Retrofitted tube TV loops black and white movies

This five-inch tube TV set (featuring throwback inbuilt AM/FM radio capabilities!) has been retrofitted to play old black and white movies. Maker Pakéquis is a confident electrical tinkerer and warns that trying this on your own vintage TV sets is very dangerous. Just enjoy this project for its aesthetic beauty.

What’s a tube TV?

A tube TV is a CRT — or cathode-ray tube — television. A cathode-ray tube itself is a vacuum tube containing one or more electron guns, which emit streams of electrons. When the electrons hit the phosphor-coated inside of the TV’s glass screen, they cause the phosphor to glow, and this is what creates the images you see. CRTs are bulky, and they’re the reason that televisions of this era had to be so big. But they’re also the reason black and white CRT televisions possess that cool, grainy Poltergeist quality, with the black and grey fuzzy screen and screechy white noise.

retrofit tube tv

These old-timey sets fetch pretty good money online these days. Retrofitters and vintage gaming enthusiasts eager to relive their misspent youth lying on carpet in a living room gazing up at the only screen in the house will pay to take them off your hands. But they need to be real tube TVs. The kind that dink-dink when you knock on the hard glass screen. The kind so bulky they make the very idea of hanging a television on a wall seem absurd.

retrofit tube tv
It’s chunky, it’s nice

What’s inside this retrofitted one?

A Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ selects a random movie file, thanks to a script. An Arduino Pro Mini runs TVSim.ino to turn the TV on or off via a relay. Everything is wired up so you can control it using the set’s original tuning knob.

retrofit tube tv blue brazilian raspberry pi 3 inside
Inside is a now-discontinued blue Raspberry Pi board. They were made just for the Brazilian market in the beforetimes.

The Raspberry Pi is hidden in the original battery compartment at the bottom of the TV set. A 12V DC external supply now powers everything.

Despite the really tricky electronics, it’s nice to see a retrofitted build that can be used as originally intended, more or less. Watching maker Pakéquis operate the tube set using the original buttons adds to the magic when you see digitally stored movies playing out. And the static white noise is just *chef’s kiss*.

Check out Pakéquis’s YouTube channel and blog for more tinkerings.

1 comment

Kevin avatar

Thank you so much for this article

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