Since I was a kid, I have fantasised about a device which has access to a very large music library and can play music endlessly.
In the 60's, it would have been a very large jukebox, capable of handling LP's. All functions would have to be achieved electro-mechanically. Selecting a specific track on an LP and being able to handle different record sizes and speeds automatically would have been a major challenge. It would probably have occupied an entire room! The cost, design and construction of such a machine would have been prohibitive.
In the 70's, the only realistic option was to compile music collections on reel-to-reel or cassette tape. It became common practice to freely share music tapes with friends - long before the Internet. With the rise of CD's, CD jukeboxes became a reality but they still had clumsy mechanics and were prohibitively expensive for normal users.
When the first home computers with sound cards capable of recording to hard disk became available, I began to get excited! It took a while before they got big enough to handle large amounts of music. Finally my dream has come true! I can now play music all day, without ever having to physically handle the media. I don't miss having to tip-toe around so as not to disturb the turntable or watching my guests like a hawk to make sure they don't scratch my records or leave their filthy fingerprints on them!
Now it is easy to create music playlists. Add to that the possibility of automated playlist creation and sophisticated cross-fading between tracks and virtually any home computer can become the ultimate music player. Add a graphics card capable of handling HD video, a CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive and a TV tuner card - you have a versatile smart TV and entertainment system.
Although I have constructed lots of custom electronics for clients over the years, it has been a long time since I have actually made something for myself. It would be kind of cool to make something that will be useful a long way into the future.
This is a running commentary on my attempt to design and build my own entertainment system, a long-term project that will probably never end! It covers physical construction, electronics design and software design. Much of the stuff presented here is highly customised for this project, but hopefully it will be useful to someone out there developing their own entertainment system. Some of this may be regarded as separate projects, which may be useful in other applications. I hope that this will be helpful and inspirational!
For those who care, full schematics are available by clicking on buttons on the appropriate pages. Non technical people may choose to ignore anything that is in a panel like this!