As we were first being told about this assignment, I had a lot of initial ideas for exploring the idea of “dead” tech, and finding in what ways a tech becomes dead (obsolescence of the technology vs. obsolescence of the media) or in how we can compare and contrast our modern devices with the old in a novel way. I envisioned a wikipedia-powered volume of an encyclopedia, or a old film camera that can stream video to the web, but when it comes to a class like this, I suppose you really need to be led by the material you find. I could only work with dead technology I found, and if I never ran across an old film camera, then I just couldn’t go in that direction.
After finding the nicest little handheld radio a few weeks ago coming back from my big road trip, though, I knew I absolutely had to incorporate it into this current project. I had ideas of placing an iPhone in it to stream Pandora or some other modern radio equivalent, but by then it hardly seemed like much more than a simple case mod. I also thought of making a song-device for the hearing impaired, in that it would print out the lyrics to a song instead of playing them audibly, or otherwise to make a light pattern that corresponded to the rhythm of the music.
But as I was sitting in class two weeks ago, and we were talking about possible directions for this project, it struck me that it would be much more amusing to make a radio that played songs in morse code. Not only would it utilize the strengths of the radio (the form factor and the speaker), but in a way it’s mimicking one of the earliest forms of long-distance electronic communication: the telegraph. It seemed really funny to me to imagine the first telegraph operators transmitting poems or song lyrics from one station to another, but why not? We rarely think outside the limitations of our current technological abilities, and people have been writing songs a long time, so it seems completely likely that lyrics would have been sent at one time or another, and that they would have sounded a lot like my radio.
Also, after dismantling it, I found that the power/volume dial on the radio seemed to be a really cool switch and potentiometer combo. I thought that this would make for a really cool way to switch between songs and generally control the radio without having to open it up and manually plug in the Arduino inside. Unfortunately, the pins on the dial don’t line up like other potentiometers I know, and I haven’t been able to test to see which pins do what. So, for now, the dial is just a fancy on/off switch. As soon as I can get to a multimeter, I want to incorporate other songs into the device so that someone using it could essentially changes stations and listen to something different. I think I have the correct code to make this happen, but I’ll have to wait to test it out.
And here’s the Arduino code for my project.