Retro Future Electrics

A page about retro electronics, from the introduction of electricity until 1970-something. We refit old gadgets with new tech, and wonder at the makers who came before us.

Project FlipClock Started


It’s been a while here at RFE, but the next item on the retro future project list is this flipclock. A little newer than my normal projects, I thought it would be fun. So lets have a look at it freshly opened and the radio portion removed



flipclock-5 flipclock-7   flipclock-4

Here are some shots of the case. The radio portion still worked….ish. The auto tracking was bad and it wouldn’t lock to even a strong station on FM, and I couldn’t get a single whisper of a tone on AM at all. The radio design is fairly simple and I’m guessing it’s just some bad caps, but repair isn’t our goal.


flipclock-3 flipclock-2flipclock-6

Some shots of the “Made in Japan” clock mechanism (the radio as a whole was amde in taiwan). The clock still keeps excellent time, I used it for years and I think it gets it’s timing from the 60Hz mains. The clock runs on 120V 60Hz and is stand alone from the radio portion, with the exception of the alarm switch, which had 3 wires going to the radio board. (You can see by the first three photos it had the option for a music wake up)


So what are we going to keep?

  1. The flip clock portion in it’s entirety, if it ain’t broke….
  2. The 8 Ohm speaker
  3. the three switches on the front (rear view below)
  4. The case and knobs
  5. the volume potentiometer. (Seen next to the speaker)


What are we going to add?

  1. A Raspberry Pi Single Board Computer.
    1. Most likely a Pi 2B, as I have a spare one, although these designs would work with any pi)
  2. A Ada-fruit 2.8″ tft LCD display.
  3. An Arduino to monitor the buttons and knobs, since the TFT display takes most of our io, also this frees up the pi’s resources (although not an issue in this design)


Ok, on to physical work! Cutting the plastic was a bit more challenging than I thought, with some of the components getting in the way of a clean install. The hole for the LCD is rather ugly as you can see below; however, we will be able to cover it up with some clever framing. Also I started to test the switches, this old design was analog, and had quite clever wire routing thru the switches, after a little work I was able to discover an open/close pairing for each switch position.



Ok, we’ll get back to the physcial hookup in a bit. Now it’s time to start thinking about code!


For the arduio you’re limited to the Arduino C-like code (well these are just Atmega chips with a nice programmer, but the arduino eco-system is well supported and easy to use). For the rest of the project I considered using Google’s Golang, but decided on python because I’m familiar with it and I don’t think we’ll need any extra power on this device.


To start I wired up the system and simply did a serial.println of all the outputs:

_dsc1040 _dsc1043 _dsc1042

(The screen here just shows the linux boot sequence, but yay screen!)


So now I have the arduio reading the switches and analog volume, it’s time to start the real work of getting the program to do something useful with them!

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