Scroll Through ESPHome With IPod-style Click Wheel

While you’d be hard pressed to find a Hackaday writer that feels any nostalgia for the DRM nonsense the iPod helped to introduce, we’ve got to admit that we miss that click wheel. Spinning your way through long lists was a breeze, and the tactile response made it easy to stop exactly where you wanted. These days, we’re stuck fumbling our way through touch screen interfaces that make simple tasks like seeking to a particular spot in a song or video all but impossible to do with any kind of accuracy.

If you too yearn to once again feel that subtle thumping under your thumb, then check out this project from [landonr]. Technically the handheld gadget is intended to be used as a wireless remote for a home automation system powered by ESPHome, but that’s only one possible application for this particular combination of off-the-shelf components.

If you must, there’s a version with buttons.

Building your own version of the handheld device is a simple as mounting a LILYGO ESP32 T-Display TTGO, an ANO Rotary Navigation Encoder from Adafruit, and a battery pack to a scrap of perfboard. We’d probably look into 3D printing a case to make it a bit less…pokey, but that’s up to you. The result actually bears quite a resemblance to Apple’s iconic media player, but without that pesky walled garden to hold you back.

As mentioned previously, [landonr] wrote the firmware with the intention of controlling a home automation system. So there’s a lot of stuff in there about turning on lights and such. But there are also functions for media playback that look very promising. Whatever software you end up running on it, one thing is for sure: running through the menus is going to feel like a dream.

We’ve covered several other home automation remotes over the years. This handsome wooden model kept things simple with just a few physical buttons, while this somewhat more whimsical approach repurposed Nintendo’s Zapper light gun.

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Raspberry Pi Zero Powers Spotify Streaming IPod

Even those critical of Apple as a company have to admit that they were really onto something with the iPod. The click wheel was a brilliant input device, and the simplicity of the gadget’s user interface made it easy to get to the music you wanted with a minimum of hoop jumping. Unfortunately it was a harbinger of proprietary software and DRM, but eventually there were a few open source libraries that let you put songs on the thing without selling your soul to Cupertino.

Of course, modern users expect a bit more than what the old hardware can deliver. Which is why [Guy Dupont] swapped the internals of his iPod Classic with a Raspberry Pi Zero W. This new Linux-powered digital audio player is not only capable of playing essentially any audio format you throw at it, but can also tap into streaming services such as Spotify. But such greatness doesn’t come easy; to pull this off, he had to replace nearly every component inside the player with the notable exception of the click wheel itself. Good thing the Classics were pretty chunky to begin with.

In addition to the Pi Zero running the show, he also had to fit a 1000 mAh battery, its associated charging and boost modules, a vibration motor for force feedback, and a 2″ LCD from Adafruit. The display ended up being almost the perfect size to replace the iPod’s original screen, and since it uses composite video, only took two wires to drive from the Pi. To interface with the original click wheel, [Guy] credits the information he pulled from a decade-old Hackaday post.

Of course with a project like this, the hardware is only half the story. It’s one thing to cram all the necessary components inside the original iPod enclosure, but by creating such an accurate clone of its iconic UI in Python, [Guy] really took things to the next level. Especially since he was able to so seamlessly integrate support for Spotify, a feature the Apple devs could scarcely have imagined back at the turn of the millennium. We’re very interested in seeing the source code when he pushes it to the currently empty GitHub repository, and wouldn’t be surprised if it set off a resurgence of DIY iPod clones.

We’ve seen modern hardware grafted onto the original iPod mainboard, and over the years a few hackers have tried to spin up their own Pi-based portable music players. But this project that so skillfully combines both concepts really raises the bar.

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Repurposing A Click Wheel

We think the click wheel is the biggest contributor to the success of the original iPods. The devices were a brick with a monochrome screen but the user interface was slick and easy to use. [Jason] decided he wanted to add a click wheel to his own project. After using a logic analyzer he discovered that it doesn’t implement a common protocol such as I2C, perhaps a deliberate move by Apple to keep the controller under wraps? He managed to get past this hurdle, as seen in the video after the break, by bit-banging the data in from the click wheel and then reverse engineering the protocol.

It’s connected to an AVR ATtiny88 with feedback shown on a character LCD screen. We’re glad that [Jason] tipped us off about this, but he doesn’t have any code available yet. We love to dive into the source so the sooner he gets it up the better! We’ve got an old 3rd generation with a bad board that is begging to have the wheel ripped out of it, not to mention the dirt-cheap replacements available on ebay. Continue reading “Repurposing A Click Wheel”