Go back in time with a Raspberry Pi-powered radio

Take a musical trip down memory lane all the way back to the 1920s.

Sick of listening to the same dozen albums on repeat, or feeling stifled by the funnel of near-identical YouTube playlist rabbit holes? If you’re looking to broaden your musical horizons and combine that quest with a vintage-themed Raspberry Pi–powered project, here’s a great idea…

Alex created a ‘Radio Time Machine’ that covers 10 decades of music, from the 1920s up to the 2020s. Each decade has its own Spotify playlist, with hundreds of songs from that decade played randomly. This project with the look of a vintage radio offers a great, immersive learning experience and should throw up tonnes of musical talent you’ve never heard of.

In the comments section of their reddit post, Alex explained that replacing the screen of the vintage shell they housed the tech in was the hardest part of the build. On the screen, each decade is represented with a unique icon, from a gramophone, through to a cassette tape and the cloud. Here’s a closer look at it:

Now let’s take a look at the hardware and software it took to pull the whole project together…

Hardware:

  • Vintage Bluetooth radio (Alex found this affordable one on Amazon)
  • Raspberry Pi 4
  • Arduino Nano
  • 2 RGB LEDs for the dial
  • 1 button (on the back) to power on/off (long press) or play the next track (short press)

The Raspberry Pi 4 audio output is connected to the auxiliary input on the radio (3.5mm jack).

Software:

    • Mopidy library (Spotify)
    • Custom NodeJS app with JohnnyFive library to read the button and potentiometer values, trigger the LEDs via the Arduino, and load the relevant playlists with Mopidy

Take a look at the video on reddit to hear the Radio Time Machine in action. The added detail of the white noise that sounds as the dial is turned to switch between decades is especially cool.

How do you find ten decades of music?

Alex even went to the trouble of sharing each decade’s playlist in the comments of their original reddit post.

Here you go:

1920s
1930s
1940s
1950s
1960s
1970s
1980s
1990s
2000s
2010s

Comment below to tell us which decade sounds the coolest to you. We’re nineties kids ourselves!

5 comments
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Not sure why the Arduino Nano is required when you already have gpio on the raspberry pi. Seems interesting, but the hardware is pretty overkill. If you don’t already have the hardware, a simple raspberry pi zero w could work for only $10. Cool project overall.

Reply to Andy Chow

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This is a very interesting and imaginative project for the raspi but I have to ask….
Why get peoples interested in such a project when (at the time of writing) no step-by-step build instructions exist and no links to the required software?

Reply to Pete K

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I agree with Pete K , I just love the radio, thanks.

Reply to dwellingadvisor

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It is a great radio! Thanks for the article. I do things in wood and it is very interesting.

Reply to Todostusobjetos

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Pete,

Ashley said at the beginning of the blog that they found this project on reddit. This doesn’t seem to be a project from the Raspberry Pi folks. It’s possible the person who did this doesn’t want to give out the details of how they made the radio. Looking at the reddit post, he gave links to the music lists but never answered all the request for instructions. Making this radio took a lot of research, work, and effort on his part.

Reply to Greg

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