Author Archives: Anze Bratus

Circuit bending – Giving a new purpose to the forgotten devices

Creating sound instruments by adding and manipulating the electronic “brains” could be traced back to the middle of the 18th century when a Czech theologian Václav Prokop Diviš invented the Golden Dionysus (Denis d’Or) that is considered to be the first electrified musical instrument. Unfortunately, the instrument was sold in Vienna after his death in 1765, and soon after it vanished without a trace, therefore many are skeptical if the instrument was the first electrophone or not. It was mentioned that the instrument produced sounds when the iron strings charged with electricity were struck. The circuit behind it could imitate the sounds of a whole variety of other instruments, including chordophones such as harpsichords, harps and lutes, and even wind instruments.[4][5]

(Figure 1: Denis d’Or – the first electrophone)

In regards to circuit bending as we know it today, Reed Ghazala is the father of the technique that is widely popular even today. He pioneered and named the technique in 1966, when he accidentally discovered it by leaving the circuit of a small amplifier exposed, causing the short-circuited that started to produce oscillating, synthesizer like sounds. He later created instruments for many prominent musicians and media companies. Circuit bending started to become increasingly popular in the late 90s between the sound art/design communities and many interesting circuit bend instruments/projects are being reborn every day from the long-forgotten devices.[1][3]

Interesting interview with Reed Ghazala:

(Figure 2: One of Reed Ghazala’s circuit-bent instruments)

But why circuit bend? We could consider circuit bending as the art of creating an output the was not originally intended by the creators of the object. That means that with a little knowledge about electrical components and circuits one can revitalize a long-forgotten device and give it a new purpose. Either it’s a kids toy or an audio bible, picked at a market fare or found in an attic, a sound designer can achieve pretty impressive results just by changing a couple of capacitors or resistors, adding a couple of potentiometers, or just a jack so he can connect the modified device to the rest of his equipment. That creates a personalized instrument and of course, prevents the pile of forgotten circuits from ending up in a garbage dump, or a recycle center, slowly decomposing and impacting the effect on our environment long after it was disposed of.[2]


[1]Ghazala, Reed (2005), Build Your Own Alien Instruments, Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

[2]Hodgson, Jason. (2017). Circuit-Bending: A Micro History Introduction to the topic of discussion.

[3]Wikipedia, 2020, Reed Ghazala, Last modified June 11, 2020,

[4] 1753 Denis d’Or, 2020,

[5] World’s First Electronic Instrument — From 1748, 2016, Last modified March 3, 2016,

Figure 1:

Figure 2:

Unnecessary digitalization of household appliances

The digitalization of our everyday life in the past couple of decades is a consequence of the massive technological development. While many “gadgets” that humanity invented make sense and do benefit our daily tasks, the desire to make every possible household item “smarter” is in my opinion completely unnecessary.

The Internet of things or “Smart household items” as the industry likes to call them started to appear at the break of the 20th and 21st century when internet technology was slowly getting more accessible to the wider public. The first internet-connected appliance was invented at Carnegie Mellon University, where they made a smart Coca Cola vending machine. It was able to report its inventory and whether newly loaded drinks were cold or not. The idea was born, improved, and spread around in the following decades. [3]

The Internet of things could be divided into consumer, commercial, industrial, and infrastructure technology. While I can understand the reason and the benefit of the internet of things in said categories, the consumer part presents more problems than benefits. But for some reason, the consumers would like to use the interconnectivity with every single thing that surrounds them, even if it doesn’t make any sense. And of course, where there’s demand there’s money and therefore more and more standard household items started to become “smarter”. The research shows that the number of household items that could be connected to the internet will drastically increase in the following years. [1]

(Figure 1: Each second 127 new devices connect to the internet) [2]

We have to realize that circuits/parts that enable connectivity include precious materials that and being excavated deep beneath the earth’s soil and are for the past couple of decades impacting our environment in the worst way possible.

We also have to ask ourselves if we really need all that, especially from the consumer perspective? Does your coffee machine need to have a built-in clock with timer functions? Does it have to be connected with your oven that can access hundreds of different recipes online? Do all of the shutters and lights in your house have to be connected in an app that enables you to control them wirelessly? The technology made us lazy and spoiled and it seems like we are prepared to sacrifice our planet for our own desire of ultimate comfort. [4]


[1] Jennifer Gabrys, “Re-thingifying the Internet of Things,” Sustainable Media: Critical Approaches to Media and Environment, eds. Nicole Starosielski and Janet Walker, New York and London, Routledge, 2016: 180 – 195.

[2] & Figure 1.: CPA Canada – Mathieu De Lajartre, 2019, Infographic: The Internet of Things (IoT) is a booming business, Last modified February 13, 2019,

[3] Wikipedia, 2020, Internet of Things, Last modified October 4, 2020,

[4] PCMag, 2020, The Best Smart Home Devices for 2020, Last modified August 27, 2020,


Outsourcing and Offshoring of Fabrication in the 21st Century

The terms outsourcing and offshoring are considered a thing of the modern era of humanity. They were introduced and put into practice together in the 20th century, due to the process of the globalisation. By the early 1980s, both terms are featured in a business lexicon and they become a very common practice in the fabrication of goods.

In the post WW2 era, a lot of companies started experiencing massive growth and the demand for their goods increased for a big percentage. While external providers were often able to provide the service quicker and more efficient, the heavy use of that practice only started towards the end of the 20th century, due to the massive communication, shipment and technology development. Working in other geographic locations, especially in developed countries where wages are lower, has become increasingly effective. This became known as offshoring. The practice called outsourcing however moves a part of the production into a foreign country – contracting work out to an external organization. [2]

Both practices have benefits and risks. Offshoring is useful as the production costs are usually much lower and done faster, while still retaining the quality of the products. Many criticise offshoring for transferring jobs to other countries, rather than employing the local people. That also introduces a geopolitical risk as the cultural and language differences are present.

Outsourcing on the other hand takes the advantage of specialized skills of foreign workers, lower costs and labour flexibility. But relying on third parties can for example introduce misaligned interests of clients and vendors, therefore the collaboration is not that efficient and beneficial.[3]

Many times both practices are combined and put to use together. This way the companies get the advantages of both of them. Sadly, often the environmental and fair labour issues are ignored, even though they are present. A big factor is a fact, that the third party managers don’t want to risk alienating their clients by raising issues of environmental responsibility and fair labour practices offshore.

The biggest environmental issue is of course pollution that is caused by fabrication. Outsourcing/offshoring transfers the problem to countries that already have a big pollution rate. The fabrication of outsourced goods and services contaminate the air, water, and soil, trigger deforestation and increases concerns about global warming. It also depletes labour and material pools and as a consequence endangers public health. [4]

Sadly, lower costs of fabrication lead to a higher, less regulated level of pollution. There are attempts from major companies to limit the effect that the two practices have on the environment, but it often takes them more than a decade to reach the desired level. But for many companies the profit is the most important thing, therefore they will pursue the most efficient way to increase their profits even if that goes against their true values. As George Bernard Shaw once said: “Lack of money is the root of all evil.” [1][5]


[1] Sean Cubitt, “Ecologies of Fabrication,” in Sustainable Media: Critical Approaches to Media and Environment, eds. Nicole Starosielski and Janet Walker, New York and London, Routledge, 2016: 163-179.

[2] Strange, Roger & Magnani, Giovanna. (2017). Outsourcing, Offshoring And The Global Factory. 10.4324/9781315667379-4.

[3] Diffen, Offshoring vs. Outsourcing, Last accessed September 27, 2020,

[4] Ecommerce Times, 2004, Environmental Impacts of Outsourcing, Last modified October 19, 2004,

[5] Xiaoyang Li & Yue M. Zhou, Strategic Management Journal, 2017, Offshoring Pollution while Offshoring Production?, 2310–2329

The Early Submarine Cables

After the first working telegraph was invented by William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone in 1839, the idea to connect North America and Europe with a transatlantic submarine cable was born. The desire to connect continents was always present, and after a decade of experiments and testings, the idea became reality.

The first successful attempt in the early 1850s connected Great Britain to the mainland Europe and laid the foundation for the first transatlantic telegraph cable in 1858 that connected Valentia Island in western Ireland to Heart’s Content in eastern Newfoundland, successfully reducing the communication time from 10 days to a matter of minutes. The first cable didn’t last very long but it was the first successful attempt of a long-distance communication cable. Until the 1870s a couple more cables were laid. The mentioned cables were much more durable and they allowed much quicker transmission than the first one. [1][2]

(Fig. 1: Laying the cables in the early 20th century)

Even though the first cables were laid in the middle of the 19th century, the environmental concern of the potential impact of cables on the marine environment is a much more recent question. During installation, maintenance and decommissioning phases many potential environmental effects can occur. Habitat disturbances, sediment resuspension, chemical pollution and underwater noise emission, while during the operation phase the changes in electromagnetic fields, heat emission, risk of entanglement, chemical pollution, and creation of artificial reef and reserve effects can all harm the environment.[3]

(Fig 2: Corals growing on one of the old cables)

In my opinion, we must acknowledge the potential environmental effects and try to avoid interfering with nature. I believe that we should try and leave the marine environment intact as much as we possibly can. Even though some of the old submarine cables are still working and could be used, they were abandoned because of their small capacity that wouldn’t be enough for heavy commercial use. The abandonment of said cables and the decision to just leave them at the bottom of the ocean possesses a threat to the environment and present irreversible damage to our environment.

Anze Bratus


[1] Cookson, Gillian. (2006). Submarine Cables: Novelty and Innovation, 1850–1870. Transactions of the Newcomen Society. 76. 207-219.

[2] Wikipedia, 2020, Submarine Communications Cable, Last modified November 8, 2020,

[3] & [Fig. 2] Bastien Taormina, Juan Bald, Andrew Want, Gérard Thouzeau, Morgane Lejart, Nicolas Desroy, Antoine Carlier (2018), A review of potential impacts of submarine power cables on the marine environment: Knowledge gaps, recommendations and future directions

[Fig. 1] LTE Magazine, 2018, Submarine cables from 1850 to present days, Last modified November 5, 2018,

The Anthrobscene

The beginning of Anthropocene epoch could date back as far as the beginning of the agricultural revolution to as recent as the start of the big technology development in the 1960s. It is connected with the effects of humans on the well being of our planet/the environment and they are getting more and more evident as years pass by.

Back in the 18th century, in the era of colonialism, the raw/unspoiled nature was seen as something that needs improvement, something that doesn’t contribute to the enhancement of our daily lives. Humans fanatically tried to redesign the environment to give it a different, unnatural purpose. Hence began the irreversible influence of mankind on the environment or the era of mankind.

As time passed the increasing numbers of the human population, the advance in technology and the needs of the consumers started to affect the environment and nature more and more heavily. We developed from society needing a pretty restricted list of materials (“wood, brick, iron, copper, gold, silver, and a few plastics”) into a society in which a computer chip is composed of “60 different elements.” [1]

The excavation of those materials presents a great danger to our planet, especially because we need to “dig deeper and deeper” to obtain the desired elements that are slowly running out. The discarded waste and scrap metals from the production of multimedia devices or the discarded devices that are ready for the afterlife are piling up because most of them are either not being recycled or not recyclable at all. That presents an even bigger threat to the environment than the process of obtaining the elements.

In my opinion, the biggest issue is the human’s tendency to adapt and avoid the problem instead of tackling it and changing the way we live to resolve the issue before it starts to haunt us. Technology spoiled us and in a way we keep on playing Russian roulette with our planet. We refuse to be the losers of the climate change issue, but many are just postponing the solutions, passing the problem on to the next generation. But where does it end? Are we able to go back and step out of the luxury of modernisation? Is there enough desire to change things for the better?

In conclusion, the media technologies present a big threat to our planet; consequently to humanity. Our ways of consumption will have to change to efficiently extend the life span of our planet. Instead of doing our best to find a different inhabitable planet, we should focus on preserving this one.


1. Jussi Parikka, “The Anthrobscene”, University of Minnesota, 2015

2. Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, documentary, Canada, 2018

3. Sophie Yeo, 2016, “Anthropocene: The journey to a new geological epoch”, viewed 11 September 2020,