Steampunk Radio Looks The Business

Radios are, by and large, not powered by steam. One could make the argument that much of our municipal electricity supply does come via steam turbines, but that might be drawing a long bow. Regardless, steampunk remains a popular and attractive aesthetic, and it’s the one that [Christine] selected for her radio build.

The build cribs from [Christine’s] earlier work on a VFD alarm clock, using similar tubes and driver chips to run the display. FM radio and amplification are courtesy of convenient modules. Tubes are fitted for aesthetic purposes, artfully lit with a smattering of color-changing LEDs. Perhaps the neatest touch is the use of valve handles to control tuning and volume. A stepper motor turns a series of gears, as is mandatory for any true steampunk build, and there’s even an electromagnetic actuator to make the Morse key move. To run it all, a pair of Arduino Megas are charged with handling the I/O needs of all the various systems.

It’s a fancy build that shows how far the rabbit hole you can go when chasing a particular look and feel. It’s a radio that would make a great conversation piece on any hacker’s coffee table.  If that’s not enough, consider going for a whole laptop. Video after the break.

11 thoughts on “Steampunk Radio Looks The Business

  1. Decades ago Popular Electronics had a construction article for a simple transistor transmitter, but powered by a toy steam engine. Not much power there, but certainly steam.

    There was also the entry in t he World Book Encyclopedia where a sim ple radio receiver was powered by thermopower, twist dissimilar wires together and heat the result with a candle. Not much power either, but almost steam.

    Steampuni is fashion, has little to do with practucal or even technical. It’s like props in a movie, things chosen to look good while those who know better comment on what Bruce Dern is talking into an oscilloscope, or why a shkrywave transmitter is being used as a receiver. They look impressive for the average viewer.


  2. Tubes that do nothing and color-changing LEDs? There is a F-word, that is necessary here. Ef-fort! [Christine] lacked it. Just wasted time and material on something that’s tacky as hell. Which reminds me of a song:

    Just glue some gears on it, and call it steampunk;
    That’s the trendy fashion nowadays!
    A copper-painted chunk of some nineteen-eighties junk
    Will fetch a pretty penny on eBay!

  3. A for effort. One thing that strikes me – that secondary Arduino could have been omitted – heck, all this could have been run of an ‘Uno instead. The DOUT-pins on the Neopixels are for daisy chaining. Using a pin for each Neopixel element is silly and waste.

  4. Now I love Steampunk as much as the next person and I will admit this is a really nice looking unit. it however breaks my heart every time I see a project that is touted as steampunk and ends up being something that really just has LED’s, gears and valves etc glued to it.

    The concept of Steampunk is more a “What if the Victorian era never ended” it is the recycling and rebirth of things in to another thing. Yes there is the visual element of beauty and brass however putting LED’s under a valve to make it glow when the valves are really only there to look pretty and do not serve a functional purpose is heartbreaking. The same with the beautiful wire would resistors.

    It is saddening to see gears and mechanisms stripped down and added to a project just because they look cool when with a bit more thought and creativity you can make them functional such as using them to turn indicators and step down the fine tuning of a pot for instance.

    Steampunk is really converting one thing in to another. the reinvention of something that is not longer required for its purpose and reinventing it to fulfill another purpose.

    1. I can understan that working with tubes and high voltages could be problematic an dangerous, but if the tubes on this project were used to actually drive the loudspeaker or even better to receive FM radio signal this project could have been awesome. Like this: In this case the form follow the function and it’s more steampunk that one that uses only the aestetic hiding the modern function used.

      The real tube radio project could have used more brass and copper, and wood parts, maybe bakelite knobs and a wood loudspeaker grille and maybe a magic eye connected to the AGC, but has some out of time vibe anyway.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.