The whole “convert a vintage radio into a modern internet media streamer” category of projects is one that’s really appealing. Something about the combination of technological history, retro aesthetics, and modern features is undeniably cool. But, there is an unfortunate juxtaposition caused by the radio’s original simple controls, and the complex controls needed for a modern internet radio. That’s why this radio built by Chris of Sanitized Input stands out, because it works entirely with the original knobs.
Chris started the project with a gorgeous TrueTone tube radio from the 1930s, which has a tuning dial, four knobs, and nothing else. The idea was to use a Raspberry Pi to convert it into an internet radio. The challenge was how to select and play songs without a keyboard, mouse, or touchscreen. Those would have obviously ruined the aesthetic of the radio, and so Chris used the original knobs to change channels, genres, volume, and so on.
The knobs work with rotary encoders that are monitored by the Raspberry Pi using the py-gaugette library. Chris built the GUI (graphical user interface) with Pygame, which is then displayed on a 7" LCD mounted behind the circular hole where the original dial was. Turning the rotary encoders updates their value, and Pygame registers that and triggers a Bash script to change the music through Music Player Daemon. It’s a beautifully simple solution that retains the vintage design of the radio, while also adding the features we all want these days.