I’ve wanted a simple, compact VGA mixer for as long as I’ve had a laptop. Something I could fit in the same case as the laptop, and something that wouldn’t render my precise computer imagery through the lens of a 1950’s television: a single pixel line should not end up blurred and flickery when projected on a screen. My need is for live video performance, but anybody who has had to put a powerpoint presentation through their laptop’s tv-out socket or seen the chaos caused by swapping cables in and out of computers in front of an audience should have an idea of just how useful such a thing could be.
I wrote this in 2009, when I had cracked how to co-opt a new bit of AV industry kit into a laptop friendly HD mixer. I wanted to get it out to everybody else I knew who was in the same position as I’d been. In 2012, I finally got there: the *spark d-fuser, backed by trading entity Spark Live Ltd: http://sparklive.net/dfuser
For some at-the-time context, there’s a nice piece on Create Digital Motion reacting to the release announcement: The Era of Hardware Mixing for Laptops Cometh: SPARK D-FUSER Available. And rolling back to the beginning, you can see what I set out to do in the original version of this project page. The opening paragraph was taken from it, and over those pre-release years the page had ~30k reads, by far the most popular here.
The development of the project has made a fair few diary posts, notably the joy of getting the project out there: ripples around the internet; rebooting the project two years later: pcbs, parts, plans redux; and after the successful pre-order run, taking it retail: *spark d-fuser: to retail.
I have a talk about the whole journey. It’s pretty special, I think. It’s also long, but it’s exposing the detail that in part makes it. Anyway, I’d have loved to hear something like this when I was younger – a parable of you-can-do.
Kickstarter pitches are now part of maker culture, but when do you hear back from the other side?
How did an Arduino hack turn into £50k in pre-orders? How do you get an assembly line going if all you have is a laptop? Four production runs and a retail partnership later, what were the final accounts?
Join Toby Harris as he talks product and dissects a successful run of a maker business.
Finally, as a follow-up to that talk and the discussion around a product being just a bunch of files made on your computer, here is a zip of what you’d need to make a Spark D-Fuser. Having spent the talk trying to give a very concrete answer to ‘what is a product?’, it’s my most tangible version of that.