Update, Jan 12: Cargo Cult (whose name is actually Adam Foster) found that a lot of people were very interested in this project. Not least, Radio 4. Who interviewed him for the PM programme this afternoon about his hack. You can hear the programme at the PM website – listen now, because I can’t guarantee how long this will stay up! Adam’s bit starts at 27m00s.

I know several of you are making your own version of this project. Adam’s now blogged all the code you’ll need and very thorough instructions: so you’ve got no excuse for not getting started!

I’ve got a longstanding addiction to BBC Radio 4. It’s my alarm clock, keeps me company in the car, gives me something to shout at, and occasionally furnishes lovely surprises (like New Year’s morning last week, when the Raspberry Pi got a shout out on the Today program, and then Eben’s Dad was on ten minutes later talking about English dialect).

It can be a bit discombobulating trying to listen to Radio 4 online when you’re out of the country – Listen Again isn’t available for a day or so, and if you listen live, nothing is on at the right time. I must be woken by the soft keenings of James Naughtie, or else the day just doesn’t go right. PM must start at 5pm, and always coincides with a cup of tea. The Archers at 7 is a reminder that it’s time to turn off the radio, get out of the study and make dinner. Time-shifting any of these things just makes the day shapeless and wrong. Happily, our forum member Cargo Cult has experienced the same discombobulation. So he’s used a Raspberry Pi to build a time-travelling radio. He says:

Timezones. It’s live radio, but all the timing is wrong. Namely, the written-in-stone Radio 4 schedule must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to become misaligned from the rising and the setting of the sun. How could anything (or anyone) remotely British even think of operating normally if the Friday evening comedy gets broadcast on Friday morning, or if the Book at Bedtime arrives early in the evening? Or heaven forbid, if Woman’s Hour escapes from its usual 10am ghetto?

So, short of removing both the North American continent and the Atlantic Ocean in order to make Seattle a suburb of Plymouth, we’re going to have to take the existing internet radio streaming and add a timezone-busting delay. Oh, and then wrap the whole thing in a suitably middle-class casing complete with a Royal warrant of appointment.Luckily, we moved west of the Prime meridian, so we can get away without using actual time travel.

Cue the Radio-4-Matic.

From the outside, the Radio-4-Matic looks just like the old Roberts radio my Grandma had in her kitchen. It’s had a Pi inserted into its helpless torso. The LW, MW and SW buttons provide line-in audio from the Pi’s analogue audio-out – VHF still operates as a regular radio. And the audio that’s coming from the Pi is BBC Radio 4, time-shifted so that wherever you are, the shipping forecast is on at twelve minutes to one in the morning. Ford’s in his flivver, all’s well with the world.

Cargo Cult hasn’t written a how-to guide yet (he does plan to), but he has an excellent description of what he did with enough pointers in there to allow you to set one up yourself if you’re a relatively seasoned coder. You can read more (and ask questions) in this thread in our forums.


mccp avatar

What a great idea :).

Can anyone come up with a version for timezones East of Greenwich that doesn’t involve a >24 hour delay? I hate listening to Today in France from the future.

BobGinCO avatar

Now THAT is an excellent idea! If you “forward adjust” it to say…Bombay time, then stream it back to the internet, we’ll know what’s about to happen…everywhere! This could be the most revolutionary investing (and sports betting) tool ever invented! BRILLIANT!

Cargo Cult avatar

One solution – start recording Radio 4, then begin playback in 2019 with the appropriate time-shift applied. (Why 2019? The days match up. Tuesday January 1st 2012, Tuesday January 1st 2019. Ideal! Yes, there’s a year difference, but it’s Radio 4. How much is it going to change? ;-) )

More seriously, it’s something like 400GB for a year of 128kbps audio, dropping the World Service overnight. That’s a lot, but it’s not implausible – I’ve already got multiple devices capable of storing multiples of that. I have terrifying ideas of a truly time-travelling Roberts radio…

(The Radio-4-Matic currently deletes its buffers after playing ’em, eight hours after broadcast. Fair use, I hope!)

Norman Dunbar avatar

The Archers at 7 is a reminder that it’s time to turn off the radio…

As a Radio 4 listener too, seemingly identical to Liz’s listening pleasures, I would have said that “The Archers at 7 is a reminder that it’s time to throw the radio physically out of a very high window” or similar.

I loathe the Archers and especially that damned theme tune!

Other than that, what can I say, this sounds like a great project. I’m (once again) impressed.


ukscone avatar

i’ve been listening to the archer’s since before i can remember, at least since 1973 when our next door neighbour gave me an old radio of my own for my room that as well as the air bands would do LW and i’ve been a Radio4 addict ever since. The archer’s at 5am on a sunday is really discincerting.

Ashley Basil avatar

I remember when Shula got her voice and her and Eddie were an item, any one outside of the UK must think we are even more mad.

Ashley Basil avatar

Oh yes, it all coming back, my first radio , big old speaker, a diode, a cap’ i think? and some wires one out the window and the other to the radiator, mum keep telling me to turn if off because it was wasting the elecy’! The coil in the speaker was just off tune to Radio 4, never got it to tune, learnt a lot about radio.

guru avatar

But where else would you learn the proper way to run a village fête?

liz avatar

Have to say, running a village fête has never been an ambition of mine.

Norman Dunbar avatar

I think it would be a fête worse than death! ;-)


ukscone avatar

My mother was the goto person if anyone wanted to organize a rummage/jumble sale in our village when i was a kid. I learnt a lot about sorting rummage, door knocking, wearing a sandwich board & how to disappear when she was looking for “volunteers”

meltwater avatar

I’ve switched to Radio 4 since we lost Mr Moyles on Radio 1.

If nothing else, it is worth getting the podcast of Radio 4’s Infinite Monkey Cage, with Brian Cox (no relation).

Now if he was in the UK, I’d donate him a DC-DC power supply –

liz avatar

Infinite Monkey Cage is BRILLIANT. Did you hear our friend Sue Black on it a few weeks ago?

ukscone avatar

yeah, she sounds all posh and everything. i’m waiting for her standup tour

meltwater avatar

I may have to re-listen to that one, I remember listening to it but can’t remember it too well (Code Breaking).

Cargo Cult avatar

Idea – seamlessly splicing repeats of the Infinite Monkey Cage, the News Quiz, Just a Minute etc. whenever You and Yours or Quote Unquote should be on.

Radio, improved!

Anyway, huge thanks for linking to this thing – it’s given me way more motivation for finishing documentation of the beast. Hopefully I’ll get code posted some time on Friday? (Seattle-time, I haven’t yet got the time-shift working the other way…)

liz avatar

Huge thanks for making it! As you can probably tell, we thought it was great!

Cargo Cult avatar

All I’ll say is [i]more people have spotted it[/i]. Eek.

Anyway, with nine minutes remaining of Friday (Seattle-time, and Radio-4-Matic time) the software-describing part three is up. Includes a gigantic 5KiB, MIT-licenced download. Wahey!

bonelifer avatar

As an American I really enjoy listen to “Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4”. Highly entertaining.

Stu avatar

I have a Pi with a Keene FM transmitter connected. Whenever it gets some WiFi, it downloads Today, PM, whatever the Friday night comedy is, ISIHAC and various other things, for me to listen to in the car.

It’s in a ModMyPi, but I normally carry the whole lot (e.g. with USB bits and battery) around in a tupperware box. I suppose inside an old wireless would be a touch more stylish.

SiriusHardware avatar

Radio 4 is the only thing I ever listen to in the car, but for twenty minutes of the day I find something else to do: Fifteen of those are the fifteen minutes it takes to get The Archers out of the way, and the other five are those occupied by ‘Thought For The Day’.

Apart from that, R4 has the knack of taking any subject, no matter how utterly mundane, and making it seem fascinating for half an hour. Just the other day they devoted a half-hour slot to a discussion about the Ampersand – you know, this – “&”, and not long before that there was a programme about ‘Earworms’ – those irritating tunes which get stuck in your head all day.

liz avatar

That sounds *uncannily* like my own interaction with R4. Although recently, I have taken to turning off when Births, Deaths and Marriages comes on. David Schneider used to be wonderful about twenty years ago; I don’t know what happened.

ukscone avatar

i kind of liked births, deaths and marriages but prefer the ??????? of milton jones, the news quiz & cabin fever. yay new series of cabin fever started today

liz avatar

…and ASIHAC, although never as wonderful as when Willie Rushton and Humph were still with us, is still a highlight of the week. And yes, I am aware that I am a sound-alike for Sandi Toksvig and other deep-voiced BBC ladies. It’s not my fault. We all went to Cambridge.

ukscone avatar

Can’t forget Just A Minutes either, although it’s not the same without Clement Freud. i’ve been listening to that longer than Liz has been alive :) and he had ties to Cambridge as well iirc

JamesH avatar

I met Clement Freud when he was our MP – came to our Sports day, and also visited him (whilst at Primary School) at the House of Parliament. Seemed like a nice bloke to my 8 year old eyes!

Norman Dunbar avatar

Willy Rushton? No longer with us? :-(
I didn’t know.

I only found out recently that Les Gray (of Mud) had died ages ago.

I’m getting old, everyone famous I used to know is dead, or dying!

Must plan my funeral ….. wonder of I can get my Raspvberry Pi to interface with the controls at the crematorium, hmmmm …..

(Too cheery?)


Cargo Cult avatar

Heh. I think mine’s the first in the form of a dedicated device using 1970s transistors, though!

(I’ll send this link to various fellow ex-pats at work. Slightly easier to get going than building a Radio-4-Matic. Thanks!)

Bob Cochran avatar

I absolutely have to visit each evening (Eastern Time) to read Liz’s post of the day, or my evening is trashed.

poglad avatar

Very clever! If it could re-instate the Radio 4 UK Theme at ten to six every morning, that would be even better!

YoungInSurrey avatar

So for a Car PVR to give the R4 6:30pm comedy section when I finally get to my car each day to commute home I just need to add:
1. wireless internet from the rail station cafe / Starbucks / BT Openzone
2. FM transmitter
3. bigger car battery / spare battery / solar panel
4. changed passwords for security
5. set-up can be SSH from laptop, so no screen
6. trigger from car-lighter or other engine powered circuit

poglad avatar

@YoungInSurrey “5. set-up can be SSH from laptop, so no screen”

…or from a smartphone, even handier in a car!

omingtrude avatar

I’ve been dabbling with this idea now for almost a year and only last weekend stumbled on this blog. What I would like to do is get this to stream to a webradio so i can listen online at work or in my car.

Whilst this original blog was really helpful, I found (I think anyway) that the get_iplayer is not allowing to stream (dump) to us outside of the UK??.

Do anyone still have this working? Would they be able to you provide some tips please?

My next step is to adapt the radio.php to feed/dump the bbc radio .asx file. Then delay this play by 5 to icecast or something else. The only trouble is my paid employment keeps getting in the way.

If I get this going I will post.

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