Need ideas on how to represent "computer" in tattoo
June 5, 2014 8:12 AM   Subscribe

I have an idea for a half-and-half forearm tattoo (like this) where one half will be filled in such a way to represent computation, computers, electronics, artificial intelligence, something like that. Trouble is, I can't think of something appropriate that would work in a tattoo. Need ideas for this fill! Requirements and current ideas:

Every "fill" I can think of requires very fine very straight line work, which is incredibly difficult to get right. The area to be covered in this fill is maybe 2"x6".

My initial idea was some sort of stylized PCB, like this. This is probably still the front-runner.

A neural network schematic of some sort. Lots of straight lines.

Motherboard. Not as many straight lines, but a lot of detail, and possibly hard to read.

Circuit diagram of some sort.

Cmdr Data's positronic brain??

What am I missing? There must be something easily tattooable (or at least not nearly-impossible) that reads as "computer" or "electronics", at least symbolically!
posted by supercres to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (I'm an engineer, but not an electrical or computer engineer, so I'm probably overlooking something simple.)
posted by supercres at 8:14 AM on June 5, 2014

Best answer: I would stick to something along the lines of the neural network diagram (talk to your artist though!) -- things like PCB lines usually look kind of terrible (IMHO, I suppose) -- somewhere between 'exotic skin disease' and 'inscrutable'.

Your artist will have the best answers though as to what will translate well, and what will age well.
posted by wrok at 8:34 AM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Maybe one/several diagrams of transistor logic gates?
posted by theodolite at 8:34 AM on June 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: One option is to find a tattoo artist who specialises in straight lines and intricate patterns. They will be able to pull off this kind of design, and they are out there. However, you may have to travel to a reasonably major city - and they'll be more expensive. Personally, though, I think tattoos are *never* worth compromising on and if you need a specialist to complete your design to the best standard possible, then that's what you need to do. As a benefit, a high-end artist will be willing to work with you to find or design something that works for you and that you may not have thought of before.

Personally I think PCB/circuitry designs can look really good, but like all tattoos it depends on how they're laid out on the body, if they have some symbolic purpose beyond merely "looking computery," etc..

Otherwise, and I'm spitballing here - If you want more 'organic' computery idesigns you could study the concept art of games like Portal/Portal 2, Transistor.. Tron.. Halo.. maybe the computer-room in Alien or Hal from 2001... sci-fi where computers have take on a more Apple-like, less functional design. Holographic 'computer avatars' like Cortana.. maybe more abstract designs based on abacuses or calculators.. ? Or based on some counting system like score-marks, hexagrams.. some other thing that maths people would know more about.. :P
posted by Drexen at 8:46 AM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just spitballing some ideas. How about binary code, you could have it spell a word or shape it so the outline looks like something but it is made up of 1's & 0's. If you google it, I can't link to the image for some reason, someone has a great 3D effect tattoo that looks like their skin has been pealed back and they are made up of binary code underneath.

ASCII graphcs. I saw a great tattoo of an image that looked like something an old fashioned dot matrix printer would print, but I guess that would depend how old you are.
posted by wwax at 8:59 AM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Isn't the answer going to depend heavily on what the other half of the tattoo looks like? Any reason you haven't given us that information? I mean, is it going to be symbolic or pictographic or colorful or what? That would heavily influence my idea of what is appropriate on the "computational" side of the image.
posted by grog at 9:26 AM on June 5, 2014

Best answer: I'd go with math and math-like constructs, probably in the form of an equation or a program that can be graphically represented. An APL program that simulates a circuit? Some important circuit or process in your domain in something like LabVIEW? An old school instrument like an old oscilloscope, or a digital circuit implemented using vacuum tubes?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:29 AM on June 5, 2014

Best answer: oh! What about a representation of the Game of Life? It's more math than electronics but I bet it could work well as a tattoo.

Or thinking more abstractly, take your 'blank space' field and divide into a regular grid (hopefully dimensions are powers of 2, ie 4, 8, 16, 32 etc) and fill it in according to a pattern that makes it look machine-generated. For example, a visualization of the contents of computer memory. some ideas.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:39 AM on June 5, 2014

Response by poster: Love these ideas. The other half will be a colorful realistic-looking brain hemisphere, top view.
posted by supercres at 9:46 AM on June 5, 2014

Best answer: How about something like the design-level view of a 2-XOR gate?
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:52 AM on June 5, 2014

Best answer: "Connectome" and "brain + graph theory" both return many nice schematics of brain connectivity.
posted by logicpunk at 10:13 AM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My initial idea was some sort of stylized PCB, like this. This is probably still the front-runner.

The other half will be a colorful realistic-looking brain hemisphere, top view.

That sounds like a more elaborate version of this image. If it is, a good artist should be able to develop a custom design for you based on that reference.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:38 AM on June 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Call me crazy, but when I think of ways to symbolize computers, I think of people: Turing, Hopper, Lovelace, Babbage, Knuth, Shannon, Englebart. If you wanted to include the Internet in that, you could include people like Cerf, Licklider, Postel, etc.

You could have some fun arranging their faces into a rosette that split across your arms.
posted by adamrice at 11:07 AM on June 5, 2014

Best answer: This might be slightly off from what you're looking for, but what about HAL? It's (he's?) definitely iconic!
posted by augustimagination at 11:10 AM on June 5, 2014

Response by poster: Room 641-A: you've found my original inspiration :)

I do like the node graphs as well. Lots here to think about. Thanks, all!
posted by supercres at 12:01 PM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

My immediate thought, like wwax, was binary code. Bonus: you can make it say anything you want as a hidden message.
posted by timepiece at 12:27 PM on June 5, 2014

You want the Wave of the Future.
posted by alms at 1:13 PM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Stick with the PCB tracks look, but lay it out so that if you look at it the right way, the tracks spell "Lose the arm".
posted by flabdablet at 4:39 AM on June 6, 2014

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