The Automatic Puny Tune Player

The Automatic Puny Tune Player is a computerized Puny Tune “robot” that plays songs on an actual wooden Puny Tune by blowing air into the mouthpiece and opening and closing the finger holes with mechanical levers. For those who don’t know, the Puny Tune is a 4-holed flute that can play a chromatic octave by fingering the four holes in different combinations.

The Puny Tune Player is made from wood, brass, rubber, and acrylic. The mechanical components are mounted on top of a clear plastic sheet which covers the computer and electronic components.

To operate the machine, you turn the hand crank seen at the right side of the cabinet. This drives an oak and brass crankshaft which in turn operates three pistons in the clear acrylic cylinders. These pistons pump air into an oak reservoir chamber at the back of the cabinet. Two tall rubber bellows absorb this air and inflate as the air is delivered. When the two bellows are fully inflated, they close a switch which activates the computer, a Z80 single board controller.

The computer locks itself on and opens a solenoid valve which begins to deliver air to the Puny Tune. (The air first passes through a low pressure regulator to simulate lung pressure.) The handmade solenoid valve is visible in the photograph at the left side of the cabinet with two long plastic tubes coming out of it.

As the air flow is stopped and started by this valve, the computer also activates a specific sequence of four solenoid levers on either side of the Puny Tune, seen in the center of the cabinet. These wooden levers are coated with the distilled remains of a “Wacky Wall Walker”, which is the softest, most flexible rubber-like material you can imagine. This soft material is crucial because the wooden levers must make a perfect air-tight seal with each finger hole on the Puny Tune. As the computer puffs each “breath” into the flute, it fingers the proper combination of four levers to play a song.

When the song is complete, the computer shuts down and waits for the bellows to fill with air again. The current software plays 13 different tunes.