Nice Cube of White Noise

The Nice Cube of White Noise had quite a journey to end up in its current svelt form. It in fact started its life as an electronic learning toy called the Talking Spell N Learn (manufactured in China for Radio Shack, year unknown) that has a beautiful British female voice. It was actually my first serious (albeit clumsy) attempt at circuit-bending with an instrument as a goal, and you can see from the photo remnants of my early modifications. This is the one that taught me never to leave my modified gadgets powered on for more than 30 minutes at a time...
I had just finished the unit (which I called "eniac") the day of a show I was about to perform (Omnimedia v.03, January 24th, 1998. See omnicetera for more details on the Omnimedia experimental trickle-down electronic music festival series) and it worked beautifully for sound-check, producing large white-noise ambient soundscapes, stuttering glitchy voice ryhthms, and dark ambient drones as planned. Done, up I went to set up a myriad of other audio/visual gadgetry and forgot to unplug the unit from its wallwart. Bummer. When it was time to perform, a few hours later, eniac was quite dead. Dead, dead, dead.
So, I hung on to the gadget, knowing full well that one day I would have the knowledge to resurrect it.
Then, years later, I was digging thru some crates of electronic toy fodder in my storage when I came upon old eniac and decided to give it a go. I opened the case, pulled off all the old modifications, and found the culprit: a poorly soldered power line. Dumb.
I exhumed the circuitboard completely from the Talking Spell N Learn unit and poked around for some time. For the truly daring, you can see some constrution and etc. shots here.
Designed as a counterpart to the Evil Cube of Black Noise, The NCoWN is an interesting and unique gadget in that you trigger the myriad sounds by rapidly touching two of the 3 metal disks on the front and side surfaces. It uses your body's natural electrical impedance to completely mess with the logic of the sound chip, causing it to spew things like super-minimal soft rhythmic tones and noise, harsh data noise, the British female voice counting random numbers or asking "Is this a plant?", and long glitchy phoneme dumps. Even the LCD display goes nutty. Neat!
The funny thing is, everybody's impedance is different. Some people that play with this gadget get completely different sounds out of it than I can. And some people can't get any sound out of it at all! Weird...
The gadget requires light to work properly (via the optical resistor on the top) while working from the internal batteries, and has a speaker inside on the bottom with rubber feet to elevate it slightly for resonant amplification. When it is plugged into an amplifier (via a 1/8" jack on the back), the performing and audio characteristics change due to voltage feedback from the amplifier and the optical resistor then becomes more of a control source to guide the sound output. The switch on the top is for turning the unit on/off and for resetting when it crashes (which occasionally happens, based on the operators impedance and the gadget's disposition).
It is encased in a clear box that has been painted white on the inside. It kinda looks like a cross between an iPod, an iBook, and a G4 Cube.

Completed: August 2003
Dimensions: 31/4"x 4"x 4"
Current Status:

Owned and frequently touched by me (univac)


NC1stLetter.mp3 A great repetitive noisy bit with voice.
NCAnAnimal.mp3 , NCAPlant.mp3 , NCWhatAnswer.mp3 Some of the lovely british female voice phrases that come out of the gadget.
NCBarkBaby.mp3 A barking baby with asthma.
NCDataBeat02.mp3 A good beat with clipped DataNoise.
NCDataNoise0.mp3 Various DataNoise with voice.
NCDrumb.mp3 Who knew there was a drum machine inside?
NCGrunchy.mp3 Grunchy bits of ROM-dumped phonemes.
NCHooray.mp3 She's a little drunk here. I think she needs to pee at the end...
NCNumbers02.mp3 Now she's reciting (semi)random numbers.
NCXrpt.mp3 A nice staccato musical loopy bit.
NCYouRight.mp3 Yes, you're right.