Ask MAKE: surplus TVs from the DTV switch

Becky Stern

Becky Stern (sternlab.org is a DIY guru and director of wearable electronics at Adafruit. She publishes a new project video every week and hosts a live show on YouTube. Formerly Becky was Senior Video Producer for MAKE. Becky lives in Brooklyn, NY and belongs to art groups Free Art & Technology (“release early, often, and with rap music”) and Madagascar Institute (“fear is never boring”).

50 Articles

By Becky Stern

Becky Stern (sternlab.org is a DIY guru and director of wearable electronics at Adafruit. She publishes a new project video every week and hosts a live show on YouTube. Formerly Becky was Senior Video Producer for MAKE. Becky lives in Brooklyn, NY and belongs to art groups Free Art & Technology (“release early, often, and with rap music”) and Madagascar Institute (“fear is never boring”).

50 Articles

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Ask MAKE is a weekly column where we answer reader questions, like yours. Write them in to [email protected] or drop us a line on Twitter. We can’t wait to tackle your conundrums!

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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?”

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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:

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Reuse the parts:

Have some TV ideas? post them in the comments!