Ringing like 1984: Western Electric “Princess”

Western Electric “Princess” compact telephone from 1984

I got this phone at a junk swap event. It had a broken handset jack, but I got a replacement from OldPhoneWorks.

It has a distinctive, loud ring:

(Alternative Freesound link: Western Electric Princess Telephone Ringing)

That’s a lot of noise from a small phone!

Western Electric “Princess” compact telephone ­— base. Note mid-1984 production date: after the US Bell breakup

If you want the ringtone for your phone, here it is as an Ogg file for Android: WesternElectric-Princess_Ring-mobile.zip

Western Electric “Princess” Telephone Ringing
Recording © 2018, Stewart C. Russell — scruss.com

provided under the Creative Commons — Attribution 2.5 
Canada — CC BY 2.5 CA licence:

The Shadows — “Rhythm & Greens” #except …

The Shadows — “Rhythm & Greens” except it gets faster every time they sing “Yeah, baby” is my humble contribution to the genre.

The original for comparison.

The Yonge & St Clair Autoharp Guy

This guy sets up on the SE corner of Yonge & St Clair most afternoons, and plays endless variations on the above recording. He’s playing an autoharp with the chord bars removed, and run through a homebrew battery-powered amplifier with much reverb and distortion. A bunch of the burbly noises are 8kbit/s voice recorder artifacts from my phone.

Although the themes seem repetitive, I don’t think they repeat exactly every time. He seems to be in a happy place playing them.

Deafening frogs

Deafening frogs

And they were! Three recordings:


Instagram filter used: Lo-fi

Photo taken at: Heart Lake Conservation Area

View in Instagram ⇒

More fun with plotters: graphing, simplifying, and random noises …

  1. If you go to the Incompetech Multi-Color Graph Paper PDF Generator and set the grid spacing to 0.4, 0.8 and 4 lines/cm, you get a nifty HP-GL unit grid with major lines at 1000 units (25 mm), intermediate lines at 500 units (12½ mm) and minor lines at 100 units (2½ mm):
  2. By a very roundabout route, I used GDAL’s simplify function to half the line count of my hypotrochoid plots with little visible degradation. The optimised page took far less time to plot:
    Next time, I’d definitely use Shapely instead of messing about with GIS formats. Who knows, I might even integrate it into Chiplotle. Eventually. (Update: though I have some code that does something …)
  3. Plotters are resolutely electromechanical devices. They turn digital command into analogue output, but my one never sounds too happy doing it. It grumbles, sighs and even moos as it plots. A recent plot sounded a bit like this: .

Raspberry Pi as a USB audio capture device

The Raspberry Pi’s hardware and software support has come a long way in the few months it has been in the wild. I first tried this application in the summer, and the results were dismal. Now, thanks much improved USB driver support under Raspbian, I’m pleased to say it works flawlessly.

Earlier this year, I bought a turntable (ack!) for transferring vinyl to mp3. I have a TC-772 USB phono preamp, which spits out a 48 kHz stereo audio stream. If you plug the USB output of the preamp into a Rapberry Pi (running Raspbian Wheezy with all the updates), it’s instantly recognized as an audio device:

$ lsusb
Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub
Bus 001 Device 002: ID 0424:9512 Standard Microsystems Corp. 
Bus 001 Device 003: ID 0424:ec00 Standard Microsystems Corp. 
Bus 001 Device 004: ID 08bb:2902 Texas Instruments Japan PCM2902 Audio Codec

If you install the ALSA recording utilities (sudo apt-get install alsa-utils pulseaudio – this should pull in a whole bunch of necessary packages), you can record directly from this device with the following command:

arecord -D 'pulse' -V stereo -c 2 -f dat -d 900 out.wav

which records from the ‘pulse’ audio device, displaying a stereo text VU meter (handy for setting levels), writing to a two channel 16-bit 48 kHz file called ‘out.wav’ for a maximum of 900 seconds (15 minutes). arecord has a baffling number of recording source options; arecord -L will show them. ‘pulse’ was the first one I tried.

So how does it sound? Here’s a 30 second excerpt from the only single I owned for years, The Music Tapes‘ “The Television Tells Us/Freeing Song by Reindeer”: Freeing Song by Reindeer – excerpt [mp3]. I’ve saved an even smaller snippet as lossless FLAC so you can see that the waveform’s pretty clean: FreeingSongbyReindeer-tiny_excerpt [flac].

Sounds pretty good. Not quite as good as having Julian play it in your house, I’ll allow, but not bad for a first try with a $35 computer.

the happiest sound

Click image for sound [mp3].

That’s the rapid clatter of chopping up Kothu Roti at Amma at the end of our street. You know that tasty spicy food is imminent when you hear that sound. I’m really pleased that Amma’s back under the original management. The other proprietors just didn’t care as much about their food.


Very little urban hum this morning (holiday), and the air conditioners really hadn’t started yet, so please be amused by the sounds of the garden (featuring mostly mockingbird): about quarter to nine. It does a passable seagull and also a red-tailed hawk. The vehicle reversing sound, though, is real.

(at least I don’t have a mockingbird problem.)

“Go scratch a rock on some congealed oil and tell me what it sounds like”

I’m either getting old or conventional, ‘cos I bought something I said I would never have enough time or space for: a turntable. I won’t forsake my beloved MP3s, but there are somethings you just can’t get electronically. One of them being the 1981 Stampfel & Weber album “Going Nowhere Fast”, which I snagged from Etsy from a west coast seller.

I bought an elderly Technics from Ring Audio, and set it up with a USB phono preamp from Phonopreamps.com. It sounds good, I guess. It certainly sounds different from MP3s, but better …? Dunno. My two cynical theories hypotheses of vinyl snobbery are:

  1. The more you have invested in your system, the more confirmation bias tells you it sounds better.
  2. Vinyl is the record industry’s last-gasp attempt attempt at relevancy, because you can’t home-cut your own discs. As there’s always analogue loss in ripping from vinyl, it’s self-policed rights management by the sound quality snobs. Imagine that: DRM conditioned into the listeners themselves!

I have not got a lot of records:


  1. Going Nowhere Fast — Stampfel & Weber
  2. The Holy Modal Rounders
  3. The Holy Modal Rounders 2 (are you sensing a pattern here?)
  4. Acedia — Black Walls

Single-ish Things

  1. The Television Tells Us / Freeing Song by Reindeer — The Music Tapes (Julian sent me this in 1998, and I think this is the first time I’ve played it. For a few days, it was the only record I had, and it was merciful that Catherine was away, as she only has a normal human tolerance for this sort of thing)
  2. Ghetto Kitty Island Split 7″ – featuring Chicken on a Raft, Of Montreal, Bart Davenport and The Minders.

Speaking of which, I understand that the latter EP is not exactly widely known, is totes OOP, and completists might dig Of Montreal‘s ”Epistle to a Pathological Creep (demo)”, so here it is ripped for your listening pleasure:

Ghetto Kitty Island Split 7" (2004)I recorded it with arecord, and edited it with Audacity.  The arecord command line (more for my reference than your interest) was:

arecord -D 'hw:CARD=CODEC,DEV=0' -V stereo -c 2 -f dat -d 900 ghettokittyisland.wav

which records 900 seconds of audio at DAT quality to the file ghettokittyisland.wav, while showing a simple text meter on the screen.

Banjo at home

Got some better pictures of the banjo yesterday. And sounds, too!

Please excuse the ropeyness of the following playing; I’d never played fretless until I built this:

not some obscure radio signalling protocol

I do a lot of conference calls. Usually there’s a tone and the participant’s name played when they sign out. If it’s a big call and everyone leaves at the end, this signout cascade gets quite lengthy. Here’s part of one I recently caught: signout cascade.

maybe a bit too much octave chorus

In line with the recent misuse of paulstretch, here’s my contribution to the genre: Zzyzx-stretch-sample. I don’t think you’d recognize the original – it’s Zzyzx from Billy Faier’s Banjo album.

Robyn Hitchcock Live at Dancebase on 2001-08-22 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Robyn Hitchcock Live at Dancebase on 2001-08-22 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive.

Robyn Hitchcock
Dancebase, Edinburgh
Broadcast on BBC Radio 3 Andy Kershaw show, 2001-08-24

FM-Radio > SB-16 > WAV > CD-R
CD-R > XLD > FLAC-16

Sound is occasionally slightly buzzy, but generally pretty clear.

     1	Gene Hackman
     2	Cheese Alarm
     3	Arms Of Love
     4	Surgery
     5	I Often Dream Of Trains
     6	Autumn Is Your Last Chance
     7	Freeze
     8	(Interview with Andy Kershaw)

Support was The Bhundu Boys.

Recorded and transferred by Stewart C. Russell - scruss.com
(who also has a mono AUD on minidisc of this - enquire if interested)

Robyn Hitchcock Live at The Assembly Rooms on 2001-08-05 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Robyn Hitchcock Live at The Assembly Rooms on 2001-08-05 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive.

Robyn Hitchcock
The Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh

AUD > lapel mic > Sharp MD-SR50 MD (mono mode)
MD-SR60 > Marantz PMD-620 > Audacity > FLAC
(analogue connection from MD to PMD-620)

Note: recording is *MONO*, and is 24-bit FLAC.

Partial set - had to leave to catch last train home ... but this was
the last night of a great three gig series, and Robyn was on top form.

     1	talk: "he went elsewhere"
     2	Mexican God
     3	talk: "meat ... meat ..."
     4	The Devil's Coachman
     5	talk: "when you die"			(*** truncated)
     6	When I Was Dead				(*** mostly)
     7	Raining Twilight Coast
     8	talk: "god came along, and the mars bar was ashamed"
     9	1974
    10	talk: "pumpkin A and pumpkin A"
    11	Chinese Bones
    12	talk: "frank recorded this"
    13	My Wife And My Dead Wife
    14	talk: "intro to your feelings are the last thing to die"
    15	Your Feelings Are the Last Thing To Die
    16	She Doesn't Exist Any More
    17	talk: "special strings made for him by a halibut"
    18	I Feel Beautiful
    19	talk: "madonner of the bees"
    20	Madonna Of The Wasps
    21	talk: "see how much of it I can remember"
    22	La Cherité

No encore recorded, though one was likely played.

Tracks marked '***' have MD dropouts from faulty Maxell XL-II 74

Audience recording by Stewart C. Russell, http://scruss.com/