Vtech Apple – Demo

Hey guy’s I just created and uploaded a quick video to show off my progress on the Vtech Alphabet Apple. Unfortunately I was having some issues with my portable amplifier so I ran it through the internal speakers but this should still give a good idea of what the bends I’ve completed so far can do. The demo starts off a bit slow but picks up after 1:20 or so. I also get into a really interesting glitch near the end of the video using the voltage starve.

If you want to have a look back at any of the previous posts they can be found here :

VTech Apple Part 1 – Kill Switch and Line Out

Vtech Apple Part 2 – Exploration and Pitch Adjustment

Vtech Apple Part 3 – Voltage Starve

Vtech Apple Part 4 – Body Contacts

Vtech Apple Part 5 – 555 Trigger Oscillator

 

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • RSS
  • Pinterest

VTech Apple Part 4 – Body Contacts

circuit bending vtech appleThe next stop on our circuit bending exploration of the Vtech Apple is going to be to add some body contacts. I really love body contacts as a control method as you can get a lot of range and really interesting tremolo effects with very little effort. The bend I’ll be adding them to is a second pitch modification I found while exploring the circuit. Oddly enough this bend seems to change between modifying the pitch up and down dependent on which mode the toy is set to (using the worm on the right side), On the modes where it lowers the pitch you can get extremely low droning noises using the body contacts which I’ve been really enjoying.

VTech Apple Part 1 – Kill Switch and Line Out

Vtech Apple Part 2 – Exploration and Pitch Adjustment

Vtech Apple Part 3 – Voltage Starve

Vtech Apple Part 5 – 555 Trigger Oscillator

Vtech Apple - Body Contacts CircuitThe above photo shows the two solder points on the board I used to produce these effects, Once I had attached the wires I experimented with a number of different control methods and components including potentiometers, resistors with switches and buttons, and even strings of capacitors and LEDs (too see what would happen). I was able to create a number of strange effects but the one I found most interesting and which worked most consistently was body contacts.

Once I’d settled on a control method I drilled holes in the case and threaded 2 screws through them. Though I used screws on this project there are really limitless materials you can use to create body contacts. Any conductive piece of metal should work so it is really a matter of taste. Some examples I have seen used include thumb tacks, guitar strings, conductive tape, pennies or nuts and bolts, the possibilities are endless.

Vtech Apple - Body ContactsOnce you have the screws threaded in place you simply solder the wires onto them. I try to strip a longer portion of the wire than normal and wrap it around the screw to ensure maximum strength and conductivity. To finish it off I typically apply a healthy glob of hot glue over each screw (liquid electrical tape also works if you have it) to hold them in place and to make sure nothing inside the case comes in contact with them.

Now you can close up the case and start playing with them. Try using different fingers to touch the contacts or different hands, tap on one contact as you hold the other or slide you hand back and forth across them. Take notice of the slew of interesting ways you can now control your device and above all have fun.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • RSS
  • Pinterest

Vtech Apple Part 3 – Voltage Starve

Circuit BendingAs I’ve been exploring and circuit bending my Vtech Apple toy I have unfortunately found a limited number of reliable glitches on the main board. Through my testing I have been able to cause the toy to output a slew of strange noises but have not found a bend so far which would do so reliably enough to warrant adding a switch or push button. Hope is not lost though, this just means we’ll have to be a little more creative and find other ways to turn this toy into the monstrosity it deserves to be. Today we will be adding a voltage starve to our apple which is another fairly simple mod which will limit the amount of power which enters the circuit with exciting results.

Vtech Apple Part 1 – Kill Switch And Line Out

Vtech Apple Part 2 – Exploration And Pitch Adjustment

Vtech Apple Part 4 – Body Contacts

Vtech Apple Part 5 – 555 Trigger Oscillator

Have you ever picked up a toy that’s been sitting around for a while, In a closet or at a thrift store and upon turning it on been greeted by demonic chanting or erratic glitches. This is because the batteries have become drained. As a typical battery gets low on power the voltage it outputs gets lower and lower until eventually it is to low to operate the device. With many devices though there is a sweet spot just before the voltage is too low to operate where the device will still run but isn’t able to do so normally, whether it slows the clock speed to almost nothing or just begins misfiring and glitching is dependent on the device and where in this sweet spot you are but the results can be extremely enjoyable. Through circuit bending we should be able to recreate this effect quite easily.

Warning – Though I have had good results with this bend on other toys I have found it to be quite unstable on the Vtech Alphabet Apple specifically. It does not seem to threaten the well being of the toy in any way (I’ve been using mine for quite a while and it still works great) but it can take a lot of finesse to get good glitches and may cause the device to crash. That being said once you’ve played with it for a while and gotten a good feeling of how far you can push it you can produce some fantastic effects through this mod, I definitely recommend giving it a try but don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to get a handle on it.

Circuit Bending Voltage Starve To recreate this effect we will add a switch and a potentiometer along the power wire between the battery and the main board. The switch will allow us to either send the power directly to the board (operates as normal) or through the potentiometer. The potentiometer will then add resistance into the power circuit which in turn lowers the amount of current which reaches the board. Typically a low value potentiometer is best for this but experiment with different values to find what works best. Sometimes having two pots in line is also useful, One high value pot for course adjustments and one small value one for fine tuning. Play around and find what works best for you.

Circuit BendingHere is a picture of the pot and switch once they have been wired into the circuit and mounted on the toy. Note in this photo the two red wires marked with the green arrow lead to the positive power connection on the main board and the single wire with the black arrow leads back to my kill switch and eventually to the battery. Now you should be able to close the toy back out and start playing with it.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • RSS
  • Pinterest

VTech Apple Part 1 – Kill Switch and Line Out

Lately I’ve been playing around with circuit bending and wanted to share some of my progress with you as I have found it to be an interesting and rewarding way to create new and unique instruments. I will be posting more complex bends and projects in future but before we get too deep into circuit bending I wanted to quickly go over two simple modifications which I do to essentially every toy I bend. Today I’m going to add a simple kill switch and a switched output to my VTech Alphabet Apple toy. These modifications are a great way to start getting familiar with the circuitry of a new toy and can prove invaluable as you continue exploring and bending the circuit and developing it into a unique and bizarre noise machine.

Our Victim

VTECH Alphabet Apple untouched

Though these modifications should work on nearly any toy you decide to modify the victim I will be demonstrating them on is a VTECH Alphabet Apple which I purchased from a local thrift store for 4$. When choosing a toy to bend I like to visit the local thrift stores (Value Village, Salvation Army, Goodwill) for two reasons, first you can get great toys for outrageously cheap and second it’s the easiest way to find toys from the 80s, 90s and early 2000s which are by far the best for bending.   There have been several iterations of the Alphabet Apple produced by Vtech with a similar aesthetics but very different internal workings, this particular model seems to be the most popular and was released early in the year 2000.

The first step once you get the screws out and open up the toy is to take pictures, lots and lots of pictures, using a digital camera or phone. These photos will allow you to mark down any bends or notes you find down the road and can also be used as a reference if anything goes wrong. Often times the cheap solder joints attaching the wires in these toys can come disconnected and the photos can help you reattach them where they belong. Here i s a picture of the circuit from my Apple :

Apple Circuit

The Kill Switch

When we circuit bend a toy we are forcing it to operate well outside of the factory parameters and this can cause …problems. We are forcing the processor to run at unusual speeds and sending data in and out of the chip sets in ways that were never planned for. Often this will cause the system to crash or lock up which can often only be rectified by removing the batteries and allowing the circuit to reset itself. This can be time consuming and frustrating, especially if the battery compartment is difficult to reach or needs to be unscrewed to access.

To simplify this we will add a basic switch along the red positive power line to allow us the disconnect the batteries at the flick of a switch. Simply cut and solder the switch onto the power line, drill a hole in the casing and mount it as seen below :

Kill Switch

Adding An Output

Next up we will be adding an audio out jack, this will allow you to send the audio signals from your toy to a mixer, an amplifier, headphones or even effects and filters. One thing which consistently amazes me is the quality of sound you can often get from these toys once you bypass the cheap built in speaker and run them through a proper playback device, not to mention how much deeper or more interesting you can make the output by running it through a couple simple filters, or perhaps a guitar pedal or two, the possibilities really are endless.

Before we get started lets have a look at a quick schematic to get an idea of what we will be doing :

Line Out

As you can see above this is a fairly simple procedure, essentially we will be cutting the positive wire going from the main circuit board to the speaker and adding a SPDT (on-on) switch. This switch will allow us to either send the signal from the board to the speaker normally allowing the toy to be played via the built in speaker or to divert the signal to an output jack we have added which will effectively turn off the built in speaker and send the signal through to whatever we plug the toy into. From here the sleeve tab on the jack is connected back to the point where the speaker wire returns to the board thus completing the circuit.

The resistor placed across the jack is there as a safety measure, most speakers have a certain level of impedance which the circuit was designed to have while running (You may have heard speakers referred to as 8 ohm or 4 ohm speakers this refers to the impedance or “resistance” they place in the circuit) Since we’ve bypassed the speaker we have removed this impedance from the circuit and need to replace it with the resistor.

Before we wire this it is important to inspect the toy and decide where the switch and jack will be placed, I generally like to drill my holes and insert the components before doing the majority of my soldering but this is really a matter of personal taste and depends how tight a space you are working with. Be especially careful when placing the 1/4 inch jack, make sure to leave enough room behind it not just for the connectors on the plug but for the male 1/4 inch jack which will be inserted into it.

Output wiring

Once you’ve planned the location for the components you can wire them to the circuit. Take care to leave enough wire to reach from the board to the components without leaving an unnecessary amount of slack. The green and orange wires which are taped to the back of the keypad lead from the board (at the speaker output) down to the center pin of the switch and then from one of the outer pins of the switch back up to the positive side of the speaker. From the opposite outer pin of the switch you can see the small purple wire leading to the jack tab, the 10 ohm resistor across the jack and the second green wire leading from the ground (or sleeve) on the jack back to the audio return on the circuit board. Give it a test and you should be in business.

Now that we have these two simple modifications in place we are able to quickly cut power and reset the toy if we run into a crash or lock up, and we can pipe the audio from the toy directly into any other device which will accept an audio input. With only a handful of solder connections and four or five components we have transformed this simple toy into something much more versatile and have prepared it for the treachery we will soon be visiting upon it. Now the real fun can begin, Next time we will be looking at adding a pitch bend knob to the device and will begin searching for some glitches we can exploit to turn this “Learning Device” into an outlandish electronic instrument.

Click Here To Continue With Part 2

 

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • RSS
  • Pinterest