Modded See ‘N Say Teaches The Sounds Of City Life

The Fisher-Price See ‘n Say was introduced back in 1964, and since then has helped teach countless children the different sounds made by farm animals. But what about our urban youth? If they’re going to navigate a concrete jungle, why not prepare them to identify the sound of a jackhammer or the chime that plays before an announcement goes out over the subway’s PA system?

That’s the idea behind this hacked See ‘n Say [John Park] put together for Adafruit. Now we should note up front that no vintage toys were sacrificed during the production of this gadget — it seems Fisher-Price (predictably) dropped the tiny record player these toys used to use for a cheap electronic board sometime in the 90s. A quick check with everyone’s favorite A-to-Z megacorp shows you can pick up one of these new-school models for around $25 USD.

The modern electronic version of the toy is easy to mod.

Cracking open the electronic version of the See ‘n Say reveals a circular PCB with a series of membrane buttons that are pressed by the mechanics of the spinning pointer. As it so happens, there are handy test points next to each of these buttons, which makes it simple to wire up to a microcontroller.

In this case, it’s Adafruit’s KB2040, which is connected to a MAX98357A amplifier board over I2S. A small boost converter module is used to wring 5 volts out of the toy’s pair of AA batteries. The original speaker is repurposed, though [John] adds a physical power switch to keep the boost converter from flattening the alkaline batteries when not in use.

On the software side, all you’ve got to do is load the MCU with your sounds and write a bit of code that associates them with the button being pressed on the PCB. [John] gets his city sounds from Freesound, a community-maintained database of Creative Commons Licensed sounds, and provides the CircuitPython code necessary to tie everything together.

The last step is the artwork. For this project, [Brian Kesinger] provided some swanky vintage-looking imagery that perfectly fits the See ‘n Say style. The art is available under the NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons license, so you’re free to use it in your own version. Though naturally, that assumes you’ve decided to use the same sounds as [John] — the beauty of this project is that you could easily load it up with whatever sounds you’d like Hacker Junior to learn. Possibly a well-known Australian YouTuber?

If anyone feels inclined to build a Hackaday-themed See ‘n Say based on this project, we’ve love to see it.

19 thoughts on “Modded See ‘N Say Teaches The Sounds Of City Life

    1. I would assume that the record could be replaced so the toy wouldn’t have to be destroyed, just modified. I also wonder how difficult it would be to 3D print an old analogue See and Say, if it could be done that would be a fun project, but far beyond my skill!

    1. Very cool and tongue in cheek. The only thing these electronic versions are lacking, vs the old record player versions, was the ability to grab the spinning arrow and scratch and warp like a toddler DJ. Couldn’t backspin because of a ratchet mechanism, but that was always my favorite part of this toy.

  1. The meth addict goes “I need a fix man…you got something for me?”

    What I find disappointing is that the mechanism is way louder than the sounds it’s meant to play.

  2. I want to see one of these for Australian animals with things like “The Inland Taipan says” (world’s most deadly snake by some measures) and “The Sydney Funnel-Web Spider says” (world’s most deadly spider) and “The Great White Shark says” and “The Dingo says” and other sounds of deadly (or supposedly deadly) Australian animals.

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