Analog Coding Exercise – The Human Fax Machine


Using images of a banana and a stiletto by American artist Andy Warhol we were given an exercise in which we were to recreate the image on another piece of paper only through the use of sounds and noises – we were essentially told to be a human fax machine.

Our process started with folding up the piece of paper into a 12 square area – 3 columns and 4 rows. In each of the 12 squares we created a number plane (only dealing with positive numbers, quadrant one) 10 by 10, 1 to 10 horizontally (x-axis) and 1 to 10 vertically (y-axis) – so we had a set of co-ordinates for each point that was chosen from the pictures we had to ‘fax’. The 12 square set-up and 10 by 10 plane is also used on the banana and stiletto so we could co-ordinate the points on the images and thus create a co-ordinate to share with the receivers of the message. Each co-ordinate sent would connect from the last one to form the image sent.

Using the following sounds and the way we used them we are able to co-ordinate points:
– a number of claps would indicate which of the 12 squares the point/dot was to be placed (1-12)
– Using a drum beat we made out the horizontal number (0-10)
– Banging a harmonica on a table we made out the vertical number (0-10)
For example: 4 claps would be the 4th square, hearing 3 drum beats and 6 harmonica bangs would be point (3,6) – so point (3,6) in the 4th square we would make a point.
This method was repeated for every point, however for the line between the points.

We used a number of open-hand bangs on the table to indicate if the line joining the points would be straight, curved upwards or curved downwards:
– 1 open-hand bang would mean it is a straight line connecting the points
– 2 open-hand bangs would mean the line would curve upwards
– 3 open-hand bangs would mean the line would curve downwards

Starting with example of point (3,6) in the 4th square, if the next set of sounds the receiver hears are 2 claps, 4 drums and 3 harmonica bangs then the point would be in the 2nd square on (4,3) – then hearing 1 open-hand bang on the table would mean these two points – (3,6) in the 4th square and (4,3) in the 2nd square, are connected by a straight line.

All of these sounds are initiated by the sender of the message.

If the receiver of the message had a problem they would signal with a bang on the table to indicate a ‘re-do’ of the last point transmitted. The receiver of the message was able to know when the message was finished by the last point sent would be the 1st point repeated – indicating that the points connected.

This method of transmitting the images worked well – only major challenge I found was the speed in which the message was sent – we needed more time to decipher the sounds to the corresponding place, so a more steady pace of sounds with distinction between the ending of one sound to the start of the next sound would be allow time to understand where the points were.

Overall the exercise was deemed successful.

Created, produced and executed by MEDA102 students Jo, Lydia, Christine, Dan, Matt and James.

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