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The Embroidered Computer (ireneposch.net)
287 points by eternalban 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 42 comments

I find a different project on the website, Drapery FM [http://www.ireneposch.net/drapery-fm/], even more interesting. It's a wool installation that transmits its own creation story over the radio.

To me, it feels like one of those Clarke's Third Law-tier devices that work seemingly by magic.

Doing a little tracking, the FM transmitter circuit refered to can be found here:


Something about it also vaguely seems like an unsettling SCP-like* monster. It would be terrifying to be in a room with that thing all alone at night and it started broadcasting something unexpected.

* http://www.scp-wiki.net/

Magic? It's aesthetic, but technically it's simply a circuit that with the wires woven together instead of printed in traces on a board. Magic-like tech is the reverse, the amazing minituarization of circuitry to microscopic size.

The women computer is a reverse Third law -- sufficiently antique technology is indistinguishable from magic.

What exactly is a "women computer"?

I assume it was a typo -- possibly even autocorrect -- for "woven"

This reminds me of core rope memory [1], AKA "little old lady" memory, which was literally a ROM that was manually woven.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Core_rope_memory

Which in turn reminds me of South American 'quipu': https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quipu

On the topic of cool old memory technologies, see also mercury delay line memory, which involves a cylinder of mercury into which you transmit pressure waves to encode information, and to read it back you wait for the particular offset in time when the beginning of the data you need is reflected back to you: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delay_line_memory

Sounds similar to surface acaustic wave filters and delay lines, which were e.g. commonly used in televisions (to make the color signal of the preceding line accessible while drawing the next line, it needs to be delayed by a line (64 µs). These work by turning the electrical signal into a mechanical strain wave travelling mostly on the surface of the substrate, where it can be filtered by mechanical means (think tuning forks, but etched into the surface) or simply delayed by the path length. The "receiving" end then turns the mechanical wave back into electricity.

> By the standards of the time, a relatively large amount of data could be stored in a small installed volume of core rope memory: 72 kilobytes per cubic foot, or roughly 2.5 megabytes per cubic meter

Wow, I'd never heard of this 'rope' memory before - incredible!

What were the actual ropes themselves made of? Just standard rope materials?


Edit: I found a neat video: https://youtu.be/X0WnddW5gZI

I’ve been programming for nearly 30 years and today I just learned that “bits” was derived from BInary digiTS.

That’s an amazing video. Thank you for posting it.

Also, "pixels" is from "PICture ELements"

"pels" was an early designation.

It's still used among video codec discussions, especially with the MPEG group.

So if you make the case that the jacquard loom was the first computer, the first computer was for weaving, and this is a woven computer.

Theres a nice circularity there.

Or skynet's plan B?

Nice thought! Given that this is an art piece, you can be very certain that this circularity was part of their thought process.

I think the gloves on that site are particularly interesting because they show a high integration of textile and electronics with a practical application that actually makes sense.

Zoom in on the second photo and see the relays flipping, really cool.

They don’t describe how they made these decorative relays. Does anyone have any details?

[edit] I wanted to emphasize that this goes beyond the expected “sew prefabricated components to cloth” and instead is pretty much all embroidery (maybe crochet also.) That is several kinds of awesome.

This link: http://www.ireneposch.net/1-bit-textile/ shows a single bead being flipped, without it also controlling a switch (to become a relay).

This page on the site specifically shows the relays: http://www.stitchingworlds.net/experimentation/experimentati...

Crochet relays - that is awesome. Thank you.

The action of the relays somewhat reminds me of this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip-disc_display

I really want more details about what the logic is doing! All I can find so far is the one blurry logic diagram

The logic diagram appears to contain two registers, an ALU, and some control logic. The ALU is bit-serial, judging by the width of the datapaths and the mudems connecting the two parts. I don't see memmory, so to call this a "computer" in the modern sense is stretching it a bit; this is a piece of one, but with a very interesting construction technique.

This comment helped me to get a better sense of what is and isn't happening within this project. I have to think it through a bit more, but wonder if given the right middleware, or by cheating a bit in the connections (using an arduino), you could setup a weaving device that utilized the khipu as storage, so the logic could record new sets of knots to a khipu...?

This is beautiful. I really enjoy and am intrigued by what I think of as the "weird frontier" of technology...things that blur the line between tech and craft like this, offline/distributed tech projects like Scuttlebutt, DIY hacker projects, or anything that uses technology in unconventional and creative ways. Does anyone have favorite blogs or websites that revolve around this sort of content?

I wonder if you could also add magnetic core memory to this. The ferrite beads and their wires could make an attractive pattern.


And that is really interesting.

Thought I was going to see the core rope memory of the Apollo Guidance Computer.

Beautiful nonetheless.

Can anyone explains how does this computer works ?

Anyway this is really cool. A manual computer is a great project idea.

It doesn't look like there any real explanation of the architecture beyond this logic diagram: http://www.ireneposch.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/logic-d...

From this it looks like there's two 8 bit registers on the left with control signal coming from the top of the image. There's some logic going on on the right, but it strikes me as not complete though. The fact I can't read the writing doesn't help.

There are two Youtube channels I know of where they make a computer and don't assume much about the watcher's prior experience:

This channel show a person building a more normal relay computer: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5-_rpS40owFzVVuxDF70Tw/vid...

This playlist shows another person building a more more normal computer out of silicon chips: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLowKtXNTBypGqImE405J2...

If you want to know how this computer works, the first one will give you some idea because it's made of relays too, but the second one in particular gives a good, detailed, complete walkthrough of a working computer.

It looks like each of those little bead thingies is a transistor; each has three wires leasing up to it with a little loop at the end. Presumably, a charge from the loop to the side can flip the bead, and this makes it conduct.

It’s surprising that that works, to say the least. :)

They're relays, not transistors. But you've got the right principle.

What do you think it means? Are we mere automata?

The closeup is beautiful, but the overall design looks like a three-year-old with a glitter pen drew all over the table. Most of the lines aren't even sewn into the cloth.

Perhaps the next iteration could borrow design elements from actual embroidery (leaves, flowers, etc.) and cleverly embed the circuit inside them. Or they could go in the opposite direction, straighten out the lines, and make an embroidery inspired by printed circuit boards. Either way, I hope they don't stop here but keep making better versions. This could be turned into something that people actually want to hang on their walls.

I like it how it is. It reminds me of Snail Drawings by Daniel Renali [0], it makes me think about order/logic and the contrast to a lot of patterns seen in nature.

[0] https://www.danielranalli.com/recent-work/snail-drawings-ser...

Personally I love the design.

While beautiful, it has a certain eery quality to it, as if the piece of fabric is "alive" with relays as eyes

I wish there were more photos with less blur and higher resolution diagrams

To each their own. I love how it looks as is.

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