Commodore 64 in silver, blue, grey and red
Circuit Portraits is an ongoing art project that finally shines some light on that chunk of fibreglass and copper that lurks inside our most loved machines. Most of which are now lurking in the attic.
The Commodore 64 was released in 1982 and sold more than 10 million units over the next decade, becoming the most popular computer in history. Here in the UK, they were never as popular as the Spectrum, but Commodore dominated the USA with the C64 and the VIC-20 that came before it.
This board was taken from a beige Commodore 64. I cleaned it, stripped the components, scanned it, and traced it, painstakingly laying out the lines like the original designer did. I created separations and screens for the four layers (background, bottom copper, top copper and through-holes). Each layer of each print is individually hand-pulled on a silkscreen press using four different mixed colours of acrylic ink onto 300gsm textured Somerset Satin paper, in the basement of my studio here in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The printed area is just less than 50x70cm (19 x 27 inches). It fits into a 50x70cm frame nicely. The paper itself is 56x76cm and has two deckled and two torn edges. The orientation is not fixed, this can be hung portrait or landscape.
This is an open edition, signed by the artist. That's me.
This project highlights the individuality that the people that made these artefacts bring to their work. The circuits I have chosen to feature are ones that have significance to me, either because our family had one, I had good memories of using them at friends houses, or because I coveted them badly!
They are curated from a golden era when consumer electronics still used relatively discrete components and the circuits themselves were open and simple. The days before computer-driven auto-routing could algorithmically calculate the most efficient routing scheme, with the fewest vias and the lowest impedance, in fact, the days when circuits were laid out on light-tables with gridding tape and set-squares. The days of Frogger and Pacman, of Horace Goes Ski-ing and Jetpac.
Engineers had their job to do, but for each design, had to choose only one of a thousand different ways to lay out their tracks. Each line was pored over for it's technical correctness, but ultimately there's a little bit of expression in each mark and swerve, in each routing decision.
None of it was ever intended to be looked at, but nevertheless, stripped of it's contextual markers - the case, buttons, lights, labels, connectors, components, and presented out-of-scale and on beautiful paper, under glass, the patterns reveal their purely aesthetic features and invite interpretation. A variation in density and detail play out a rhythm, and indicate a direction, movement.
Circuit boards, even now, are still produced industrially using a silkscreen technique, so the artists variation of this technique is very apt.
Prints are shipped rolled, face-out in a sturdy packing tube, with acid-free tissue paper and bubble wrap to protect it on it's journey. In the UK, it will be sent special delivery, a next-business-day, signed-for service. European shipping usually takes between two and four days, further afield can take up to ten business days.