2010.

Time: 4-8 pm

Admission: free

Lead by: Obsoletos is a project created and produced by Basurama for the research, conception and diffusion of creative systems for the treatment of technological residue, understanding this to be any obsolete or outmoded electronic device, storage media or hardware: computers, peripheral equipment, data storage formats, mobile phones, etc.

Intended for: any person with a working knowledge of electronics, programming, software usability, intellectual property rights, image and sound or simply interested in contributing a critical perspective to the project. However, although these requisites are the ideal minimum knowledge to take part in the workshop, it is also open to anyone without prior knowledge but seriously interested in learning and participating in the process.

Goals of the workshop:
• To understand the process of obsolescence built into so many information formats.
• To discover possible solutions to this problem, both globally and individually.
• To learn and share electronics and programming know-how by applying it to specific ends.
• To construct a public-use device to resolve the different concomitant problems of usability.
• To participate in an open and collaborative project

Universal Format Reader

At first glance, the Universal Format Reader consists of three well-differentiated parts: a computer, a series of format readers and a projector.

Through the screen’s graphic interface a series of relevant data for digitalizing the document can be input in the computer, such as file name, recording year, description of content, etc. The computer is equipped with hardware and software for digitalization and indexation operations in a database.

Each playing device is connected to the host computer through an Arduino microcontroller, which is programmed to synchronize the start of the format playing with the digitalization process. This process is triggered by pressing the “Play” button on the player. Each playing device will be modified so that the button for activating the process is clearly visible. For educational purposes, and as far as feasibly possible, all frames and other pieces hiding the operation of the playing device will be removed.

The resulting digitalized file can be displayed by means of the projector, and depending on the type of file, it can be viewed during the digitalization process or later on.

Open-source, existing programmes will be used for the collection and re-encoding of data; while a custom-made C++ software application has been designed to control the system status and use the different programmes when required.

Goals of the universal format reader
The main goal of the Universal Format Reader is to offer a public service for the digitalization of obsolete formats. This service is currently provided by professional companies at prohibitive prices for most people.
Considering that this machine has been conceived to be used by anyone, the digitalization process should be as simple and mechanical as possible, avoiding whenever possible any complicated technological steps which might refrain people from using it.
In line with the spirit of the Obsoletos project, most of the machine parts have been manufactured using electronic waste or second-hand electronic elements. The idea is to demonstrate that electronic waste can have a second life.
Information regarding the instructions for construction, technical specifications and programmes used will be accessible, so that anyone can consult such data, understand how the machine operates, and play it in accordance with open source and DIY philosophy.

More information about this event…