This beautiful little radio may look like an art deco relic from a hundred years ago, but it is actually from 2023. When [Craig Lindley] first saw this design on these very pages a few years ago, he just had to build one eventually. Turns out, all he had to do wait until he bought a laser cutter.
Built with hardware on hand, this radio runs on an ESP32 WROOM and uses an Adafruit VS1053 CODEC breakout. Song information is displayed on an SPI LCD display, and output comes via a 1/8″ jack. It can play songs streamed from Internet radio stations, [Craig]’s website, or directly from an SD card.
The lovely cabinet is made from 1/8″ Baltic birch, with a living hinge for a roof and sides. The amber shellac goes a long way toward establishing the antique aesthetic.
Not content with this cute radio, [Craig] went ahead and built a speaker system to go with it out of a pair of small, external laptop speakers. [Craig] says this project had a lot of ups and downs, but we are quite happy to see it come to fruition.
A presentation this month by the Antique Wireless Museum brought British engineer and inventor John Sargrove (1906-1974) to our attention. If you’ve ever peeked inside old electronics from days gone by, you’ve no doubt seen point-to-point wiring and turret board construction. In the 60s and 70s these techniques eventually made way for printed circuit boards which we still use today. But Mr Sargrove was way ahead of his time, having already invented a process in the 1930s to print circuits, not just boards, onto Bakelite. After being interrupted by the war, he formed a company Electronic Circuit Making Equipment (ECME) and was building broadcast radio receivers on an impressive automatic production line.
Mr. Sargrove’s passion was making radios affordable for everyone. But to achieve this goal, he had to make large advances manufacturing technology. His technique of embedding not only circuit traces, but basic circuit elements like resistors, capacitors, and inductors directly into the substrate foresaw techniques being applied decades later in integrated circuit design. He also developed a compact vacuum tube which could be used in all circuits of a radio, called an “All-stage Valve“. Equally important was his futuristic automatic factory, which significantly reduced the number of factory workers needed to make radios from 1500 to 50. Having completed the radio design, he was also developing a television receiver using the same concepts. Unfortunately, ECME was forced into liquidation when a large order from India was cancelled upon declaration of independence in 1947.
You really must watch the video below. There are many bits and pieces of modern factory automation which we still use today, yet their implementation using 1940s techniques and technology is fascinating. Further reading links after the video. Thanks to [Mark Erdle] for the tip.
I’ve been told all my life about old-timey Army/Navy surplus stores where you could buy buckets of FT-243 crystals, radio gear, gas masks, and even a Jeep boxed-up in a big wooden crate. Sadly this is no longer the case. Today surplus stores only have contemporary Chinese-made boots, camping gear, and flashlights. They are bitterly disappointing except for one surplus store that I found while on vacation in the Adirondacks: Patriot of Lake George.
There I found a unicorn of historical significance; an un-modified-since-WW2 surplus CBY-46104 receiver with dynamotor. The date of manufacture was early-war, February 1942. This thing was preserved as good as the day it was removed from its F4F Hellcat. No ham has ever laid a soldering iron or a drill bit to it. Could this unit have seen some action in the south Pacific? Imagine the stories it could tell!
My unconventional restoration of this radio followed strict rules so as to minimize the evidence of repair both inside and out yet make this radio perform again as though it came fresh off the assembly line. Let’s see how I did.
This Bluetooth speaker is full of delightful surprises. The outer shell is an antique radio cabinet, but its practically empty interior is a combination of Dead Bug circuitry and modern BT receiver.
[PJ Allen] found the BT receiver on Groupon and decided to whip up amplifier and threshold detector circuits using only parts he already had in order to make this vintage-looking Bluetooth speaker. The cabinet is from a Silvertone Model 1955 circa 1936. Don’t worry, no antiques were harmed in the making of this hack, the cabinet was empty when he bought it.
The amplifiers, one per speaker, began life as a circuit from TI’s LM4871 datasheet. Some of the departures came about because he didn’t have the exact component values, even paralleling capacitors to get in the right range. The finished board is a delightful mix of “Dead Bug” and quasi-Manhattan style construction, “quasi” because he carved up the ground plane instead of laying pads on top of it.
Look at the front of the cabinet and you’ll see a rectangular display. Watch the video below and you’ll see that it throbs in time to the music. To do that he came up with a threshold detector circuit which started out based on a circuit from a Sharp/Optonica cassette tape deck, but to which he made improvements.
Tube radios have a certain charm. Waiting for them to warm up, that glow of the filaments in a dark room. Tubes ruled radio for many decades. [Uniservo] posted a video about the history and technology behind the 1920’s era Clapp-Eastham C-3 radio. This is a three-tube regenerative receiver and was advanced for its day.
If you are worried he won’t open it up, don’t despair. Around the ten minute mark, your patience will be rewarded. Inside are three big tubes full of getter and bus bars instead of wires. Add to that the furniture-quality case, and this is a grand old radio.
Mass production was key to survival during the Second World War. So much stuff was made that there continues to be volumes of new unpacked stuff left over and tons of used equipment for sale at reasonable prices. Availability of this war surplus provided experimenters in the mid 20th century with access to high performance test equipment, radio equipment, and high quality components for the first time.
Even today this old stuff continues to motivate and inspire the young generations because of its high build quality, unique electro-mechanical approaches, and overall innovative designs which continue to be relevant into the 21st century. In this post we will show you how to get started in the hobby of resurrecting WW2 radio equipment and putting it back on the air.
We see a lot of old radio restoration projects around here, and we have to admit to having mixed emotions about some of them. It seems a shame to go through the effort to lovingly restore a vintage Art Deco case only to stuff it with a Raspberry Pi and Bluetooth. Seems like if you’re going to restore a radio, go all the way and bring the original electronics back to life. But this radio “restoration” avoids that issue altogether by cleverly concealing a full PC build in a vintage radio case.
Clearly a labor of love, [SolomonZaraa]’s two-year effort guts the radio but still manages to pay homage to the original beauty of the 1939 vintage Philco 39-80 “tombstone” portable AM radio. The first design decision was to retask the original tuning dial as an analog thermometer using an Arduino and a servo. Then a new back was added with an extension for the motherboard and PSU, a drive cage was added, and a surprise slot for the DVD drive was built into the speaker grille. Nice brass trim and a good refinishing of the case resulted in an impressive and unexpected presentation.
You don’t have to go far in the Hackaday Wayback machine to find an antique radio with updated audio, but we’re pretty sure this is the first antique radio PC case mod we’ve seen. Nicely done, [Solomon]!