IN ASSOCIATION WITH MAKERSIFY
Ever since the Raspberry Pi debuted back in 2012, developers and DIY enthusiasts have been having a heyday with the possibilities. This little credit-card-sized computer is quite nimble and capable of fitting into compact spaces. And when it comes to finding new ways to put this processing power to work, it appears that the only real limit is your own imagination.
One popular way to put the Raspberry Pi to use is by retrofitting it into vintage tools and appliances. This little microcomputer can add serious processing power to an old appliance, essentially allowing DIY hackers to create their own versions of ‘smart devices’ in the home. In the process, you end up with everything from Arcade-empowered coffee tables to VOIP-enabled rotary phones.
Along those lines, we thought we’d show you a few examples of old-school gadgets you can create with a Raspberry Pi:
1: Super Nintendo Emulator
What do you get when you combined the stock body of a Super Nintendo with the modern computing power of a Raspberry Pi? In the case of this innovative project, you get an enhanced console that can play all of your favourite games and even doubles as a full-fledged computer. In other words, you end up with a Super Nintendo and modern-day computer, rolled into one.
What sets this SNES emulator apart is that it completely preserves the original console playing experience. Rather than downloading an emulator and playing it on your desktop computer or laptop – complete with clunky controls and a buggy interface – you end up with a gaming experience that’s true to the original SNES.
The model in question even has plug-and-play functionality. There’s no need to open a program or enter commands at the prompt. Instead, just snap the cartridge into place and start playing. Of course, at some point you’ll have to consider why a Pi-powered SNES is preferable to, say, a genuine vintage model that still works. But that’s a question for a different post.
2: Old-School Arcade Machine
There have been several Raspberry Pi arcade units created since the debut of this little supercomputer. One of the most impressive was inspired by the vintage cocktail-table arcade games of the 1980s. This slimmed-down version has a modern edge to complement its vintage roots.
The concept of an arcade cocktail cabinet is certainly nothing new. The main expense for putting this creation together is an LCD screen, assuming the actual framework is made from recycled materials. Once complete, you’ll be able to play all of your favourite, old-school arcade games from the 1980s.
But that’s not all! You can also use this machine to browse the Web, write emails, post to social media, etc. And then there’s the actual coffee-table aspect as well. Presumably, drink rests will never go out of style.
3: Analogue Synthesiser
For those who have an unquenchable nostalgia for old synthesisers, there’s an entire new world to explore with the Raspberry Pi. There are a few different projects underway – most notably one spearheaded by a member of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
Forum member, Omenie, has been working to build an old-school synthesiser using the Pi. He has been charting his progress along the way and inviting other forum members to participate. The result is a work in progress, but it’s receiving plenty of praise. Those familiar with synth music marvel at the quality of sound coming from a machine that ultimately costs less than £50 to create.
This virtual analogue synthesiser is perhaps too-cleverly called the ‘PIANA’, and is certainly one of the most exciting PI-related projects underway. But to be fair, there are many others like it. This is certainly early times for PI-related music projects, and we’re likely to see others emerge in the near future.
4: Rotary Phone
The rotary phone may be all but obsolete these days, but it still has plenty of nostalgic appeal. Not only that, the space on our kitchen countertops and end tables has been growing conspicuously empty ever since we started doing all of our conversing on compact, mobile phones that fit in our pockets.
This project aims to remedy that by creating a functional VOIP telephone encased in an unnecessarily clunky, rotary phone body. The entire project is outlined in this blog post. As you’ll see, it requires lots of tedious wiring and retrofitting, but the end result is a truly vintage-looking rotary phone that is able to place and receive phone calls over the Internet.
Perhaps the next step would be adding a monitor to enable video conferencing. Of course, that might be taking the project a bit too far. What’s the point of embracing a bit of retro style if it doesn’t require a few sacrifices along the way?
5: Vintage Jukebox
In this case, the final product only looks old-school. In fact, it’s a variation on Internet radio. While there are plenty of Wi-Fi powered Internet radios currently on the market, this project involves taking an old, vintage radio and updating it with the Raspberry Pi.
You can actually transform a vintage radio into a veritable juke box that plays anything you want to listen to (i.e. anything available online). There are many projects like this found on the Internet. This particular project made use of a 70-year-old radio, a new amp and various other components. The final product looks great and is able to tune into streaming services or play anything in his Google Music Queue.
There are also less-ambitious ways of approaching this project. For example, by taking a small vintage radio, gutting it and replacing the components with a Raspberry Pi that has been programmed to play Internet radio, you’ll end up with amounts to a flashy retro case for your portable speaker.
If you’re interested in toying around with your own Raspberry Pi, then you’re in luck, as these mini-computers are remarkably inexpensive. Makersify have a range of Raspberry Pis. Click here for more info or to have a look at what’s currently available.