Escape To An Alternate Reality Anywhere With Port-A-Vid

There was a time when only the most expensive televisions could boast crystal clear pixels on a wall-mountable thin screen. What used to be novelty from “High Definition Flat Screen Televisions are now just “TV” available everywhere. So as a change of pace from our modern pixel perfection, [Emily Velasco] built the Port-A-Vid as a relic from another timeline.

The centerpiece of any aesthetically focused video project is obviously the screen, and a CRT would be the first choice for a retro theme. Unfortunately, small CRTs have recently become scarce, and a real glass picture tube would not fit within the available space anyhow. Instead, we’re actually looking at a modern LCD sitting behind a big lens to give it an old school appearance.

The lens, harvested from a rear-projection TV, was chosen because it was a good size to replace the dial of a vacuum gauge. This project enclosure started life as a Snap-On Tools MT425 but had become just another piece of broken equipment at a salvage yard. The bottom section, formerly a storage bin for hoses and adapters, is now home to the battery and electronics. All original markings on the hinged storage lid were removed and converted to the Port-A-Vid control panel.

A single press of the big green button triggers a video to play, randomly chosen from a collection of content [Emily] curated to fit with the aesthetic. We may get a clip from an old educational film, or something shot with a composite video camera. If any computer graphics pop up, they will be primitive vector graphics. This is not the place to seek ultra high definition content.

As a final nod to common artifacts of electronics history, [Emily] wrote an user’s manual for the Port-A-Vid. Naturally it’s not a downloadable PDF, but a stack of paper stapled together. Each page written in the style of electronics manuals of yore, treated with the rough look of multiple generation photocopy rumpled with use.

If you have to ask “Why?” it is doubtful any explanation would suffice. This is a trait shared with many other eclectic projects from [Emily]. But if you are delighted by fantastical projects hailing from an imaginary past, [Emily] has also built an ASCII art cartridge for old parallel port printers.

26 thoughts on “Escape To An Alternate Reality Anywhere With Port-A-Vid

  1. Small CRTs ain’t scarce, I find plenty of little round oscilloscope tubes and viewfinders and watchmans on ebay still. But I dig this lens setup, it’s better than just cramming a sad, flat LCD inside a CRT bezel and shrugging at the farce like most projects seem to do.

    1. I had a small CRT from an old oscilloscope. The face was about 10cm across, round, and the tube body was about 30cm deep. There’s a lot to be said for this physical design because it fits in a case that’s clearly portable, rather than needing a vintage Tektronix cart to wheel it around because its old components are so gigantic. Retrofuturism should be better than the stuff we used to have to deal with.

      I also like that she ran the instruction manual through a (thermal) oven to age it. That kind of attention to detail is outstanding.

  2. When you said escape to an alternative reality anywhere I thought you were talking about something like an E-Bong, but this is just as good. I especially like the use of the old 60’s nudist camp footage, good use of Internet Archive. You know come to think of it it you combine the Prot-a-Vid WITH an E-Bong you just might be on to something.

  3. Oh how I know that feeling too well. Take 30 min to an hour and pull out everything that looks useful and put it in a much smaller box then throw the rest out. It’s good to save things to be recycled/reused, but it’s bad to horde.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.