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Does anybody use Dasher?


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How funny all I could think of was Chuck having his vending machine in the front yard and visitors would drop quarters in to animate his display. Talk about an interactive interface. Might be a good way to raise money for charity.

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if only I had listened: I was a complete computer nerd in high school.. (ok so I still am).

and I used to win the lights contests in my neighborhood.. we had a science fair for school and my dad said "you ought to hook up some christmas lights to your computer.... I could help you design a circuit that would flash them to a drum beat in a song.."...."but dad the christmas songs I like dont have drums... and it would look more like a disco and not feel very christmasy"...... how a teenager never listens to his dad even when I shouldve.... but even so that was in 85 i trhink so long after chuck was animating his displays...

-Christopher

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I was using two of Drew's 8 channel stand alone controllers as late as the 2006 season. I sold the display items so I also sold off the controllers and software.

I bought these back in 2001 and 2002 for over $200 each from ChristmasCave.com. I added the enclosures in later years. Wow, we have come a long way.

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Well this thread has turned into a fun trip down memory lane.

10 or 11 years ago their was a PC member who had a very large computer controlled display. He was at plus 2003. I cannot remember his name at all and I think he lived in the nashville, TN area, but anyway he controlled his entire display with x-10 modules. If I remember right, he used some type of home brewed program that controlled the modules. X-10 was and is probably the most unreliable way of controlling Christmas lights but this guy had it figured out. I watched a video of his display and it was quit impressive, even in today's world. I used x-10 in the past to turn on parts of my display that would stay on until lights off. Even then I had to check to see if it worked.

About 10 years ago I recieved a phone call from a complete stranger. Thus guy had explained to me that he had gone to visit Chuck Smith to see his display. He and his wife were real big into Christmas displays and he was wanting to venture into the land of computer controlled displays. He was going to use DIO control with SSR's and was going to use a basic program like chuck used, if I remember right. He was interested in this new software called Dasher that he had been reading about in Planet Christmas. He wanted to sync his lights to music. He knew that Drew Hickman had come to my house and had tested it on my controls. I am honored to say that I was able to help Walter and Jackie with their first Dasher controlled display.

Walter and jackie Monkhouse as you know have become PC legends and are tops at their displays. I am eager to see their 2009 display using LOR.

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Any talk of the history of computer controlled lights has to include the huge 'Festival of Lights' that was held in Niagara Falls, NY in the Mid 80's. --> (reposted from a post I made a few months ago with a few edits)

The Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls NY used to do a large display, about 25 years ago. For the animation, they used the the Occidental Chemical (the same people responsible for Love Canal) office building, near the Falls.

The display was listed in the 1987 Guinness book of world records as the largest Light and Sound show. MIDI was used as the control system since Moog (the synth/electronics/defense contractor people) were right down the road in Buffalo. The Berklee college of Music was instrumental in developing the show.

That show was the reason I always wanted to do computer control. That show was another 'mother' of what we all do today.

Unfortunately, I've never been able to find video of the lights in action. However here is some more interesting reading:

http://www.frankreport.com/oniagara/Guinness.html

http://www.frankreport.com/Author/Ar...R/27May08.html

http://www.niagarafallsreporter.com/parlatoad11.html

http://appledoesntfallfar2.blogspot....as-lights.html

http://www.nytimes.com/1992/11/08/tr...tml?sec=travel

As is the case for most of the rust belt, the building is now having problems:

http://www.niagara-gazette.com/colum...088152326.html (edit: sorry, link now dead)

I remember that each window was set up with 3 or 4 strings (probably a single 32' string) of C7s or C9s. If I am not mistaken, each window had 4 colors, and the mirrored glass diffused the lights somewhat. This turned the building into basically a big N x N 'matrix'.

Some of the things displayed included the famous 'I (heart) NY' slogan, and a large Christmas tree. Of course things would scroll and move. The festival also included a ton of static displays. It was a huge draw and was expected to really revitalize that part of Niagara Falls, NY

Side Bar: Unlike Niagara Falls Ontario, which considers the Falls as the 'Front Door' to Canada, Niagara Falls NY was (and still is) a largely vacant, run down, rust belt city. Where NF, Ont. is full of tourist attractions, amusement parks, and a casino near the Falls, NF NY has a parking garage, vacant mall, and a state park you don't want to be near at dark.

Unfortunately within a few years, politics took over. Once it was being pulled in multiple directions the whole thing crumbled. And NF NY further declined.

Edited by oldcqr
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This was the first time someone had done this specifically for the Christmas Lighting hobby.

Dasher was the first I had seen for the PC however there were numerous homebrew solder it yourself projects and MIDI based light controller softwares specifically for driving Christmas lights for the Atari ST and Amiga Based Computers going back to 1986. Thats where I got into this stuff was with the Amiga based concepts and moved into Dasher when it was time to upgrade to the PC/Windows. I am not sure if Drew was inspired by what was common on the Atari/Amiga based items which actually had hundreds musical Christmas light displays in France and Italy back in 1990.

Back in the day PC's were slower, no music cards, poor 16 color graphics as compared to the Atari ST and Amiga which were 32 bit based computers as compared to CP/M and IBM XT's so it was generally accepted that PC's lacked MIDI controllers or the speed necessary to drive simple 4 channel chasing lights. Ironically when I moved to Dasher I "lost" the ability to DIM that I had 5 years earlier on my MIDI based controllers on the Amiga, however ironically the Amiga based softwares werent as good as what was common on the Atari ST which was considered to "rule" MIDI back in the 1990's. The Atari ST's also were driving the light shows for Rock concerts all thru the 1990's.

Ironically 3 years ago I started running my show synchronous to video, however in 1994 I was putting my 36 inch TV in the window and was running multimedia mega demo video graphics with audio all synchronous with 8 channels in lights, so it took a dozen years to get back on an IBM based format what had been pioneered so many years before.

Edited by Joseph Ayo
added more tid bits
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Guest Jeff_Womack

10 or 11 years ago their was a PC member who had a very large computer controlled display. He was at plus 2003. I cannot remember his name at all and I think he lived in the nashville, TN area, but anyway he controlled his entire display with x-10 modules. If I remember right, he used some type of home brewed program that controlled the modules. X-10 was and is probably the most unreliable way of controlling Christmas lights but this guy had it figured out. I watched a video of his display and it was quit impressive, even in today's world. I used x-10 in the past to turn on parts of my display that would stay on until lights off. Even then I had to check to see if it worked.

Don McBroom and yes he lived in Nashville. He fell off a ladder in 2002 and busted up his hip causing him to abandon the hobby. I have a picture of him somewhere at PLUS 03.

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Unfortunately I forget the link, but he has his own company now. And believe it or not, one of the things he's doing is converting AL hardware so it can work on an LOR network.

I wish he'd come back 'home' to PC again.

Tim here is the link. I ordered some stuff from him this year, he sent his business card along with it. http://www.holidaytechnologies.com/

I see all these names and am like wow, haven't heard that name in a while. back in 03 i bought a small controller that did like 8 effects from hobby lobby. I took a look at it and thought their has to be a way to do this with a computer. well i googled and found computer christmas. found drew hickman and his site. found AL, and thought too much money and found Tim, and that is how i found PC. I think Tim or someone else had a link to PC. I remember reading about Drew and also found Mark's site. i often wonder what happend to some of the early people, and where they hide now? This is fun Stuff, and i think there should be an article or even a series in the PC magazine to educate the people about where this all came from, because i think a lot just think that LOR and AL have been around forever. I had lunch with Chuck Smith at replus this year, and i really wish i had more time to spend with him. So thanks to all for the info, as i enjoy reading about the old days. i was just a wee lurker then. :)

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