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Help Hacking A Music-Playing Clock Answered

Hi everybody.
I am interested in hacking/reprogramming this composer clock. As it is now, it plays a different clip of a song by each of the 12 composers on the clock when the clock hits the hour that corresponds to the picture of the composer (for instance, Mozart’s face on the 1 place of the clock, it will play a clip of his music when the hands hit 1 o’clock on the hour).

Here is how it works already.
• There are the 12 clips of music recorded on a board. They are heavily compressed (small files, I guess) and pretty gritty quality, but are definitely audio clips of recordings and not midi or synthesized versions.
• They play back in order, triggered by a mechanical trigger that fires whenever the minute hand passes 12.
• There is a button on the back that will allow you to manually advance the tracks (I think does the same thing as the clock hand trigger), you can use this to help make sure the songs line up with the correct composer when you reset the clock (I think…might be wrong about some of these details.
• There is a little photo sensor at the top of the 12noon position on the clock facing out (see pic). At first I thought this was the trigger, that when the minute hand passed over it, it would block the light and that would be the trigger for the next song. However, that’s not the case, and what this photosensor actually does is control the volume of the clips' playback. That way, if you have the audio function on, it will only be audible when the lights are on. It will play when the lights are off, but is so quiet you can’t hear it. A very clever system!

Here’s what I want:
I want to hack this clock as a present to my wife who is a composer, with the faces of other, female/femme composers and performers that she likes. I want it to play clips of songs by those new composers when their particular hour comes around. -So I want the same exact functionality of the system, just change the songs it plays.

What I have done so far:
• I’ve exposed the board and other components of the playback system (see pics). I had to pry through the plastic casing on the back since there wasn’t away to get to it without destroying the face of the clock, which I already converted to the new composers.
• I tried to identify the components and learn about how the system works and took pics (below).
• I did a cursory search for the pcb board with the markings “DLT356 REV:S1” for info but haven’t had much luck.

What I know:
• I’m ok with soldering and construction, I know a bit of C, Arduino, Processing and am really interested in learning more about physical computing.

What I need to know:
• Can I access the microprocessor with the audio clips on it and figure out some way to swap them out with other clips? I like all the other functions of this system (the minute hand trigger, the photosensor volume control, the override button).
• If not and if I need to build a new playback system, and suggestions for chips and programming language/mechanism to get started with?
• Any leads would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!


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1 year ago

I highly doubt the chips can be reprogrammed.
Problably a very similar system to those used on musical post cards and such.
The best approach might be to make a nice wooden clock face to hold the new images and hardware.
You got the basic hardware from the clock mechanism with switches and sensor.
You also guessed right about the advance function - it uses the same trigger as the clock hand so if it is stuffed up you can align both again.
Since the audio quality would always be crappy it makes sense to only use the bare hardware and a microprosser for your own songs and possible additions.
I know at least for the Arduino you can can MP3 modules to make own little player.
The libraries are easy to implement so that a bit of custom code plays 12 or 24 for songs in a cycling order when the clock hand trigger activates it.
The additional advance switch is just wired to the same input.
The photo sensor can be mapped with two values to indicate low and high levels to keep the module off by overriding the clock hand switch when dark.
As there is now already a custom microcontroller it is quite easy to consider using two or alternating images for a 24H clock.
Or to just add a little LED for each pic so it is illuminated from behind when a song is played.
And since it is no problem to intergrate a SD card it might be nice to have a collection of songs for every artist so every day a different song is played on the corresponding hour.
You could also add a little LCD scroll display to show additional info about the song or artist ;)