23 September 2013

Tutorial for Magic Designer emulator v.1.3 (2009 version)

(This tutorial has been tailored for the Windows version of the emulator. The online version is at http://akatz712.freehostia.com/Browser_Version_AJAX_canvas.htm)

Magic Designer emulator software created and developed by Andrew S. Katz

Presented free of any charge or obligation, the Magic Designer emulator is designed to be run as a stand-alone application for Windows, as well as on other operating systems by means of supported Web browsers. This latest available version of the emulator has evolved from initial programming efforts begun about 30 years ago. The emulator precisely models the mechanical version of the Magic Designer, but it also incorporates settings that allow for the creation of incredible design patterns far surpassing those possible for the physical device.

Originally called the “Hoot Nanny”, the mechanical Magic Designer was invented in 1929 by Howard Bevan Jones of Chicago, Illinois. Mr. Jones produced and marketed the Hoot Nanny until selling the manufacturing rights to the Northern Signal Company of Saukville, Wisconsin. Renamed the “Magic Designer”, the device was marketed for another 50 years or so as a “toy” for children, although it also had any number of adult users.

Since the emulator is modeled on the mechanical device, a familiarity with the original will help the new User. The Magic Designer was solidly constructed on a steel base supported by rubber feet. Mounted on the base was a 6-inch Center Gear that could be rotated by turning a small, geared Crank. Special paper “discs” were placed on the Center Gear, each disc having three small notches that fitted securely under three small tabs on the Gear.

The Center Gear was meshed with two planetary, 1-inch Gears. The Right Gear was fixed in place, but the Left Gear could be moved through a 60-degree arc by means of the Shift Lever, connected by a linkage beneath the base. The Shift Lever could be positioned at any of 60 small notches in the base, indexed from “10” to “70”. The base also held two fixed “Circle” Studs, each offset ¼-inch from the edge of the Center Gear.

On each of the planetary Gears and on each of the Studs, a small Peg protruded. The Peg Holes of the two Pen Arms, lettered “A” through “R”, could be fitted onto any of these Pegs. At certain times the ends of the Pen Arms could interfere with the Crank, so the Crank was made to be able to rotate backwards to three spring-loaded “stops”, while the Center Gear was held firmly in place, allowing the Crank to clear.

On the 1-inch planetary Gears, the Pegs were offset 1/8-inch from the edges of the Gears. Thus when the planetary Gears rotated, their Gear Pegs described Gear Peg Circles with diameters of ¾-inches.

The Left and Right Pen Arms firmly held a pen or a pencil in a vertical holder at their hinged junction. The pen or pencil of course drew a pattern on the paper disc as the Crank was turned. The Pen Arms had circular depressions near the pen holder, where the User would place fingertips to hold the pen or pencil securely against the paper. The Pen Arms could be arranged in any of six Pen Arm Placements, as shown below.

From simple circles, when both Pen Arms were placed on the Circle Studs, to more complex designs using the other five Pen Arm Placements with various Peg Hole selections and Shift Lever settings, the original mechanical Magic Designer allowed perhaps literally millions of different patterns to be drawn, but the emulator version of the Magic Designer has been designed to definitely allow literally millions more. This tutorial will describe many of the main features of the stand-alone Windows version of the emulator, and most of the concepts presented here will apply to the Web-based version as well. However, the stand-alone version does have some innovative features not yet included in the Web-based version.

The Magic Designer emulator opens with the Magic Paper window at the top-left of the screen and with the Magic Parameters window at the top-right, as shown below. To move the Magic Paper window, right-click anywhere inside the window and perform the following keyboard sequence: in order, push and hold down Alt+Space+m, then release and hit any arrow key. Use the arrow keys or move your mouse or scroll your touchpad to reposition the Magic Paper window, and left-click to release it. To move the Magic Parameters window, drag its title bar. To re-size the Magic Paper window, drag any of its corners or borders.

Examining the Basic Tab of the Magic Parameters window, you should see many obvious correlations to the physical Magic Designer. The Left and Right Pen Arms have the same lettered Peg Holes from “A” to “R”, and the Shift Lever is adjustable from “10” to “70”. Beneath the Pen Arms you will see a row of six Pen Arm Placement bullets. These correspond respectively to the six Pen Arm Placements illustrated on the previous page. The fourth bullet with the red frame is the default Placement of Left Gear/Right Gear, arguably the most-used Pen Arms Placement.

Most of the less obvious functions of the Basic Tab are briefly explained in the illustration below.

Before any closer examination of the advanced features of the emulator, the beginning User will probably benefit from generating some actual Magic Designs. If you, the User, have been experimenting on your own up to this point, that's great. One of the best ways to learn about the capabilities of the emulator is simply to try things and see what happens. However, if you, the User, want to proceed with this Tutorial, we will need to be on the same page, so to speak.

Click the New/Start Over button, and position the Magic Paper window and the Magic Parameters window next to each other on your screen. Drag the upper and lower borders of the Paper window until it is the same height as the Parameters window. Then drag the sides of the Paper window until it is roughly square. Alternately click the Size button and adjust the borders of the Paper window until the message in the Status Bar at the bottom right of the window says “Paper size:(560,560)”. Click the “Max Circle” button, the third button up from the bottom right on the Basic Tab. If no Ellipse is showing in the Paper Space, click the “Ellipse” button to reveal it. Your Paper window should look just like the one shown further below on this page.

Notice that when your cursor is positioned at the top left corner of the Paper Space, the “Cx,y” Cursor field in the Status Bar reads “0,0”. Everything within the Paper Space is measured from this “origin” point in terms of pixels, “x” for horizontal pixels and “y” for vertical pixels. The Cursor readout allows you to precisely size and position any Ellipse within the Paper Space, to its exact pixel dimensions and to its exact pixel center-point. “Pixel” is a rough portmanteau word for “picture element”, the smallest image element that can be manipulated. Each pixel in a Magic Design is a tiny square of a single color, although that color can be any one of millions.

Move the cursor to the center-point of the Ellipse and observe the values in the Cursor readout, then move the cursor to the bottom right of the Paper Space. Notice that the final, 560th horizontal and vertical pixels can't be “resolved” in the readout, but only the 559th pixels. This is because the cursor will technically be outside the Paper Space at the edges of the 560th pixels. Now make all of the settings in your Magic Parameters window Basic Tab match those shown at the right in the image below.

We'll begin by drawing some Design Traces exactly like those that could be produced by the original Magic Designer, and then we'll make changes to illustrate some of the ways that the emulator goes beyond the original. Click the Slow button, to get an impression of what it was like to “crank” out a Design on the mechanical Magic Designer. The Trace generated by the Slow button is only a preview that will not remain in the Paper Space. Now click the Draw button. Your Paper Space should have the Design Trace depicted at the left below. Notice the Design Trace Counter readout in the Status Bar. Click the Erase button. The Design Trace is gone and the Trace Counter returns to “0”. Click the Draw button to get the Design Trace back. Now click the Undo button and notice the readouts. Now click the Redo button. Again you should have the Trace shown to the left below.

At the bottom of the Shift Lever, click the “down” arrow twice (don't use the keyboard arrow keys, because of a program bug not yet resolved). The Shift Lever readout below the button should read “12”. Click the Draw button. Continue incrementing the Shift Lever in 2-step increments and drawing a Trace at each increment, until you reach a readout of “40”. Your Paper Space should look just like the one shown to the right below, and your Design Trace counter should read “16 of 16”.

In the Morph Number Data Field, just to the right of the Draw button, enter the number “15” and click Undo. You should be back to the single Trace shown at the left above. Again enter “15” in the field and click Redo. You should be back to the Design Suite on the right. Undo 15 Traces once more, to the single Trace on the left. Now enter “50” in the Morph Number Field, and click Draw. The emulator calculates 50 increments to “morph” between the Shift Lever settings of 10 and 40. Now enter “50” in the field and click Undo, back to the single Design Trace on the left.

In the Shift Lever readout, enter “10”. The slider button will snap back up to the top. Click in the white space below the slider button. The button will increment by 10 counts for each click. Place your cursor on the slider button and move it up and down the slide, observing the readout. Now enter “40” in the readout once again.

Change the Design Trace color to red. Enter “50” in the Morph Number Field and click Draw. The emulator will simultaneously morph between different Shift Lever settings and different Design Trace colors. Now change the Paper Space background color a few times. Try purple and dark green and black. Go back to white. Enter “50” in the Morph Number Field and click Undo. You should be back to your single blue trace on a white background. Change the Design Trace color back to blue, return the Shift Lever to “10”, and change the Line Width (Stroke) to “4”. Click Undo once more to clear your single blue Design Trace, and then click Draw. Now your single blue Design Trace will be much wider.

Change the Line Type to Dots, then to Jagged, and finally back to Nice. Now change the Stroke back to “1”, and change the Design Trace color to white. Click Draw to obtain a nice “ribbon” effect. Note that you can repeat a sequence of wide Traces at a narrower Stroke with a different color, giving each Trace in the Suite the ribbon look. While you have the ribbon trace try Dots and Jagged again, ending back at Nice. Click Undo to remove the white ribbon. You should be back to your single wide blue Trace. Return Stroke width to “4”.

Now push and hold down the keyboard “up” arrow key. If you properly selected the “Zoom” bullet at the start of this exercise, the Ellipse should steadily shrink in size. Now release the arrow key and move the Zoom sliders in the Ellipse Controls to notice their effects on Ellipse size. Click and hold the arrow buttons at the ends of the slides as well. They offer finer zoom increments. Zoom the Ellipse to about half its original diameter. Change the Design Trace color to red and click Draw. You will see that Designs proportionally scale in size along with their Ellipses. Click Undo to remove the Red Design Trace, and zoom the Ellipse down to its minimum possible size. Now enter “200” in the Morph Number Data Field and click Draw. Change the background color to black and hide the Ellipse. You should have the Paper Space depicted to the left below.

The emulator allows you to morph between different starting and ending Design Trace sizes, Design Trace shapes, Design Trace center-point positions, Design Trace colors, Shift Lever settings, and Pen Arm Peg Hole positions, or any combination of these, at linear increments according to the value entered in the Morph Number Data Field. The emulator will not always be able to produce the number of Traces entered in the Morph Number Data Field, but the Status Bar will report the actual number of Traces generated.

The emulator does not allow morphs between different starting and ending Line Widths (Stroke), different Pen Arm Placements, or different Design “Sidedness” settings (or gear ratios, to be explained shortly). Attempts to perform such morphs will return an error message in the Status Bar.

Morphing is obviously a powerful feature that lets the emulator leapfrog the physical Magic Designer. But there are still more advantages to the emulator.

The original Magic Designer had a 6-inch diameter Center Gear and 1-inch diameter planetary Gears. Except for plain circles, this fixed, 6-to-1 gear ratio could produce nothing but six-“sided” Designs. Six-sidedness is a pleasant property often found in Nature, as represented in many things from certain atomic structures and rock formations through honeycombs and snowflakes, but patterns and designs of other sidedness can be equally pleasing. The emulator allows the User to adjust gear ratios to obtain Design Traces with any number of sides, although a dozen or so is probably a reasonable limit. For Magic Designs, as in other things, less is often more.

Click the New/Start Over button and select the fourth Pen Arms Placement bullet, the one with the red frame. Now click the Advanced Tab. This will produce an overlay, containing several data fields, that covers the Pen Arms, Shift Lever, and Pen Arms Placement bullets on the Basic Tab, as shown to the left below.

The Advanced Tab displays default values in all of its data fields for Pen Arms Placement “4”, but these values can be changed as desired. Recall that in this Pen Arms Placement setting, the Left and Right Pen Arms are placed, respectively, on the Left and Right Gears. To understand the default values in the data fields of the “fourth position” Advanced Tab, begin with the properties discussed for the physical Magic Designer.

The original Magic Designer had a 6-inch diameter Center Gear. The Center data field on the Advanced Tab shows this as 6000 inches, with an implied decimal point to the right of the “6”. It follows from the three “zeroes” after the decimal point that the emulator calculates Gear diameters to the nearest thousandth of an inch. The Adjust field is for an internal correction factor, with little effect on Designs, but it can nevertheless be changed.

Note further that the 1-inch diameters of the Left and Right Gears are listed as 1000 (1.000), and that their respective Gear Peg Circle diameters of ¾-inches are listed as 750 (0.750).

Pen Arm Lengths are also listed in inches to the nearest thousandth of an inch. On the physical Magic Designer, Pen Arms can be pegged at “A”, for their longest lengths from the Peg Hole to the pen or pencil point, through “R”, for their shortest lengths. At “A” on the physical Magic Designer, the actual length is 5.750 inches, and at “R” the actual length is 1.500 inches. For purposes of internal calculations, the emulator data field values for Pen Arm Lengths on the Advanced Tab are exactly double those of the physical Magic Designer. Since both Pen Arms are currently pegged at “C”, which corresponds to a physical length of 5.250 inches, the data field length values for both Pen Arms are 10500 (10.500).

Default angles for both the planetary Gear centers and for their Gear Pegs are also shown on Advanced Tab 4, to the nearest tenth of a degree. The angles for the planetary Gear centers have polar coordinate values as illustrated to the left. An imaginary line from the center of the Center Gear extends to the right, or east, through the Right Stud. If pivoted on the center point and rotated counter-clockwise, this line would then produce the angles of 90º, 180º, and 270º as shown, all the way to 360º, which is also the starting point. The planetary Gear center angles are defined this way, but their Gear Peg angles are defined from the polar coordinates of the Gears themselves, as shown in the small offset diagram.

With this new information, how can we generate, say, a 3-sided Magic Design rather than a 6-sided one? Change one or both of the planetary Gear values from 1000 to 2000. Now the gear ratio between the Center Gear and at least one of the planetary Gears will be 3-to-1 instead of 6-to-1. Click Draw, and observe the 3-sided figure generated. Click the New button to clear the Paper Space. Now enter 4000 for both planetary Gears, and click Draw. The Design Trace will not be complete. Click the New button to clear the Paper Space, and now click the GCD button. This “greatest common divisor” button tells the emulator to calculate whether more than one rotation of the Center Gear will be necessary in order for a complete Design Trace to be generated. In this case, 2 revolutions will be needed. Click Draw. You will have a completed, 3-sided figure that required 2 rotations of the Center Gear. Click the Default button, and then return to the Advanced Tab. All of the data fields will once again have their default values. Click the New button to clear the Paper Space.

In the Advanced Tab fields, enter “1500” into the fields for both the planetary Gear diameters and for the Gear Peg Circle diameters. That's 1500 in all four fields. The 1500 value equals 1½ inches, for a 4-to-1 gear ratio, which will produce a 4-sided Design. In this case, we have made the Gear Peg Circle diameters equal to the diameters of the Gears. We could, if we so desired, make the Gear Peg Circle diameters larger than the Gear diameters, as though the Pegs extended outward from the Gears on little arms or “planks”. This is yet another way in which the emulator surpasses the real-world limitations of the original Magic Designer.

Now go to the Basic Tab. For the Left Pen Arm choose Peg Hole “B”, and for the Right Pen Arm choose Peg Hole “I”. Adjust the Shift Lever to “70” and click the Draw button to obtain the Design Trace shown to the left below. Now reverse the positions of the Pen Arms. That is, for the Left Pen Arm choose Peg Hole “I”, and for the Right Pen Arm choose Peg Hole “B”. Change the Design Trace color to red. Enter “500” into the Morph Value Data Field and click the Draw button. Now hide the Ellipse and change the background color to black. Your Magic Design should be identical to the one shown at the right below.

Now click the New button to clear the Paper Space again, and go to the Advanced Tab to click the Default Values button. On the Basic Tab, click the third Pen Arms Placement button. Recall that this is the Left Stud/Right Stud setting, for drawing circles. Now go to the Advanced Tab. All of the data fields are grayed out. Currently the only Pen Arms Placement setting that yields an Advanced Tab with active, changeable data fields is the fourth Placement, Left Gear/Right Gear, with which we produced our last Design Suite. However, the default values in the grayed out data fields are still correct, and will be correct, for each Pen Arms Placement.

It is instructive to look at the double Circle Studs configuration because of the way in which the emulator models the Studs. If you look at the grayed out fields you will see that the emulator treats the Studs as though they too, are Gears. However, a ½-inch diameter Gear, with a Peg at its center describing a “zero-diameter” Peg Circle, is functionally the same as a fixed Stud, ¼ inch from the edge of the Center Gear, just as will be found on the original Magic Designer. Thus the emulator can treat the Studs as though they are simply another kind of Gear, which simplifies internal calculations.

If you take another look at the polar coordinate angles diagram previously presented, you will note that the Right Stud is at 0º and that the Left Stud is at 180º. If you then look at the grayed out fields on the Advanced Tab which represent these “Gear center” angles, you will see that they are correct for the Studs, and that the 0º angles listed for the Pegs are also correct. So the polar angles of the Studs and their Pegs are also well-modeled when the emulator considers the Studs to be “Gears”.

Before leaving Advanced Tab “3”, understand that all of its grayed out data field values can be manually entered into the active, Advanced Tab “4” fields, forcing Advanced Tab 4 to behave as though it were Advanced Tab 3. This can be done for any of the Advanced Tabs with grayed out fields. One big advantage of going to the trouble to do this would be that Designs of different sidedness could then be generated for more Pen Arms Placements than just number “4”. For Tab “3” there is another advantage. Limited to the Basic Tab alone, Placement “3” circles can be morphed in close increments to different diameters, producing some striking moiré effects, but when the Advanced Tab can be brought into play as well, small “wobbles” of the Stud “Gears” and “Pegs” can be introduced for even more interesting visual effects.

Below is a “cheat sheet” for all of the Advanced Tabs, which you can use to force Advanced Tab 4 to simulate the default values of any other Advanced Tab. Then you can introduce different gear ratios and other changes.

Now jump in, new User. Start experimenting with all that you have been presented here. Dig deeper into features covered elsewhere and in more depth, in online Help and in the full program overview. Save and open MGS files, fine-adjust Ellipses, paste Designs into graphics apps, and master editing skills. Make more Magic!