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STEIM Events | STEIM Events Archive 2011

28 September 2011 | 15:00 - 19:00 | Workshop | €55 (includes materials cost)

Analog Chaos Computers
Build analog computers and explore the nature of chaos

Original annoucement:

Analog Chaos Computers banner


In this workshop, artist-researcher Jessica Rylan will guide you in building a chaotic analog computer. We'll be able to scale time in our computers so their signals can be made slow enough to directly connect to an xy plotter, a type of scientific drawing machine. Alternatively, time can be sped up to audio frequencies, so we can listen to the sounds they produce.


Participants can choose among various nonlinear functions for their computer. Each nonlinearity produces a different kind of drawing and sound! In addition to building the circuits and making some beautiful drawings Jessica will be leading discussions on the aesthetics of the electronics industry, historical/social perspectives on analog computers, and notions of chaos and noise.

During the workshop, participants will lean how to:

  • solder
  • identify components
  • read schematic diagrams

Analog computers --
These days analog computers are mostly a historical curiosity. However, up until the mid-1960's, they dominated the science of simulation and process control. Analog computers are especially good at solving differential equations, and differential equations are really good at describing things that change continuously in time - like the behavior of light, nuclear power reactors, automobile suspension systems, and (of course) sound. Aspects of analog computers lived on in sound and video synthesizers far after they became obsolete for scientific simulation tasks.

Chaos --
Chaos and noise. In the modern usage these ideas could be considered synonymous. But chaos is not noise. True noise is random, with no relationship between what happened before and what we experience now. For noise time has no meaning, in so much as what happened in the past has no influence on what will happen next. Chaos, on the other hand, is a process with a relationship between the past and the next. The nature of chaos is so complex that it is almost impossible to understand intuitively, thus giving the illusion of being noise.

Analog Plotter


Date: Wednesday September 28, 2011
Time: 15:00 - 19:00
Cost: €55 (includes cost of materials)
Location: Frascati Room 3, Nes 63, 1012KD Amsterdam
Maximum number of participants: 15

Reserve a spot online soon through the registration link above! Spots are filling up quickly.




This workshop is beginner-friendly. No prior knowledge about differential equations, chaos theory, or electronics is required for this workshop.



Jessica Rylan is an artist and engineer investigating the history and future of technology. She has built numerous synthesizers for playing music and for sound installations. Between 2005 and 2007 she gave nearly 200 performances across the U.S. and Europe. Her music has been published by RRR, Weird Forrest, Important, and numerous cassette labels. In 2006, Jessica formed the company Flower Electronics to produce her custom synthesizer designs. The Little Boy Blue battery-powered synthesizer, and its successor Jealous Heart, have become international cult hits, with distribution in the US, Germany, and Japan.

A Boston native, Jessica earned her MFA from Bard College in 2003, and her BS in Electrical Engineering from UMass Lowell in 2010. She is currently a Stanford Graduate Fellow and PhD candidate in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. She has published her research on chaotic circuits in the IEEE transactions on Circuits and Systems. She has received grants from the Penny McCall Foundation, the LEF Foundation, and Meet the Composer. She was a Research Affiliate at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies from 2006-2010.


Jessica Rylan

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