I saw this video a day or two ago and straightaway started researching for more information on it. It’s a device called the Wobbulator and it was developed by an artist named Nam June Paik. The Wobbulator you see in the video is the very same one that Nam June Paik built himself.
The modification to the television set is actually not that complex which is one of the leading factors in my interest in it. Plus the fact that the resulting patterns you can get from it are really amazing. It’s interesting to me that in the course of my creative thing a day the 365 day project I found myself getting interested in drawing machines and geometric patterns. I can’t say I remember having an affinity for the stuff previously. It started with the Harmonograph table and it’s stemmed from there to the Pinto-graph which I’m still looking to modify for variations. Now, this television project seems like a natural progression. I don’t know if I’m doing it on purpose or I’m being guided that way. I feel the same sort of fascination when I see a beautifully symmetrical origami sculpture or a rune glifberg video in a way. I will one day have to write a blog post on the artist and animator John Whitney. Some call him the father of computer animation. I learned about him while working on the Harmonograph and I very quickly realized he was someone I wanted to learn more about.
Anyways, here’s the rundown on the modification. Within these old tube television sets is a coil of copper wire with four wires coming off of it. It’s called the deflection yoke. The deflection yoke controls the electron beam within the tube and focuses and positions the image onto your screen. What you do, in the most basic terms is snip the wires coming off the yoke and connect them to an audio signal. Two of the wires are for vertical modulation and the other two are for horizontal modulation. If you send music into it you will see the beam in the television vibrate wildly to the music. If you were to send, rather than music, slow periodic voltages (or for you out there experienced in music synthesizers, an amplified LFO) to both vertical and horizontal connections simultaneously then you can achieve a variety of geometric patterns.
There is an important caveat I must add in regards the dangers within a common television set. There is a suction cup attached to the tube and connected to a large high voltage capacitor which holds extremely high voltages (30,000+ I’ve read) for fairly long periods of time after the TV has been turned off and disconnected. So, if you decide to try out this mod please read up about it on the web. I will provide a bunch of links to multiple sources on how to do this modification.
The TV set in the video above has further modifications which adds more yokes to the tube, enabling a variety of manipulation you can’t get from just the simple mod described above. I think I plan on adding some extra yokes myself. I will stop by my local electronics shop and see if any of the guys there can lend me a bit of advice.
I’ve got the perfect television set as well. An old retro Sony that I picked at a secondhand shop a while back. I think it looks very similar to the one Nam June Paik actually used. If you are interested in creating the same one as above then you should check out this link and check back here later because I will share whatever knowledge I gain from attempting this mod that I didn’t learn from that documentation.
Here’s a few links to other tutorials detailing the process of doing the basic single yoke hack.
Electro-Music Forum Topic (recommended)
Circuit Benders.com (this one links you to some other pages tutorials as well, I recommend reading multiple tutorials to get an overview of how the experience might be different)
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