This blog serves as an information repository for myself, and the information is posted for consumption by the circuit bending community at large. Feel free to use any information gleaned herein for your own bending purposes.

Warning: I make no guarantees of my methods as I know next to nothing about electronics. I will however guarantee that you will end up destroying a toy or two in your circuit bending endeavors and if you do so, it is your own fault.

You can send your questions, tips, news, ideas, et. al. to octatone@gmail.com.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Octatone's Bends: Yamaha VSS-30

I bent my VSS-30 about a month ago and it was my first attempt at circuit bending. I did a lot of research before I started as I didn't want to fry an already cool little retro keyboard. Some of the tips were gleaned from J. Robert Lennon whose VSS-30 preset bends I had seen on eBay of all places. The final result is a machine that still operates as it did originally but that can be tweaked to utter hell with the mods added on. Just as a forewarning, some of the preset bends I added can increase the output volume exponentially as they tap directly into the VSS-30's 5 watt amp IC; seriously, this thing gets LOUD.

On to the useful information:

The main circuit board of the VSS-30 has a large CPU and RAM to the lower right of this photo. The RAM patch bay that I added (standard VSS-30 bend) is wired directly to the pins of RAM chip. The preset bends (toggle switches) are wired similarly to the pins going from the CPU to the RAM, so that the toggles and the patch bay are sharing the same signal path - which lends itself to more chaotic noise.

In the above picture, there is an arrow in sharpy pointing to a yellow wire. That is the bend point for all of the toggle switches.

The patch bay and toggles from the front of the bent Yamaha VSS-30:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The 99-cent Geetar (Circuit Bent My Song Maker Guitar)

This is a recap of my Circuit Bending Challenge day 'o fun. I posted during that day in the CDM forums but this is meant to be a more comprehensive write up of the process.

10:00 AM Oct. 28, 2007

Time to hike on down to the large Seattle Goodwill in what is often called Little Saigon just east of the International District (China Town) in Downtown Seattle.

It is a gorgeous day out and my hopes are high as I try to get there before the store opens at eleven and all the good stuff is swiped.

While I was searching the toys, I found someone's discarded bend:

It was a toy boom box with a microphone on it, I assumed it was a dead bend as I can't fathom someone just tossing out their work. That or someone was subversivley trying to influence the next generation of hackers and benders through seeding his bent toys in the local thrift mart ...

I picked out and tested my goods and payed $7.57 for my supplies: one v-tech speak and read clone computer, one leapfrog alphabet learning toy, a my first words toy, and a My Song Maker toy guitar - and a hippo for my fiancée who has an obsession with fat animals.

12:30 PM

After arriving home with pork skewers for lunch from the from the vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant Vegan Garden, I set to work tearing open my goods and testing for bends. I started with the My First Words toy and found some pitch and stutter bends, but decided it was not quite interesting enough to warrant spending the day working on it. Then I spent an hour or more trying to bend the leapfrog learning toy with no success - which was a bummer as it has some of the cleanest vocal samples in a toy that I have purchased second only to my Pokemon hiragana/katakana Nihongo learning toy. I knew from previous readings and bending research that the v-tech was bendable so I set that aside for later.

Then I opened the guitar:

It had three boards inside with two blob ICs between them. The visible board in the neck had lots of resistors and capacitors so I started my search there. Quite quickly I found the pitch bend and the body contact points and loved the sounds so I got crackin'.

I went through a bunch of my misc. pots and decided this dual 38k pot I had seemed to work best/have the most dramatic results between the pitch bend points. So I wired that up first.


By five o'clock, between wiring up a faulty switch, dremmelling the jack hole in the wrong spot, and getting some chores done, I had the guitar up and running in its beginning stages:

Then I scavenged for some screws and hooked up the body contacts:

Then I got to rocking it out:

Oct. 29, 2007

The next morning I was still having fun with this noise maker and added one more mod.

Then it was time to do my first solo improvisation on the beast:


Participating in the circuit Bending Challenge 2k7 was a blast and it was inspiring and educational to see what other people around the world do when bending toys. This guitar is only my second bend, but getting up early on Sunday to participate ended up supplying me with toys for more. Kudos to Michael Una, CDM and GetLoFi for spurring the collective creativity of the geeky masses.

I can't wait for the next challenge.