The Cassette Pi is a self-contained real-time notification scroller, all housed neatly inside a transparent cassette tape. A Raspberry Pi Zero is sandwiched between the two tape reels, retrieving Internet of Things notifications from the fabulous IFTTT service, delivered almost instantly to the Pi via an Adafruit.IO feed and a Python script. The whole cassette vibrates to alert you to the incoming notification, and the text is then scrolled clearly across a Pimoroni 11×7 LED display.
Everything is powered by a 150mAh LiPo battery, connected to the Pi via a LiPo Shim – also within the cassette is an Adafruit Micro Lipo so when the battery runs low it can be plugged directly into a Micro USB power source to grab some juice.
The most fun part is that thanks to some trimming of the Pi itself, the cassette can still fit inside any vintage tape player, turning that old ornament into a functional and classy Internet of Things device.
The Cassette Pi is perfect for use as a conference badge too, dangling from a lanyard and scrolling your name or a custom message – I hope to wear it to a Pi event or jam later this year.
This is probably my favourite Pi project to date, everything went smoothly for once and I love the final result, it’s a very tactile little thing. It was built in a bit of a hurry so that I could enter the Instructables Raspberry Pi contest 2020 – at the time of writing the results haven’t been published but I’m hopeful of winning at least a T-shirt prize pack.
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!
I was toying with the idea of a Halloween themed build a few weeks back but was stuck for ideas, then I came across an awesome fencing mask in a charity shop, and the idea for Dr. Tape Head was born!
I had a pretty clear idea from the start what I wanted – moving laser eyes, smoke generation and some kind of text to speech function to bring the whole thing to life.
I started by building the individual parts – eyes (ping pong balls with lasers and LEDs, cased in Lego) , ears (old headphones with speakers added) and mouth (cassette tape with pHAT Beat). I then built these into the mask, pulling together the code I needed to control them on the Raspberry Pi.
Next I cobbled together a Python script on the Pi to read text from a Google Sheets spreadsheet, then set this up to be auto-populated from the IFTTT service. This meant that the doctor would read out real-time notifications from the web, as well as messages sent directly to him via SMS or Google Assistant.
Later I just had time to add finishing touches, with hair made from dismantled cassette tapes and an old mannequin hacked about to allow for clothing and a hidden power supply.
Getting the doctor up & running was a really fun project – quite time pressured but great to jump on the Halloween bandwagon and work to a theme, i.e. spooky!
This beautiful little “Flirt” transistor radio from 1970 has had a loving internet radio conversion using a Raspberry Pi Zero. All the original controls have been re-used and with its LiPo battery & LED VU meter it’s ready to bang out tunes in the bathroom.
This could be one of my favourite projects ever, it has just the right combination of Old Tech and New Spec, and was my quickest to date, providing music in the bathroom just a week after I picked it up at the car boot.
As ever I learned new things while building it, including re-using parts of the volume dial to make microswitches that look identical to the original controls – definitely a technique I’ll be using in future projects.
I also used a LiPo battery for the first time in this build, something I’ve been shy of in the past, and was pleasantly surprised with the resulting flexibility and impressive run-time. Using a combination of the Pimoroni LiPo Shim and an Adafruit Micro LiPo I was able to integrate the charging circuit into the build itself, pleasingly tucked away under the original battery lid.
This Cheetah 125 joystick from the 1980s has had a full rebuild with shiny new microswitches, arcade buttons and a Pimoroni Player X controller board. It now has four independent buttons and connects via USB, ready for some serious RetroPie gaming action.
We had great fun converting this old joystick to work on RetroPie – it really brought back the glory days of “gaming” on my old Commodore Vic 20, I had exactly the same model when it was new.
The build wasn’t without surprises though, I’d forgotten that in the 80s all buttons performed the same function – four in this case all wired together! With the help of a Player X board from Pimoroni we were able to make each button independent, and added in a couple of extras to make RetroPie play easier.
The idea behind the joystick conversion was to provide Player 2 controls for the Pi Tourer Game Console, and it’s now added all the blood-pumping fun of head-to-head competition to our retro gaming, with predictable gloating from the younger members of the household!
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.
This iconic digital clock from the 1970s now has a new life stylishly displaying YouTube statistics. It’s powered by a Raspberry Pi Zero and harnesses a simple Python script to retrieve Subscriber and View numbers for the Old Tech. New Spec. channel from the YouTube Data API, displaying the results on a Pimoroni Inky pHAT display.
The clock’s original alarm on/off switch now toggles the e-ink display between Views and Subscribers, and an inbuilt LED glows up the translucent red plastic around the display as it updates.
It’s a fun & practical addition to my office, sitting quietly on my desk speaker, and seeing the stats slowly increase helps keep me motivated to make more projects and videos. It also won First Prize in the recent Instructables Internet of Things Contest!
I bought this clock a year or two back, bundled with an old robot toy, and it was in daily use until it went pop recently – when it joined the ranks of broken Old Tech in the workshop awaiting conversion. The build was straightforward and involved a lot of precise measuring, as well as my favourite Raspberry Pi companion, Lego bricks!
I’m really pleased with the result and it’s a lovely looking little thing – nice coverage on the Hackster Blog too!
The PiNG Video Doorbell is powered by a Raspberry Pi and is retro-stylishly cased in a 1986 Intercom and an old Sony cassette player.
When the doorbell button is pressed the Pi makes a high-quality video call using Google Duo, which can be answered on a phone, tablet or computer, letting you see and speak to callers when you’re away from home (or at home but trapped under a cat). It works over WiFi and cellular, so you can even answer the door when you’re out pounding the streets.
It also sounds a standard wireless door chime inside the house as a fail-safe, in case the call can’t be taken.
The doorbell unit is fitted outside the house, with a companion base unit inside, connected with 6-core alarm cable. The base unit houses a Pi 3B+ and is housed in a stripped-out cassette player.
It works amazingly well and the Google Duo sound and video is smooth – I took a call from a delivery person while out walking yesterday lunchtime which was very exciting!
I started this project in early March and finished it at the Easter weekend, and it’s been an absolute barrel of fun, I’d highly recommend playing around with Google Duo on a Raspberry Pi! If you have a Pi and some bits lying around you can probably make something similar in a couple of hours.
There are full project write-ups with instructions, photos and code at the links below:
The Raspberry Pi TV HAT arrived a week or so ago and we’ve had great fun setting it up and using it. It does a great job of streaming a digital TV signal around the house, and I use it daily.
For me though the critical thing was being able to easily stream TV to other Raspberry Pis – I have several converted vintage TVs (Like the Hitachi Pi and Casio Pi) and really wanted them to be able to display actual live TV broadcasts.
With a bit of Python I now have the 1982 TV Experience live on the Hitachi Pi! It uses a script to step through four separate VLC playlists (to match the four channels we had in 1982) using the TV’s original rotary tuning dial. The script is on GitHub and is really simple – you could also just use a push button.
I’ve covered my experiences (with some assistance from the cats) in the “New Spec Review” video below, and the write-up is live on Hackster and Instructables.
The next project is definitely going to be finding and adapting a nice vintage case for the TV server Pi – stay tuned for updates!
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.