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Ask Make: Surplus TVs from the DTV Switch

Ask Make: is where readers ask questions and we do our best to provide clear and concise answers.


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 is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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