The Signalman

I found an old rusty Signalman train badge and thought it would be perfect to fix to my ham radio receiver and Morse decoder. I always like to name my projects and Signalman is perfect.
The Signalman WebSDR Receiver
I burnt my finger whilst cutting the clasp off the back but it covers a nasty scratch on the box (the dangers of taking projects out and about I guess) and that is how the Signalman got its name.
Web SDR Amateur Radio Receiver Box
Still loving the handset despite some funny looks when I’m out with it. Today whilst out walking I was able to pick up a couple of old gentlemen talking about building their own radios. I love listening in to snapshots of people’s lives like this. It’s like I’m fishing for good conversations with the Signalman being my net.

The Portable Web SDR Receiver

I’ve been a big fan of radio for most of my life, especially the ham radio side of things. Luckily nowadays with the wonder that is the internet, there are many convenient ways of listening in to amateur radio transmissions without the need for expensive kit. If you fancy having a go yourself you can download a copy of my beginners guide to Web SDR and amateur radio that gets mentioned in the video below here.

So this week I started on a very exciting project, building a portable listening receiver that hooks into Web SDR setups around the globe. My favourite one of all has to be the one located on the site of an old nuclear bunker here as I find the 2m band is best for picking up voice transmissions.

The idea was to have a nice portable box that you can carry over one shoulder that will allow you to comb the airwaves whilst on the move. I also included a Morse code translator that will decode any Morse that is picked up and display the message on the small LCD. To finish it off I found a retro handset that someone had bought me for a present years ago. I had originally wanted to incorporate an internal speaker inside the box but including the old style handset just seemed an even better idea.

I love this project and I look forward to taking it out and about with me.

The Automatic Lego Drawing Machine

There are a great many prototypes that litter my workshop, so I thought it would be a good idea to talk about a few before I reuse their parts. This video is all about an old idea for a drawing machine and how I made a quick model out of Lego to see if the idea would work.

I was wanting to eventually make a larger decorative box made out of wood, whereby people could turn a handle/push a button and the box would draw them a picture on an A5 sheet of paper. I had started planning out a little gear box to change the rotation speeds that would result in more patterns being drawn. Sadly there were other priorities at the time and this project unfortunately got shelved. Still fun to get the brain working on this one though.

Microbit Tone Synthesiser

I’ve always loved the maths behind tone benders and synthesisers, despite not being musically minded at all. Recently I got my hands on a BBC Microbit and decided to see what I could make it do in terms of tone generation.

Upon start up it selects a series of random notes and repeatedly loops through them. The potentiometers on the front allow you to change the pitch as well as the length of some of the notes in the loop.

In addition to the potentiometers on the front, there are also two buttons at the back that allow you to adjust the temp of all the notes as well as add more notes to the loop.

It’s still very much a work in progress but the current Micro Python code ever can be found here.

My New Arcade Cabinet

After three months of tinkering the arcade cabinet is finally complete and I love the way it has turned out. It started out as an idea and a heap of scrap wood (mainly from an old bed) and I basically made it up as I went along.

Inside there is a tiny Pi Zero running Retropie which means there is a large amount of internal space to play around with if I ever decide to add things like a coin slot. The total cost of the build (minus the screen which is my tv from the bedroom that no longer has a bed – see above) the cabinet build has come it at around the £40 mark which I think is pretty good going. The most expensive elements of the build were the controls and the vinyl covering.

Some people have asked me for the plans but unfortunately I don’t have any, it was all built on the fly. I would like to make another one but I think I need a bit of a break first. Besides, I need to get some practice in beating my son at Street Fighter 2!

Raspberry Pi Arcade Cabinet

The Raspberry Pi Arcade Cabinet

I recently made a start on my RetroPie arcade cabinet. I’m making it up as I go along really but my first attempt seems to be heading in the right direction.

It’s been slow going but the cabinet I’m building without following any plans took a big step forward recently as I installed the joystick and buttons.  They were slow to arrive (probably a very slow boat from China), easy to wire up and a pain to drill the holes and install but they’re working great and really change the feel of the games, as they’re now being played how they should be.

Raspberry Pi Retropie Arcade Cabinet

It’s all running off a Raspberry Pi Zero which means that there is a huge amount of empty space actually inside the cabinet. I’m thinking I made it a little too wide but the extra width gives me room to play around with some clever lighting or something around the screen when I build its cradle.

Raspberry Pi Retropie Arcade Cabinet

It’s been suggested that I make it coin operated and have it calibrated to the old 10p coins we used to have in the UK, making it truly authentic. I think this is a fantastic idea and as luck would have it I’ve already found a source for the old coins here in the town where I live.

Raspberry Pi Retropie Arcade Cabinet

My seven year old son loves it already, as do I and I’ve promoted him to chief cabinet tester.

Retropie Build Project

You know the old saying, one man’s broken NES is another man’s casing for his Retropie. Before working up to a standalone arcade cabinet I’ve been wanting to cut my teeth on housing a Raspberry Pi running Retropie in a retro console of some sort. After much thought and hunting for broken discarded consoles I have my chosen NES and I can’t wait to start taking this apart. The housing is in pretty good condition which is nice.

I have been trying to work out an idea in my head whereby the Raspberry Pi is concealed within the cartridge that you manually slot in to play. We’ll see, the main plan is to get something up and running before tinkering and improving on it.