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Joke turns into high-tech display

December 1, 2013
By J.T. Whitehouse , Town Crier

Last year, West Boulevard resident Rob Boyd took a friend's challenge and turned into a passionate endeavor to give something to the community. This year, he has computerized his West Boulevard home's Christmas display and will run it on a regular basis for neighbors and motorists to enjoy.

"The display started out as a joke," Boyd said. "A friend of mine last year asked me why I never decorated for Christmas, and I told him my house was too wide to decorate, but he talked me into putting up lights."

He decided to try to out-do his friend, who had always put up a nice display for Christmas. Boyd purchased LED lights and a computer set up to make them work off musical notes. He installed speakers in the trees and hoped he wouldn't disturb anyone. When he turned it on last year, he said his neighbor across the street walked over to talk to him.

Article Photos

Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
West Boulevard resident Rob Boyd checks the wiring of one of his cone lights as he prepares to light the neighborhood with music and a dancing Christmas light display this weekend.

"I thought she was coming over to complain about the loud music," Boyd said. "Instead, she commented on how much she loved the display."

Boyd also mentioned that as he sat in his office watching the computer program run the musical light show, he noticed cars stopping, roiling their windows down and watching the lights as they danced and performed to the holiday songs.

"I thought that I was really on to something," he said.

This year, Boyd wanted to continue to brighten up the holidays with an even bigger display. He went and purchased talking-head light silhouettes that he placed in the windows of his home. He said it took a five hour drive just to purchase the units. He also added more light strings and cones at the street that were also hooked up to the computer.

So far the display uses about 13,000 lights, more than half a mile of network cable, more than 100 extension cords, two computer systems, eight electronic controllers and 104 different plugs.

He has more than 40 songs to use on the display, but said they have to be programmed into the computer one at a time. Boyd said it takes time to coordinate the music with the lights and do the set up. Each note in the song has to be linked to specific light and color. Once completed, another computer system displays a digital version of what lights are firing outside.

Boyd does have some FM broadcast equipment that can be used to transmit the music over a vehicle radio, but he said it requires an FCC temporary license. For now, he is just content to go with the speakers.

This year, he used the system to set up a Halloween display that used Halloween music. That was all converted to Christmas themes this month.

He said it takes over a month to set up, run wires and program the display. He has to start around the beginning of October to be ready by Thanksgiving, so the Halloween display actually helped him fine-tune things for the Christmas display.

He said the toughest part of an early set up were the storm systems that have hit the area. While the strong winds were a concern a week ago, Boyd was happy to discover only one string of lights had come undone, but not disconnected. All the tall yard displays held up.

Boyd plans to run the display from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. on school days, and from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends. He hopes that passing motorists who stop to see the display this year will be respectful.

"So far my neighbors have been very tolerant, so I'm hoping visitors will respect them in return," he said.

As for his friend up the street that got him started, Boyd is hoping the display will have a positive effect. He said, "We don't talk anymore, but maybe they will text me this Christmas to rekindle our friendship."



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