BARTO: History and Design Specifications

Barrel Attachable/Removable Technology Object

The BARTO is a patch bay for sorting a huge mess of computer cables that can be built out of equipment purchased entirely from a Home Depot-like store for relatively little money. It was developed so that all the PCs in a design studio could be kept in a single "technology closet," keeping the heat and fan noise from interfering with the day-to-day tasks of the creative types. This also allows people to set themselves up on any computer in the studio, since all they have to do is go into the technology closet and attach the wires with the name of their PC to the wires with the name of the monitor they wish to sit at.

It looks very much like something from the later episodes of Serial Experiments Lain, or perhaps the movie Brazil.

The BARTO was named after, perhaps not surprisingly, "Barto," the Belgian contortionist from a local Renaissance Festival who could only say one English word, "Okay." One of his feats of contortionism was fitting his entire body inside a barrel that was probably about 24 inches in diameter and 18 inches tall. The acronym was developed later, as would seem obvious, given its clumsiness.

You can make your own BARTO for your own company or extremely wired household.

You will need:

  • Full-sized plastic trashcan
  • A 4 foot tall cardboard concrete column form
  • Two wooden dowels
  • Two circular grills (as from a Weber Grill)
  • Four chains with turnbuckles
  • An electrical conduit clamp for each station
  • Many zip-ties
  • (optionally) Silver paint

It's worth noting that to really make a BARTO useful, you'll also need lots of extension cables, but since a BARTO is used to sort the cables of many PCs so they can be kept away from their peripherals, this should be obvious.

Cut evenly spaced holes around the outside of the trashcan, near the bottom (we'll be turning it upside down soon). These will be where the peripheral cables will hang. Feel free to put the ID of each station above a hole. Obviously, you'll need at least as many holes as you have stations.

Turn the trashcan upside-down and place it over the cardboard concrete column form, making sure the spacing is even using the two perpendicular dowels.

Cut a hole in the bottom (the top, now) of the trashcan just smaller than the concrete form.

Now hang one of your grills from the ceiling over the trashcan using the four chains and turnbuckles.

As you might imagine, this would be a good time to thread all your cable bundles from your PCs through ceiling and down through the grill. Now take your second grill, rotated 90 degrees, and thread all your cable bundles through it, so that you are essentially. You have to thread them one grill at a time because the cable heads may be too big to actually fit through a single grid square. After everything is threaded, use zip-ties to keep the grills lashed together. It's probably a good idea to lash your cable bundles together with zip-ties or gaff tape, for ease of use later. Put the ID of each PC on a tag and attach the tag to the bundle of cable. This step easily takes the most time.

Now, your peripheral cables should be sent through the walls and up through the bottom of the BARTO. Thread each bundle through the hole with the correct lable, and hold them in place with electrical conduit clamps.

A picture of a completed BARTO can be found at:

This writeup created with help from the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University.