#194 – An Interview With Todd Bailey – Embedded Embrasure Engineering


Todd Bailey

Welcome, Todd Bailey of Narrat1ve!

  • Todd grew up with electronics, his dad was an electrical engineer.
  • He got his degree in English Literature from Oberlin.
  • A final class there in electronics introduced him to Horowitz and Hill’s Art of Electronics.
  • After school he got a job in a stereo repair shop and was building amps.
  • He speaks fondly of finding the Jim Williams books. Reminded of the essay “The Importance of Fixing”
  • When Todd left the repair shop he started designing synthesizers, sequences, switches.
  • Then he moved onto the PIC microcontroller, taught himself assembly.
  • He met Dima, now a professor, who offered an interview with a toy company.
  • The company Big Monster Toys in Chicago. Made over 200 prototypes a year(!).
  • The ones that made it to production were a power law distribution. 
  • His first design was to design a “Beast in a bag”. His mentor, “Big brain Todd” eventually told him a shortcut that helped illuminate how to get things done and move onto the next product (don’t listen when the motor is on).
  • After moving on from the toy company, Todd had a wide range of clients: artists and toy customers.
  • He started designing products to sell, including a synth kit and a binary display watch.
  • Then he design “Where The Party At” (WTPA), a synthesizer meant to help people learn electronics.
  • Todd also talked about the classic Casio SK1 and how it was featured at the Bent circuit bending festival.
  • Version 2 is on the shelf and ready to get pushed to production, but he is interested in other problems right now, including consulting.
  • One project he couldn’t talk about was a design for robot doors in marine environment.
  • Todd talked about the experience about doing the engineering for art installations; personal investment in the work seems to be higher for art.
  • Nam June Paik didn’t design the TV Synthesizer specifically, he designed the art around the technology.
  • A more recent personal project has been the Vec9, built on a vector screen from an Asteroids cabinet. It’s unique because the Asteroids controller draws with vectors instead of rasters (like on VGA televisions).
  • Andrew Reitano worked on the FPGA stuff, you can read more about it on his site Batsly Adams
  • For the past few years you could find Todd at the Analog Aficionados dinner, thrown by Paul Rako. Chris hopes to be out there next year.
  • Todd’s image of himself is as an engineer, if someone proved him otherwise, he’d be shaken.
  • Other fun projects recently:

You can reach Todd online at his site Narrat1ve.com or on Twitter by tweeting @ToddBailey. Thanks to Todd for coming on to share his stories!


  1. Tow says

    Hi Chris,
    The episode numbering is still wrong:
    #192 does not exist.
    #191 should be deleted…

  2. Matt Heilman says

    I agree with Todd, Electronics if done professionally and at home it is not a hobby.

  3. says

    I really enjoyed this weeks episode. The word that the three of your were looking for, which describes someone who works at their job all day, then goes home to do more of the same type of work on their own projects is – Lucky or perhaps Insane. . .

    I know that getting paid to do work you really love sooooo much that you go home and work on your own projects is awesome…

    Anyone who has this type of work / hobby life has truly made their own good luck.

  4. says

    Haha, Todd, you are having an existential moment!

    Glad to hear that you are doing well. Hope to make it down to AA again some day.

  5. Arlie says

    The most priceless moment was at [36:50] when Todd was describing the design requirements for the Robot Motorized door project, and Dave said “…all that for a door that closes”. To which Todd replied “…it also OPENS as well”.