E.T. Communicator (Phone Home)

An attempt at recreating a "vintage" E.T. Communicator from the 1982 movie.

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The key here is Vintage! We are attempting to recreate the "E.T. Beacon" from the original 1982 Spielberg movie, using only parts that were available in the early 1980s (no Arduinos here).

At this point we've acquired almost all of the parts (some of them terribly authentic), except for the critical [UHF Tuner] we need as a frequency multiplier. It's been quite a pain-in-the-speak-and-spell finding this sucker at a decent price (or at all). Only a week left...let's see what happens while we work on the other half. one is loaded with several ingenious hacks from the 70s/80s era.

The original model was created by [Henry R. Feinberg] of Bell Labs specifically for the movie.  It was built with the intent that it would be worthy of conversation between gurus; after toying with microwave ovens and non-portable devices, Feinberg came up with exactly what you see in the film...a disc with a recording, a translator, and a long-range transmitter.  According to E.T. lore this was in the form of a saw blade, Speak and Spell, and an umbrella...with a few critical details in between.

This may be one of the Godfathers of hacks.  It's not common to see such physical, working, plausible models in movies these days; a device that actually works is horribly rare since the advent of 3D animation (because you can fake it).

We'll see how accurate this build is, and whether or not E.T. could have actually texted his buddies with a homebrew device.

  • 1 × Circa 1970's Speak & Spell! We recently grabbed a late 1970s model that is more functional than the (pictured) 1980s model we previously snagged off eBay.
  • 1 × Record Player We found the original Sears solid-state model from the movie for ($17) on eBay
  • 1 × Children's walkie talkies We found 1983 "Sky Talker" (27Mhz?) walkie talkies by Fisher Price ($5) on eBay
  • 1 × UHF Tuner Still hunting this one down ... problems here.
  • 1 × 10" 24-tooth Circular Saw Blade Could not find an older blade without expansion slots or carbide tips. (Found at Home Depot)

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  • Too Late!

    supershwa04/30/2014 at 14:08 0 comments

    Unfortunately, we were unable to meet the deadline of the Sci-Fi Contest; we refilled our oxygen tank, but we're actually still waiting on a UHF tuner.  Hopefully, HaD will have a Sci-Fi-Contest v2 that we can put this under, but otherwise, we'll keep the details posted here as we finish up.  Best of luck to everyone else who entered!  We saw some cool projects on, and look forward to the results!

  • Walkie-Talkie

    supershwa04/27/2014 at 11:23 0 comments

    We did this a few days ago...the walkie-talkie...a simple component with a twist. long hook-up wire to the speaker and a coaxial cable in lieu of the antenna.

  • Murphy Sucks...

    supershwa04/27/2014 at 10:33 0 comments

    I want to kick that Murphy guy squah in the nahts...

    We ran out of oxygen in the oxy-acetylene torch (while trying to remove the carbide tips on the sawblade and to bend the butter knife) and other issues have presented themselves changing out the new makeshift record player spindle. of old spindle with freshly bored hole.)

    The "new" spindle is [long enough, but] too thin, causing the platter to tilt ... we're working on a fix (without a 3D printer or CNC).  It would be nice to have exact-sized sleeve bearings, but it may just turn into papier mâché soaked in 3-in-1 if we can't find something feasible in the garage.  There could be some copper tubing hiding in a corner that might suffice....

    WTF Murphy?  We're only modding collectibles from the 1980's...sheesh.

  • A Working Speak and Spell!

    supershwa04/24/2014 at 21:15 0 comments

    After exchanging parts between a Version 1 and a Version 2 Speak and Spell, we were finally able to get one of them working!

  • "He's putting it together now; I told you he was smart." - Elliot

    supershwa04/22/2014 at 08:49 0 comments

    After hunting down a lot of parts, we're beginning to assemble this Rube Goldberg radio.  It seems there were a few details left out of the old magazine article and our other references, but this project is all about improvisation, engineering, creativity...or hacking, really.

    Supershwa (finally) found a 24-tooth 10" sawblade at Home Depot that will store our "message"; this means we transmit only 24 characters in a loop through the Speak & Spell.  We could have used a saw blade with more teeth, but as it turns out, hunting down an old-fashioned, basic saw blade is really hard to do these days.  Now, we have a ton of varieties in the number of teeth, grain, body and expansion slots, gullets, shoulders and carbide tips ... all variables that have created issues in hunting down an appropriate blade.

    For example:  the fork in the ratchet system seems to be catching on the small carbide tips of our chosen blade when retracting (pushing the saw blade backwards).  We may have to try tearing these off using pliers and an oxy-acetylene torch since they're welded to the tips.  We're glad it's only a $12 blade, because we're about to void another warranty in addition to our defilement of vintage memorabilia.

    Schtuben is working with duct-tape and aluminum foil, attaching it to the golf umbrella in a manner that allows us to open/close it when needed (we do not have enough space for an always-open umbrella in the man cave).

    We're also going to check with some elderly neighbors regarding the 70's/80's-era UHF tuner we have yet to acquire...we are hoping to find something in the depths of their attics or basements...cross your fingers for us; this has been the most difficult part to hunt down.

    We found another (older) Speak and Spell with raised buttons instead of the membrane keyboard model we previously scavenged (the new one is just like the movie).  To top it off, we also found a small bundle of ancient 1930's-1950's wooden coat hangars we're about to drill holes in.

    Somewhere out there, an antique collector is about to go postal on us.

  • In Theory...

    supershwa04/14/2014 at 05:22 0 comments

    Here's the jist of it:[73_1983.jpg]
    The challenge will be in making this (somewhat) work as a makeshift ham radio.  It is all very doable in principle, but we expect difficulties with the UHF tuner (we have yet to find an appropriate model.)

  • Parts Arriving!

    supershwa04/13/2014 at 15:59 0 comments

    Various parts we ordered on eBay are beginning to show up.  On Wednesday, the record player arrived; yesterday our Fisher Price Sky Talker walkie-talkies.  All of these items smell like the mildew of the ages...we're nailing "vintage" right on the head.

    Today, I'm taking a trip to Walgreens to pick up bobby pins.  I know this will raise an eyebrow or two at the counter, but at least it's not tampons, right?

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Eric Evenchick wrote 04/09/2014 at 17:40 point
I really like the spirit of this build. It's pretty cool that you're using vintage tech. Looking forward to seeing what hacks you need to pull it off, should be an interesting write up.

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