Build Your Own CRT TV

There was a time following the Second World War when TV sets for the nascent broadcast medium were still very expensive, but there was an ample supply of war-surplus electronic parts including ex-radar CRTs. Thus it wasn’t uncommon at all for electronics enthusiasts of the day to build their own TV set, and magazines would publish designs to enable them. With a burgeoning consumer electronics industry the price of a new TV quickly dropped to the point of affordability so nobody would consider building one themselves today. Perhaps that should be amended to almost nobody, because [Retro Tech or Die] has assembled a small black-and-white CRT TV from a kit he found on AliExpress.

We have to admit to having seen the same kit and despite a sincere love for analogue telly, to have balked at the price. It’s an exceptionally cheap set of the type that was available from discount stores for a laughably low price around the final few years of mainstream analogue TV broadcasting, and having a couple in the stable we can confirm that the value here lies in building the thing rather than owning it.

The unboxing and building proceeds as you might expect, with the addition of very poor documentation and extremely low-quality parts. Satisfyingly it works on first power-up, though some adjustment and the reversing of a deflection yoke connection is required for a stable picture. The scanned area doesn’t fill the screen and he doesn’t find the solution in the video, we hope that by his next video someone will have suggested moving the deflection yoke forwards.

Perhaps merely assembling a kit might not seem the most exciting subject for a Hackaday story, but this one is a little different here in 2022. CRT TV sets are now a long-gone anachronism, so for a younger generation there is very little chance to see them up close and thus watching one built has some value. If you want to spend the cash and build your own he’s dropped the link in the YouTube description, otherwise watch the progress in the video below the break.

Fancy learning a bit more about analogue TV? Have a dive into the video waveform. Or for a bit more CRT goodness, learn about converging a delta-gun colour set from the days when a TV weighed almost as much as you did.

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Portable Video Looper Is Easy As Pi

We all have handfuls of thumb drives lying around with only a vague idea of what’s on most of them, right? So why not dust one off, back it up somewhere, and give it a new purpose? That’s exactly what [Cher_Guevara] did to make this portable Raspberry Pi video looper. The hardest part of recreating this one might be coming up with such a good candidate mini CRT TV.

Once powered on, the Pi Zero W stuffed inside this baby Magnavox waits for a thumb drive to be inserted and says as much in nice green text on the screen. Then it displays the number of video files found on the drive and gives a little countdown before looping them all endlessly.

We love how flawlessly [Cher] was able to integrate the USB port and a flush-mounted shutdown button for the Pi into the TV’s control panel on the top. It’s like a portable from another timeline.

[Cher] got lucky because this TV happens to have a video-in jack for connecting up the Pi. If yours doesn’t have one, you might be able to use an RCA to RF converter if the antenna is removable. We’ve got the demo video waiting for you after these messages.

Okay, that’s one thumb drive repurposed. Now find another and experiment with adding USB OtG to it.

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It’s A TV-Scope-Guitar Amplifier!

Guitar amplifiers are a frequent project, and despite being little more than a simple audio amplifier on paper, they conceal a surprising quantity of variables in search of a particular sound. We’ve seen a lot of them, but never one quite like [Nate Croson]’s CRT TV guitar amplifier. The LM386 doesn’t just drive the speaker, he’s also using it to turn the TV into a crude oscilloscope to form a visualisation of the sound.

The video showing this feat is below the break, and it puts us in a quandary due to being short on technical information. He’s driving the horizontal coils with the TV’s 50 Hz sawtooth field timebase, and the vertical ones with the audio from the LM386. We aren’t sure whether he’s rotated the yoke or whether the connections have been swapped, but the result is certainly impressive.

So given that there’s not quite as much technical detail as we’d like, why has this project captured our interest? Because it serves as a reminder that a CRT TV is a bit more than a useless anachronism, it’s a complex analogue device with significant and unique hacking potential. The older ones in particular provide endless possibilities for modification and circuit bending, and make for a fascinating analogue playground at a very agreeable price. It’s worth pointing out however that some of the voltages involved can make them a hazardous prospect for the unwary hacker. If you’re interested though, take a look at our dive into an older model.

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