This is a great way to make practical use of an old or broken cassette player, securely wall-mounting your Google Home Mini into the bargain.
I had the Home Mini kicking around the workshop in its box for almost a year before getting round to building this, and now I use it literally every day. It’s especially handy when you’re up to your elbows in solder and components and need to change the music or podcast.
So excited to receive my Raspberry Pi TV HAT in the post this week! I’ve converted several old TVs using the Pi recently, like the Casio Pi and the Hitachi Pi but there’s always been something missing – an actual digital TV signal.
With the launch of the TV HAT so many possibilities have opened up, from adding a TV tuner to an OSMC Kodi build to streaming digital TV across the home network to other devices.
I’ll be releasing a “New Spec Review” video once I’ve fully got to grips with it (Mostly done, I’m half-watching a live stream of Carry on Cabby on the other monitor as I type), and I’ll also be testing it with my existing TV conversions – and maybe even making a nice retro case to hold the TV Server Pi in style. Stay tuned for updates!
It’s always a special occasion when we have a project in the MagPi, even more so in this case to be surrounded by so many other inspiring builds – there’s absolutely tons of inspiration to be had from this issue.
You can download the .pdf version for free but I’d recommend nipping to WH Smith or Sainsburys to get the super-tactile foil-cover hard copy!
This is a sweet little Casio portable TV that I’ve converted into a handy CCTV monitor using a Raspberry Pi Zero W. It uses all of the original TV circuitry and the Pi is tucked away inside the battery cover. It’s ideal for keeping an eye on the cats or looking out for the postman!
It plays a video stream from a Pi Zero CCTV camera running MotionEye OS, but can equally play local files or any video stream using Omxplayer – it’s a great way to cheaply add a screen to a Pi project, as these old TVs can be powered from the same USB as the Pi and cost as little as £2 second hand.
The project is pretty straightforward and is fully documented on Instructables at…
The build is also covered step by step on YouTube:
It’s the first project I’ve covered from start to finish with a video and it was a ton of fun. The video’s a bit longer than I would have liked but is split into chapters and these are linked from each section of the build on Instructables and Hackster at the links above. Now that I have the video template working and the recording equipment (mostly) behaving itself I hope to publish videos more regularly!
Another recent car boot find costing £2, a 1986 tabletop #OutRun game (or what’s left of it). This thing is absolutely trashed cosmetically, but has a strong look and an absolute ton of potential.
The main controls are a start button, high-low shifter on the left and that cool wheel. Amazingly it still kind of works, it chirps into life with a few beeps and bloops when you press the button and the LCD screen still partly shows the iconic OutRun car you’d control.
To be honest it was only when I took the LCD closeup pic today and saw the car that I realised it was an OutRun game, from there looking closely at the remaining sticker on the wheel I could just make out “Run”, confirming my hopes.
This would have been a really cool game at the time, and after researching what it looked like originally it’s accelerated quickly from the “to do” shelf onto the workbench.
And here it is in the 1989 Argos catalogue:
The thing is I just loved OutRun as a teenager, both in the arcades and on my Spectrum, playing Forza Horizon 4 with the kids yesterday really reminded me of those days. And oddly enough the cassette I used as a base for the “Old Tech. New Spec” branding is my very own original copy.
So here’s the plan.
Have it apart and figure out how the original controls work
Get the controls working with RetroPie
Possibly install an Adafruit Joy Bonnet in the centre of the wheel (to allow other games to be played, Mario Kart 64 runs great on a Pi 3 Model B+)
Install a 5″ 4:3 LCD TV in place of the existing LCD screen
Make some new bodywork, wheels etc and paint the whole thing, making some decals like the original.
It’ll be a decent-sized project but fun to build and well worth it to have my own unique bar-top OutRun game. Stay tuned for updates!
Back in the summer heatwave I picked up this roasted old game console at the car boot for £3 – it’s an Interton VC 4000, an early German-made 8-bit cartridge system from way back in 1978.
There’s not much left of it, but it was fascinating to read up on its history – it looks like 40 separate games were available, and each of them had multiple variations. Obviously with the limited graphics you’d have to use your imagination a bit for titles like Winter Sports and Outer Space Combat.
What really attracted me to the piece though was that analogue controller, with its tactile joystick and 14 buttons. Some of the games at the time included a cardboard overlay you’d put over the buttons, which I really like the idea of – and that explains why they don’t have any obvious markings.
I learned more about this old console from VectrexRoli’s Youtube Video – he gives a tour of the features and some of the games, with a working console and a charming Austrian accent.
The joystick feels like one you’d see on an R/C plane controller, and with so many button options I think this would be ideal for controlling a Pi-based robot, ideally via bluetooth. It’s in stasis on the “to do” shelf for now until the right project comes along.
We had an absolute blast at Raspberry Fields last weekend, the whole family helped out with our show & tell stand and we came away truly inspired!
We weren’t sure what to expect but it was really welcoming and organised, especially the stamp trail which everyone enjoyed (while I was manning the stall, no Pi keyring 🙁 for me). It’s the busiest Pi event I’ve attended so far, and speaking to so many people from all over the world it struck us that the Pi community is universally friendly and fantastically diverse.
It was very warm in the Junction but even hotter outside to be fair, thankfully ice creams were readily available! We took along the Alexaphone, Google Pi Intercom, Pi VCR, Kodak Pi, Info-TV and of course the freshly-named (and not yet documented) “Rabbit Ears of Doom” game, made from junk specially for the weekend. Despite the heat the projects worked well and didn’t catch fire as I’d feared, though the Intercom struggled with all the background noise and the Alexaphone was stricken with fatigue towards the end of Sunday. We didn’t use the siren much on the rabbit ears game as it startled people (as designed) and it was too dark to use the LCD Glasses, but we had a lot of fun with it.
I didn’t get much time to look around or attend many of the talks but saw a wild variety of amazing things, all with a Pi inside somewhere. The kids did it all though – I’d not expected them to last beyond lunchtime but they were sucked in and had a crack at absolutely everything, merrily gathering stickers as they went.
We all loved the super-artistic body painting, were fascinated by the potential of Museum in a Box and got to watch Cubert2.0 in glowing action all weekend as Lorraine Underwood had the stand next door to ours. And of course the lighthouse umbrella thing. It’s hard to shout-out all of our favourite displays & activities as it was all so good and people had obviously thrown a a lot of passion and time into preparing them.
Among my personal highlights was showing numerous children which way up to hold a 70s trimphone and explaining what “hang up” meant, while waxing nostalgic and generally geeking out with the adults. I’m really pleased we stayed for the end-of-day shows too, Ada.Ada.Ada was genuinely inspiring and I was so glad my daughter got to see it. Brainiac Live was also brilliant and finished of the weekend perfectly (i.e. with an exploding microwave).
I did a quick lightning talk about upcycling old tech with the Pi on the Sunday, which went OK but I’m sure I went over my allocated time – I did get to see the other lightning talks though, enjoyed hearing all about the Mars-A project and the use of banks as cultural spaces in South Korea.
We were all pretty worn out by the end of Sunday but it was an amazing & rewarding weekend, we’re still counting stickers and thinking about what to make with our swag and the booty I picked up from Pimoroni. Can’t wait for the next one, though I must remember to bring more business cards and stickers. General dump of photos below, I didn’t take many pics as the projects were all tethered to my phone’s wifi hotspot and I didn’t dare move it too far!
Thanks to the GPIO planning and sticky labels it was straightforward to connect all of the prepared components to the Pi, though I still needed to use tweezers, that header is pretty crowded!
With all of the components connected I created several simple Python scripts to test the inputs and outputs and even managed to have a quick test of the game. This was a really nervous moment as I’d never tested the hook’s connection to the Rabbit Ears, but amazingly it worked fine. For fun I added in some of the Piezo buzzer sound effects and finally tried the game out for real – it was difficult and fun, just as I’d hoped!
Once the project is completed all of the code and documents will be shared on GitHub, for now it needs a lot of fine tuning to bring all of the elements together.
Now that the components are all ready and we know they (mostly) work, finishing off the case build and decoration is next. Once the cosmetics are done we get to the most exciting part, final assembly!
Once all of the components of the game had been soldered up or built it struck me how complex this thing had become. There were literally too many parts to hold in my head at once, so I decided to make a proper plan for how they would fit together.
I found it easiest to map out all of the inputs and outputs in a spreadsheet, working them out alongside a GPIO pinout diagram to try and ensure the connections would be as straightforward as possible.
I don’t normally go to this much effort when putting a project together as it’s the exciting part, but in this case it was really worthwhile and helped wrap my head around the 20 separate GPIO connections. It also highlighted that I needed two more 3.3v pins than were available, so I quickly soldered up a splitter to make this work.
Next I snipped up some old A4 sheets of CD labels (when did I last burn a CD?) and made sticky indicators for each cable, again to make the complicated wiring a bit more logical.
As well as helping with the wiring the spreadsheet should be a really handy guide when developing the code for the gameplay – I really wish I’d done this on some of my previous projects as their connections are a total mystery!
Next time we’ll be putting the components together and coming up with some basic code for testing.
It makes me very nervous that I don’t yet know whether the current will carry properly enough through the hook remote and rabbit ears for the Pi to detect it, but I guess we’ll find out!