Raspberry Pi, for all your 50s diner needs

Have you ever been to a cafe or restaurant with 1950s jukebox wallboxes in each booth? Wallboxes were an extension for a jukebox, making it more convenient to select music right from your table. You’d drop a coin in, choose a song from the flipbook behind the glass, chrome and plastics, and the machine would send pulses down a wire to the restaurant’s jukebox, where a stepper would decode the pulses and queue up the song you’d picked. Refurbished wallboxes occasionally pop up in mock-50s diners; you’ll also see them for sale on eBay for anything up to a few hundred quid, and people buy them to add to their jukeboxes, or just as home decoration (I’ve seen one being used as a particularly cumbersome phonebook).

Wallbox in situ

Steve Devlin bought himself a couple of wallboxes a few years ago, meaning to hook them up to an MP3 player. He then switched over to a SONOS wireless media system in his house, and forgot about the wallboxes for a couple of years.

Enter the Pi.

On looking at a Raspberry Pi and a wallbox, Steve had an idea. Why not hook the two up together to make a controller for the SONOS system? The Pi decodes the pulses from the box, and sends the information to the SONOS system. (This approach will work with any UPnP protocol, so you’re not limited to using SONOS.)

Steve’s thinking about further customisation: a strip in the box with Radio 4 on it; some dynamic strips like “songs of the week”, which will play a selection of the week’s most-played tunes; some LEDs to show a binary index of common faults, like the wifi being down, or a song not being found.

There are full instructions and much more information on Steve’s website. We think there’s something really compelling about this mix of old and new; thanks for sharing, Steve!