Grateful Dead

Time Machine

Features of the Time Machine

The Grateful Dead Time Machine is designed to take the listener back in time to a Grateful Dead experience in the past. Although it operates on digital data using a computer, it’s purpose is to conjure up spirits. As such it will do, and not do, many things that seem unusual to users of digital devices.

The music comes from the Grateful Dead collection on archive.org. This project is an homage to all the tapers and collectors and database managers who made and assembled these tapes over the decades, and uploaded them onto the archive. It is my hope that this box is a fruition of the dream that they collectively worked toward.

While we won’t come between you and your Grateful Dead experience, we will make one plea right now: Please Donate To Archive.org. You know it’s the right thing to do, so let’s leave it at that.


The Basics


The Time Machine streams music from archive.org to an audio (either headphone jack or HDMI) output. The Time Machine must be connected to Wifi, so when you turn it on for the first time, it will prompt you to select your wifi and enter the password. This will only happen the first time you power it up in a new place.


Once the Time Machine is connected to Wifi, it will run the main program. Basically, select a date with "Month", "Day", and "Year" knobs and press play to hear the tape from that date. Or you can press and hold the "Play/Pause" button for 10 seconds and it will select a date at random, and start playing it.


For the Grateful Dead collection, you can stage any date between 1966 and 1995 using the Month, Day, and Year knobs. If there is a tape from archive.org's Grateful Dead collection on the staged date, then the screen will show the venue, city, and state (if known) or the tape id. Selecting the date (press the "select" button) will play the best tape from that date, according to a scoring algorithm that seems to work.


The screen also shows the name of the first 2 tracks and the "selected date" in a smaller font. Having a "staged date" and a "selected date" allows you to stage another tape while listening to the selected date.


The "play/pause", "fast fwd", "rewind", "stop" buttons do what you would expect.


There are some handy features like "Today In History". Pressing the "Year" knob (the knobs are also buttons) will stage the current month and day for the staged year. For example, if the staged date is 7/2/1980, and the current date is 9/29/2021, then pressing the "Year" button will set the staged date to 9/29/1980, or "today in history, 1980". There may not be a tape for that date. But pressing the "year" knob again will move you to the next year where there was a show on 9/29. Pressing "year" repeatedly will cycle through all of the 9/29's on which there is a tape. I think of the "Today In History" feature as "play a random show that I haven't heard in a while".


Another handy feature is the "next show" feature: pressing the "day" button will move the staged date forward to the next date on which there was a tape.


See Operating Instructions for more features and for details about what each of the knobs and buttons do.

Operable while tripping

We are often faced with 45-button remote controls, and multi-level menus of options to navigate. This can be ok in everyday life, but when you transport to the spiritual dimension of the Grateful Dead show, or when you are tripping, menus and buttons are the last thing you can deal with.

The Time Machine needs to be controlled with knobs, a few buttons, and intuition. And if it doesn’t do exactly what you want, maybe it will do something that you need anyway.

See this demonstration video to see the features of the time machine.

Gapless playback

We can’t have glitchy interruptions between tracks. This is a technical challenge which is not _completely_ solved yet, but it’s definitely high on the agenda.

Set breaks

Even with gapless playback, one thing that doesn’t quite work with the D*’s picks CD’s is that after set 1, Bobby announces “We’re going to take a short break and you can too”. Then 2 seconds later they launch into the second set.

As a listener, if you are getting into the spirit of the show, you are not ready for that energy yet. So, I add a 10 minute silence (which could be crowd noises, or a mixture of audio submissions from deadheads) between sets.

Every Tape is Findable

The time machine automatically chooses what it estimates to be the “best” tape of a given show. But by pressing and holding the “select” button, you can select any tape from the stages date. So, every tape from the archive is available. If you are a taper, thank you!

Experience Mode

If you were at the show, you wouldn’t know what the next song was going to be. You might just have to wait for El Paso to come around to go to the bathroom, because there was no pause button. By pressing the “month” knob, the time machine can take you there. Press “month” again to regain the illusion of control.

“On Tour” Mode

When in “On Tour” mode, the user chooses a year with the Year Knob, and then waits for the show to begin! Once it begins,you remain in “Experience Mode” until the show ends, or you leave the tour.

start time

Since we don’t know the exact starting time of the shows, for now anyway, the show will start at a random time after the nominal start time (if we know that) or 8:00 pm (in your local time zone). We could play crowd noise during the pre-show interval.

The random interval must depend only on the date, so that all On Tour listeners sharing the same year will have the show start at the same time.

interrupting what you are listening to

You can listen to other stuff while on tour, but when the show comes on, whatever you are listening to fades out 10 minutes before the start of the show.

No user tracking

The thing that led me to the Grateful Dead was that creepy feeling that Spotify is tracking me. Now, I use spotify and YouTube like anybody else. But there is something that feels strange about the fact that they are analyzing my listening habits.

The Deadstream does not keep track of your listening. We want your connection with the music to be as direct as possible. We love the music, you love the music, so yeah, we’re connected. But we’re not going to come between you and the music, and we don’t want you to feel that we are.

No song history

This means a few things, though. Like, do you want to see your song history? Sorry, we aren’t going to help you with that.

No Recommendations

Similarly, since we don’t track you, we aren’t going to make recommendations of shows for you to listen to. This is your own journey. There are some great resources out there for this. Have you heard Cornell ‘77 (1977-05-08)? Good luck!

Favorites, but not backed up to the cloud.

I’d like to have a favorites feature. But that would be completely local to your box. This will not be shared with us, and if your machine dies or you get a new one, your favorites will be lost.

Open Source

Of course.

Build Your Own

See build your own.