It’s always great to have a project featured in the MagPi magazine, but this month they asked if I’d like to write something for the “Final Word” column – I couldn’t say no of course!
I don’t pretend to be a great writer, and the brief was pretty loose, so I decided to stick to what I know and talked about my first experiences with the Raspberry Pi – somehow spending nearly a year building the Raspberry Pi VCR.
It’s also quite a personal piece explaining how tinkering with the Raspberry Pi and VCR project helped me stay relatively sane through some dark & difficult times.
My bit’s just inside the back cover, and there’s loads of other great content this month, some very cool projects and an especially useful “Starter Electronics” guide that genuinely helped fill in the gaps of my self-taught component knowledge. You can grab The MagPi issue 91 in shops or at https://magpi.raspberrypi.org/issues/91
The Old Tech, New Spec YouTube channel somehow hit 1000 subscribers earlier this week, prompting an instruction to share this Gif and the #1KCreator hashtag – who am I to argue?
It’s a great milestone to reach, especially as it’s difficult to keep the content coming during the winter months, when the car boot fairs are washed out and the workshop is freezing. I enjoy making the YouTube videos as much as the projects themselves, but it’s undeniably tricky squeezing everything in with work and family life.
The original idea of the channel was to support my project write-ups, keeping it simple and fun as far as possible so that anyone viewing would get a head-start in attempting something similar, or would at least be able to learn from the many mistakes the cats love to point out in the videos.
It’s very much a learning process, over time I’ve tried to keep the videos shorter and more watchable, this is totally an ongoing effort though. Recording the pieces where I’m on screen is what I find the hardest, being a bit of an introvert, but like many things it boils down to confidence and I’m becoming slowly more comfortable.
For 2020 rather than chasing the next arbitrary number my channel aims are to release better videos more regularly, be more at ease on camera and (trickiest of all) to diversify the audience a bit. There’s certainly no shortage of projects (I have 3 in pieces at the moment) and hopefully one of them will make it to the channel sometime soon!
The workshop has embraced the Spring thaw, the office is freshly renovated and now I’m elbow-deep in a brand new Raspberry Pi project, hoping to release the YouTube video & detailed write-ups on Instructables and Hackster in the next couple of weeks if all goes well. I’ve really missed the smell of solder and melted plastic over the winter months.
I’m keeping a lid on the exact details for now, but as Wallace said in The Wrong Trousers it’s hopefully going to be a “valuable addition to our modern lifestyle”.
It’s a pretty straightforward build, with easily modified Python code, some moderate hardware hacking, and more than a sprinkle of Google.
Stay tuned for further updates and more teaser photos!
With winter staring to really bite this week it’s getting harder to be creative in the workshop, it was down to 3 degrees in there yesterday evening, as you can see!
As soon as the weather warms up a bit (or I sort out the insulation/heating) I’ll be back to making regular projects and videos, the T-card planning board in my office is full of ideas for 2019 and I can’t wait to get cracking.
If you have any project/video ideas or suggestions let us know on the contact form, and stay tuned for updates!
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!
I like to record voice tracks for my videos, but with a Pi, cables, keyboard etc strewn around the desk a microphone on a stand can really get in the way, as well as picking up unwanted noise.
I decided an anglepoise stand would be better, less intrusive and more versatile. As usual I decided to make rather than buy, saving the money for more old tech and Pi accessories.
The car boot was kind as ever and I got an old angle poise lamp for £3 as a starting point. The shade part removed quite easily, and its swivel bracket was adapted to hold the mic with some hacksaw trimming and drilling (and meccano).
My mic has both a standard and 3/8 (camera tripod) mount, so I was able to repurpose a thumb-wheel bolt from an old selfie stick to fit it to the anglepoise bracket.
With all of that assembled solidly, if slightly inelegantly, I turned my attention to the ‘pop’ filter. My daughter handily had a spare embroidery
hoop and I tracked down some old speaker covers in the garden shed.
A bit of a trim and the speaker fabric was snugly fitted into the frame. Next I secured the assembly to the angle poise arm with some cable ties and a flexible metal “goose neck” from a USB LED strip I picked up for 50p at a sale over the weekend.
It was great fun to make, works well and cost practically nothing!