Ferndale (WXYZ) - Tucked back deep in a jumbled corner of a warehouse in Ferndale is an old radio.
It's not just ANY radio. This one has an amazing superpower.
On normal radios when you spin the dial you move from frequency to frequency, station to station, format to format. On this radio you spin the dial and travel through time.
"This is the Chronotune. It is our time traveling radio." Eric Merrill says matter-of-factly, pointing to an old Philco 70 cathedral radio.
Eric is vice president and co-founder of i3 Detroit a group of people in a setting collectively known as a "hacker space." The Ferndale warehouse is stuffed with every kind of tool imaginable. Members pay a small monthly fee to belong and gather frequently to tinker.
The Chronotune is one of their creations, the product of the Red Bull Creation Challenge .
"The competition rules were very vague." Merrill explains. "Just reinvent something from the past and improve upon it. Make it more fun. It had to be bigger than a breadbox and smaller than a box truck."
The radio is actually a reproduction of a classic design from 1931. But the guts are pure 21st Century; a tangle of wires, resistors and flashing LEDs. The radio has a slot for a tiny SD card, allowing the user to preload it with audio clips from any era. The clips are electronically tagged with a year, which allows the radio to access it when the dial is turned to the corresponding date.
The Chronotune earned its inventors from i3 a spot in the Red Bull Challenge finals in New York in July.
"In New York they give us a warehouse, tools and supplies and we get to bring stuff. We have 72 hours to build something and then we'll be judged at the end at a park in New York."
What will the team be instructed to create? Will they beat the other nine teams in the competition? What is future of the Chronotune? Those are answers that perhaps only the Chronotune knows.