If your parents left you to fend for yourself with an off-the-shelf Fisher Price plastic toy till as a child, you’re going to feel short-changed after you see this. Superdad Joe Hughes has upcycled a brilliant old-fashioned bus ticket machine for his kids.
Upgrading the internals
Joe ordered the ticket machine for around £20 from eBay after his kids asked for a till or a ticket machine. But when it arrived, he realised it needed a programmed cartridge in order to function. The cartridges were difficult and expensive to get hold, of so Joe decided to replace the internal electronics with Raspberry Pi Pico instead. That way, he could program everything himself.
The solenoids in the dot matrix printer that used to print the bus tickets no longer worked, so Joe retrofitted a thermal printer. This turned out to be a good choice: the kids print a lot. It would have been difficult to find the right paper to fit the original printing mechanism.
Pushing all the right buttons
All of the original buttons on the machine still work. Joe has programmed a few of them so far, though not all of them yet. Current button functions include ‘Add Adult Ticket’, ‘Check Sub Total’, ‘Feed Paper’, and ‘Check Printer Status’. There’s space to insert a strip of card under the buttons to say what they do, and that’s on Joe’s to-do list. He’s also going to revive the green LEDs under the buttons so you can use the machine in the dark.
Built to last
Despite its age, Joe was pleased with how easy it was to work with the dust-bucket that arrived in the post:
“The machine was well built back in its day and I had no problems getting it working after a good clean (you can see how dusty it was in the photos!). The metal case, robust keypad and LCD screen made for a great enclosure for the Pico and there is plenty of space free after removing the old circuit boards and old printer mechanism.”Joe Hughes
At the moment Joe’s kids are using the machine to play cinema and print their own tickets. Next they want him to turn it in to a till so that they can play shop.