Reading Geek Night 12: 1st birthday roundup

By: Tim


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It was a birthday celebration at this week's Reading Geek Night as the event turned one. From modest beginnings, #rdggeek has grown month on month, and never fails to inform and entertain with the wide variety of talks and interesting participants that show up. Here's to the next year!

Iain Sharp: Video games, now with less video

Iain Sharp spends his days playing with PowerPoint. A few years ago he decided that he needed to flex his geek muscles some more, and started up the challenge of building arcade machines with a difference.

Iain's first project was Cyclepong: his own version of the classic arcade game Pong, but controlled by two old excercise bikes - purchased from Taplow car boot sale for £11 for the pair – some Arduino and the internals of a couple of Microsoft mice. He showed Cyclepong off at a dorkbotlondon Cristmas special and through this got introduced to Tim Hunkin who runs the Under the Pier show at Southwold Pier: a collection of home-made machines and rides. Tim said that if Iain would build Cyclepong into a "proper" arcade machine, he'd have it in the show. Iain duly complied, and Cyclepong 2 can now be played at Southwold Pier.

The second project Iain showed off took inspiration from the puppetry of Thunderbirds and the question of "could you build a video game without the video?" The answer, of course, was a resounding "yes." Iain created a version of the Atari classic Lunar Lander out of a model found at a French airport, fishing line and a bunch of Arduino, with the control of the lander performed via an old Citroën steering wheel. The voice of "mission control" in the game is provided by Emma Freud, who agreed to record herself in exchange for her own Cyclepong!

There's loads more information on these projects and other on Iain's project site. His next project? Space Hopper Frogger...


  • First, Jenny Woods stood up to drum up support for Science Is Vital – a campaign to "prevent destructive levels of cuts to science funding in the UK" – and also to ask for help or advise on creating virtual collaboration spaces for scientists and academics.
  • The second slot was taken by Ben Nunney who gave a particularly personal speech about how much the Reading geek community had meant to him over the past couple of years, and led in to a particular thank-you to Jim Anning who was the person who didn't just talk about "what if" but actually got off his backside and kicked off the Reading Geek Night, and has run the event ever since.

    Jim was presented with an incredibly well-deserved #rdggeek birthday present of a couple of big Lego sets, paid for through contributions from those people who have talked at all the various events over the past year. A huge thank you to Jim for all his hard work, and long may #rdggeek continue.

Chris Tingley: The reading geek birthday quiz

As a departure from the usual talks, Chris Tingley went interactive and produced a fantastic geek quiz which it seemed everyone thoroughly enjoyed, with prizes provided by Sugru.

With rounds covering random fun facts, sounds from movies and TV series, general geek-related questions, and a photo round of famous geeks, there was content enough for anyone to get at least something correct! Congratulations to "The Puget Sound" who took first place with 46/59; the full results are on Chris' blog.

The fantastic-looking presentation Chris used was created with Prezi. The questions and answers can also be found on his blog. A massive thank you to Chris for the time and effort he spent pulling this together.

Ketan Majmudar: Stereo data maker: DIY digital 3D

Ket Majmudar is obsessed with 3D. More specifically, he's obsessed with creating his own stereoscopic 3D photos, with the homebrew kit he's assembled.

Ket started off by introducing where his love of 3D came from: the back of cereal packets, stereoscopic comics, Jaws 3D! He then moved on to the history of stereoscopy, covering the "birth" of 3D from Sir Charles Wheatstone, through the London Stereoscopic Company and on to modern uses in medicine and space exploration.

In the second half of the presentation Ket explored what you need to do to create your own rig for taking stereoscopic photographs (or videos), using a combination of 2 Canon cameras, Stereo Data Maker and the Canon Hack Development Kit. The basic premise involves strapping the two cameras together, loading the SDM software onto them both via a flash card, and creating a switch to fire the shutters on both cameras at the same time. There's a lot more information on Stereo @rtist, where Ket covers his 3D experiments.

Before the presentation, everyone was given a pair of 3D glasses (one cyan "eye", the other red, just like you remember) and Ket showed a series of stereoscopic images taken by himself or others using home-built kit, including one of him meeting Queen guitarist Brian May, who is a massive stereography fan himself and has even written a book on the subject!

As Ket had all his equipment with him, at the end of the night we all gathered together to take some #rdggeek birthday photos of all the attendees (the image at the top of this post is one of them). Photos were taken both with standard SLR and with Ket's 3D rig, so hopefully we'll be able to see everyone in 3D once Ket's processed the images!

Next time

The next Reading Geek Night will be on Tuesday, 9th November (always the second Tuesday in the month), venue assumed to be downstairs in Copa as usual.

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