Stepper Directed HDTV Antenna


Broadcast TV has come a long way from adjusting the rabbit ears on top of the set just to get a fuzzy black and white picture. While nowadays there are often HD signals broadcast in most areas, it can often still be critical to redirect an antenna to get the best possible signal. By harvesting a stepper motor from an old 5 1/2″ floppy drive, and using a PC’s parallel port to control it, this adjustment can be handled automatically. Broadcast tower locations are easily found online, and once you have calibrated your stepper to face North, you are on your way to free HDTV reception.

What we would like to see is this antenna attached to a HTPC, and some kind of script to automatically direct the antenna for the best possible signal for the current channel. If anyone out there makes this happen, be sure to let us know.

22 thoughts on “Stepper Directed HDTV Antenna

  1. The display in the picture looks suspiciously like an old Commodore 64 monitor. Those things can’t do HD. They can barely manage PAL.

    Also, thumbs-down for [click to next page] yet another [click to next page] Instructables article with [click to next page] scant information.

  2. Get a real antenna and a rotor.

    A DIY Gray-Hooverman UHF design (I have a 30″ x 75″ screened, dual bay design), antenna rotor and preamp will solve any reception problem.

  3. Although a PC is generally overkill (obviously).. I suppose if an old PC with printer port happens to be there, not too shabby. We don’t see a lot of poeple using their PC serial or parallel ports (since they are dying out) and most people use an arduino now..

    Now port the code and cable over to the C64, and use an IR blaster to control it. :-)

  4. I had to look twice. Wow, it made hackaday! Thank you Hackaday! Honored, humbled, and unexpected, The project as shown is unfinished. My camera died and the end of the project or you would have seen a bit more. Version 2 is coming after some time off for a while. I have already made the scripts. I gave people just enough to experiment on their own. The add-on was intended for a computer based dvr i.e. Mythtv so, I do not fee it is overkill. Certainly with a micro-controller you could do some awesome things too.

  5. i have a few old steam driven (pre P2) laptops :-)

    Only problem is that the equally steam driven <6GB IDE HDDs are made of unobtainium.

    (yes i know you can buy CF-IDE adaptors but most cheap CF cards do not boot!!!)

    Its bad enough now that when I see an old clunker which is headed to the trash I rip out the hard disk and zerofill it just so it can be recycled.

    Little tip, some old laser printers and photocopiers used 2.5" drives so sometimes you can scavenge them and then nuke the drive(s) from orbit.

  6. here in holland ned we dont have that systeem we use
    dbv over the air setupbox and antene you get for free you can pik it up to your local store you only go pay when you put in the smartcard

  7. What would you guys recommend as a good HD antenna? I don’t live in the boonies so no need for crazy amplification.

    I am able to pick up our two local HD channels with just a stripped coax cable, but I was wondering how to better the analog channels.

  8. @Polaczek — Two words (names, actually): “Yagi-Uda”. I live in the boonies outside of Denver, and I get a bunch of digital stations, including a bunch 180 degrees opposite from the director elements.

  9. Funny. I just made the UI for this project yesterday. I did it to learn how to use html5 Server Sent Events and SVG.

    just click on the on the direction to point the antenna and watch it spin to that position.

    It’s not connected to an actual antenna right now so feel free to play with it (until i take it down)

    works in safari and chrome.

  10. I’ve always been a skeptic about paying for HD. I was finally able to dump my OTA antenna once my employer, DISH Network, launched the HD Free for Life promotion. No more eye sores behind my TV!! Definitely check out it out at

  11. Stepper motors in the proper hands can be a lot more accurate than people are led to believe otherwise. I do agree that using some kind of antenna where the signal can be evaluated could be better. but then all you have to do it once and update your data file so next time there is no issue. I am working on a chip combination to let a usb-parallel cable do signal control. In any case, there are enough usb adapters for doing what the parallel/serial port do, extinction of those ports will not hurt. Connecting to the pc or the micro-controller is basically the same. If you are using a pc as the dvr, then using a micro-controller is redundant. The HD free promotion is just a gag. Since everything will be hd anyway. Why would you start paying for cable or dish for what you are getting for free now???????????
    Someone is trying to sell ice cubes to eskimos.

  12. Yes that is a Commodore Monitor. Still works after all these years. (Hope I do not jinx it.) A s-video cable works perfectly with the rear input of the monitor (chroma/luma split?), I have a large screen analog tv. s-video > composite > vcr (as a modulator> TV could be an interesting combination. Make it last!!! We ignore the industry that says we should chunk that old stuff.Could become part of a crude oscilloscope in a worst case scenario,

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