Solari – virtuoso demo from Matt Soar on Vimeo.

It’s been an exhilarating week: Mark Demers from SpikenzieLabs was in on Wednesday to finalize some work on our #48 board, and had a wonderful surprise for us – a program made in the difficult-to-search-for-but-easy-to-use automation software Processing.

Drawing from a TextEdit file, Processing allows us to create sequences of commands to send to the panel in our Solari board. Mark wrote a sequence that allows us to demonstrate the capacity of the program to change speeds, to turn the light on and off, to set the display and clock at the same time and independently, and to activate individual units one by one. This ability to program in advance will be instrumental in thinking about the possibilities for the signs’ use in a public art installation.

The software allows us not only to set the speed of the flapping, but also how long the program waits before sending the next command. Thinking about programming in this way feels a bit more like a composition or a choreography of sound and movement and symbols. Given these commands to run through instead of entering them manually changes the call-and-response dialogue of entering data and listening and looking for a result. Instead, the program allows the sign to perform. Listening to the Solari run the course of its automation, you begin to notice the nuance of the sounds of each unit. Its second display unit rumbles, lower-pitched, while its first has a higher voice. The clock units have a more lispy whisper on account of their large, thin size. And the light turns on with a slight upper ping, as its taught spring switches and the filament flushes red at the sudden rush of electricity.