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Twitter users @threefourteen, @klaatu, @dcwilson303, @digitalcaffeine, and others all had the same thing on their minds this week and asked “What do we do with all the TVs flooding thrift stores because of the DTV conversion?”


Well, after taking a break to re-watch one of my favorite video art pieces, Media Burn by Ant Farm (above), we’ve come up with some advice. First off, you can keep your TV in use with a digital receiver, for which you can even make your own antenna. Failing that, you can still watch DVDs on your old set, making them perfect for the movie den, or for donating to your local schools (call and ask if they want them first). Whatever you do, don’t throw it in the trash, that old box can contain lots of lead. Recycle it. Now on to repurposing:

Make some art:

  • get a cheap video camera, make a video loop, and experiment with interference patterns
  • stack, pile, and create towers of video ala Nam Jun Paik (RIP; pictured above top)
  • use the TVs as period props for films and plays
  • make that video installation you’ve always wanted to
  • lower its resolution for some pleasing ambiance
  • burn in some subliminal messages

Take the thing apart:


Reuse the parts:

Have some TV ideas? post them in the comments!

Becky Stern

Becky Stern

Becky Stern is director of wearable electronics at Adafruit Industries. Her personal site:

4 Responses to Ask MAKE: surplus TVs from the DTV switch

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  1. scott fureman on said:

    Make an oscilloscope

    • SteveC on said:

      in that Bjork video, she might at least MENTION that TV’s can hold a lot of charge in the capacitors, so much that they can be deadly, even when unplugged. I was half expecting to see a really big flash and then Bjork on the floor unconscious when she was poking around in there with her fingers.

      This video is really not cool from a safety standpoint. Don’t encourage people to poke around in the guts of TV’s without even so much as a mention of the very real possibility of lethal shock, even hours after it’s unplugged. That’s just irresponsible.

      • Becky Stern on said:

        @SteveC: I know she doesn’t mention it, but she also doesn’t really touch the insides too much. Also, I mention the big capacitors twice in this article, once directly below the video. It’s a funny clip, and I certainly hope you wouldn’t take electronics advice from the same Icelandic musician who calls the connecting wires “perhaps an elevator.” =]

  2. Hi! Does anyone know of a good TV reuse walkthrough? I’d like to scrap my old one, and I’d like to know what I can get out of it and how to identify the parts.

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