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Time Machine Basics

The Time Machine is best described this way:

1) Dial in a date with the "Month", "Day", and "Year" knobs,

2) press "play"

3) enjoy show!

It's a bit more complicated of course: there are also "rewind", "ffwd", "stop" and "select" buttons.

See this old video for a demonstration of an early prototype Time Machine. The current Time Machine looks a lot different, but the usage has not changed a whole lot.

If there is no show on the currently staged date, you will see that there is no venue, and pressing play won't do anything.

You can navigate to the "next show" from whatever date is currently selected by pressing the Day knob. (The knobs are also buttons, and can be pressed).

You can go to "Today in history" by pressing the Year knob. Pressing the Year knob repeatedly will cycle through ALL of the "today in history" days where there ARE shows.

Another important feature is the "set break", a 10-minute silence between set 1 and set 2. You can skip it if you want, but I have found it to be the right "song" to play at that time. I don't think the band takes a break because they are too tired to continue playing. I think they do it to give you a moment to enjoy the mood that they created with set 1. And they're giving you time to settle down and be ready for set 2 to begin.


The Time Machine streams music from the archive 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. 


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's Grateful Dead collection on the staged date, then the screen will show the venue, city, and state (if known), the artist, and the tape id. Selecting the date (press the "select" button) will play the "best" tape from that date, according to a scoring algorithm that considers the number of downloads, the taper name, the number of tracks with song names, and other things. It 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 still listening to the selected date.

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

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.

Gapless playback

We can’t have glitchy interruptions between tracks. Nothing shakes you out of your groove like a pause right in the middle of a Scarlet > Fire or China > Rider. 

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 staged date. So, every tape from the archive is available. Thank you, tapers!

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.

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 Time Macnine 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 listening history

This means a few things, though. Like, do you want to see your listening 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 path is for your steps alone. There are some great resources out there for this. Check out Cornell ‘77 (1977-05-08)? Happy listening!

Open Source

Of course.


We think that "Operability while tripping" could be an ISO standard for user interfaces. Standards organizations could pay people to consume a moderate dose of mushrooms and try to use new computer program interfaces. If 9 out of 10 people can accomplish the task using the interface, then it could be OWT certified.

OWT certification would tell you, as a consumer, that this product is easy to use.

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