16mw Uniphase/Cyonics Argon-Ion @ 488nm
Scanner is a R/C Car/Plane/Boat servo
Fog machine present.

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Welcome to my lasers page. This page is pretty much centered around lasers for light show and entertainment purposes. To this day lasers remains a hobby only. I have slowly been collecting peices and parts, trading some and keeping others. Thru this I am building an okay but limited light show system.



A long time ago in Chesapeake Virginia I saw my first laser show. This show was at the Chesapeake Jubilee, a community carnival-ish "celebration" of the City's Birthday. An outdoor beam and graphics show was sequenced during a fireworks presentation. It was rather weak, but it was the first laser show I saw. The way the beams were able to illuminate in "thin air" was neat. It was strictly an argon-ion system. The technicians said it could burn through a key near the source. It could have.

The main things I remember now that I can relate is that they displayed the 8kpps test pattern on the huge outdoor screen. I'm not sure if they were using an Amiga or not. I also remember one of the beams was terminated on the metal sign of a junk-food vendor. Towards the end I remember seeing some lady on her husbands shoulders swaying around with her arms waving trying to get into the beam path. It didn't cause damage (although it could have been VERY serious if she looked down the beam path!). She wasn't quite tall enough. Point to be made? People will do very stupid things.

This slightly got my interest in lasers going. It wasn't a life changing experience or anything. Just neat.

The next show I saw was the Grand Illumination display at Epcot center in Flordia. Stunning! Period. Well done (but what do you expect with that kind of money). If it wasn't stunning it would be a let down. Very nice display. I actually saw this twice, once when I was young with my parents and once during high school on a school sponsored trip. During the school sponsored trip I caught a show at Sea World in Flordia. It was pretty bad. The smoke from the fireworks totally covered the projection system and there was this huge cloud with bits of laser light shooting through. I've heard they improved it or removed it, I will probably see it again in the not too distant future.

Next I caught a show done at Virginia Beach twice. It was an advertisement for AT&T TrueVoice most likely performed by Science Faction of NYC. The show was projected at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront on the side of a hotel.

The technicians told me the system used a 20 watt argon and 20 watt krypton laser. Three scan systems were used after the argon lines were split into blue and green. Each scan system was driven by an AT&T unix 486sx PC. Each PC was synchronized by a SMPTE card listening to a time track from a DAT machine which contained the audio. This is strictly quoted from the technician, and I could have the company wrong. It was a very cool presentation telling the story of the history of communications. They came two years in a row, and I believe the show was slightly different year to year.

Lastly was a travelling Pink Floyd laser show at the Chrysler Hall. Paramount sponsored this laser show, but my guess is it is an independant company doing the work. The system contined a 5 watt argon and 5 watt white light Coherent Purelight, ADATs, 8mm VTR with 3 gun CRT projectors, 6800HP scanners. It was the real deal, and made me feel WEAK. The show was tight and entertaining. 6 or 8 HES Intellibeams backed up the lasers and were driven from a HES LCD controller.

They have never returned. They always advertise on 96X, WROX. I emailed them and suggested maybe the advertise on 106.9 WAFX and 98,7 WNOR, as they might be missing their potential audience. The company never responded, and they cancelled the shows for the future due to lack of interest in this area.

Regal Cinema's Funscape also had a laser show system. I contacted them after this system was decommisioned but pretty much got a run around. Funscape is a lame arcade/family entertainment center. The only loss with this place is they wouldn't sell me the system cheap. It supported R + G + B if I remember correctly. If I remember there was an Amiga 2000 / 2500 and a rack mount card cage involved. The system was normally offline as they said it was always broken. It used a water cooled laser. No other details are availible.

For a period of time Nauticus also had a laser show. I never saw this, but it was leased system during the summer of 1994. The system shot onto a waterwall. The system and show came from Audio Video Imagineering from Northern Virginia. This is all the infos I have on it, courtesy of a return Email from someone at Nauticus. I have respect for the awesome quick and informative response received from Nauticus. Nauticus, you impress me.

Lasers? Hobby? How?

First laser I picked up was thru Dr. Bob's Theatricity in Virginia Beach. It was an American DJ Black Widow. 5mw solid state diode, lijasous pattern generator. I now had a laser. Not a bad unit. A nice introduction. This was before the wave of the laser pointers and mega cheap diodes.

Next came Ebay. There it was. Living with parents, a little extra cash. The temptation built over a year. I dropped about $700 on a 16mw 488nm Uniphase (Cyonics) argon laser head and Spectra Physics power supply. I didn't know what to think when I first got it. A little nervous at first thinking "this is a very high powered laser." After seeing it in action, I was a bit dissapointed. It faired well at night outdoors, but didn't have that UMPFH. It ate some power, put out a bunch of heat and had noisy fans. This gave it a much different personna over a HeNe. Then I purchased a fog machine, and that cured the ills and brought forth the rich vibrant beams. The only downside to the cyonics is the lack of multiline optics.

picture of cyonics laser
Cyonics in parents garage

First thing I made was a project from the Laser Cookbook. A servo controller driven from audio. This at least moves the laser. I managed to purchase some galvometers from eBay later on. A total of 3 open loop General Scanning, and two G100PD General Scanning galvos that need mirrors. I also found two General Scanning CX-600 amps, and purchased 3 Accel 124 cards. Over the period of 4 years I have built an assortment of odds an ends. A few AOMs found their way from eBay to me, as well as an Isomet AOM driver from a local auction. I haven't had time to try blanking the beam with the 3rd galvo, or setting up the G100PD / CX-600 pair, or AOM blanking. I also traded a 20 watt large frame argon system and power supply to MWK Industries for a 60x refurb. I like the laser alot, as long as it doesn't fail me I will praise MWK Lasers for a long time.

I started with Pangolin LSD-1000 ont he Amiga. It was okay, but I hate the Amiga. Sorry, that interlaced TV looking picture has to go. Oddly, the output from the Amiga was the best I've gotten in terms of smooth results.

amiga as drawn by laser
The word Amiga from LSD1000 and included clipart

After the Amiga I built a parallel port adaptor from instructions found on the internet. It faired pretty well, but I was getting noise in the scanning. No idea why, I was guessing it was the crappy construction of my board. On a positive note, a local (DJ Ethernet) wrote some new software that is pretty impressive that will drive the parallel port DAC. Combined with the ALC 60x laser from MWK, things were starting to look better.

ALC 60x, open loop scanners, DJ Ethernet's software,
John Voltz's interface

So then I bought the Laser Illusions rig from It is probably the best as far as hardware that I've had, but unfortunately the software lacks some features that are supposed to be coming soon. All I want is MIDI support! We will see. I am still getting the noise in the output. This could mean that PC's suck and it is a result of timing issues. It could mean my amps are damaged. It could mean the galvos are damaged from hooking them to a stereo amplifier. It could be because of the power supply. Who knows. Free time will tell.

ALC 60x with beams split, 5mw HeNe and 15mw Cyonics

I also happen to buy and sell larger systems to learn about the larger systems, and hopefully to find some that I can use. I've owned a Spectra Physics 20 watt argon, 480volts isn't easy to find. The coherent I-90 system came without the tube. Ooops. Then there was the Continuum YAG that was missing the KTP crystal. Darnit! Too dangerous anyway. But luck got better. First was the Spectra Physics 265/165 5 watt Argon system. Tube seems dead. BUT WAIT! It hit. The jewel. The king of kings. A Spectra Physics 2011 and matching supply, complete with RS-232 interface board for the power supply. It was a rare find from the industrial world. 45 hours! And she attempts to lase. So it needs alignment, and I need to build a closed circuit water chilling system. Running open circuit is too much of a pain, and the landlord would most likely not like the water use, dumping 4+ gallons a minute down the drain. The future looks BRIGHT on this one!

The laser hobby is an EXTREMELY expensive one. I have been pretty lucky so far. Honestly Ebay has made alot of it possible, by finding very rare parts cheap. The next things required for my system is a $1000 scanner set, and a $2000 PCAOM crystal for color selection. And a bunch of aluminum machining. It will be a VERY long while before I'm financially able to add to my display systems. The 2011 laser will keep me busy until then.

Part 2 covers the large frame argon system and other advancements...

Notes about the pictures
The pictures on the left hand column are mixed from different years. They range from 2000 to 2002. Truth be told, almost all of the footage that I have from 2001 and 2002 is on video tape and not still images.

The top set is old stuff, mostly Cyonics 15mw argon and Amiga LSD-1000.
2nd group is ALC 60x taken with video camera, using DJ Ethernets software
Thanks and links!
Thanks to:

Rob Mudryk, NeoLase, the people that used to meet on the LaserFX IRC chat, and Steve Roberts from LaserFX. Thanks to John Voltz for the DAC circuit and editor. Thanks to DJ Ethernet for his software. Thumbs up to Chris Favru, one of the other laser locals.

The Links:

LaserFX - A GOOD resource! - My other laser page - Rob Mudryk's page

Check out the links and the indexes on for complete resources.