Vintage television acquired


Let it begin! My wife picked up the RCA Victor 21″ television last night from our friend. I unloaded it and set it in the hallway; it’s a little bit bigger than I envisioned, and even cooler than I’d hoped. The giant channel knob on the side turns the channel indicator display inside a little window above the TV screen. Seems like that needs to be incorporated into the project. Maybe it’ll correspond to the “next customer” tickets I hand out at parties.

I only had a moment to poke around, but there are three speakers mounted behind the stylish fabric, and a switch on the back that goes between “TV” and “PH”. This is so you could plug your phonograph into an RCA jack and play through the set. Neato!

There have been so many excellent, creative ideas in the comments of my first post on this project, thank you so much. If I can settle in on a direction to go, I’d like to chronicle the build here, with an eye toward carting the finished project to the 2009 Bay Area Maker Faire in May (providing I do a decent job on it and it’s Maker Faire-worthy, otherwise I’ll deny any of this ever happened).

20 thoughts on “Vintage television acquired

  1. I don’t fully understand the culture of wanting to take apart things and re-insert contemporary electronics into these objects. I know it is a common theme these days; so originality definitely has nothing to do with it.

    There is this idea that one could operate with the intent to breathe new life into the dead machinery, yet I just can’t get excited about the idea of ruining the antique.

    At the same time, I worked in an office where a TV just like this one was sitting in the main hallway and all it did was collect dust and the occasional second glance by clients passing by. I couldn’t help but think that it was sad there was no real use for this beautiful object. Hmm…

  2. I like the idea of interesting projects, but can I take a picture of a pile of resistors, capacitors, transistors and get 2 main posts on the site for “what should I make”? how about waiting until it is something cool and shareworthy? I could see posting this on the flickr pool asking for input, but are you really that short on content?

  3. Could you fit a 34″ screen in there vertically? Could it swivel on an arm?

    You could make a door of the front panel. When the door is closed the 21″ portion of the screen has a picture. When the door is open you could rotate the screen to a normal viewing angle.

  4. I think it would be awesome to not modify the outside of the unit at all (or just a little bit if necessary). If it is black and white, I would see about replacing the tube with a newer color one, but still a curved crt, to keep the original look as much the same as possible. You could put a htpc in the case and maybe replace the tube with a computer monitor, then it would be high definition and you could probably find a 21 inch (or slightly bigger) computer monitor for not too much. You could put an IR reciever behind the cloth cover where the speakers are, and use a remote to control it. I don’t know if there’s a neat place you could hide a slot load dvd drive, but you could probably make a very nice home theater setup all inside that case (except the surround sound of couse).

  5. Another vote for replacing the guts with a modern color CRT television. You could retain the channel selector, but retrofit with opto-switches for example, to activate the channel up/down buttons.

    Rebuilding the original TV is probably going to be an exercise in frustration…tubes, capacitors and transformers will be nearly impossible to get. Better to retain the look but replace with a modern CRT-based TV. Hurry, though…although the yard sale pickings after the Feb 19th DTV switch should be pretty good.

  6. I’m seeing a big brother monitor. Install a simple PC and LCD monitor, then feed various security cam worldwide.
    You’ll still have room inside left over for a hidden bookshelf for some banned reading material.

  7. Wow, that’s a nice TV set. It takes me back to my childhood when I used to scrounge those big old black and white sets. I can just hear the distinctive sound of knocking on the thick glass cover over the screen.

    Here’s the TV that I have in my office at TechShop:


    I have another one that is similar to this one, but is a tabletop version. It is at home.

    And yes, they both work.

    Thanks for posting it!

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John Edgar Park likes to make things and tell people about it. He builds project for Adafruit Industries. You can find him at jpixl.net and twitter/IG @johnedgarpark

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