Mattel Intellivision Controller
In four exciting flavours.
Circuit Portraits is an ongoing art project that finally shines some light on that chunk of fibreglass and copper that lurks inside our most loved machines. Most of which are now lurking in the attic.
Mattel released their Intellivision in 1980. It was a brown and gold behemoth, as so many things were in those days. It was one of the first home games consoles, and a strong competitor for the Atari VCS that was king in those days, and is well regarded for it's time. Except for the controllers.
This design is from the flexible circuit "board" from inside one of those infernal controllers. I cleaned it, ironed it (35 years of being folded up is a hard habit to break), scanned it, and traced it, laying out the lines like the original designer did.
Once it's unfolded, there is one layer for the electrical traces, and a second layer for the board outline. Each layer of each print is individually hand-pulled on a silkscreen press using different mixed colours of acrylic ink, printing onto soft, pillowy 285gsm Fabriano Rosaspina paper, in the basement of my studio here in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The printed area is 30x30cm (12 x 12 inches). It fits into one of those frames designed for presenting LP covers nicely. The paper itself is a couple of inches larger, with one deckled and three torn edges. Title and signature is down one edge, but the orientation is not fixed, this can be hung four ways.
This is an open edition, signed by the artist. That's me.
This project highlights the individuality that the people that made these artefacts bring to their work. The circuits I have chosen to feature are ones that have significance to me, either because our family had one, I had good memories of using them at friends houses, or because I coveted them badly!
They are curated from a golden era when consumer electronics still used relatively discrete components and the circuits themselves were open and simple. The days before computer-driven auto-routing could algorithmically calculate the most efficient routing scheme, with the fewest vias and the lowest impedance, in fact, the days when circuits were laid out on light-tables with gridding tape and set-squares. The days of Frogger and Pacman, of Horace Goes Ski-ing and Jetpac.
Engineers had their job to do, but for each design, had to choose only one of a thousand different ways to lay out their tracks. Each line was pored over for it's technical correctness, but ultimately there's a little bit of expression in each mark and swerve, in each routing decision.
None of it was ever intended to be looked at, but nevertheless, stripped of it's contextual markers - the case, buttons, lights, labels, connectors, components, and presented out-of-scale and on beautiful paper, under glass, the patterns reveal their purely aesthetic features and invite interpretation. A variation in density and detail play out a rhythm, and indicate a direction, movement.
Circuit boards, even now, are still produced industrially using a silkscreen technique, so the artists variation of this technique is very apt.
Prints are shipped rolled, face-out in a sturdy packing tube, with acid-free tissue paper and bubble wrap to protect it on it's journey. In the UK, it will be sent special delivery, a next-business-day, signed-for service. European shipping usually takes between two and four days, further afield can take up to ten business days.