The Binary Winder

I’d been planning a circuit which required a rapid input of binary numbers, ideally from a microprocessor, and it occurred to me that this could be a useful companion to the Bigfoot sequencer or the Chessboard Keyboard  – both methods I was using for sending binary data to keyboards and other devices.

I figured that this could be done manually by using a 16-way hex switch with no end stop – as they are commonly found – and a winding handle as used for re-stringing a guitar.

I bought a couple of these very cheaply on eBay:

and glued the switch inside the body of the string winder – the part which normally fits over the guitar machine head:

This would be the part of the device which did all the work.  Connecting +V to the common pin of the switch would enable it, as it was turned by the handle, to output the 16 binary numbers from 0000 to 1111.

The actual circuit itself was built inside one of the small transparent plastic boxes – described as ‘jewellery cases’ – which I had previously used for small projects such as the Touch-Radio and various effects devices.

In the above pictures the 16-way switch can be seen on the right-hand side, the 5-pin DIN binary output socket at the bottom, and 4 LEDs at the top to indicate the binary number.

The purpose of the 4 DPDT switches in the middle is to change the order of the 4 bits of the binary number.  This was so that winding the handle wouldn’t just produce an output running up and down the scale, but could be changed to give a bit of variety.


The actual circuitry consisted essentially of passing 9v to the 16-way switch, and the outputs of the 16-way switch to the 4-pin DIN socket via the 4 DPDT switches and a 4050 output buffer.

There was space inside the case for a 9v PP3 battery, so I included a battery clip inside, but also added a 3.5mm socket for external power.

As with many of my devices, I stuck a square of velcro on the back of the box so that a PP3 battery in a holder could be attached.

Space was a little tight inside, but not enough so to cause problems, and after some time the switches were all connected together with the 4050.  I didn’t bother with a circuit board, but just soldered all the connections to the 16-pin i.c. holder which the 4050 was plugged into.

Surprisingly, the case  closed without difficulties, and I was able to test it out with a couple of recent devices with binary inputs, The Telephone and the Carousel Keyboard.

In fact, there is a limit to how quickly these devices can respond to the winder – especially when the pitch is lowered, which seems to slow down the instruments’ responses as well.  However, it was very effective indeed in creating an instant sequence more quickly and accurately than it could be played on a keyboard – especially a keyboard with tiny keys like the Carousel.

0 Responses to “The Binary Winder”

  1. Leave a Comment

Post a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


October 2017

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: