Olympia Info Globe Displays Internet Time

Landline-era Olympia Info Globe hacked for custom messaging with an ESP8266.

Jeremy Cook
19 days agoRetro Tech

Way back in the era of landline telephones, caller ID was a neat feature, allowing you to know who was on the other line before (literally) picking up the call. If you didn’t want to talk, or you weren’t at home, voicemail could take a message for you. Taking things to the next (now) retro-futuristic level, the Olympia Info Globe recorded voice messages, and displayed scrolling time/caller ID/custom messages inside of a translucent blue hemisphere.

Several years ago, Andy Kong was gifted one of this devices by his eighth grade science teacher. His teacher no longer needed it, thought Kong could make something interesting with the Globe.

The Globe works by spinning an arm internally, showing information on a vertically-aligned series of LEDs as a persistence-of-vision setup. Power for the spinning assembly is provided by a rotary transformer, and communication from the base to the spinner is via an IR signal, meaning there's no split ring to wear out.

After a bit of initial experimentation by Kong, however, the device was set aside for several years until he was nearly done with college, and had much more electronics experience. At that point, he was able to diagnose and correct a timing issue that had initially stopped the project, adding an ESP8266 to the original circuitry to provide custom signals through the standard LED.

Now it displays the time and data via worldtimeapi.org, and he plans to expand on its functionality in the future. It's a fun hack, and a good reminder to revisit old projects from time to time!

While Kong did a great job of "ESP-izing" his Globe, it appears he wasn’t the first to do so. A quick search on YouTube revealed Micahael M’s 2018 clip, which shows the Olympia Info Globe's spinning mechanism working with the top removed:

Jeremy Cook
Engineer, maker of random contraptions, love learning about tech. Write for various publications, including Hackster!
Latest articles
Sponsored articles
Related articles
Latest articles
Read more
Related articles