Santa's bringing you a bundle of switches... and potentiometers


My friend Daaaaaave Russ wrote from Florida to tip me off about a nifty electronics project that was done right here in Tulsa by one Josh McCormick -- modifying a $50 singing/dancing Wal-Mart Santa to produce different sounds and movements:

I've had a Parallax BASIC Stamp for some time. The nice BS2P40 model. For those not familiar with the BASIC Stamp, it is a computer chip that you can program in a simple language that can monitor and control things. It is nowhere near as complex as a full-blown computer, but it requires just a minimum of wiring and electronics to run. It just takes some good programming and some very basic electronics....

The problem is that I hadn't been able to find many interesting things to do with it. I created a little display toy (persistence of vision) with some full color (RGB) LEDs. That was about it. But last month, an interesting announcement hit my mailbox. It was a call for entries [Word Document] for a local non-conformist art show in Tulsa!

I've got to do something. But what can I do? LEDs? No, too boring. So I went browsing the isles of Wal*Mart and see if there were any good hackable items to be had there. Sure enough, there were a few candidates. But one item out of the entire store screamed "hack me" more than anything else. The $49.84 animatronic Santa Claus.

Sadly, the non-conformist art show folks didn't appreciate his efforts:

Two days later, the judging came, and I got a phone call from the art gallery. They said they had a lot of entries this year, and they apologize that the judging was "rather ruthless". My entry did not qualify for the exhibit. I was slightly disappointed, but I was a little confused. From what I was told, the judges leaned more towards mainsteam art. You know... sculpture, painting, etc. No big deal, I really didn't put my self worth on the line with this one. But they wanted it out of their gallery by the end of the day.

I arrive at the art gallery and checked out the remaing artworks. Most of them seem sexual in nature. You know. George Bush with an erection, that sort of thing. Were these the winners, or other losers like myself?

Click through for videos of Hacked Santa in action, plus all the gory technical details. If you can handle dark humor, don't miss the list of candidate phrases for Hacked Santa to say: "I can give you free stuff because I skimp on Elf health care! HO HO HO!!"

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 19, 2005 8:51 PM.

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