Knit One, Perl Two

I love this 1980s computer-controlled knitting station hacked by Becky Stern of First of all, its interface is basically indistinguishable from the Apollo Guidance Computer. Second, it’s a remarkable melding of the digital and the manual—as you’ll see at the end, the pattern is instantiated by the computer, but the knitting carriage is run by hand—kind of like an inkjet printer working like digitized mimeograph machines? Finally, I love Stern’s brilliant hack, which talks to the knitting machine by way of a Python floppy-drive emulator. It’s a version of the brain-in-a-vat problem: here’s this Brother knitting machine jacked into a sleek 21st-century MacBook Pro, happily racking up knits and purls, believing all the while that it’s hooked up to some jittery old floppy drive in pebbly gray plastic with a Garbage Pail Kids decal stuck to it. [via Core77, where you can see an identity-preserving balaclava made on the hacked Brother knitting machine.]

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  1. oh, wonderful!

  2. I must have this!

  3. You are a techno-GODDESS! This is the one of the coolest demos I’ve ever seen. I am an experience hand-knitter, a novice maching knitter (Brother KH-260), and have worked in IT for 26 years. I remember the TRS-80 computer (“trash-80”) from our high school computer lab. Was so cool to see how you reconfigured the hardward and software interfaces from the knitting machine to a modern Mac. Do you have other videos of your work in bringing old technology to life?

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