I finally got time to get into the printshop this week to get printing again. My target was the coveted “Issue One” circuit board for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. This was the original layout as put together by Richard Altwasser in 1982.
I’d finally tracked down a donor board in April last year, stripped it and started tracing it, but other work overtook me and I hadn’t been able to get into the studio to print until after Hogmanay.
It looks rather like the ZX81 (a simpler Altwasser design from the previous year), but is bigger, and has many more parts on it. I really like these free-hand style boards, and they’re very unusual for this generation of machine. (Subsequent issues of this computer used a more recognisable orthogonal, angular pattern.) I also had a devil of a time tracking down a ZX Spectrum Issue One that hadn’t been lovingly restored (and cost hundreds of pounds), or was a “rare” item. This was the most expensive donor, by far.
The necessity to destroy the containing object (the computer) has been a significant feature in this series of artworks. Physically stripping away the context around the board, the case, components, markings and labels, to reveal the signs of the human creator inside.
I’ve printed a set of these in what I consider the “signature” circuit portrait colour scheme, and then a handful of assorted other combinations. Once again, I’m using Somerset Satin paper and four layers of acrylic ink. The paper is roughly A3 with four torn or deckled edges, the printed area is roughly A4.
Check the shop (http://circuitportraits.bigcartel.com/) if you’ve got a hankering for one of these fine pieces of computing history.
Mattel brought out this behemoth in 1980, the very first generation of games consoles, competing with the the Atari VCS. Inside the huge brown and gold case are three separate circuitboards (one double-sided, two single), and each controller has a fairly neat flexi-board, printed onto acetate sheets and folded in half to create the contacts.
I struggle to believe these contacts in the controllers were very reliable.
The Commodore 64 has a huge circuitboard in it, and I decided to print it even bigger – so this new addition to the Circuit Portrait project is a 50x70cm revelation of this famous machine’s inner beauty.
The prints available are a small run of this cabbage and sky pattern, and a handful of other random colour combinations that I’ll try to get photographed.
This big print is going to be the centrepiece of my contribution to Collidoscope, an exhibition curated by Alex Gunn that will be running from the 12th of December until Christmas. Please come along if you are in Edinburgh!
This will be – unofficially – the launch of the Circuit Portrait project too. The C64 print was the flagship I was waiting for!
The Sega Megadrive was the console we had at home in the 90s. I understand some folks call this machine a Genesis. I spent years playing Streets of Rage and Road Rash with my brother.
Breaking open a recent donation Megadrive, I wasn’t surprised to find a pretty dull, plain mainboard. This machine is a 16-bit device, based on a small number of integrated ICs, rather than lots of discrete parts like the older devices. So the routing is a bit ordinary, mostly stringing a couple of big square chips together with a swathe of parallel traces. It’s quite a modern looking board, and modern boards tend towards the dull, even ones with great emotional heritage.
However, the picture above is of new prints of two tiny supporting PCBs that hold the power jack and the headphone sockets on the Megadrive. They were connected to the mainboard with ribbon cables.
I’m printing these small, postcard sized.
Coming soon to Print Justice: Sega Megadrive headphone socket / Sega Megadrive power jack
Registration is pretty hit-and-miss for me, and with four layers there’s four chances to make a mess of it.
I was taught to register the paper using little blocks at the edges, but I found the torn edges of the paper a bit too variable, so got some of these little steel registration pins made by Ternes-Burton in Minnesota, USA, and a pack of tabs.
My process is:
- Mount the first screen in the press.
- Tape some tabs to the back of the first sheet of paper, and put the steel pins in the tabs. The tabs are mylar, and a tight, friction fit, so they hold the pins at any given position.
- Position the paper, with it’s tabs and pins on the print bed. The exact position of this first layer isn’t that critical, so I can easily eyeball it through the screen.
- Tape the pins down in place.
- For each subsequent sheet, place two tabs on the pins, with pieces of tape sticky-side up, then lay the new sheet onto them, using the first sheet as a position guide. Again, the exact positioning here isn’t critical. Take the sheet off the pins carefully and stack ready for use.
- Pull the first layer, being careful to not squeegee over the pins themselves. It won’t damage the screen right away, but it’ll wear, and make a bump if nothing else.
- For the next layer, Take the pins off the print bed, and fit them into the tabs on the first sheet of paper. Make a registration print onto a sheet of clear PVC, stuck to the print bed with a tape hinge at one side.
- Carefully position the paper so it is lined up with the image on the PVC, and tape the pins down firmly.
- Pull the print.
- Do subsequent layers the same way.
This image shows that my registration still is far from perfect, but that is because of the PVC lineup stage, and an absence of trapping. What isn’t clear from this one picture is that all prints from this run are pretty identical – the same mis-registration on each one. Previous runs have been so variable, just attempting to line up using blocks for the torn edges of the page, so this is genuine progress.
Circuit Portraits is a new printing, flat-shapes-on-paper project.
It is run by Sandy Noble, and is a sibling of Polargraph and offspring of Up To Much, and will be publishing Art on paper.
Currently failing at being in stealth mode, because the creator is too impatient, and the first examples from the initial series are drifting out.
You’ve seen them on the Up To Much blog, and on Flickr, and you’ll be seeing a lot more of them right here.
Buy one from the Circuit Portraits webshop.
Buy one from Etsy.