1940s Philco radio sings again with new Raspberry Pi heart
Redditor spyderN8 happened upon a holy grail-level find at their local antique store last year: a 1940s Philco radio. And it cost them less than $50! Either the maker is a champion haggler or American antique shops aren’t quite the racket they are over here in the UK.
The maker had five criteria this project had to fit:
- Keep the general look
- No touchscreen interface – all driven by physical buttons
- Internet connection not required
- Keep the original eight-button selector
- Must be spouse-approved
I guess this last one is because the finished project would be on display at home and janky-looking stuff is not welcome. Keeping the original eight-button selector was a hassle worth powering through, because the maker was able to retain the clunky sound you get when you press the buttons. The video above is a vintage collector’s aural dreamscape.
“Ker-chunk” buttons for the win!
The original radio buttons still made the lovely ker-chunk sounds, but they couldn’t do much else. SpyderN8 found a solution to retain the sound when the old buttons were pressed and operate new buttons behind the scenes to perform the radio station-changing function.
Each of the new buttons is pre-programmed to select a particular radio station running through a computer-based radio scanner. spyderN8 sourced the buttons from renovatedradios.com.
Old tech, new spec
Almost every single GPIO pin on Raspberry Pi 4 is used in this project. A 7.9-inch capacitive touch LCD screen provides an oscilloscope-style display showing the sound waves on the front of the radio.
New clear sounds
Sound is provided courtesy of a Fosi Audio BT30D amp, along with two KICKER CS Series speakers and a Goldwood 12″ woofer. You can also connect to the Fosi amp via Bluetooth which makes this build extra spouse-approved — you can play anything you like if the hard-coded radio options aren’t hitting the right notes.
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I’ve done several Pye radios, and one Murphy each with orange LEDs to simulate the valve (tube) glow through the cooling grid. Mine have internal DAB/FM tuners, amps and speakers.
The challenge is to maintain the mechanical tuning using the mechanical variable capacitor.
Raspberry Pi Staff Ashley Whittaker — post author
Nice! Have you got photos stashed somewhere online we can all have a nosey at?..
As a former VIP/antique service tech for a major amplifier manufacturer and restorer of tube radios (I have that same Philco in my office) as much as I love the Pi seeing this breaks my heart
a little bit.
WB5BKL – Nick
My folks had the table model version of this Philco and my friend’s parents had your model – but with remote control (via a battery-powered [semi-] handheld transmitter)… Listened to the BBC war news on them.