The Freshman Fishwrap / IHTFP Gallery

The Green Building Sound (VU) Meter

Location: Near the top of the Green Building (54-19xx ventilation slits)
Date: 7/4/93

Boston's July 4th is traditionally a time of fun and celebration, when many thousands of people gather on the banks of the Charles River to picnic, listen to music, and watch fireworks. The music is a key part of the festivities; a local radio station broadcasts the Boston Pops' musical performance from the Esplanade and to the rest of the city.

So, in the spirit of the event, MIT hackers converted the top of the Green Building (Bldg. 54) into the world's largest sound (VU) meter. Composed of nine 6x4 foot apertures that were lit by red lights, the huge meter was almost 250 times the size of an ordinary stereo sound meter. The total output of the meter was over 5,000 watts.

The light meter was keyed to the radio --- unfortunately meaning that, to those who listened to the Boston Pops' music as it floated out over the river, the lights did not match the music (because sound travels far more slowly than radio waves). However, the VU meter also automatically switched to sequences of interesting display patterns to complement the fireworks that followed the music, and so provided an unusual point of interest on that July 4th evening.

The light patterns included:

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