Ask Make: Surplus TVs from the DTV Switch

Maker News
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!

8 thoughts on “Ask Make: Surplus TVs from the DTV Switch

  1. scott fureman says:

    Make an oscilloscope

    1. SteveC says:

      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.

      1. Ask Make: Surplus TVs from the DTV Switch Becky Stern says:

        @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. Rudye says:

    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.

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

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.

View more articles by Becky Stern


Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).