Photography by Todd Lappin and Robyn Twomey (top right)
whistled all my life. At a certain point, I designed
a whistle synthesizer. It takes the whistle and
comes out a different sound — same note, same
everything, but different. But that was 30 years
ago, so it was all analog and heavy. I plugged
it in recently to see if it still works, but it’s not
working very well. It’s a rat’s nest of wiring inside,
but I don’t have the foggiest idea how to fix it
because I never made any circuit diagrams.
Now the technology has advanced to a point
where it can be made much smaller and faster.
I want to develop a modern version of it. It’s
basically a software problem, which is something I can’t do, but I can pay somebody to do it,
because I know what I want. I want the sounds
that come out to be very sophisticated.
SENILITY AT WORK: Conti spends most of his
days in his garage workshop building small models
and prototypes of his boats (clockwise from top
left): Early conceptual prototypes for the Proteus
WAM-V; a flexible pontoon built for Conti’s 12-foot
Proteus prototype; Conti’s preliminary sketches
for the Proteus reveal the basic shape used in the
actual vessel; Conti’s small model of Proteus used
flexible, shock-absorbing wires to connect the
pontoons to the cabin.
TL: That sounds like a great project!
UC: Well, when people ask me why I decided to get
into building things like the WAM-V, I blame it on
senility. To go really crazy like this, you need to be
senile in the sense that when you get older, one of
the very few advantages is that you don’t have any
more responsibilities. And without much responsibility, you can go off. You can go out of the box. You
don’t have to be prudent. That kind of freedom is
what allowed me to go crazy with this thing.
For a video of Ugo Conti’s WAM-V in action
Todd Lappin is an amateur military vehicle scholar,
a product strategist, and a consultant.