Annual Review News

Review of 2016

It’s been quite a year, that’s for sure. Politics in both the UK and the US have been increasingly chaotic, and I can’t help leaving this year in a high state of anxiety. It’s certainly had an effect on my productivity and in many ways has left me questioning myself; am I really doing the best thing for society with my work?

But perhaps a bit of fun and entertainment is a necessary and desirable distraction from the turmoil in the news pages? And thankfully I have had another successful year; my work has been steadily progressing and I’ve been enjoying it. There has been a good variety of different projects and events.

Electronics Workshops

My ST4i series got a JavaScript rewrite. The release of the incredible Pi Zero last year means that it’s now quite a cheap and viable platform for simple IoT hacks. I ran sell-out workshops throughout the year – they’re really fun to work on but very labour intensive to put the kits together.

The culmination of all this work with electronics on the Pi; I made an internet-connected set of fairy lights, just like in Stranger Things. You can find instructions on how to make it in the opening post for in December.

Hacked On Classics

My work as a kind-of-geek comedian levelled-up this year with the debut of my solo show Hacked On Classics. It takes all the short sets I’ve been doing for years with my friends at Festival Of The Spoken Nerd and wraps it all up into an hour long show that celebrates technology. Focussing on the electronics and computing boom of the 80s, I bring classic retro technology up to date using lasers and state of the art LEDs and micro-controllers.

As part of the show I hacked a Nintendo Zapper gun with a real laser. An impromptu tweet with video of my progress went viral in August, making it onto Hackaday, Gizmodo, and many other technology sites.

I later made a fully laser-rendered version of Duck Hunt and presented it at BYOB at the Brighton Dome, as well as part of my show. And the show (as part of the closing party of the Brighton Digital Festival in September) went really well, and I’m really hoping I’ll get to do some more next year.

As well as my own show, I also appeared at several Evenings of Unnecessary Detail including a big show at the end of the year at Conway Hall in London, where I performed Axel F on a Casio VL-1.


As already mentioned, my work with lasers is ongoing, and in August I bought a brand new Tarm4 4W RGB laser. It’s a great machine, a lot of punch for the price. It’s not quite big enough for my large outdoor shows, but it’s perfectly powerful for pretty much all my indoor gigs.

In December I recorded a video with stand-up mathematician Matt Parker all about how I recreated Asteroids with my new laser.


R&D with choreographer Tim Casson continued in August and September, culminating in a couple of scratch nights in Brighton. Our show now has a title – Choreocracy – and it’s an experiment to see if we can make a show where dancers are controlled in real-time through the mobile phones in the audience. These tests were really interesting and we’ll be working on that more next year.

Lumen Prize

Laser Light Synths won the Lumen Prize (Interactive category). Result! It’s rare that my work is recognised by the wider digital art community, so this is great.

Up next…

2017 is already shaping up well – I’ve got another outing for Laser Light Synths in Aberdeen in February, and I’ve also started work on a colouring-in robot that will be installed in the Science Gallery Dublin.

Timeline of 2016

Casio Night at Evening of Unnecessary Detail
First ST4iJS workshop in Brighton
Hackaday conference Belgrade
UXLondon show – UXXL
V for Vector – laser asteroids at An Evening of Unnecessary Detail
ST4iJS workshops in UK and Netherlands
Spoke at Async.js in Brighton
New laser!
R&D for Choreocracy with Tim Casson
BYOB, Brighton – Laser Duck Hunt
Spoke at Wuthering Bytes, Hebden Bridge
Choreocracy scratch nights
Hacked on Classics debut at The Old Market
Lumen Prize win
ST4iJS in Leusden, NL
Spoke at WestVisions, Duisberg, Germany
PixelPyros in Lambeth
Official Photographer at FFConf, Brighton
AEOUD big show at Conway Hall
Filming with Matt Parker – Laser Asteroids!
Site visit to Aberdeen for Laser Light Synths
New Camera!
Stranger Lights for 24Ways.