In the United States, analog TV broadcasting officially ended in 2009. While the transition wasn’t without hiccups, we did lose something along the way. For [Emily Velasco], she misses the channels between channels — where an analog TV isn’t quite tuned right and the image is smeared and distorted. A recent bug in one of her projects led to her trying to recreate the experience of the in-between on a CRT.
One of [Emily]’s other projects involved generating composite video signals from an ESP32 microcontroller. While experimenting with adding color to the output signal, the image came out incredibly scrambled. She had made an error in the stride, which smeared the image across the screen. This immediately brought back memories of old analog TV sets. A quick potentiometer allowed her to control the stride error and she wrote some code to break the GIF up into discrete bitmaps for display since the GFX library handles GIFs differently than static images. Next up was vertical hold, which was accomplished by shifting the Y coordinates. With some help from [Roger], there was now a handy GIF library that would draw GIFs line by line with the composite video effects.
In a time when multi-channel digital TV is the norm it’s a surprise to find that a few low-power analog stations are still clinging on in some American cities. These are sometimes fill-in stations for weak signal areas, or more usually the so-called “FrankenFM” stations who transmit static images or digital patterns and derive income from their sound channel lying at the bottom end of the FM band to form unintended radio stations. Their days are numbered though, because the FCC is requiring that they be turned off by July 13th. There’s a way forward for the broadcasters to upgrade to low-power digital, but as you might expect they’re more interested in retaining the FrankenFM frequency from which they derive income.
The industry is represented by the LPTV coalition, who have requested permission to retain their FM frequency alongside their digital service. This has faced stiff opposition from other broadcasters, who see the very existence of the FrankenFM stations as a flagrant flouting of the rules that shouldn’t be rewarded. The FCC have yet to make a ruling, so there remains a slim chance that they may win a reprieve.
The sad tale of the few lingering analog TV stations in the USA is a last flickering ember of a once-huge industry that has been eclipsed without anyone but a few vintage technology geeks noticing, such has been the success of digital broadcasting. But analog TV is a fascinating and surprisingly intricate system whose passing however faint is worth marking.
Analogue TV is something that most of us consider to have been consigned to the history books about a decade ago depending on where in the world we are, as stations made the transition to much more power and frequency efficient digital multiplexes. However some of them still cling on for North American viewers, and [Antenna Man] took a trip to Upstate New York in search of some of them before their final switch-off date later this year.
What he reveals can be seen in the video below the break, an odd world of a few relatively low-power analogue TV stations still serving tiny audiences, as well as stations that only exist because their sound carrier can be picked up at the bottom of the FM dial. These stations transmit patterns or static photographs, with their income derived from the sound channel’s position as an FM radio station. While his journey is an entertaining glimpse into snowy-picture nostalgia it does also touch on some other aspects of the aftermath of analogue TV boradcasting. The so-called “FrankenFM” stations sound much quieter, we’re guessing because of the lower sound carrier deviation of the CCIR System M TV spec compared to regular FM radio. And we’re told that there are more stations remaining in Canada, so get out there if you still want to see an analogue picture before they’re gone forever. Where this is being written the switch to DVB was completed in 2013, and it’s still a source of regret that we didn’t stay up to see the final closedown.
Does your country still have an analogue TV service? Tell us in the comments.
Those little pocket TVs were quite the cool gadget back in the ’80s and ’90s, but today they’re pretty much useless at least for their intended purpose of watching analog television. (If someone is out there making tiny digital-to-analog converter boxes for these things, please let us know.)
Our favorite part of this project is the way that [technichenews] leveraged what is arguably the most useless part of the TV — the antenna — into the star. Their plan is to use the camera to peer into small engines, so by mounting it on the end of the antenna, it will become a telescoping, ball-jointed, all-seeing eye. You can inspect the build video after the break.
With the Raspberry Pi and a digital modulator, he’s got the only house on the block that’s wired to show The Simpsons all day. He has absolutely no control over which episode plays next, he can’t pause it, and its in presented in standard definition (a nightmare for anyone who grew up in the Netflix era) but a familiar viewing experience for the rest of us.
The key to this project is the Channel Plus Model 3025 modulator. It takes the feed from the antenna and mixes in two composite video sources on user-defined channels. All [probnot] had to do was find a channel that wouldn’t interfere with any of the over-the-air stations. The modulator has been spliced into the house’s coax wiring, so any TV connected to the wall can get in on the action. There’s no special setup required: when he wants to watch The Simpsons he just tunes the nearest TV to the appropriate channel.
Providing the video for the modulator is a Raspberry Pi, specifically, the original model that featured composite video output. While the first generation Pi is a bit long in the tooth these days, playing standard definition video is certainly within its capabilities. With a USB flash drive filled with a few hundred episodes and a bit of scripting it’s able to deliver a never-ending stream direct from Springfield. There’s still that second channel available on the modulator as well, which we’re thinking could be perfect for Seinfeld or maybe The X-Files.
Do you still have an old analog CRT television lying around? With the advent of digital signals, analog TV´s are going to the dumpster or the recycling center. But you can still put them to good use, just as [GreatScott!] did, by converting the TV into a crude oscilloscope.
The trick is to take control of the two deflection coils that move the electron beam inside the CRT in the horizontal and vertical directions. The video describes in detail the process of identifying the coils and using an Arduino nano in combination with a DAC to amplify the input signal in order to get the waveform in the TV screen. Step by step explanations and great editing make this project delightful to watch.
Even if you do not follow [GreatScott!]´s steps to build a simple oscilloscope, don´t throw away that vintage TV!, it is a great source of analog parts. The flyback transformer can be used to make a high voltage power supply, and you also get some nice high voltage capacitors (both electrolytic and mylar ones), the horizontal output transistor which is a high voltage one, ferrite transformers, magnet wire, plus a lot of other small parts. Other uses for old TV sets that you may want to try is to convert your TV into a gaming console, or an audio synthesizer controlled by drawing with a light-sensitive pen on a CRT television.
Bees are a crucial part of the ecosystem – without bees to act as pollinators, many plant species wouldn’t be able to reproduce at all! It’s unfortunate then that bees are struggling to survive in many parts of the world. However, [Louise Cosgrove] is doing her part – building homes for bees in old television sets.
The project started when Louise’s son-in-law left 100 (!) analog TVs at her home, having already recycled the picture tubes. That sounds kind of impolite to us, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they had some sort of agreement. [Louise] realised the empty television cases had plenty of ventilation and would make ideal homes for bees. By filling the empty boxes with natural materials like wood, bamboo and bark, it creates nesting places that the bees can use to lay their eggs.