Throwie Talkie

A Talkie is a Throwie that has been hacked to blink graffiti messages in morse code. Here is a picture of a Talkie in action:

Throwies are graffiti technology created by the artists of the GraffitiResearchLab. We met them at MakerFaire and mashed up our technology with theirs the next day.


We've made several step-by-step instructions showing how we attached the computer to the leads of the Throwie's LED.

We've started a new project to make a TalkieListener that will extract the message from videos of Talkies filmed in the wild.

The GRL team recieves Prix Ars Electronica 2006, Award of Distinction Interactive Art:

They write us ...

We are working on a G.R.L. exhibition at ARS Electronica, and were hoping to show the morse code LED Throwie Talkies that you and Pat had created. We are planning to have a section in the exhibition showing modifications people have made on our projects and yours is our favorite and we would love to show it. If this is of interest to you would it be possible to send us one or two Throwie Talkies? They could say anything you want . Maybe something in German could be funny (since the exhibition is in Austria), or one that we have always wanted was "ALL YOU SEE IS CRIME IN THE MORSE CODE".

And after some discussion ...

Re: the ARS exhibit, I'll talk with James and try to come up with some better text. The "All you see is crime in the source code" idea was a take-off from a famous quote from a graffiti documentary (Style Wars) where a graffiti writer is talking about an entire subway train that was covered in graffiti saying "All you see is crime in the city". I'd also be happy to leave the text up to you both if you have any ideas? Another way to come up with ideas for text is to think of places that the Talkies could be placed in the city, for example stuck on security cameras, subway cars, taxi cabs, door ways, etc. Here are some off the top of our collective heads, but we'll keep thinking about it:


We ended up making four Talkies for them: two green ones with the requested text, a yellow one with the boy scout law, and a blue one with the Wikipedia article on graffiti: Here is a photo of the four computers in burn-in.


We modified the MorseCompanion part by removing the Bynase speed control (since we break off that input pin in our mashup) and slowing down the clock rate by a factor of eight for a corresponding factor of eight reduction of power consumption.

I made up another Talkie for my trip to the Agile 2006 conference. I used the 1MHz version loaded with the wikipedia content. It was still running, but a little dim, after a full week at the conference.

Scrum guru KenSchwaber saw the Talkie stuck to my badge and immediately recognized it as Morse code. He learned to read the light a signal operator in the Navy. We talked a little about signaling rates. He said I'd programmed this version to be a little slow. How slow? He estimated a factor of two.

Many people suggest that Talkies talk to each other. ErikMeade found this paper that shows this to be a real possibility at least over the range of centimeters.

Here is a mesh that suggests the artistic value of such communication.

We're included in the GRL installation in Linz at Ars Electronica ...


We're not the only ones to solder LEDs to pins. Kudos to Alex Webber for this excellent expansion of the talkie idea. (p.s. I love the battery holder.) ... OTC-0D6B48984890

The ThrowieTalkie gets an appreciative mention along with other work we've done in David Bausola's blog, Zero Influence:

I've always thought that a subversive application of the ThrowieTalkie would be to send television off-codes instead of morse messages. I'm pleased to see that the off-codes have been collected and published.

In this application one could enter low-power sleep for hours at a time and still be effective. Battery life could be months.


Last edited February 2, 2008
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