Sega Megadrive mini boards
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.
The Sega Megadrive (known as the Genesis in the USA) was the console of choice in my house. Streets of Rage II was THE BEST, I played it endlessly with my older brother in the early 90s.
The Megadrive has quite a modern board in, dense with traces and not actually very interesting. Instead of printing this board, I've focussed on two tiny supporting PCBs that are in the case, for the power jack and the headphones socket. This is a pair of small, post-card sized prints.
For each, I cleaned it, stripped the components, scanned it, and traced it, painstakingly laying out the lines like the original designer did. I created separations and screens for the four layers (background, bottom copper, top copper and through-holes). Each layer of each print is individually hand-pulled on a silkscreen press using four different mixed colours of acrylic ink, onto 300gsm textured Somerset Satin paper, in the basement of my studio here in Edinburgh, Scotland.
This paper is 124mm x 193mm (5" x 7.5"), the printed area is 78mm x 128mm (3" x 5"). The orientation is not fixed, these can be hung portrait or landscape. Cut down this small, the sheets are fairly stiff, like soft cardboard.
This is an open edition, signed by the artist on the back.
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 in a stiff envelope, with board either side acid-free tissue paper 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.