May 1, 2006 Recycled CD cases become bare-bones music players with the addition of a simple microchip and handful of other components, in a creation by a New York University graduate student in interactive telecommunications. Tristan Perich composes electronic music that can be encoded with just one bit -- compared to the sixteen bits of a CD -- and stores it in the 8 Kilobyte chip at the heart of his low-tech iPods.
NEW YORK--It's a cross between an iPod and a record player. Here's one CD case you probably haven't seen before.
This man is using new technology to go back in time.
With a set of headphones plugged into a jack on the side of a CD jewel case, composer and artist Tristan Perich combines his love of music and computer science to create these personal music players with a twist!
"The sound generated on this device is much simpler in its digital representation than on a CD you'd buy in a CD store," Perich tells DBIS.
That's because instead of a hi-fi MP3 player that contains up to 16 bits and generates a smooth sound, Perich uses just 1 bit in his device to create more raw-sounding music. His music is generated by a computer program he wrote that is stored on a computer chip. Simple electronics put it all together.
"The chip gets power from a battery," he says. "This is just an on-off switch, and this is a skip button that lets you go to the next track."
Perich's professor says he's bringing science and art together.
"It's much closer to a painting or something like that where the artist has literally kind of come in contact, literally, with the thing you've got in your hands," R. Luke DuBois, assistant professor of telecommunications at New York University, tells DBIS.
The CD music cases are expected to sell for about $20 to $25 at avant-garde type record stores.
BACKGROUND: Sometimes science and engineering can inspire artistic creations. Composer and artist Tristan Perich -- who also has a strong interest in physics and audio engineering along with many years' experience in computer programming -- has created a CD jewel case that plays minimal glitch dance music when headphones are plugged in, without the need for a CD player or iPod. The music itself is all 1-bit, and is generated by Perich's own software. It will be sold along other CDs in record stores, and has 11 different tracks and a skip button to move between them.
1-BIT VERSUS 16-BIT: Standard CDs contains 16 bits, a complex audio wave. Perich reduces this wave to only a single bit, where the music is represented by just one bit of information. All the sounds are written as MIDI files in the zeros and ones of conventional binary code. Bits are bundled together into 8-bit packages, and these packages are known as bytes. Bit depth refers to the number of bits you have to capture audio in a "snapshot" of the sound being recorded. The sample rate is the number of times the audio is measured each second. Put them together gives you the bit rate: how much data per second required to transmit the file. This is a lot of data, which is why MP3 music files compresses it, sacrificing some of the data in the process, to varying degrees. How much data is lost determines the different in sound quality between a CD and an MP3 file.
HOW IT WORKS: The playable CD jewel case squeezes an album's worth of music onto a tiny 8-kilobyte microchip, with a clock speed of 8 MHz. The electronics and battery are housed inside the clear plastic CD case, along with volume, power and track-skip controls. Listeners can plug in headphones directly into the side of the case, with no need for a separate CD or MP3 player.
ABOUT DIGITAL MEDIA: A CD is little more than a round piece of very thin plastic that is imprinted with microscopic bumps, or "pits," arranged in a very long spiral track of data. A laser scans the disk to "read" the pattern of bumps, which contain the encoded audio files. In any digital recording, the goal is to achieve very high fidelity (similarity between the original sound and the reproduced sound) and perfect reproduction (the recording sounds the same every time you play it). So the analog sound wave – the vibrations created in the air by, for example, live music -- is converted into a stream of numbers encoded into the bumps on the CD.