Raspberry Pi Pirate Radio

There’s no doubt that our son is going to be growing up in a digital world. But when access to digital media is so prevalent, it can be difficult to moderate. Our son loves music and we certainly want him to have access to it, but handing over a phone or other device with built-in music or streaming services is out of the question, purely because those devices are used for other things (and can also get easily damaged). Our experience with the young one is that he would listen to a bit of one thing, then keep moving and changing tracks, then ultimately moving into other apps and exploring away. We’re used to having devices that do everything in our pockets, but there’s still something to be said for purpose-built devices that do one thing well.

The Raspberry Pi Pirate Radio is a fun little weekend project that lets us broadcast whatever songs we want (along with podcasts, read-along stories etc) to an analogue radio over an FM frequency. That way we can control the playlist, and little one can pick it up on his analogue Fisher Price radio.

It’s been a great way to put on some of his favourite read-along stories from Nosy Crow, “Here Come the ABC’s” and “Here Come the 1, 2, 3s” from They Might Be Giants as well as some of his storybooks we’ve read aloud and recorded for long car journeys where we’re not able to read books and pilot a vehicle.

The configuration is pretty simple. The folks at Make Magazine have provided an image to download and flash to an SD card, so all that’s left is to add music (and whatever else you like) to the card, put it in your Pi and fire it up!

Due to a lack of access to heat shrink tubing, I made a makeshift aerial by attaching some adhesive copper tape to pin 4 and have run it along my printer – the range is still pretty good and I can always extend it my adding more tape.

What I’d like to do in the future is add an admin interface to let me select playlists – like bedtime and tidy up music, as well as some of the read along stories on demand. But for the moment it works.


I finally got ahold of some heat shrink tubing, but no easy way of securing it within the case. So I also revered the bottom for the top of my Pibow case allowing the new antenna to poke through one of the ventilation holes normally reserved for the bottom of the unit. Pimoroni decal and label also added to add to the asthetic.

Author: Jim Christian

Papa Makes is run by Jim Christian, curriculum developer for FireTech Australia and author of “How to Code in Minecraft” for Dennis Publishing and “How to Think Like a Coder: Without Even Trying!” for Pavilion Books.

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