Dorkbot/Ignite/RadioShack SXSW Project

Event: Ignite & Dorkbot SXSW – Vision of the Future 2021, Friday, March 11, 2011, 6 - 10pm, Austin Music Hall, 208 Nueces, Austin, TX

Dorkbot Austin is teaming up with Ignite Austin for an opening event at SXSW Interactive this year, and I will be participating. My project is sponsored by Radio Shack. I am building an analog synthesizer utilizing parts (almost) exclusively purchased at Radio Shack. The Shack does not sell the variety of chips that it did when I was a kid, but they still carry 555's and various op-amps as well as transistors, diodes, resistors, capacitors, switches, potentiometers and knobs. Just about everything I need.

Here's a entry about my project on Radio Shack's blog, and here's their post-event blog entry.

UPDATE: The event was a blast! The talks were fun, the exhibits were all great and there was good music too. Plus, I met a bunch of cool people. I finished the synth with, literally, seconds to spare. I designed the device as a simple demonstration of the basic building blocks of an analog synthesizer but, to my surprise, it actually sounds pretty good!

As promised, here is the schematic. There are surely bits that could be improved or simplified. Having said that, it does work well, and I like the sound so much that I have performed with it twice already. All of the modules of a classic analog synthesizer are in there. It has two voltage controlled audio oscillators (VCOs) with square and triangle wave output, a low frequency oscillator (LFO) with square and adjustable ramp wave shapes, an ADSR (attack, decay, sustain and release) envelope generator, a voltage controlled low pass filter (VCF) and a voltage controlled amplifier (VCA). The LFO and envelope can be applied to any combination of the VCOs, VCF and/or VCA.

It was not intended to be a kit, but anyone interested in building it should dive in! I might make it into a kit, but I would have to get enough of a response. It does take a lot of time to design a circuit board, source the parts, write instructions, etc. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Below are some videos and pictures of the completed synthesizer.

My interview with Radio Shack

On the breadboard

RadioShackSynth Breadboard

The finished synthesizer, top view

RadioShackSynth Top

The finished synthesizer, front view

RadioShackSynth Front

The finished synthesizer, underside

RadioShackSynth Underside

About Dorkbot
Dorkbot is a regular meeting of artists, hackers, designers, engineers, students and other interested parties who are involved in the creation of electronic or otherwise technological art (in the broadest sense of the term). Dorkbot was started in New York in 2000 by Douglas Irving Repetto and has since spread to over 40 cities worldwide. See them all at:

About Ignite Austin
Five minutes, 20 slides. What would you say? At Ignite Austin, 16 artists, technologists, thinkers, and personalities will take the stage to answer this challenge. The goal is to spark new conversations and collaborations across cultures and disciplines throughout the city of Austin with fast-paced, bite-sized presentations. It’s a great opportunity to meet smart, interesting people (if we do say so ourselves) and maybe even learn something.