Resources for People Getting into Audio w/ ESP32

A few resources I’ve found as I’ve been tinkering around with I2S + audio components with the ESP32 that I think could save folks some time:

Microphone Code:

Speaker Code:

To marry mic and speakers (TX and RX simultaneously). The code for this one is at the bottom of the thread. I have tested and verified it works, though some of it may be deprecated:

Espressif I2S Documentation:

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Is this a well-designed hole?

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

AI, Creativity, and Games

Interesting post over at MIT Technology Review that makes a case that AI will never create art. I understand the author’s case, but wonder if we’re talking about our kind of art, rather than art per se.

Still, good read! I especially appreciate the deconstruction of the game Go as a creative (or non-creative) endeavor:

The most fundamental sort of human creativity changes our understanding of ourselves because it changes our understanding of what we count as good. For the game of Go, by contrast, the nature of goodness is simply not up for grabs: a Go strategy is good if and only if it wins. Human life does not generally have this feature: there is no objective measure of success in the highest realms of achievement. Certainly not in art, literature, music, philosophy, or politics. Nor, for that matter, in the development of new technologies.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Schroeder’s Rewilding and Personhood

I’ve been gobbling up books by Karl Schroeder this Winter, and have become fascinated by his idea of the “rewilding.” Here’s a short video where he talks about the concept. To summarize, the re-wilding is the concept that, once computers are in everything, the sum total of the things that those computers are embedded in will become like an entity and advocate for itself (or, at least, this is how I understand it). Schroeder also gets at this in his book Ventus which is an interesting read that hints at speculative futures.

Two thoughts I have on this that create a strange tension:

  1. Much of my work is in embedded, interconnected objects. Something like the rewilding seems very possible, considering the technology is nearly there today. Embedding computers into objects and materials is already happening with things like “smart homes” and digital fabrication technologies. Computers are ubiquitous, and so, what happens if (and when) they become computational representations of all kinds of physical and natural objects? The rewilding is one possibility.
  2. On the other hand, we seem to be completely running in the opposite direction of this possible future. Two humorous examples involve assigning personhood to non-person entities. One example being the personhood we’ve assigned to corporations through Citizens United. The other, if the good people of Toledo get their way, is assigning personhood to lakes. In this future, everything is a person, and as such, is assigned the rights of personhood. This seems to be a dangerous future for us, where we spiral even further into human-centered narcissism.

On the one hand, we have a technological inevitability that, perhaps inadvertently, could lead to the de-centering of the individual by flattening the ontology of things. On the other, we have a desperate future where everything is a person. I’m not sure if I understand how these two things reconcile themselves.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Alt Computing Club Date Change

Just a note that we’ve changed the date for the next Alt Computing Club to March 14th at 6pm. Same speakers still anticipated, same venue!

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

“So you want me to teach STEAM?”

Awesome blog post by Sarah Margalus (who also happens to be my wife).

I have two proposals for the courageous teacher that took on this massive job. These are meant to support your efforts and empower you.

1. Start with what you’ve got (or can get for free).
2. Teach skills, not just concepts or the making process.

I, for one, see this problem fairly often. Use what you have, don’t go out and buy a fancy machine. And, teach how to do something.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Announcing Southland Maker Fest

Registration for tickets and booth space is now open for Southland Maker Fest! Check it out.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

TSW 16 – Christina Pei

I really enjoyed this interview with Christina and hope you do, too!

Christina is the creator behind Chicago North Side Mini Maker Faire and researches making by working with teachers to design curricula, and with students to design equitable spaces for making. We talk about the philosophy behind making, and what drives Christina to do all of the awesome things that she’s responsible for. Check it out!

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

How To Get Started With Making

I often have people ask me how to get started with making or makerspace things. While this can often depend on the individual, their interests, and how they can leverage those interests as an insertion point into making things, there are some general kits, projects, and books out there that I’d recommend to anyone (ages ~12 and up) giving their first try at soldering, microcontrollers, digital fabrication, etc. Here’s a list of some things I usually recommend:


  • Conway’s Game of Life is a zero-player game that was invented in 1970 as a mathematical way of simulating cellular growth and destruction. There are plenty of websites out there where you can run a simulation, but Adafruit also makes these really cool, dead-simple kits that allow you to solder together your own small segment of a Game of Life board. I like these as first soldering activities because they aren’t too abundant in parts, so require less time and have a lesser chance of things going wrong. At the same time, they incorporate several different kinds of components, so you gain a wider exposure to simple electronics in this small package.
  • The Meggy Jr RGB Soldering Kit by Evil Mad Scientist is a great product for folks looking to get into soldering and interested in dipping their toes into the custom game platform space. Once built, this kit gives you a fully-programmable handheld game platform with a d-pad, A/B buttons, and an 8×8 LED matrix. This is a little more complex than the Conway’s Game of Life platform, but should only take 4-ish hours to complete.


  • The official Arduino kit is a great way to get started with microcontrollers, breadboarding, and circuitry. It comes with a book of 15 projects, from beginner to advanced, that introduce you to the use of everything from LEDs to LCD screens to motors, and everything in between.
  • MakeCode with Circuit Playground Express is a fun way for folks of all ages to get started with electronics. Circuit Playground Express is a very inexpensive, easy to use electronics platform with all sorts of sensors embedded, LEDs, and other things in it and a lot of possibilities.
  • Makey Makey is a fun tool that runs off the same chip as the Arduino Leonardo, which means it gives you the ability to simulate keyboard and mouse inputs on any computer. This device is an extremely low-barrier-to-entry tinkering platform for all ages. The folks who made it even put together this fun video that shows you some of its possibilities.

3D Printing

  • Thingiverse and YouMagine are both great websites for people wondering what’s possible with 3D printers. Both sites allow you to download pre-designed files that you can then print. But don’t stop there! I’d highly recommend learning by taking those designs and modifying them, gradually becoming more comfortable with the design tools until you’re making your own things.
  • There are several interesting collaborative 3D printing art projects (Project EGG is a cool one, Jeff Solin’s students’ Chicago flag is another that also incorporates laser cutting and CNC routing) that have come and gone. If you can’t find enough people to make something like this with you, another route you could go is joining We the Builders to collaborate on a massive 3D printing project.

CNC Routing

  • I have one strong recommendation for folks getting into CNC routing: check out open source furniture. Opendesk is a great website where you can (for free) download designs that you can then cut out on a larger format CNC router, put together, and stick in your living room. Some of these designs are really slick, too.

Laser Cutting

  • One really fun project to do with laser cutters is designing your own book cover complete with a living hinge. These are great gift ideas for friends and family with a favorite book, and is a really clever use of the precise nature of laser cutters.
  • For those more artistically inclined, and looking to take on a more complex project, laser cutting your own 2.5D topographic wood map is a fun craft project where you’ll find yourself designing, laser cutting, gluing, and painting a full relief map of… wherever. Instructables has a great walkthrough on how to do this..


  • Some of my favorite maker projects mix the new with the old. Case in point: vinyl cutting out a design, then silk-screening it onto textiles. Bonus points if you first sew your own object (I usually prefer a simple bag) before putting the design on it. That’s really making something from soup to nuts.


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Great Compendium of Working Resources

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss (highly recommended) has a companion site that lists a lot of tools, websites, and other resources for people looking to get stuff done. Thought I’d share it since, in addition to recommending that you check the book out, the resources page stands on its own and is super helpful.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus