Introduction: Building Night With Jameco: Adventure With 555, and the Noise Monster
various resistors, capacitors, potentiometers, and almost everything with 2 legs
The plan started simple. Since nobody has much knowledge about electronics, we just wanted to make the 555 timer work. First this tutorial was chosen and followed upon, the output is a LED and supposted to be flashing. I spent almost an hour struggling with the components, just trying to find the right ones. After it's completed, however, it turned out to be really hard to do the debugging, since the designed frequency is so high, that it's impossible to tell from the LED if it's flashing or not.
Out of frustration, we switched to another tutorial. This time it's a bit simpler, and having a photo showing the connection really helps a lot. It's much easier to compare our connection with the photo and see if anything is different. We found a very simple amplifier on a breadboard just lying around the corner, and used that for testing high frequency output.
Our creativity really kicked in after the last step proved to be working. One of the participants started to replace different parts on the board, it just worked. Soon everybody started doing arbetory experiments. In this way it's very easy to tell what kind of frequency is matched with what component. We don't need to know what frequency it exactly is, so this effectively rendered the mathmatical formular of frequency useless. I can't tell if it's a safe approach just messing around the circuit, but the 555 timer seems quite robust and tolerating, since it never stopped working or caught ablaze during the entire evening.
For the rest of the time we managed to mesh two 555 timers together, added in a few potentiometers, tried all the components at hand, even stacked a few together, or placed them in wrong places. Suprisingly most of the experiments adds/changes a bit of flavor to the sound it generates, even the most ridiculous ones. So in the end we get a working synthesizer, which we call Noise Monster. It is very un-scientific and I can't tell how it's capable of generating such a weird sound pattern, something you can definitely not get from calculations.
What's for sure is that jumping out of the box did gave us a lot of surprise and exploration time, it's worth taking a little bit of risk other than making sure of everything.
by Xun Yang
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