Convert A Kerbside CRT TV Into An Arcade Monitor

While an old CRT TV may work well enough on a MAME cabinet project, the real arcade purists are quick to point out that a proper arcade monitor and a TV aren’t the same thing. A real arcade board uses RGB to connect to the monitor, that is, direct control over the red, green, and blue signals. Conversely video over coax or composite, what most people associate with old CRT TVs, combine all the video information down into an analog signal. Put simply, RGB allows for a much cleaner image than composite.

Many in the arcade restoration scene say that trying to convert a bog standard CRT TV into a RGB monitor isn’t possible, but [Arcade Jason] had his doubts. Over on his YouTube channel, he’s recently posted a tutorial on how to go from a trashed CRT TV to a monitor worthy of proper arcade gaming with relatively little work. As real arcade monitors are becoming increasingly rare, these kind of modifications are likely to get more common as coin-op gamers look to keep the old ways alive.

Now obviously every TV is going to do be different inside. All CRT TVs contain high voltages, and on some the circuit boards aren’t even mains-isolated, so take care if you try this. [Jason] certainly doesn’t claim that the method he demonstrates will work on whatever old TV you happen to have kicking around. But the general idea and some of the techniques he shows off are applicable to most modern TVs, and can help you tailor the method to your particular piece of gear. It all starts with a wet finger. Seriously.

[Jason] demonstrates a rather unique way of determining which pins on the TV’s control chip are responsible for the individual color signals by wetting his finger and sliding it over the pins. When a change in color is seen on the displayed image, you know you’re getting close. We can’t say it’s the most scientific or even the safest method, but it worked for him.

He then follows up with a jumper wire and resistor to find the precise pins which are responsible for each color, and solders up his actual RGB connection for the arcade board. In addition to the three color wires, a sync signal is also needed. This is the same sync signal used in composite video, so all that’s needed is to solder to the pad for the original composite video jack. Add a ground signal, and you’ve got yourself a proper RGB monitor.

Interestingly, this one has come full circle, as [Jason] says his attempt was inspired by an old post on Hackaday. It’s the Circle of Hacker Life.

[Thanks to Seebach for the tip]

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Watch the Honeycomb Clock Gently Track Time

We love clocks here at Hackaday, and so does [John Whittington]. Last year he created this hexagonal honey clock (or “Honock”) by combining some RGB LEDs with a laser-cut frame to create a smooth time display that uses color and placement to display time with a simple and attractive system.

The outer ring of twelve hexagons is essentially the hour hand, similar to analog clock faces: twelve is up, three is directly to the right, six is straight down, and nine is to the left. The inner ring represents ten minutes per hex. Each time the inner ring fills, the next hex (hour) on the outer ring lights up. The whole display is flooded with a minute-long rainbow at noon and midnight. Watch it in action in the video, embedded below.

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Crawling a Dungeon, 64 Pixels at a Time

The trend in video games is toward not being able to differentiate them from live-action theatrical releases, and games studios are getting hard to tell from movie studios. But quality graphics don’t always translate into quality gameplay, and a lot can be accomplished with minimalist graphics. Turn the clock back a few decades and think about the quarters sucked up by classics like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and even Pong if you have any doubts about that.

But even Pong had more than 64 pixels to work with, which is why this dungeon-crawler game on an 8×8 RGB matrix is so intriguing. You might think [Stolistic]’s game would be as simple as possible but think again. The video below shows it in action, and while new users will need a little help figuring out what the various colors mean, the game is remarkably engaging. The structure of the dungeon is random with multiple levels to unlock via the contents of power-up chests, and there are mobs to battle in a zoomed-in display. The game runs on an Arduino Uno and the matrix is driven by a bunch of 74HC595 shift registers.

It’s fun to see what can be accomplished with as little as possible. Looking for more low-res goodness? Check out this minimalist animated display, or a Geiger counter with a matrix display.

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Low-Resolution Display Provides High-Nostalgia Animations

High-definition displays are the de facto standard today, and we’ve come to expect displays that show every pore, blemish, and bead of sweat on everything from phones to stadium-sized Jumbotrons. Despite this,  low-resolution displays continue to have a nostalgic charm all their own.

Take this 32 x 16 display, dubbed PixelTimes, for instance. [Dominic Buchstaller] has gone a step beyond his previous PixelTime, a minimalist weather clock and home hub built around the same P10 RGB matrix. The previous build was a little involved, though, with a nice wood frame that took some time and skill to create.

Building your own version of PixelTimes is really approachable. The case is mostly 3D-printed, and the acrylic parts [Dominic] laser cut could just as easily be cut with a saw. And that P10 board can be source for peanuts direct from Chine. The software for the project has been upgraded since the original version, supporting flicker-free animations. Everything runs on a NodeMCU, and there are even scripts to convert your favorite GIF to an animation. Oh, and it still displays the weather too.

This looks great and seems like a lot of fun, and [Dominic] kindly provides all the files you’ll need to build your own. It shouldn’t take more than an hour to build once you’ve got all the parts.

LED Illusion Makes Colorful Water Drops Defy Gravity

The 60s and 70s were a great time for kitschy lighting accessories. Lava lamps, strobes, color organs, black light posters — we had it all. One particularly groovy device was an artificial rain display, where a small pump dripped mineral oil over vertical monofilament lines surrounding a small statue, with the whole thing lighted from above in dramatic fashion. If it sounds appalling, it was, and only got worse as the oil got gummy by accumulating dust and debris.

While this levitating water drops display looks somewhat similar, it has nothing to do with that greasy lamp of yore. [isaac879]’s “RGB time fountain” is actually a lot more sophisticated and pretty entrancing to watch. The time fountain idea is simple — drip water from a pump nozzle to a lower receptacle along a path that can be illuminated with flashing LEDs. Synchronizing the flashes to the PWM controlling pump speed can freeze the drops in place, or even make them appear to drip up. [isaac879] took the time fountain idea a step further by experimenting with RGB illumination, and he found that all sorts of neat effects are possible. The video below shows all the coolness, like alternating drops of different colors that look like falling — or rising — paint drops, and drops that merge together to form a new color. And behold, the mysterious antigravity cup that drips up and yet gets filled!

Allowances must be made for videos of projects that use strobes, of course. The effect of this time fountain and similar ones we’ve featured before is hard to capture, but this one still looks great to us.

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RGB Disk Goes Interactive with Bluetooth; Shows Impressive Plastic Work

[smash_hand] had a clear goal: a big, featureless, white plastic disk with RGB LEDs concealed around its edge. So what is it? A big ornament that could glow any color or trippy mixture of colors one desires. It’s an object whose sole purpose is to be a frame for soft, glowing light patterns to admire. The disk can be controlled with a simple smartphone app that communicates over Bluetooth, allowing anyone (or in theory anything) to play with the display.

The disk is made from 1/4″ clear plastic, which [smash_hand] describes as plexiglass, but might be acrylic or polycarbonate. [smash_hands] describes some trial and error in the process of cutting the circle; it was saw-cut with some 3-in-1 oil as cutting fluid first, then the final shape cut with a bandsaw.

The saw left the edge very rough, so it was polished with glass polishing compound. This restores the optical properties required for the edge-lighting technique. The back of the disc was sanded then painted white, and the RGB LEDs spaced evenly around the edge, pointing inwards.

The physical build is almost always the difficult part in a project like this — achieving good diffusion of LEDs is a topic we talk about often. [smash_hands] did an impressive job and there are never any “hot spots” where an LED sticks out to your eye. With this taken care of, the electronics came together with much less effort. An Arduino with an HC-05 Bluetooth adapter took care of driving the LEDs and wireless communications, respectively. A wooden frame later, and the whole thing is ready to go.

[smash_hands] provides details like a wiring diagram as well as the smartphone app for anyone who is interested. There’s the Arduino program as well, but interestingly it’s only available in assembly or as a raw .hex file. A video of the disk in action is embedded below.

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A Clear Christmas Tree Means More Lights!

For all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, people still find ways to make time for their passions. In the lead up to Christmas, [Edwin Mol] and a few co-workers built themselves an LED Christmas tree that adds a maker’s touch to any festive decor.

Before going too far, they cut out a cardboard mock-up of the tree. This an easy step to skip, but it can save headaches later! Once happy with the prototype, they printed off the design stencils and cut the chunks of clear acrylic using power tools — you don’t need a laser cutter to produce good stuff — and drilled dozens of holes in the plastic to mount LEDs, and run wires.

A Raspberry Pi 3 and Arduino Uno make this in league with some pretty smart Christmas trees. MAX6968 5.5V constant-current LED driver chips and MOFSETs round out the control circuit. During the build, the central LED column provided a significant challenge — how often do you build a custom jig to solder LEDs? That done, it’s time for a good ol’-fashioned assembly montage! The final product can cycle through several different lighting animations in a rainbow of colours — perfect for a festive build. Continue reading “A Clear Christmas Tree Means More Lights!”