Monday, February 4, 2013

Simulation of Classic Solari / Split Flap Sign Technology

[Update: 2/4/2013 The Solari company is online, one just needed to know their correct name.  "Solari di Udine".]

As we slam headlong into the chaos of our future, and embrace whatever stupid idea someone has for new media or a smart phone, we also have the opportunity to recall some pretty wonderful "old media", or "receding media technology".

One of my favorites of old media, was something called a "Solari sign", or a (don't blame me) split-flap sign, so named because the letters were on metal plates that were split down the middle. The sign would use an actuator to pick which letter was visible, and as it moved through the different letters, it made a very distinctive "chattering" sound.

The sign at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, PA

You would see these signs in about 100 places in the world, mostly train stations in places like Paris, New York, Milan, London, Frankfurt and so forth. The signs were made by an Italian company called "Solari". Solari has no presence on the Internet.   Stop the presses, we have found them.  Ok, so this will be more interesting.


The Wikipedia page on "split flap" displays:

The Museum of Modern Art in NYC on "Hacking the Solari"

A Youtube video of a real Solari sign (for Amtrak)

And finally, my simulation of the Solari sign, written without any documentation or operating guide of the sign itself.  Clearly my simulation has a ways to go.

I am trying to find someone to use this simulation (suitably art directed) for some public sign, maybe a render farm queue display or something.


The zither music is just for atmosphere and was ripped from the sountrack of The Third Man (1949).


  1. VERY cool! We are in a Solari/Flap-Sign craze here in San Francisco as they just installed a new sign at the Ferry Building!

  2. Ferry Building splt-flap sign: