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Retrono – Nathan Villicaña-Shaw


The Retrono interface is an appropriated video game console which is repackaged to facilitate a completely new and unconventional interaction schema between the device and interactee. The interface exposes, highlights, and reveals the internal circuitry of the device, ironically disguising it from recognition and liberating it from the uses of its past life. The Retrono interface introduced in this section is directly influenced by Peter Blassers work with developing instruments under the philosophy of inner surface. The interface, used in the installation Cathode Ray Tubes , is not a blue-sky project built from the ground up. Instead, creating a Retrono is an act of removal and replacement as oppose to construction. The interface is a Retron retro video game console which is a hardware emulator for the famed Nintendo Entertainment System, or the NES, and is capable of playing NES game cartridges and using NES controllers. To transform a Retron into a Retrono takes three steps:
  1. The controller ports, reset button, and power button are removed from the Retron
  2. The red power LED is replaced with a white LED
  3. The original plastic case is removed while the hardware is rehoused in a laser-cut clear acrylic box
The Retrono cases have four openings: one for the power plug, one for the video output, one for the audio output, and one large rectangular opening directly above where the unit’s main circuitry is housed intentionally exposing board to outside interference – electromagnetic of physical.  Once a Retron is converted into a Retrono it is unable to play NES games; the case does not allow a game cartridge to be inserted into the cartridge slot and the interface is assembled without a game inside. Unlike a NES console which has mechanisms to detect the presence of a game cartridge and will not attempt to synthesize video output without a game, the Retron has no such mechanisms and will always synthesize a video output. When the devise is housed in its original case it is protected from outside interference and the image it displays will usually be black, when the console is turned into a Retrono this changes. The console attempts to decode the floating electrical charges at each of its input pins as video and audio data. The once video game console is transformed into an 8-bit audio-visual synthesizer whose output is can be manipulated by the electrical properties of its user’s body. Retronos are most effective when CRT TV’s are used to display their output. The strong electromagnetic field emanating from the tubes turbocharges the reactivity of the Retrono creating a feedback loop between the TV and Retrono. As they are not functional in a conventional sense there is no right, or wrong, way to interact with a Retrono. They are created out of the desire for a hyper-reactive system that people can play with and explore without the burden of any expectations or instructions.