Tube radio husk gets a web radio transplant

[Dominic Buchstaller] found this German Greatz tube radio at a flea market. It only cost him about €35 and was in a bit more rough condition than the finished product you see above. He also found that a portion of the original circuitry was missing, making it completely non-function. He cleaned up the case to improve the wife-acceptance-factor, and outfitted it with hardware to make it a web radio.

Adding modern speakers was pretty easy as he was already replacing the original cloth bezel which has several holes and tears in it. A set of elements from some Logitech computer speakers served as the organ donors for this step in the process. As he was trying to keep a stock look he came up with a really neat hack to use the original knobs. The station select happens to have a large metal wheel on the inside which is about a centimeter wide. [Dominic] used the optical sensor from a mouse to monitor the turning of the dial by aiming the sensor at this wheel. Internet connectivity was provided by a wireless router he had on hand. This way he can stream music or play from an SD card he also used in the retrofit.

36 thoughts on “Tube radio husk gets a web radio transplant

    1. You wouldn’t even have to us an optical mouse given you could tie into the rotary encoder for x, y, or scroll on an old ball mouse. However, I guess an optical mouse is easier to interface to new machines given that USB ball mice are pretty rare.

  1. Good work. I did the same a few months ago using a RPi as well but didn’t use the eold knobs. Might have to revisit it and make those changes, I like them. Nice project.

  2. Love how he used the optical mouse to sense rotation. I had played with this idea but never came up with a mounting scheme I was happy with. Glad to see someone was able to make it work.

  3. As mentioned, the use of the optical mouse was cool, but his realization that he could utilize both axes of the device, and hack the single purpose wheel in to a multipurpose wheel/button was my favorite part of the hack. Filing that away for future projects.

      1. If the misnomer hadn’t been used so often
        before wifi commonality, I might agree on that
        particular context of use
        (but only if you’re willing to let strangers use
        your connection)
        And yes I’m well aware of wired distribution
        of “radio” programing to airwave transmitters.
        but it still was a end point broadcast
        to non-uniquely id’ed devices.
        a far different thing from the internet and wifi model, so the wifi sharing idea still has an
        error in it.

        But don’t take me too seriously here folks,
        just something about the drift of some things
        that I (obviously in a minority) would wish to see
        be kept as standards of reference.
        Now someone needs call in the ham crowd
        to set my notions strait. :^)

        1. General class ham KC9UFM reporting for flamewar, Sir!
          I tend to agree that it’s a bit silly to call streaming audio “internet radio” or “web radio”, but it’s hardly the worst misappropriation of radio terminology that us hams have to put up with. (“AM Band”? Really?)
          Even with that said, a lot of the more interesting developments in ham radio as of late have involved the internet in some way or other, and then there’s the fact that commercial wireless services like cell phone carriers and wireless network manufacturers are always eager to gobble up more of the spectrum. All of these are points of contention in the community, so really, anywhere the internet and airwaves meet there’s some friction, and I’d wager the hacker-hams are used to it by now.

          1. You are greatly appreciated KC9UFM !
            The yard full of pollen and canker worms
            nearly beat this curmudgeon today.
            Mercifully, I only had one whippersnapper
            to cope with.
            But a semi-generous sample of sandpaper
            was sufficient to distract him until I could refuel and escape to the un-mown rear territory.

    1. Digikey (Sensors / Optical Sensors – Mouse) and Mouser (Sensors / Optical Sensors / Optical Navigation Sensors) have categories for this, although neither carries any stock. All of these sensors seem to be made by Avago and Cypress. Arrow does seem to actually have stock, but these sensors are fiddly—you probably actually want to start with an optical mouse unless you’re good with building your own optics.

      1. I thought Agellent (aka h.p.) was the creator of these devices. Am I wrong? Also, mice are such a commodity item I can’t believe you can source the sensor for less than a cheap mouse. BTW, I don’t think a sensor will come with a lens while the mouse will and includes a light source as well as a HID USB interface compatible with all types of operating systems.

  4. Hmm, Seems I’m blurring the semantics
    of radio and “cast”.
    Think I’ll try to climb off of my own petards
    and go mow the lawn now.
    (as soon as I can chase all of you
    whippersnappers off it).

    1. Yeah… I think the streaming community likes the term ‘radio’ because it’s the short name that’s become synonymous with a type of ‘shared listening experience’. Because even ‘radio’ isn’t… it’s a radio broadcast and a radio receiver. You don’t listen to radio, you listen to the receiver. Just a symptom of how language gets munged over time. Lots of people say ‘Kleenex’ when they mean ‘any sort of tissue’, ‘Vaseline’ when they mean ‘any petroleum jelly’.

      Now I’m gonna go listen to some Spotify. Oh… I mean radio. He he

  5. “This worked reasonably well, however, I ran into a very practical problem: how does one produce an endless cord loop without tying a knot?”

    I can’t say if I ever seen a knot in a tuning cord somewhere in the middle. Generally one of the pulleys had slot it it where the cord went behind the pulley to be tied to attachment points there. That there or was tension spring in the loop somewhere where the cord tied off.

    They dial marking are probably logarithmic. Why they this one would appear more extreme than other radios , I wouldn’t know.

    I’m somewhat impressed with the effort to marry the feel of the old with new technology.

  6. lol maybe the reason it was “missing” half the tubes was because someone “just plugged it in” and because of a couple 25 cent grid-connected DC-blocking capacitors that were shorted (normal after 50 years), the tubes got overdriven with DC causing a huge DC output that gets shorted out by the transformer (hint: impeadence is NOT resistence!)

    in that case your lucky it doesnt catch fire, PS: wooden case ;0

  7. @Mike Szczys – I loved reading this project. I did something similar years ago for senior citizens and I made a website to support it. I thought that if you have an old radio you should also play old radio programs to make the illusion complete. I found some faux-old-radios that are actually modern radios with the old look. You tap into the tape player circuit and mount switches on the radio or use the existing switches. I could also use gutted PC speakers. Either input is hooked to PC or laptop with a stereo sub-miniature plug. The control of the website could be via a mouse and/or numeric keyboard.

    Here is the website but it works better with MS Internet Explorer. Other browsers don’t line up well nor do audio embeds work well:

    The website uses links to radio archive site. So please no one try and commercialize this without proper licensing from the radio archive owner. I’m using it as a novelty or hobby not commercial. Anyone please feel free to use my scripting to modify it to work your own way. Just view source and copy and paste to your own website.


    1. I must modify my above comment about MS Internet Explorer. I find that Google Chrome works better than MSIE. I noticed my inter-station fake static and fake warmup static was not playing with MSIE.Foxfire doesn’t play anything at all. You will also need your display set to high-resolution for the old radio chassis to be fully seen.

      I enjoy listening to the random commercials (adverts) and shows. You just click on TUNER and it randomly selects old radio programs. Mostly all American shows and commercials (adverts). The Amos & Andy shows are hilarious. You have to be an American Baby-Boomer (or older) to appreciate that ethnic humor I guess.

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