Yup, you heard (read?) right... computerized Christmas Lights! Why? Why not?! The last two Christmas seasons I have gone to see a very interesting light display in Winona Lakes that was put together by one of their Computer Science professors. It consists of a lot of strands of christmas lights - some on trees, but most on a large conical "Christmas Tree" that is against his garage. All of the lights are controlled by a computer running Linux and some custom software (actually, custom programming language - the guy is a CS prof...) that controls when the lights are on and off, which allows the tree to change colors and display patterns. All of this is set to music that is broadcast via a small FM transmitter, so you can tune in on your car stereo to hear it.
This got me to thinking about how cool it would be to build my own version, on a much smaller scale at first. I looked around and came across a website that dedicates itself to and calls itself Computer Christmas. The layout leaves a bit to be desired, but there are plenty of circuits and great ideas available. This circuit provided the inspiration for me to begin putting my own together using twelve of this circuit and the twelve output lines of the (wait for it...) parallel port. I've had all of the parts ordered since summer and have just been working on getting around to putting them all together. This is where Monday's post comes into play - the boards that they sell work with the parts I already have, making assembly very very easy.
So - be watching for further updates on this project, and hopefully around Christmas time some pictures/videos of my light display.