Sears Silvertone Audible Digital Dice Tower

Tabletop dice tower in a retro Sears Silvertone radio case with voice output

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Tabletop digital dice rolling device with voice output. It is packaged in a vintage Sears Silvertone radio case for a retro look. The original volume and power knob works as originally intended. The tuning knob is re-purposed using a small 5 axis switch to select dice count, dice type, and initiate a roll.

Recently I posted video of my 1979 Heathkit Digital Dice Tower to a group of fellow tabletop RPG gamers on another social media site. Someone replied to the posting, "My blind wife would love this. A real shame they don't make anything like this more compact."

I had already thought of building a voice only version without the display. I was impressed with the quality of the voice that my Heathkit dice tower produced. But, I hadn't considered how much someone who is visually impaired would really appreciate something that generates randomized dice results and reports the results audibly. I was immediately inspired and committed to building an audible dice tower for a fellow D&D'er.

So, I re-thought the requirements of the original digital dice towers and came up with this list.

  • Visual display not required
  • Must provide audible output of the "dice roll" results
  • The interface should be simple to use with decent tactile and possibly audible feedback
  • The device should be battery powered. Plug in cords are cumbersome
  • The case should be easy to transport or hold and shouldn't have sharp edges or corners common with sheet metal enclosures
  • Could be handheld or tabletop depending on user preference
  • Tabletop model should minimize footprint
  • Handheld model should be easy to hold in one hand and operate with the other
  • It must be cool. If you play D&D or other tabletop RPG's, you'll know that everyone loves to have their own unique dice. There's a number of companies and individuals making all kinds of colorful dice. The options are colorful, unique, elegant, classic, brilliant, shiny, and/or sparkly. This should be no different

This project documents my first effort to make an audible only dice tower. For this one, I decided on a tabletop design. For cool factor, it re-uses the case from a 60's-70's Sears Silvertone radio. 

It will re-use a simple interface I built in a previous project not documented here on Hackaday. A single 5 way "joystick like" switch is used for all input. Pushing left-right on the stick will select the dice type. Pushing forward-back on the stick will select the dice count. And, pressing straight down on the stick will roll the dice and report the result.

Here's a video of it in action as it exists today.

It's time to start building, look for my update logs in the near future...

  • Yet another audible dice tower

    John Anderson06/28/2022 at 08:02 0 comments

    Here's yet another audible dice tower I built by request for a vision impaired gamer. This one is built using the case and original speaker for a Heathkit HD-16 code oscillator. The HD-16 was available as a kit in the late 60's and early seventies. It was used by HAM radio operators to practice morse code.

  • Admiral Digital Dice Tower...

    John Anderson07/03/2020 at 12:17 0 comments

    I built another audible digital dice tower in an old Admiral tabletop AM radio case. This one has no display like the original version of the tower. I like the simplicity of the towers without the display.

  • More Sears Silvertone Digital Dice Towers...

    John Anderson05/26/2020 at 08:46 0 comments

    I've been rather busy lately wrapping up one paying gig and starting another. However, I did find enough time the past few weeks to finish up a couple more dice towers based on 70's Sears radios. These add the display I demonstrated on the dice tower in the instrument enclosure a little while back. I fixed a problem with noise from the LED matrix interfering with the audio output. Adding some decoupling capacitors in a few strategic places (power and ground pins on the processor for instance) helped a lot. You'll notice that the display and the audio are no longer exclusive like the previous version.

    I couldn't find those 7 segment LED panel mount bezels anywhere. You used to be able to buy those anywhere. I had to buy a couple cheap panel mount volt meters and steal the bezels to get these. You can buy those meters for about as cheap as the bezels were alone. So, I guess it's not a big deal.

  • Audible Dice Tower with Display

    John Anderson04/03/2020 at 06:22 0 comments

    I have another Sears Silvertone radio case like the original one I built here. So, I'm going to build another audible digital dice tower with it. In the meantime, I got a request to add a display of some sort so it's possible to for a sighted person to confirm the roll results since the voice quality isn't perfect. So, I decided to build a tower using a slightly smaller case that simplifies the layout of the components. This way I could focus on the software updates to make these new features work and hardware changes would be easier.

    So I built this little tower using a little sheet metal enclosure you can buy off Amazon or Ebay. It's powered by a single 9v battery, has a 3 digit 7 segment LED display, on/off volume combo switch/potentiometer, and uses the same 5 way joystick style switch to select the dice type, dice count, and initiate a roll. 

    While I updated the software adding the display, I also added power management to put the CPU in extended standby mode between user input and roll events. I also tweaked the voice algorithm to re-use the "D" sound and the ones digits 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9. For example, the device says "four dee" instead of "fourty". The result is almost indiscernible to the ear. This saved enough room to fit the rolling sound and the word "hundred" into the flash memory.

    If there is any interest, I'll post the source code and some more notes on the components.

  • Making progress...

    John Anderson02/29/2020 at 23:40 0 comments

    The dice tower is mechanically and electrically complete now. I also developed the initial version of the firmware to test out how much sound I can pack into the little ATmega328 flash and if the voice can be understood consistently.

    I am happy with the result so far. Here's a quick video demonstrating it.

    There's a little more work to do trying to get all the audio packed into the flash that I would like. I got a few tricks I'd like to try. I also need to add some power management to the code so it will last a while on batteries. Look for another update in the next week or two.

  • Build, build, build!

    John Anderson02/20/2020 at 07:28 0 comments

    Got busy building and didn't leave much time for an update. Here's a bunch a pictures and a few words about progress...

    Here's everything inside the case. The radio, antenna, and transformer must go. Keeping the speaker and potentiometer(sp?) with on/off switch.

    Making more room for new stuff.

    Removed the rest of the parts, speaker grill, and lower faceplate. Painted the front panel with some silver spray paint, painted the radio dial sight glass solid blue with a silver glitter (accidental over spray, left it because it looked cool), reassembled it all.

    Sparkly blue where the radio tuning indicator used to be. New five way joystick like switch where the tuning knob used to be.

    Close up of the 5 way switch before it was soldered to the protoboard.

    5 way switched mounted to the radio front panel where the tuning knob used to be. I used some hot glue and nylon cable clip to keep it in place.

    Installed an electric guitar style 9v battery holder in the base of the case.

    Controller board with ATmega328, voltage regulator to run off 9v battery, audio filter, audio amp, ISP connector for programming, and connector for 5 way switch all soldered up.

    Roughly where everything will reside in the case.

    Now it's time to start coding...

View all 6 project logs

Enjoy this project?



Dan Maloney wrote 02/19/2020 at 17:06 point

I like that radio. Given the styles in the era, I wonder if the color of the case is intentional, or if that's the "yellowing plastic" problem. If so, maybe Retrobright would help. Not that it needs it, of course - looks fine the way it is. Just curious.

Nice job, and great backstory. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

John Anderson wrote 02/19/2020 at 18:59 point

It's funny you mention that. I researched the Retrobright process this past weekend for this project. I even plotted out the route to the closest Sally Beauty Supply to purchase some Salon Care Cream 40. But after disassembling the case, I discovered it's original color wasn't really white. It was more of an egg shell or cream color. I decided to just clean it up, paint the inner plastic piece that frames the speaker mesh, and leave the outer case the original UV yellowed egg shell/cream patina. You'll see pics in the log I post today.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Dan Maloney wrote 02/21/2020 at 18:51 point

I used to work in a TV repair shop, and some of the used TVs we took in trade came from houses where people had smoked for years. One of my jobs was to get those ready to resell, and I can remember the sickly yellow-green sludge that would drip off the TVs as I sprayed on the cleaner.

I'm glad that's not why this radio is that color.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Ken Yap wrote 02/18/2020 at 12:08 point

Another dice machine? You like taking a lot of chances, don't you? 😉

Me, I like building clocks. I like to have a lot of time. 😉

PS: Nice going.

  Are you sure? yes | no

John Anderson wrote 02/18/2020 at 18:02 point

LOL. This one was inspired by a fellow gamer that saw a video of my last device with voice. He commented that he "wished someone made one smaller and battery powered" so his wife, who is vision impaired, wouldn't have to rely on others to read her dice. I contacted him and started building this one. I also bought an old handheld AM radio to use as a case for yet another voice only digital dice tower. She's interested in that one. I'll send it to her when it's finished.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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