Make magazine--purveyor of awesome and amusing DIY projects and kits--has added a new product to its online store -- the Cellular Automata video synthesizer kit. It may look like a hippie guitar pedal, but actually it creates endearingly retro (but mostly annoying) audio and video akin to an Atari 2600 meltdown. The kit offers RCA audio and video outputs, costs $50, and is mostly preassembled. You will have to find your own enclosure (the rainbow-colored wooden box is only a suggestion) and solder on the knobs and a reset button.
The video synthesizer works off a mathematical idea called cellular automata, which basically generates evolving patterns of data based on predetermined rules. I don't really understand it myself. All I know is that it has three controls--one that controls how many colored squares fit onto the screen; one that controls how the squares behave; and a third the controls how fast they go. Here's a video (.mov) showing what you can expect.
I imagine the novelty of this thing gets pretty old pretty quick, but I love the idea of building this kit into some old lunch box.
"What's that Scooby Doo lunch box with the knobs sticking out of it?"
"Oh, it's a cellular automata video synthesizer."
"What does it do?"
"It gives people horrible headaches."
Link to manufacturer's site (Critter and Guitari).