I've had a long-standing fascination with distributed music and intelligent audio systems. One of my first side projects at MIT involved building a web-based MP3 service for the coop I lived in at the time. One of my first serious electronics projects ever has been a home-made audio mixer that I built for my “band” (if you can call it that) back in high school. Audio electronics is a great way to learn about both analog and digital electronics, because it's all pretty low frequency and when it works it’s viscerally satisfying.
It should come as no surprise, then, that as soon as the opportunity presented itself I tried to maneuver into distributed audio research at the Media Lab. This picture shows some hardware that I designed in 2001: a DragonBall+FPGA control board running Linux in the middle, an Ethernet card on the left, and a 20-bit audio subsystem on the right. I also had a hardware MP3 decoder board in the works. I called the whole project the “black square”, because most of the boards were square and had black soldermask, though this particular batch was green.
Alas, I never got to really see what this hardware could do. I had to pick up some more critical work that someone else had dropped on the Media House project that this was originally intended for, and after that I left the group entirely to be a founding member of the Robotic Life Group. One thing led to another, and I never had the chance to return to this project.