The Deutsche Telekom wanted something dramatic for the Internationale
Funkausstellung 1999. You could already buy a video settop-box
to receive digital and analog premium content, and they wanted to
show everyone just how unbeliveable broad the selection of
channels has grown in the digital age of television.
I was asked mere 4 weeks before the start of the IFA if
i could built something that could control up to 100
ordinary televisions individually from a computer.
Well, i did it. A small circuit was attached to each television
and networked with a cheap 2-wire cable. Because each television
had to be removed from its (black plastic) encasing and introduced
into a brushed metal steel cage, it was very easy to attach the
circuits (i simply attached them to the SCART-socket with a small
screw) and network them.
We built 4 walls with a total of 68 televisions. We even had a
digital comic character that was rendered in realtime by a
Oynx Reality Engine 2 from the (then-famous) Silicon Graphics Incorporated.
The emotions of the character were read (using a helmet with numerous
delicate sensors and a headtracker) from an actor behind the scenes.
I had tons of other things to take care of: 1 day before the IFA
opened it's doors, technicians managed to put additional 60
digital channels (only made for the IFA) into our cable network.
I was presented with two brand new digital settop-box prototypes
and they asked me if it's possible for me to control the from the
computer that controls the TVs. Using three DINA4-papers
someone in Korea had hastily FAXed to me around 2 AM, i managed to
control one of the two
settop-boxes. Only one because the other one overheated and died,
but someone was sitting somewhere in the world in an airplane,
only to bring us two additional ones.
If that's not enough my hardware- and software-skills were needed
for the so-called Scall-Baum. Scall was a very popular numeric
paging service, end someone built a whole tree with contact-free
sensors. My job was to control three scrolling LED-lines above the
tree. If someone touched a number... show it's meaning, and go back
to normal mode after some timeout.
The protocol to program these
things was not in the documentation, and i tried to reverse engineer it
with a serial dongle. But seemingly it was encoded in a strange way,
so i decided the outcome of any reverse engineering attempts would
probably be to fruitless. So we decided to output audio. Some boss
from the Deutsche Telekom recorded all sentences for us, and i
used my small Amiga 600 (i had taken with me so i could distract me
in my hotel room with some computer games) to play them. Worked
flawlessly, but the guy who had built the tree had mixed up the
numbers, so it took us from 6 AM to 7 AM (thats 2 hours before
the IFA opens it's doors!) to find out which bitcombination
is for which number.
All i had planned worked without any flaws. But i was so extremly
exhausted that i slept nearly 14 hours for each one of the following
7 days. After that my ninja-side was ready to explore Berlin by night.
Created on 28.09.1999 |