Too Good To Miss: An Embroidered Computer
Written by David Conrad   
Wednesday, 25 December 2019

There are some news items from the past year that deserve a second chance. Here we have one such - built solely from a variety of metal threads and magnetic, glass and metal beads, the embroidered computer is described as an exploration using historic gold embroidery materials and knowledge to craft a programmable 8-bit computer.

embroideredetail

We have encountered computers created from unusual materials before. When you compare this one to those built with fluids or slime mould or soldier crabs, you may think that it is a pretty straightforward analog of computer circuitry - but it is very pretty.

The schematic for the computer logic makes it all seem quite familiar:

embroideredcschematic

Funded by the Austrian Science Fund's Programme for Arts-based Research (PEEK), the Embroidered Computer was created by Irene Posch and Ebru Kurbak and is installed at the Angewandte Innovation Lab in Vienna.

According to Irene Posch, who describes herself as a researcher and artist with a background in media and computer science:. 

"Technically, the piece consists of (textile) relays, similar to early computers before the invention of semiconductors. Visually, the gold materials, here used for their conductive properties, arranged into specific patterns to fulfill electronic functions, dominate the work. Traditionally purely decorative, their pattern here defines they function. They lay bare core digital routines usually hidden in black boxes. Users are invited to interact with the piece in programming the textile to compute for them."

This view of the underside of the fabric shows how the connections to the braided power lines go through it to the gold embroidery on top:

 

embroideredcsunderside

 

Individual relays switch, and consequently pass through signals to perform computation based on the instructions given by simple programs: 

 bead 2 detail

 

 

More Information

The Embroidered Computer

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 25 December 2019 )