Chris DePrisco

This is how you make a laser sing Portal’s “Still Alive”

This is how you make a laser sing Portal’s “Still Alive”

Chris DePrisco is the head of product development at the Automated Laser Corporation. One day he was testing the company’s 20 watt fiber laser by cutting grid-shaped patterns and realized that if he changed the speed and fill spacing of the laser, it began to make different tones. While many of us would find that interesting and then go on about our day, DePrisco is not a normal man. No, he decided that he had to program the laser to play “Still Alive,” the ending theme of the first Portal game.

“The closer the fill spacing versus the width of the rectangle, the higher the pitch as the laser will turn on and off up to hundreds of times a second. This makes a sound similar to a square wave audio signal,” he explained to the Penny Arcade Report. “From there it was just using a music tuner app on my phone and trial and error.” After he had found each of the notes needed for the song, he copied each note along with time delay events to try to match the timing of the song as closely as possible. “It probably took close to 6 hours in total to get everything sorted at home and after work,” he said.

The results speak for themselves.

Because it’s not enough to make the laser sing, the end result is the logo of Aperture Science. “Once I had all the notes, I imported the outline of the logo and placed all the marks to fit,” he said. It’s just that easy, folks.

The real question is why? To our delight, DePrisco gave the only appropriate answer: Because. “Why did I spend 6 hours on it? It was a combination of having some spare time and once I started I knew I had to finish, no matter the cost.” It doesn’t hurt that DePrisco is a huge fan of Portal. He also has a Portal-themed sports bike. And access to lasers.

Here’s to science!