Manufacturing guy-at-large.

In the jar

Added on by Spencer Wright.

When we started The Public Radio, we planned on making it look sleek and functional. My design aesthetic tends towards midcentury modern, and brushed aluminum is kind of the standard bearer for that class of objects. But after an hour or two of talking, we realized that the type of customer that we wanted to appeal to would probably never pay the kind of pricetag we'd need to charge for the product we wanted to build.

Plus: If cuteness allows you to be effective, maybe you should get over yourself and just do it.

So it's a radio in a Mason jar. It's cute, and it allowed us to iterate quickly and inexpensively.

A few months ago, I put an MVP together (an iPod + a simple amp) and threw it in a jar with a speaker. Since then, The Public Radio has been mostly an idea, or at best a breadboarded, hacked-together mess of wire. While cool to the two of us, it hasn't been much to look at - iPhone headphones and all.

Over the past few weeks, I've gotten the lid design & potentiometer figured out. Meanwhile, each of us has been learning about register addresses & trying to strip our firmware of everything unnecessary. So yesterday, after much ado, we finally wired up the switch and speaker to the rest of the ratsnest and got the thing mocked up.

Quickly, then, the goal was to get it into the jar right away. So a bit of protoboard and a little more fiddling, and we were able to squeeze it in.

To backtrack a bit: It's worth noting that our current state - an Arduino Pro Mini and a couple of Sparkfun breakout boards - is a step backwards from where we were a few months ago. If you'll recall, there was a time that we were putting discrete components on our own PCB. But we had a few issues with our circuit design, and regardless we realized that we had aimed too high on our MVP. So we went back to off-the-shelf components and protoboard, with the intention of doing some basic product validation. Which I dare say we're getting close to.

The next step here is to make a few more of these things and start showing them off. I made some revisions to the lid the other day, and Zach has already ordered a new custom PCB (basically a breakout board with a few screw terminals on it) that'll replace the protoboard here.

We'll have three of these, plus a few more speakers & pots, in the next week or so. In the meantime we've been scheming about the next steps: having the lids die cut out of brushed stainless steel; getting rid of the Arduino and building the radio out of a ATtiny + the Si4702 + a class-D amp; world domination, etc. 

It's hard not to get ahead of yourself sometimes, but I prefer to keep my mind at a point where I'm aware of which questions to ask just before I need to ask them :)