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Education Media Hardware

Building A Museum Listening Station? 251

Anonymous Coward writes "I am building a museum exhibit which requires the use of 10 listening stations. These should be able to play back a few minutes of audio, should have an obvious Play button (and no other buttons: less confusion for the elderly and less to break for the kids), and should be able to work with an absolute minimum of supervision for three months of constant use. There are fancy ready-made solutions to this problem, but at $350, it would be too expensive to buy 10 of them. Similarly, there are cheap solutions ($20 CD player + $15 headphones), but this is probably not reliable or user friendly enough for this exhibit. Does the Slashdot community have any suggestions for how to build a reasonably inexpensive museum listening station?"
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Building A Museum Listening Station?

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  • by Alien Being ( 18488 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @06:06PM (#9102070)
    "...less confusion for the elderly..."

    Have you considered a Victrola?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 09, 2004 @06:08PM (#9102084)
    Get a PC.
    Get a Delta 1010 10 output sound card.
    Install Linux.
    Write a patch in Pure-Data modular that plays a wave back on a keypress.
    Buy a load of switches.
    Wire them to the PC's keyboard num-pad.
    Breadboard a load of those little IC 2 Watt power amp chips to drive the headphons.

    Cost... around $1000.

    That started as a cheap and simple solution and got kinda more complicated as I typed. Sorry.
  • $350 ? (Score:2, Funny)

    by challahc ( 745267 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @06:13PM (#9102113)
    I need to get into the museum sound business.
  • Re:easy (Score:2, Funny)

    by Some Dumbass... ( 192298 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @06:36PM (#9102229)
    Buy 10 children from a thrid(sp)-world nation.
    For example, I have taught my purchased child to masturbate when he hears the words "clam chowder". It really is a great party trick.

    Note this guy's SlashDot ID.

    This is what years of reading SlashDot will do to ya'. Consider yourselves warned, kiddos.
  • by Simonetta ( 207550 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @06:42PM (#9102246)
    Have you considered a Victrola?

    A Victrola would not be an effective solution to this problem. They are antiques; which makes them quite expensive on a unit by unit basis. They can't be serviced and replacement parts are no longer being made.

    Their media is fragile and easily warped, distorted, and/or broken.

    They have no electronic amplification and would not be of any utility for hearing-impaired seniors (what we call old people in the USA).

    They require manual cranking for power to turn the sound-generating cylinder and few if any have been retrofitted with motors since that mod would significantly reduce the value of the unit as an antique. Plus the operation of the Victorola requires exact placement of a needle into a wax or foil groove in the media. This may prove difficult for seniors with palsy or any other common hand-movement disorder.

    The possiblity that the Victorola may have utility in this application because seniors would be the only people who may have prior experience with their operation is misguided because the Victorla was already obsolete as a sound reproduction device when most of today's seniors were children. Vacuum tube amplifiers (invented in the 1914 in Palo Alto, CA) were in common use by the mid-1920's onward, when most of today's seniors were born.

    In this application an advanced late 1990's technology would probably be best.
  • by Bud ( 1705 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @07:02PM (#9102340)
    Hell, yeah!

    Let's find someone stupid enough to cheaply write a brand new program (but not too stupid of course, we don't want badly designed and buggy code now, do we?).

    Then we take a not too expensive PC and stick a couple of USB expansion cards (not too expensive either) in it and hope it doesn't get unstable -- which isn't a problem really; seeing that we have a single point of failure here, if the system fails we know WHERE it failed, right?

    Then we pull USB cables criss-cross over the whole room up to the maximum USB cable length of 5 meters. Then we solder ten push buttons and pull ten twisted-pair wires back to the central CeePeeYou, and plug them in somewhere -- determining the exact details are left as an exercise for the reader. (Hint: both the parallel port and the joystick port can detect electric potential.)

    Now the only thing left to do is fire this system up and try to keep the supervision to a minimum for three months of constant use. QED.

    Oh, by the way, I just applied for the patent, so that'll be $10k up front, thank you. Per listening station.

  • by Chuck Chunder ( 21021 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @07:04PM (#9102346) Homepage Journal
    What is it with you people? The button should be a nice, friendly, "push me and good things will happen" green.
    Save the red button for emergencies, launching weapons and (if you are a super villain) initiating self destruct sequences.
  • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @07:19PM (#9102421) Homepage Journal
    (The scene, the inside of a large, barbed wire surrounded, complex of giant white "golfballs", somewhere near the coast. A man is inside one of the balls, looking at a radar screen, listening intently to his headphones.)

    Man: General! I think I hear something!

    (The man's superior arrives)

    "What is it Jenkins?"

    "It's... well, it's hard to hear, but I can just make out footsteps, on a squeaky floor. And every few seconds, there's a cough with a slight echo."

    "My ghod, it sounds like..."

    "That's what I was thinking, General, the tale-tale audio signature of a museum! Exactly what this Museum Listening Station was designed to find."

    "I'm going to have to call NORAD at once. Can you tell me anything else? Do we know what kind of museum?"

    "Negative Sir. It's a large one though. We could be looking at a Natural History Museum, or possibly one of the larger art and antiquities collections"

    "Large? Jenkins, this could mean they're preparing for a first strike! Hell, if this thing hits us, the school trips alone will decimate the entire nation! Wait right there! I'm going to get the President on the line!"

  • by Crusty Oldman ( 249835 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @08:10PM (#9102675)
    Gee, I'd like to help, but I'm old and confused and they don't let me do things here in the home that they used to. Why just the other day I was helping this young guy fix his doorbell. He said he was an engineer, but he sure wasn't as smart as the engineers that made my hearing aid, nosiree! Now, that was back in the time when you had to really know a thing or two about electricity, AC and DC it was back then. Back before those longhairs stole the name and made it into a rock and roll band. Why, what's the matter with Elvis anyway? Not loud enough for you? Back then we had amplifiers with real tubes in them. The kind that would burn your fingers when they got hot, and would send out purple sparks when you dropped your reading glasses into the chassis. Big purple and green sparks they were.....

  • Hire 10 Indian programmers to recite the audio on demand.
  • Re:Mp3 (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 10, 2004 @10:00PM (#9113040)
    Stop smoking pot, Andrew.

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"