Go Box

My Arduino/USB “Go Box”

Brian Hughes’ Fidelipac “cart machine”

Volunteering to run sound for the first time at the Village Hall has been an
archaeological experience. When Jon Shelbourne was kindly showing me
how to connect the speakers, we referred to a tiny diagram in shaky biro,
drawn on the wall, left for us by benevolent forebears. Fingerprints of
crew past are everywhere, evidence that now as always that amdram
productions are held together by goodwill and gaffer’s tape.

One predecessor looms particularly large over the Hall. Brian Hughes was
a former BBC sound engineer who collected field recordings and brought
the latest-greatest equipment of the era to The Players’ productions.
Many of the sounds you will hear in this production come from his
archives. Karen Picton also gave me a viewing of his Sonifex Micro HS
“cart machine” decks, renowned in their time for their ability to cue
sound clips with 1/10 th of a second accuracy.

The 39 Steps has over a hundred sound cues, such as, “Forth Bridge.
Creaking girders. Howling wind. Distant foghorns.” So, I decided to carry
on the tradition of seeking latest-greatest kit by bringing this production
into the software era with laptop-based cueing. However, rather than
hunting in the dark for keyboard keys, I decided that I needed a dummy-
proof “go box” with a giant green button to help me hit my timings.

The go box I designed and built is an homage to the place where I honed
my own reflexes—the video game arcades of the 1980s—decked out with
glowing buttons. It also gives a nod to built-to-last audiophile equipment
with a dark wood-panelled cabinet. You are welcome to come have a look
at the interval.

It has been a pleasure to step into this quirky, history-steeped Hall and
lend a hand, helped up by the many who have held their breath and hit
the button, time and again, from here in the darkened back booth.

(From the programme for The 39 Steps, Whitwell Players Spring Production 2023)