We’re going to Raspberry Fields!

Exciting news! We’ve been accepted to have a Show & Tell stall at the Raspberry Fields event on 30 June / 1 July. More details to follow, but we’re hoping to bring along a selection of Old Tech. New Spec. projects, and hopefully “The Game” if it’s finished in time.

As they say on the official website:

Raspberry Fields is a brand-new event led by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with lots of help from our community of young people, educators, hobbyists, and tech enthusiasts. It will be a chance for people of all ages and skill levels to have a go at getting creative with tech, as well as a celebration of all that our digital makers have already learnt and achieved, whether through taking part in Code Clubs, CoderDojos, or Raspberry Jams, or through trying our resources at home.

It promises to be a great couple of days, come find us and say hello if you’re attending, there’ll be stickers!


The Game: Screen Cuts

With the TV dismantled  the next stage is to start fitting the other parts together, firstly the siren. The siren needs to poke through the TV screen, so the first order of business was to cut a hole for it.

Initially I thought of using a hole saw, but the screen is so bendy and fragile I had a feeling that would end in disaster. I decided to use the Dremel to nibble through the plastic, later using a sanding attachment to clean up the hole.

It all went really well, all limbs and digits are still intact and the hole is both the right size and neatly cut. It fits perfectly over the siren, and test-fitted together with the TV it’s really starting to take shape.

Next on the list is fitting the siren permanently in place, and sorting out some kind of translucent image for the screen, one that will display the different lights controlled by the Raspberry Pi but not let you see all the way inside the TV

Project updates so far:

1: LCD Shutters
2: LCD Glasses
3: TV Teardown

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




YouTube Channel Trailer

The YouTube channel is finally ready for business, Subscribe now for your regular fix of #Retro meets @Raspberry_Pi!

I’m hoping to publish a regular monthly project video with Retro-Spectives and New Spec Reviews in between. The monthly video will cover all the stages of a project in detail so you’ll be able to follow along and give some of your Old Tech a New Spec!

The Game: TV Teardown

The next stage in the “Game” project is to prepare the portable TV for its new function. Dismantling is always one of the most fun parts of a new project as you never know what to expect when cracking something open for the first time.

This teardown went really well, four screws to remove and a few snips with the wire cutters left just the outer shell, which is the bit we need. There’s also a convenient earphone socket left over that we’ll eventually use to plug in the LCD Glasses.

Now that the TV is in bits the next thing is to very carefully cut a hole in the plastic screen to hold one of the most critical parts of the game – the siren. Once that’s done we can start figuring out where all of the other parts will go, and how it will actually work.

Project updates so far:

1: LCD Shutters
2: LCD Glasses
3: TV Teardown

My Newest Vice

No old tech finds at the car boot over the bank holiday weekend, but something even better – a modelmakers vice. This thing is brilliant, it clamps onto the workbench making it easy to move around, and swivels all over thanks to a ball joint in the base. 

Best of all its jaw opens wide enough to hold a full-size Raspberry Pi – not that I’d often grip a Pi in there but sometimes full-size HATs need some kind of soldering and it’ll be great for that.

It’s quite an old one, no visible brand but really well built, the lever brake applies smoothly to the ball joint when you have your angle selected, and it’s held rock solid. It also has a cool if slightly perished rubber gasket around the ball joint that reminds me of old car gearsticks.

Up to now I’ve been using a small suction vice when soldering, but that sucker has never really worked reliably and it tends to skate about on the bench. This is a definite upgrade and only set me back £4.

Not for Conversion

This slightly toasty early 80s cassette player was picked up alongside the Crown recorder at Saturday’s car boot – £5 for both (bundlemania as the kids call it).

As usual I plugged it in out of curiosity and stone me it worked, though the pitch varies a bit, probably a worn out belt in there somewhere. I was fascinated to listen to the tape that was left in the Crown portable player, it contained some music taped off Radio Norfolk (paused at just the right points when the DJ piped up) but also some dictations from what I firmly believe to be a gas appliance salesman.

I’ve not had a working cassette player for a while and I’m really enjoying digging out our old mix tapes, from the days when we’d keep a stack in the glovebox of the car.

The sound quality can’t compare to the likes of Spotify of course, but for background music in the workshop it’s a tactile and fitting addition. I think it’s safe from the screwdriver (for now).

The Game: LCD Glasses

The Game is coming together, using the fancy new black hot glue I’ve now added the LCD shutters to a pair of old shades for testing. 

They’re now fully wired up to a 3.5mm stereo jack plug and cable, which clips into a socket connected to the Pi’s GPIO. The gif above shows the shades turning opaque and clear based on a Python script.

The shutters are working well, the GPIO control pulls them from clear to dark instantly, so far I’ve tested intervals as short as 0.3 seconds with no problems.

They really mess with your vision when wearing them (which is the entire point!) but the shades make the whole experience a bit darker than I’d hoped – mind you I’ve only tested them in the workshop so far, which is a bit dim.

What’s The Game all about? Keep your eyes on future posts! The next stage is dismantling a 1980s portable TV.

Black Hot Glue?

I’m just going to say this – black hot glue sticks are a thing, who knew?

I was browsing the RS Components website for Sugru last week and found this instead, I can’t believe I’ve lived without it for so long.

Normally I don’t use hot glue much as it’s a bit unsightly, but the black sticks work really well, are extra-long and leave a nice glossy finish (as long as you don’t mess with it while it’s cooling).

I’ve already used it several times in the workshop, to tidily fix the cracked plastic case of an old TV and to secure the LCD Shutters to the shades for The Game. And obviously to fix beer mats to the ceiling above the Progress Bar.

A Regal Find

As if to coincide with the Royal Wedding, Saturday’s car boot yielded this super-cute Crown (SWIDT) CRP-418 portable cassette recorder!

It’s a great little thing, slightly bigger than a Sony Walkman but outwardly in good condition. Inwardly there’s a world of corrosion, the slide-out battery pack contains what were once four AA batteries.

It does have a 6v DC power socket, but although there was some whirring when I plugged in its vital signs were absent. This must have been a pretty handy thing back in the early 70s, and the tape that was in it contained some authentic dictations recorded with the built-in microphone you can see on top.

This is going to make a great project for a later date. Because of the period the external case is all-metal and screwed together, so it’ll dismantle without trouble. Also it’s the ideal size, plenty of space inside for a full-size Raspberry Pi and maybe even a couple of HATs and a battery. A portable internet radio using the original 3.5mm headphone socket and controls would be awesome, or staying closer to the original it could be a digital recording machine, maybe using a USB sound card to connect the original microphone, performing some speech to text conversion.


A Historical Pointer

Just imagine – It’s the 1970s, you’ve just returned from your first package holiday and the neighbours are assembled in your front parlour to sit through your slide show. The fondue is flowing. But how are you going to point out your hotel room or that dog in the background that stole your calamari? Use a bamboo cane like an animal?

Thankfully Boots has you covered, with their “brilliant light arrow” projecting Screen Pointer!

Another find from Beccles antique market, this piece of 70s culture set me back a modest £1.50. It’s basically just a torch with an arrow filter and a focus mechanism. I’m not sure how well or even if it works as the connections are corroded and the bulb long blown, but it could make a really interesting and practical conversion.

Using AA or coin cells instead of the original SP11 (C Cell) batteries would leave lots of room to manoeuvre inside, and the bulb could be replaced with a super-bright LED, a COB (Chip on Board) LED from a modern torch or even a laser, using the original switch to power it on.