"Benders" Make Sweet Noise from Old Toys [Slide Show]

So-called "circuit benders" rearrange old toys and musical instruments to produce a chorus of drones, whistles and bleeps

Courtesy of Craig Thompson

What do a Texas Instruments Speak & Spell learning toy, a vintage 1980s Casio keyboard and a Little Tikes toy megaphone have in common? All can be dismantled, rewired and transformed into musical instruments through a process known as "circuit bending."

View slideshow

Circuit benders recently congregated in New York City for the fifth annual Bent Festival, where experienced benders as well as novices were able to repurpose a variety of electronic devices, coaxing from them drones, whistles and bleeps that are often played in concert to create something akin to music.

The festival showcased the heritage of circuit bending as a do-it-yourself activity started by electronics enthusiasts, the randomness and spontaneity of the sounds, and the recycling of old toys and musical instruments to make new instruments. "Circuit bending is a really great entry point for people into electronics," says Mike Rosenthal, a graduate student in New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program. "Looking at the guts of an electronic instrument or toy is very intimidating. So bending is a real push to try and demystify electronics for people."

At the very least, circuit bending is having an impact on landfills, as fewer electronic gizmos end up as trash.

View slideshow

Share this Article:


You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.
Scientific American Special Universe

Get the latest Special Collector's edition

Secrets of the Universe: Past, Present, Future

Order Now >


Email this Article