Relishing in the process of invention

A. Sue Weisler

Carl Salvaggio

Professor Carl Salvaggio and his son, 
Phil, a doctoral student in imaging science, built a digital music player for their car because they could. They programmed 
a Raspberry Pi electronic interface—
a $35 general-purpose computer the 
size of a deck of cards—to play a random selection of their favorite music from a thumb drive. 

For the Salvaggios, making a digital music player had less to do with the 
music than the process of invention. 
After all, they could have hooked up 
their iPods instead.

“I had more fun making them than actually using them,” says Carl Salvaggio, professor in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. “Now they’re just part of what a car ride is. I canceled my Sirius and XM service because I replaced it with this. But most of it was being able to work together. It’s fun to build something. We don’t do that enough anymore.” 

The music player sits in a small box 
n the trunk of his son’s car. A larger 
prototype using a Mac-Mini instead of 
a Raspberry Pi board is in the back of Salvaggio’s car. The original model 
requires a power supply and a fan. 
The Raspberry Pi version streamlines 
the Salvaggios’ idea in a more robust package powered by the car’s ignition.

“We wanted to make a little computer that, when you turn the car on, boots 
up and reads music off a thumb drive,” Salvaggio says. “It scans the thumb drive, finds and randomly orders your music, and then starts playing it. The whole 
idea was to put it in the trunk so you 
don’t have to interact with it at all. 
So you’re not distracted driving.”

They programmed the Raspberry 
Pi to look for a signal coming from an 
old garage door opener to skip to the 
next song. 

“You still have that little bit of a 
distraction from hitting the garage 
door opener, but it’s not like fumbling with your iPod,” Salvaggio says.


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