Dimmable AC Light Box


This blog post is about the very long process of how I came to make a box that could dynamically dim AC bulbs via computer control. The main purpose being to react to music. View this as a documentation on how I came to make this box, and my thought process throughout. I will be providing code, and some schematics, and I hope other beginning hobbyists will find this post useful.

(If you’d like just to find out about the box, simply start at page five)

First, a brief history.

My desire to make lighting that would react to music largely began in late 2003. A Perfect Circle released their album, Thirteenth Step. Upon first listen of the song, Blue, I pictured a series of lights reacting to the music, and blue shifting upon the chorus line of “She’s turning blue.” At the time, the original Xbox modding and hacking scene was huge, and I had jumped onto the bandwagon. Prior to this, I soldered here and there, but had no real experience with electronics or hardware design. Nor did I know where to begin. I knew I desired the skills, but was still a hardcore n00b. I found datasheets at the time to be highly overwhelming. During this same period of time though, I was learning tricks here and there mainly due to the large number of hardware hacks being performed on the Xbox.

As the years went by, I was doing IT work, and learning about other technical skills, but I was slowly putting my (limited) electronics hobby to the back burner. Flash forward to 2007, and I read a blog post of how Xbox-Scene moderator, Twisted Symphony, had made a circuit that would allow the use of a Sega Saturn pad to play Xbox 360 games. As I was a huge fan of the Saturn pad, I wished to replicate this design, and to possibly improve on it.

Twisted Symphony, as I would come to learn, had used a PIC16F690 Microcontroller to break out the Saturn controller’s serial data into Parallel data that was fed into an xbox 360 pad. I began to research PIC Micros, but ultimately ended up buying just a breadboard, and playing around with simple circuits due to my limited disposable income at the time,.

Then came February, 2008…..


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About waterbury

Hi, you may also know me by my IRL name, Ted.