Matt Richardson

Creative Technologist

Fade Away 1, 2011

Fade Away 1 Some people say that what you put on the internet never goes away. Perhaps it’s just a cautious way of thinking about what you upload, but in reality, things really do fade away. And if a particular datum isn’t ever completely eradicated in your lifetime, it gets diluted among the huge amount of data that get uploaded everyday.

It was on this theme that I created Fade Away 1. It performs a twitter search for the term “fade away” and uses an ultra violet laser diode to write these tweets on a phosphorescent surface. Each character has been programmed into an Arduino microcontroller, which controls the servo motors and the laser.

Materials, Mechanics, Code

Fade Away's frame is constructed of aluminum beams and holds a phosphorescent vinyl panel. Attached to the front beams are two high resolution digital servos, which are outfitted with machined aluminum brackets to form a pan and tilt head to hold the ultra violet laser diode. The servos and the laser are connected to an Arduino, which can operate autonomously with an Ethernet Shield or XBee wireless module. Fade Away can also work in "slave mode," in which it prints characters fed to it by a computer. The entire character set was manually programmed stroke by stroke and the imperfections in the characters come from the mechanics and code. The code is available here.

Future Iterations

I appended a 1 to the name of this project because it’s very close to the idea of what I want to create, but it’s not quite there yet. Improvements I want to implement in the next iteration of Fade Away include:


The original inspiration for experimenting with phosphorescence came from The Space Beyond Me. I owe thanks to Ben Light and Tak Cheung who advised me on construction, Dustyn Roberts who advised me on mechanics, Karolina Ziulkoski who led me to a creative breakthrough, and Scott Fitzgerald for his feedback throughout the process.

Fade Away 1 was created for Scott Fitzgerald's Fall 2011 Introduction to Physical Computing class at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program (NYU ITP).