If you've never seen a singing tesla coil, an 8-foot-tall mash of circuitry and electronics that matches firing lightning bolts to the beat of DJ music, you are seriously missing out.
These days, your best bet might be to catch Austin, Texas, troupe Arc Attack as it plays events like the anime festival Metro Con in Florida. Or, if you happen to be in Abu Dhabi, you might be able to see the group do its electric best there.
If you can't hop an A380 to the United Arab Emirates, however, you can still get your singing tesla coil on. And right in the comfort of your own living room, in fact. And that's because Arc Attack has just put the finishing touches on a singing tesla coil emulator that, while not quite life-threatening, can still give you a sense of what the instrument is all about.
I first saw Arc Attack do its thing at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin in 2007, and then got a chance to see the group during the Interactive Festival there again this year. In both those cases, however, Arc Attack was playing with just one coil. But while in Austin for SXSW this year, I got taken to a warehouse out along the back roads of Austin--somewhere I could never in a million years find by myself--where they were testing out their dual coil setup. (See video below, which is dark, but gives a good sense of the power of the dual singing coils.)
My ears are still ringing from that demonstration.
Well, the simulator isn't quite that powerful, but it's a lot of fun to play it using the provided electronic keyboard interface. And just like in real life, you need to be careful with it. If you go too far with it (heating it up too much), it explodes, blowing a transistor, and then displays the message, "Replacing IGBT." I'm assured that's an inside tesla coiler joke that "will definitely invoke some nerd snorting."
So, crank up your computer speakers, pull out a can of Red Bull, and rock out with your own private singing tesla coil. You might want to wear earplugs.
On June 22, Geek Gestalt will kick off Road Trip 2009. After driving more than 12,000 miles in the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, and the Southeast over the last three years, I'll be looking for the best in technology, science, military, nature, aviation, and more in Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and South and North Dakota. If you have a suggestion for someplace to visit, drop me a line. And in the meantime, join the Road Trip 2009 Facebook page and follow my Twitter feed.