The Device from Another Planet - Make: Community
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The Device from Another Planet

By Bill Ball

A 1950s radio signal generator converted to a classic sci-fi movie inspired plaything.

Type: Artistic


State: NY
Country: United States
Affiliation: Makerspace - Rochester Makerspace

What inspired you or what is the idea that got you started?

I watched all the old science fiction movies from the 1920s-1970s when I was growing up. I found this radio signal generator in a surplus shop and it reminded me of a prop you see in the classic B movies from the 50s and 60s. So I decided to make it work like it would have if the sci-fi was true.

What is your project about and how does it work?

It's really a big pick-and-pull toy. In other words, you flip the switches and turn the knobs and things happen--lights light, sound effects play, spooky monsters and aliens appear, dials jump. It uses 2 Raspberry Pi's for the videos, 2 Arduinos for the lighting effects, and a sound player card for the audio. It's about play and having fun, nothing more or less.

What did you learn by doing this project?

I learned that equipment built-in 1958 to be used and serviced by 18-year-olds on military installations and ships is _really_ sturdy. However, it is not quite sturdy enough to hold up to a weekend of free-for-all-access by kids at Maker Faires. Plus, no one over 12 can find the hidden peephole.

What impact does your project have on others as well as yourself?

It makes people happy and gets them excited about the possibilities of participating in a past that never was.