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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...

  • 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...

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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.

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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.

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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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