Purposely choosing obsoleted technology combines all the joy of simpler times with the comfort of knowing you’re not actually stuck with outdated (and oftentimes inferior) technology. The rotary phone is a great example here, and while rarely anyone would want to go back to the lenghty, error-prone way of dialing a number on it on an everyday basis, it can definitely add a certain charm to a project. [Caroline Buttet] thought so as well, and turned her grandma’s old rotary phone into a time-traveling, globe-trotting web radio.
The main idea is fairly simple: a Raspberry Pi connects via browser to a web radio site that plays music throughout the decades from places all over the world. [Caroline]’s implementation has a few nice twists added though. First of all, the phone of course, which doesn’t only house the Raspberry Pi, but serves both as actual listening device via handset speaker, and as input device to select the decade with the rotary dial. For a headless setup, she wrote a Chromium extension that maps key events to virtual clicks on the corresponding DOM element of the web site — like the ones that change the decade — and a Python script that turns the rotary dial pulses into those key events.
However, the phone is only half the story here, and the country selection is just as fascinating — which involves an actual world map. An audio connector is attached to each selectable country and connected to an Arduino. If the matching jack is plugged into it, the Arduino informs the Raspberry Pi via serial line about the new selection, and the same Chromium extension then triggers the country change in the underlying web site. You can check all the code in the project’s GitHub repository, and watch a demo and brief explanation in the videos after the break.
Sure, listening radio through a telephone may not be the most convenient way — unless it’s the appropriate genre — but that clearly wasn’t the goal here anyway. It’s definitely an interesting concept, and we could easily see it transferred to some travel- or spy-themed escape room setting. And speaking of spying, if [Caroline]’s name sounds familiar to you, you may remember her virtual peephole from a few months back.
Cinemas all over the world have become no-go zones with COVID-19 around, but watching the latest blockbuster on the small screen at home is simply not the same. You could bring the big screen home, but buying a quality projector is going to set you back a small pile of cash. Fortunately [Matt] from [DIY Perks] has an alternative for us, demonstrating how to build your own true 4K projector with parts bought off eBay, for a fraction of the price.
The core of the projector is a small 4K LCD panel, which is from a modified Sony smartphone. [Matt] disassembled the phone, removed the backlight from the LCD, which leaves it semi-transparent, and mounted it at a right angle to the rest of the phone body. The battery was also replaced with a voltage regulator to simulate a full battery. To create a practical projector, a much brighter backlight is needed. [Matt] used a 100W 10 mm diameter LED for this purpose. The LED needs some serious cooling to prevent it from burning itself out, and a large CPU cooler does the job perfectly. Two Fresnel lenses in series are used to turn the diverging light from the LED into a converging light source to pass through the LCD. An old 135 mm large format camera lens is placed at the focal point of light to act as a projection lens. The entire assembly is mounted on a vertical frame of threaded rods, nuts, and aluminium plates. [Matt] also used these threaded rods with GT2 pulleys to create a simple but effective moving platform for the projection lens that allows the focus of the projected image to be adjusted. The frame is topped off by a 45-degree mirror to project the image against a wall instead of the roof, and the frame is covered with aluminium panels.
The design is based on an opensource metal detector called Smart Hunter. This Very Low Frequency (VLF) metal detector uses transmitter and receiver coils in so-called Double-D geometry. The transmitter coil is driven by a signal generator module that operates at its resonant frequency of 4.74 kHz.
The resulting oscillating magnetic field will induce eddy currents in a nearby metal object that in turn induce a signal in the receiver coil. This signal is then fed into the microphone port of a smartphone and analyzed by a custom metal detector app. [mircemk] also included an audio amplifier and small speaker into the device.
The detector turned out to be quite sensitive and can detect a coin at up to 25 cm distance and larger metal objects even up to 1 m. Modern metal detectors can also distinguish between different types of metal by analyzing the phase shift of the detected signal which might be some way to improve the design.
Mobile phones are the photography tool for most of us, but they are a blunt tool. If you love astrophotography, you buy a DSLR and a lens adapter. Infrared photography needs camera surgery or a special unit. If you want to look closer to home, you may have a microscope with a CCD. Your pocket computer is not manufactured for microscopy, but that does not mean it cannot be convinced. Most of us have held our lens up to the eyepiece of some binoculars or a microscope, and it sort of works, but it is far from perfect. [Benedict Diederich] and a team are proving that we can get darn beautiful images with a microscope, a phone holder, and some purpose-built software on an Android phone with their cellSTORM.
The trick to getting useful images is to compare a series of pictures and figure out which pixels matter and which ones are noisy. Imagine someone shows you grainy nighttime footage from an outdoor security camera. When you pause, it looks like hot garbage, and you can’t tell the difference between a patio chair and a shrubbery. As it plays, the noisy pixels bounce around, and you figure out you’re looking at a spruce bush, and that is roughly how the software parses out a crisp image. At the cost of frame rate, you get clarity, which is why you need a phone holder. Some of their tests took minutes, so astrophotography might not fare as well.
With its constant siren song of distraction and endless opportunity for dopamine hits, a smartphone can cause more problems than it solves. The simple solution would be a no-nonsense flip phone, but that offers zero points for style. So why not build your own rotary dial pocket cellphone?
Of course, what style points accrue to [Justine Haupt] take a hit in terms of practicality, but that was never really the point of this build. And even then, the phone appears to be surprisingly useful. It’s based on the rotary dial from a Trimline phone, which itself was an epic hack back in 1965 when it was introduced. The 3D-printed case contains an ATmega2560V microcontroller and an Adafruit FONA 3G cell module, while a flexible mono eInk display adorns the outside. Some buttons, a folding SMA antenna, and some LEDs for signal strength and battery level complete the build, which easily slips into a pocket. The dial can be used not only to dial the phone but to control the speaker volume; in practice, [Justine] mainly uses the speed dial buttons to make calls, though.
We’ve seen rotary phones converted to cell before, but this one is a next-level integration of the retro and the modern. It’s simple, intuitive, and distraction-free, and best of all, it’s a great excuse not to return a text.
The more glass we punch with our fingertips, the more we miss fun physical interfaces like the rotary phone. Sure, they took forever to dial, and you did not want to be one of those kids stuck with one during the transition to DTMF, especially if you were trying to be the 9th caller to a radio station, but the solidly electromechanical experience of it all was just cool, okay? The sound and the heft made them seem so adult.
Although [Tal] got the ringer working to prove it could be done, he didn’t want to have a separate 12V circuit just to run the bells. Also, the bells and their electromagnets take up a lot of space, so he compromised with an mp3 of a rotary ringer. [Tal] also wanted a way to have dialed-number feedback without cutting up the phone to add a screen, so he found a text-to-speech library and made the phone speak each number aloud as soon as it’s dialed. It uses the same internal speaker as the ringer, but we think it would be neat if the feedback came through the handset speaker.
If [Tal] is looking for another modern convenience to add to this phone, how about speed dial?
When we make a telephone call in 2020 it is most likely to be made using a smartphone over a cellular or IP-based connection rather than a traditional instrument on a pair of copper wires to an exchange. As we move inexorably towards a wireless world in which the telephone line serves only as a vehicle for broadband Internet, it’s easy to forget the last hundred years or more of telephone technology that led up to the present.
In a manner of speaking though, your telephone wall socket hasn’t forgotten. If you like old phones, you can still have one, and picture yourself in a 1950s movie as you twirl the handset cord round your finger while you speak. Continue reading “A Vintage Phone In 2020”→