Inside A Hisense TV Repair Attempt

Many of us misspent our youth fixing televisions. But fixing a 1970s TV is a lot different than today — the parts were big and tubes were made to be replaced. Have you torn into a big flat screen lately? It is a different world, as [The Fixologist] shows us in the video below.

The TV in question was rescued from a neighbor who was about to throw it away. If you are like us, you’ll watch the first few minutes and see it powers up, but the screen is very dark. Back light problem, right? No problem. But it turned out to be more than we thought.

Honestly, we assumed it might be the power supply, and we would have put a power supply on the LED leads to test that first. That would have been smart because taking the panel off to reveal the LEDs was very difficult! There were two bad LEDs, though, so in the end you’d have had to do it anyway.

We were disappointed that after fixing the LED, he cracked the LCD panel during the reinstallation. So, in the end, this was more of a teardown video and not a repair video. He seemed to think a lot of the tape in the unit was to thwart repairs. That could be, but we wondered if it made manufacturing the TV easier which, after all, is mostly what they care about.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard people tearing into a TV and wondering if the factory was against them. We’ve considered it, but we are pretty sure it isn’t the case.

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The Long Strange Trip To US Color TV

We are always fascinated when someone can take something and extend it in a clever way without changing the original thing. In the computer world, that’s old hat. New computers improve, but can usually run old software. In the real world, the addition of stereo to phonograph records and color to photography come to mind.

But there are few stories as strange or wide-ranging as the path to provide color TV. And it had to be done in a way that a color set could still get a black and white picture and black and white sets could still watch a color signal without color. You’d think there would be a “big bang” moment where color TV burst on the scene — no pun involving color burst intended. But there wasn’t. Instead, there was a long, twisted path with many competing interests and ideas to go from a world in black and white to one tinted with color phosphor.


In 1928, Science and Invention magazine had plans for building a mechanical TV (although not color)

It is hard to imagine, but John Logie Baird transmitted color images as early as 1928 using a mechanical scanner. Bell Labs had a demonstration system, also mechanical, in 1929. Baird broadcast using his system in 1938. Even earlier, around 1900, there were attempts to create mechanical color image systems. Those systems were fickle or impractical, though.

Electronic scanning was the answer, but World War II froze most consumer electronics development. Baird showed an electronic color system in late 1944. However, it would be 1953 before NTSC (the National Television System Committee) adopted the standard color TV signal for the United States. It would be almost 20 years later before SECAM and PAL were standardized in other parts of the world.

Of course, these are all analog standards. The world’s gone digital now, but for nearly 50 years, analog color TV was the way people consumed TV in their homes. By 1941, NTSC produced a standard in the United States, but not for color TV. TV adoption didn’t really take off until after the war. But by 1950, the US had some 6 million TV sets.

This was both a plus — a large market — and a negative. No one wanted to obsolete those 6 million sets. Well, at least, the government regulators and consumers didn’t. But most color systems would be incompatible with those existing black and white sets. Continue reading “The Long Strange Trip To US Color TV”

Retro Gadgets: Pay TV In The 1960s

These days, paying for TV programming is a fact of life. You pay your cable company or some streaming service and the only question is do you want Apple TV and Hulu or would you rather switch one out for NetFlix? But back in the 1960s, paying for TV seemed unthinkable and was quite controversial. Cable TV systems were rare, and the airwaves were a public resource, so allowing someone to charge to watch TV on the public airwaves was hard to imagine. That was the backdrop behind the Telemeter — an early attempt to monetize TV programming that was more like a pay phone than a modern streaming service.

Rear view of the telemeter and coin box

[Lothar Stern] wrote about the device in the November 1959 issue of Popular Mechanics (see page 220). The device looked like a radio that sat on top of your TV. It added a whopping three pay-TV channels, and inside was a coin box, and — no kidding — a tape punch or recorder. These three channels were carried from a Telemeter studio over what appears to be a dedicated cable strung on existing phone poles.

Of course, TVs with coin boxes were nothing new. But those TVs were found in public places, airports, and hotels. The money was simply to turn the TV on for a set amount of time. This was different. A set-top box unscrambled channels delivered over a dedicated cable. Seems like old hat today, but a revolutionary idea in 1959.

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Retrotechtacular: Studio Camera Operation, The BBC Way

If you ever thought that being a television camera operator was a simple job, this BBC training film on studio camera operations will quickly disabuse you of that notion.

The first thing that strikes you upon watching this 1982 gem is just how physical a job it is to stand behind a studio camera. Part of the physicality came from the sheer size of the gear being used. Not only were cameras of that vintage still largely tube-based and therefore huge — the EMI-2001 shown has four plumbicon image tubes along with tube amplifiers and weighed in at over 100 kg — but the pedestal upon which it sat was a beast as well. All told, a camera rig like that could come in at over 300 kg, and dragging something like that around a studio floor all day under hot lights had to be hard. It was a full-body workout, too; one needed a lot of upper-body strength to move the camera up and down against the hydropneumatic pedestal cylinder, and every day was leg day when you had to overcome all that inertia and get the camera moving to your next mark.

Operating a beast like this was not just about the bull work, though. There was a lot of fine motor control needed too, especially with focus pulling. The video goes into a lot of detail on maintaining a smooth focus while zooming or dollying, and shows just how bad it can look when the operator is inexperienced or not paying attention. Luckily, our hero Allan is killing it, and the results will look familiar to anyone who’s ever seen any BBC from the era, from Dr. Who to I, Claudius. Shows like these all had a distinctive “Beeb-ish” look to them, due in large part to the training their camera operators received with productions like this.

There’s a lot on offer here aside from the mechanical skills of camera operation, of course. Framing and composing shots are emphasized, as are the tricks to making it all look smooth and professional. There are a lot of technical details buried in the video too, particularly about the pedestal and how it works. There are also two follow-up training videos, one that focuses on the camera skills needed to shoot an interview program, and one that adds in the complications that arise when the on-air talent is actually moving. Watch all three and you’ll be well on your way to running a camera for the BBC — at least in 1982.

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Retrotechtacular: How Communism Made Televisions

For those of us who lived through the Cold War, there’s still an air of mystery as to what it was like on the Communist side. As Uncle Sam’s F-111s cruised slowly in to land above our heads in our sleepy Oxfordshire village it was at the same time very real and immediate, yet also distant. Other than being told how fortunate we were to be capitalists while those on the communist side lived lives of mindless drudgery under their authoritarian boot heel, we knew nothing of the people on the other side of the Wall, and God knows what they were told about us. It’s thus interesting on more than one level to find a promotional film from the mid 1970s showcasing VEB Fernsehgerätewerk Stassfurt (German, Anglophones will need to enable subtitle translation), the factory which produced televisions for East Germans. It provides a pretty comprehensive look at how a 1970s TV set was made, gives us a gateway into the East German consumer electronics business as a whole, and a chance to see how the East Germany preferred to see itself.

Black and white photograph of a display of televisions displaying a DDR Deutsche Frensehfunk logo, with an attendant adjusting one of the sets.
The RFT range of televisions in the Städtisches Kaufhaus exhibition center for the 1968 Leipzig Spring Fair. Bundesarchiv, CC-BY-SA 3.0

The sets in question are not too dissimilar to those you would have found from comparable west European manufacturers in the same period, though maybe a few things such as the use of a tube output stage and the lack of integrated circuits hints at their being a few years behind the latest from the likes of Philips or ITT by 1975. The circuit boards are assembled onto a metal chassis which would have probably been “live” as the set would have derived its power supply by rectifying the mains directly, and we follow the production chain as they are thoroughly checked, aligned, and tested. This plant produces both colour and back-and-white receivers, and since most of what we see appears to be from the black-and-white production we’re guessing that here’s the main difference between East and West’s TV consumers in the mid ’70s.

The film is at pains to talk about the factory as a part of the idealised community of a socialist state, and we’re given a tour of the workers’ facilities to a backdrop of some choice pieces of music. References to the collective and some of the Communist apparatus abound, and finally we’re shown the factory’s Order of Karl Marx. As far as it goes then we Westerners finally get to see the lives of each genosse, but only through an authorised lens. Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: How Communism Made Televisions”

Black Graphics On Your TV, For A Greener World?

Can you really save energy by carefully choosing the colors displayed on a TV screen? Under some conditions, yes. Or at least that’s the conclusion of a team at the BBC that looked at reducing the energy consumption impact of their output by using what they call Lower Carbon Graphics. In short, they’re trying to ensure that OLED displays or those with reactive backlights use less energy when displaying BBC graphics, simply by using more black.

It turns out that a lot of British households play radio stations on their TVs, and the BBC sends a static image to each screen in this mode. As part of a redesign across the organisation, the BBC removed the bright background colours from these images and replaced it with black, with a remarkable reduction in power consumption, at least on OLED and FALD screens. (On normally backlit screens, 89% of British TVs, this does nothing.)

If you look hard at their numbers, though, listening to radio on the TV is horrendously inefficient; can you imagine a radio that consumes 100 W?  If the BBC really wants to help reduce media-related energy consumption, maybe they should stop broadcasting radio programming on the TV entirely.

Anyway, as we move toward a larger fraction of OLED screens, on TVs and monitors alike, it’s fun to think that darker images use up to 40% less power. Who knew that Hackaday was so environmentally friendly? Black is the new green!

Header: RIA Novosti archive/ Igor Vinogradov, CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Recreating The Golden Era Of Cable TV

Fewer and fewer people have cable TV subscriptions these days, due to a combination of poor business practices by cable companies and the availability of alternatives to cable such as various streaming platforms. But before the rise of the Internet that enabled these alternatives, there was a short period of time where there were higher-quality channels, not too many commercials, a possibly rose-tinted sense of wonder, and where MTV actually played music. [Irish Craic Party] created this vintage cable TV network to capture this era of television history.

The hardware for this build is a Raspberry Pi driving an LCD display recovered from an old iPad. There’s a custom TV tuner which handles changing the channels and interfaces with an Apple Remote. Audio is sent through old computer speakers, and the case is built from 3D printed parts and some leftover walnut plywood to give it an era-appropriate 80s or early 90s feel. We’ve seen other builds like this before, but where this one really sets itself apart is in the software that handles the (television) programming.

[Irish Craic Party] has gone to great lengths here to recreate the feel of cable TV from decades ago. It has recreations of real channels like HBO, Nickelodeon, and FX including station-appropriate bumpers and commercials. It’s also synchronized to the clock so shows start on the half- or quarter-hour. Cartoons play on Saturday morning, and Nickelodeon switches to Nick-at-Nite in the evenings. There are even channels that switch to playing Christmas movies at the appropriate times, complete with Christmas-themed commercials.

The build even hosts a preview channel, one of the more challenging parts of the build. It continually scrolls through the channels and shows what’s currently playing and what will be showing shortly, complete with a commercial block at the top. For those who were around in the 90s it’s almost a perfect recreation of the experience of watching TV back then. It can even switch to a video game input when tuned to channel 3. There’s almost too much to go into in a short write-up so be sure to check the video after the break.

Thanks to [PCrozier] for the tip!

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