1963 Pi Tourer RetroPie Console

This 1963 Ever Ready car radio now has a new life playing RetroPie games!

It has a Raspberry Pi 3 and Picade controller inside, as well as a Pimoroni Blinkt that makes the front panel glow brightly in a range of colours, depending on what emulator is playing.

The fun doesn’t stop there though, thanks to its inbuilt handle and easy docking ports the Pi Tourer can be carried to other rooms, friends’ houses or anywhere a spare HDMI port can be found.

I couldn’t resist this 1963 radio at the car boot earlier in the year – it cost a princely £4. It was obviously not your normal car stereo however, as the underside had its own inbuilt speaker.

Research showed it had been a dual-purpose device, so you could remove it from your car and use it just like a normal portable radio. I decided to recreate this function, making it so it could “dock” with the workbench but still be easily removed and carried around to other retro gaming locations.

This project was as much fun to build as it is to play with, you can read the full story on Instructables and Hackster. The code I used to control the Blinkt colours based on the RetroPie emulator selection is all documented on GitHub.

For once this project turned out exactly as planned, there was just enough space in the case and I didn’t have to compromise on features. There’s one thing missing though – controls for Player 2! RetroPie is a ton of fun but playing against the kids takes it to another level altogether, apart from when they beat me, which is most of the time. For the next project we’re going to be building a controller for Player 2, upgrading an original 80s joystick and making it RetroPie-Ready.

Stay tuned for updates on that and be sure to subscribe on YouTube to catch the video when it’s released, probably around the 1st of September.

Coming 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.

Click click click

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”.

Arr I spy two pirates

It’s a pretty straightforward build, with easily modified Python code, some moderate hardware hacking, and more than a sprinkle of Google.

Some hacking, some chopping

Stay tuned for further updates and more teaser photos!

Winter Hiatus

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!

 

The Game: Basic Testing

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!

Project updates so far:

1: LCD Shutters
2: LCD Glasses
3: TV Teardown
4: Screen Cuts
5: Screen Test
6: Remote Working
7: Rabbit Ears
8: A Concept but No Name
9: Case Mods
10: GPIO Planning

The Game: GPIO Planning

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!

Project updates so far:

1: LCD Shutters
2: LCD Glasses
3: TV Teardown
4: Screen Cuts
5: Screen Test
6: Remote Working
7: Rabbit Ears
8: A Concept but No Name
9: Case Mods

 

The Game: Case Mods

The game is coming together, all of the individual components are now built and it’s time to (hopefully) fit them into the TV case.

The case didn’t need too much work, just some holes in the top for the Rabbit Ears and associated cables, along with a big hole to fit the webcam.

At the rear of the case I needed to make sure a USB power cable would fit through for the Pi, and then had the thought to include an HDMI adaptor. This turned out to be a great idea, as it meant that I could theoretically finish the hardware side of the build, but still plug the completed TV into a monitor to fine tune the code.

A short male-to-female HDMI extension (from a 1st gen chromecast) was the ideal fit, exposing the socket through the rear of the case.

This helpfully dictated the placement of the Pi, and with a bit more drilling all of the necessary mounting holes were done.

With the case all ready the next step was to test fit all of the components, and then write some basic code to test the functions.

Project updates so far:

1: LCD Shutters
2: LCD Glasses
3: TV Teardown
4: Screen Cuts
5: Screen Test
6: Remote Working
7: Rabbit Ears
8: A Concept but No Name

The Game: A Concept but No Name

I’ve posted several updates on “The Game” but haven’t really explained what it is – that’s because until last week I wasn’t sure it would even work!

The original concept came to me when I was hanging out with Ken the vet at the Progress Bar. We were looking through some unused Pi accessories and

kicking ideas around, and came to the LCD Shutters.  We got onto discussing those awful (but popular!) “impairment” games like “Say it Don’t Spray It” and thought the LCD shutters could work in the same way, in that you have to perform a task but all the time you’re doing it the LCD glasses are messing with your vision and making it difficult.

From there I started thinking about what the game could be, and remembered the fun we had with the 12v siren a few weeks earlier.  The siren had to be a part of it, but how to make it with vintage tech? The next idea was to embed the siren in an old TV, and use the TV aerial to make one of those “bendy wire” games. And so the concept was born!

So the idea is that the old TV will have the siren poking out from its screen, the aerial will be a bendy wire maze and the controller will be an old corded remote control. As you try to negotiate the wire with the hook the glasses will randomly go opaque, making it difficult, and if you touch the wire the siren will blow, which is itself startling enough to really put you off.

So that’s the plan – a traditional bendy wire maze game, but with more peril because of the siren, and more difficulty because of the LCD Glasses. Hopefully the aerial will also be adjustable so that you can have different skill levels. I also plan to include some LEDs to light the screen in different colours during gameplay, and also integrate some sound effects. Ideally it will also take a photo of the “Winner” and upload it to Twitter, but that may be a step too far.

I hope to have it at least partly ready in time to take it to Raspberry Fields, but with less than a month to go this could be a tall order! At some point I also need to think of a good name for it. Stay tuned for further updates.

Project updates so far:

1: LCD Shutters
2: LCD Glasses
3: TV Teardown
4: Screen Cuts
5: Screen Test
6: Remote Working
7: Rabbit Ears

Once complete there will be a full YouTube video so you can follow along and make your own!

The Game: Rabbit Ears

This Pi-based game is coming together nicely, the hook remote went just as planned so Rabbit Ears are next. To be honest I put this part off as long as possible as there was a lot of potential for disaster.

I’ll cover the concept of the game in a bit more detail next time, but suffice it to say that a critical component is a TV aerial, bent up to form a kind of maze to negotiate with the hook remote.

Bending a TV aerial into a nice stable shape is much trickier than it sounds! The connections between the sections are pretty fragile, and even after heating the chrome tube is liable to kink when you bend it, leaving a really weak joint.

Several tests and destroyed aerials later I came across a solution- keep the design simple and make a smooth curve by “nipping” the aerial in multiple places with needlenose pliers. This gave much more control over the bend and I was able to replicate the same curve in both “ears”.  You’ll see when the video is released that this was quite a tense moment!

With the ears in good shape they then needed to be wired to a cable for connection to the Pi, which was straightforward as I just re-used the existing screw connectors.

Next I re-used the tip of one of the aerials I destroyed in testing to make a “Finish” button, wired to a different GPIO pin on the Pi. Now that the project is beyond the “danger zone” I’ll look at the overall concept in the next post.

Project updates so far:

1: LCD Shutters
2: LCD Glasses
3: TV Teardown
4: Screen Cuts
5: Screen Test
6: Remote Working

Once complete there will be a full YouTube video so you can follow along and make your own!

The Game: Remote Working

The controller is a key part of any game, and in this case it’s a remote control from a 1970s Sony Betamax video recorder. It’s a corded remote, and I needed to connect one end to the Pi’s GPIO with a hook at the other end to complete the circuit.

Firstly I soldered a 3.5mm audio cable to the hook (donated from some 1980s Sennheisers I picked up for 50p), then fitted the hook to the remote.

As only a single cable is needed to connect the hook to the Pi I had two cables spare in the lead, so connected these to a bright white LED within the remote case. I then tested and mapped the connections with a multimeter ready for testing with the Pi.

Of course a hook controller is no fun on its own – the next step is making the “Rabbit Ears” that form the main part of the game.

Project updates so far:

1: LCD Shutters
2: LCD Glasses
3: TV Teardown
4: Screen Cuts
5: Screen Test

Once complete there will be a full YouTube video so you can follow along and make your own!

The Game: Screen Test

In the last post we successfully cut a hole in the TV screen to make space for the siren, so the next step is to secure it in place and make a translucent filter for the screen.

First though fitting that siren – as luck would have it I had a small metal 90 degree bracket that was exactly the right size to fit between the siren’s mounting bracket and the side of the TV case. The holes needed to be drilled out to hold larger bolts, but with a bit of fiddling it was rock solid.

Next was the screen filter. For this I printed a “TV Snow” image onto an A4 Transparency sheet (the kind you’d use in old-school overhead projectors) and then trimmed it around the existing screen with a craft knife. With everything test-fitted together I placed the assembly in front of the Pi prototype rig so that the Unicorn pHAT would shine through the screen. It looked just the way I had hoped, lots of indirect light and a bit of a glow to the screen, which will hopefully look even better when the inside of the TV is painted white.

Next time we’ll be moving on to the remote and the rabbit ears.

Project updates so far:

1: LCD Shutters
2: LCD Glasses
3: TV Teardown
4: Screen Cuts

Once complete there will be a full YouTube video so you can follow along and make your own!