Collin Cunningham, Creative Engineer at Adafruit Industries


Cool Tools Show 079: Collin Cunningham

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Our guest this week is Collin Cunningham. Collin’s an experimentalist at heart. His love for discovery has led him to explore the worlds of video, sound, art, and technology. He’s created multiple web video series and apps, and is a creative engineer at Adafruit Industries.

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Show notes:

MX-500S Soldering / Rework System ($535)
“I jumped around to a lot of different irons. I tried your Hakkos and your Wellers and such, but the coolest thing about [this iron] — I call it a stylus. … It’s like a big pen, and that’s kind of rare, so you feel very nimble and elegant while soldering. You can get into all these hard to reach places. … The second coolest thing about it, it has an auto shutoff. I never hear of that feature on any other iron, and it’s so important. Like how often, “Oh, I left the soldering iron on,” and it’s just sitting there and killing the tip and being a fire hazard all night, forever, when I forget about it. … That is the most glorious, simple thing to add to this kind of a tool, and I use it always because I just leave it on, and it turns itself off like 10 minutes after I’ve stopped using it.”

Preonic and Planck keyboard kit ($100)
“Other people have talked about mechanical keyboards on Cool Tools here, so you know there’s a thing, there’s a scene. It’s a rabbit hole, it’s a Pandora’s box. I caution anyone who has mild interest in it because you can get sucked in. You usually start because you like the feel of a different key switch, and I think mechanical keyboards appeal to people who have sort of tactility sensitivity or fetish or whatever you want to call it. … This company, Ortholinear Keyboards, makes kits to build your own keyboard. The special thing about their design is that they are, well, as they call it, ortholinear. They’re non-staggered.”

Monome Grid reconfigurable music controller ($700) (Video)
“This is something that’s been around a while: the Monome grid, and it basically looks like, similar to the Ortholinear keyboards, a grid of buttons, but they’re sort of rubbery membrane buttons that each have a light underneath them, each have an LED, and it’s controlled by software on the computer. Nothing running inside of the actual board determines its function beyond the serial data that’s being sent over. And people can write their own functionality for it using MaxMSP. … It runs on multiple platforms, and you can drag visual blocks around, of logic, like say an if-then statement. If blank happens, then, and then draw a line to another block that’ll say, “Do this math,” or “Make this noise,” or whatever you choose. And it’s designed, I believe, originally for artists, to make programming more accessible for artists, multimedia programming, for sound, and it has a large video control API.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 4.13.11 PM
Automoton audio effects “glitch” plugin by Audio Damage ($49) (Video)
“This in a way kind of goes with the Monome. This plug-in is called the Automaton from a very cool company named Audio Damage, and it has a few different effects built in: I believe a modulator, a stutter effect, and a bitcrusher effect. A lot of sort of glitchy sound effectors in there. But the way it triggers, or activates, each effect is using this visual sequencer, and so if you can imagine a grid that has little points on it … Let’s say you put a blue point on there, and that’ll activate a bitcrusher. And you put a red point on there, and it’ll activate a stutter effect.”


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