TV - Time Machine





Introduction: TV - Time Machine

I was always fascinated by black & white TV's but finding one in good conditions is both hard and very expensive. that's when I decided to build my own TV.

While this is not the "real deal", building is was a blast. I joined a local maker community Snoco Makers (Snohomish county Makers in Everett, WA) and they helped me with the wooden cabinet building part.

Electronics here are the easiest part, this is basically a Raspberry Pi 2 playing videos in an infinite loop from a flash drive, a monitor and a PC speaker.

The video looper code is from Adafruit: Link. thanks Adafruit!!

There are thousands of old time videos free for download at

Description below show the process creation step by step. I hope you enjoy.

Step 1: From Cardboard to Wood

I always create a cardboard prototype to test the look and feel of my projects. Here you can see the empty cardboard case and the initial steps of building the wooden one.

Step 2: Buiding the Box

I added some trimming boards to the front and added the division between the screen area and the speaker cloth.

At this stage I was still using the cardboard frame and a generic 3D printed knob, just to see how that would look like.

Step 3: Front Panel

Front panel is basically 1/8" (3mm) plywood which I lasercut. given I got a piece smaller than what I needed I had to improvise to make it larger. Not ideal, for sure, but it worked pretty well.

The nice looking speaker fabric is from Amazon (look for Speaker Grill Cloth Fabric Silver Turquoise Stripe) even though this is not actually Fabric: it is plastic but it works great, you can trim it using a soldering iron...

It is quite transparent as some of the comments note, so I used a basic black felt (got it from Michael's) to darken it. great end result.

Step 4: Painting the TV

I wanted a retro looking so I primed the cabinet with white paint before applying the green one.

Step 5: TV Is Coming Together...

Here you can see the panel in place, retro speaker cloth and the 3D printed knobs as well. I used white PLA and painted after.

Customizable knob SCAD files are available here.

Step 6: Add the Electronics to It

Final step was to add the transparent Acrylic to protect the monitor, this white acrylic cut to give the round edge look to the monitor, and place them together.

I added the speakers, the potentiometer for volume and a rotary switch (not connected to anything in this V1) just to give the Channel button a good feel.

Step 7: TV Parts

This picture shows how simple the internal connections are.

There is a Raspberry Pi 2, which is enough to play videos with quality, a Dell monitor I got from a thrift store and removed it from its frame, a PC speaker also from the Thrift Store.

Step 8: It Works!!

This is a short video showing the TV in action. I can't really keep it on close to me because I'll stop working to watch... :-)



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    Absolutely awesome! Would it be possible to run 3 USB's with each having separate vintage Network specific shows on them where the RH switch was a 3-position switch would select one position connected to one USB that had only vintage ABC shows, then switch the 2nd position for vintage CBS shows, then third position to select vintage NBC shows? And could you modify the project where the LH switch turns the sound and picture off? Love this and want to try it too!

    Hi, W. My wife and I have seen your time machine in-person at SnoCo and are now looking at building one for ourselves. Do you foresee any issues using a Raspberry Pi 3 vs. 2? Also, any insight or recommendations on the speaker PCB? Thanks.

    No issues at all. I tried this video loop program on the Pi Zero, Pi 2 and 3. It works fine on all three of them!! Feel free to use whatever you have at hand. As per the speaker... I got a super cheap one at Value Village. I'm playing super old B&W shows, so the sound is really not good which matches the speakers I have :-) I would go with the cheapest PC speakers you could find. Another solution is to use a LCD TV rather than the Monitor, to save the work of setting up audio... Happy to chat about it in person any Thu night (open house nights at Snoco Makers)

    this is very cool , i have a similar idea making a 1958 predicta tv , good job on your retro tv set !! two thumbs up!

    i love this so much that i sent the link to my son & suggested it for my birthdaypresent!! x^)

    I truly hope he can build you one with the instructions I made available here! If not, I'm sure there should be a nice Maker space around to help you out!

    thank-you! forgot to mention the COLOR; you nailed it with that retro color from my youth! :^D

    Will this work without the loop, playing a rather full thumb drive? I think I can do the rest, but I can't figure out the loop part, and if it'll just play, I'll be happy and can change to different thumbdrives.

    Actually the loop code does exactly that: It will loop ALL videos in the thumbdrive. I have 176 short videos and it will play them all before going back to the first one again! On top of this, nothing prevents you from having several different thumb drives and exchange them.... Have fun!!!

    I ordered the "deluxe" Raspberry Pi 3 set. It comes with a case and 16G preloaded microcard, HDMI cord, a booklet of projects, and maybe between these directions and your directions I can figure it out. I'm not techy, but I'll do great making the cabinet. I really like the idea of making it in cardboard first. I'm going to do that as well.

    I guess the book will say where you put in the code for the loop. I've never put code in anything before. I hope I can do this. Looked like I'll need a wired mouse and a wired keyboard. So I went out and bought that tonight. The raspberry set will be here in a couple days.

    In the meantime I'm downloading old shows. I found a software that will convert my color MP4s and make them black and white. It just wouldn't be right to play color on it.

    I have a new question. The VGA to HDMI you mention, is that only if your monitor doesn't have an HDMI? Could I use a really small flat screen tv in there? A new one would have an HDMI, I believe.

    Thank you in advance.