Cybernetics Serendipity Redux - A moderated discussion on YASMIN

Leonardo/OLATS, co sponsor of YASMIN, is pleased to announce

Cybernetics Serendipity Redux (ed: discussion link seems to be broken now 15/02/2009) - has archive of yasmin mail list - new Yasmin list

A moderated discussion on YASMIN
Beginning September 1 2008

Discussion On YASMIN, led by Ranulph Glanville.
Moderators Ranulph Glanville, Paul Brown, Paul Pangaro

40 years ago, Jasia Reichart's exhibition "Cybernetic Serendipity" showed that cybernetics, computing and art had arrived.

40 years later, while computers and art remain, cybernetics has nearly vanished, although there is a reviving interest in art.

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"The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices" by al-Jazari (1206)

"The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices" was a manuscript written by al-Jazari in 1206 which described automata and mechanical devices used in early Islam. One of the more famous is the "The Elephant Clock" pictured here. Other machines include wine servers. The devices were 'programmed' to be random and unpredictable.

There is an excellent explanation of some of these devices and the book in general @ - this is a conference presentation by Gunalan Nadarajan on his paper :

Islamic Automation: A Reading of al-Jazari's The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices (1206)

Professor Noel Sharkey from Sheffield University is building a replica of al-Jazari's automata boat which acts like a programmable drum machine.

"Al-Jazari's machine was originally a boat with four automatic musicians that floated on a lake to entertain guests at royal drinking parties. It had two drummers, a harpist and a flautist."

"The heart of the mechanism is a rotating cylindrical beam with pegs (cams) protruding from it. These just bump into little levers that operate the percussion. The point of the model is to demonstrate that the drummer can be made to play different rhythms and different drum patterns if the pegs are moved around. In other words it is a programmable drum machine."

The guys from have been working on a livecoding game called Al-Jazari which is a musical robot livecoding system based on the principles of al-Jazari's automata boat.

view the video demo at

"Al-Jazari is written in scheme for fluxus, and continues in the gamepad driven vein of BetaBlocker.
Livecoding for all the family! Only for use at royal drinking parties."

"The language consists of instructions to move and turn the robot, along with conditionals based on the external state (blocked, robot to my left, right etc) and jump instructions to switch between 4 seperate code states. A simple signalling system to allow the bots to communicate is planned."

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Onion Robots website

Onion Robotics website contains a great deal of technical, creative and background information on robotics for hobbyists and even those more experienced. Some areas of the site also form a dictionary for some of the terms and concepts used in robotics, electronics, porgramming, Lego building and engineering.

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