Little Languages with Brian Kernighan
RecentlyI attended the Princeton Tech Meetup
discussed Little Languages. Although I've followed Brian's
work for the last 40 years, this was a fresh look at programming languages for me. I've recently been working on the user interface of
that is used to create automation events, and after listening to Brian I realized I had
developed my own little language. Sprockitz allows the user to create event sequences that can be triggered at specific times, from external inputs, or from
other events. These events can change the state of outputs, send Emails/Tweets or change program variables. The language
supports if-then, do-while-until
and looping constructs. The beauty of it is that your program is written
using drop-down boxes - it's easy enough that a young child can easily create their
own event-control programs. So now that I've developed a new programming language I just need to come up with a name for it.
Animating a Singing Elvis Robot for Media Tech
I got a call from Chris, one of son's friends. He said he was volunteering at a local technology center,
, where they have a Singing Elvis Bust
to do some work on. Apparently, they had this thing sitting around for a while and
, the director of Media Tech, thought it would be cool to
control it from an iPad. Chris was familiar with my work so he immediately thought to call me. So I picked up the Elvis to see what I could do with it.
It's a marvel of mechanical engineering with about a dozen custom servo mechanisms. The original circuitry is fried so it no longer functions as it originally did.
However, I think we can make a really cool interactive prop using Sprockitz
. I was so impressed with this thing I put bids
on two of them being sold on eBay. Wish me luck!
Helping with a Scary Prop at Pennsbury Prom
A long time friend of mine Mark Sanford, is an avid Maker - on a big scale. Mark's passion is building really big things - like 12' globes,
truck-sized rotating buckets, lifesize dragons and disco balls big enough to house a family. For several years he's been building props for Pennsbury High Schools' Prom, which has been
voted the "Best Prom in America" by Readers Digest. One day Mark called me and said "I have this
rubber rattle snake
I want to animate, do you think Sprockitz
can handle that?" I've done a lot of stuff with Sprockitz, but this was the first time I
had an opportunity to work one-on-one with someone else to animate something. Mark used 2 RC-servos to control his snake - one in the head and one in the tail. Even though Mark
lives only a short distance from me we collaborated remotely using Skype and I was quickly able to update Sprockitz's firmware in my office while Mark fine-tuned the settings
in his shop. Together we were able to do some amazing things with the servos. Using a new "servo slew" function I added to Sprockitz, Mark was able to have the snakes head bob
back and forth so realistically that many at the event thought it was an actual snake. They're already starting to plan next year's prom and Mark's talking of animating something
Really Big and Really Scary - but I'm sworn to secrecy so I can't revel what it is.